Shot through the heart


I don't post here very often. Lots of reasons, no use getting into any of them right now, but I do feel relatively comfortable in the knowledge that most of the people who read this site will notice my by-line, realize it's not coming from the majors, and skip over to the other, actually important entries. So, hi! again to the few people who decided to soldier through, and I'll try not to take up too much of your time.

Every so often, I'm gripped with an urge to enter into the public debate, drunk on the illusion that not only does my opinion matter, but that I'm somehow unique in my ideas—so unique, in fact, that the only real thing to do is to blast out what I'm feeling as loud as possible. Normally, I just avoid the Internet till this feeling passes (booze doesn't help, although if I drink enough, there's always the chance I'll forget how to type), but not today. I asked Melissa if I could re-up as a contributor, and by the god I don't believe in, I'm not going to let a silly review of an even sillier movie be my only entry in months. I have thoughts, you know. Important thoughts. Putting things in italics thoughts.

So here I am. Three (well, four, sort of) paragraphs in, and I'm still avoiding the point.

I hate guns. That's the point. But maybe we should do a bit of set-up first.

I watch a lot of movies. Reading's really at the heart of me, as I'm never truly comfortable unless I've got a book in easy reach, but movies run a close second. And if you watch a lot of movies, you start to notice certain trends; nothing rigid, of course, but there are patterns that pop up. I'm sure most of you have noticed them yourselves—how in horror and action movies, black guys tend to die first, how suspense flicks will always get quiet … then throw you a fake scare (CAT!!!), and just when you're calmed down a bit, the real nastiness happens (THERE IS SOMEONE RIGHT BEHIND YOU).

Some trends are more annoying than others (the suspense thing I can live with, because knowing it's coming can actually make things scarier; I do wish monsters would ease up on the African American population, though), but there's this one that drives me up the wall, the one I've complained about endlessly to my friends, the one that turns me into Ahab, cursing the heavens and stabbing waves just in case a white whale swims by. This particular cliché, this all time champeen crummy classic, can be summed up as: "Listen to your heart, not your head!"

Grrr. Just—fucking—grrr.

Let's unpack it, shall we? Because on some level, there's a bit truth to the idea. It certainly is possible to overthink your life; if nothing else, years of therapy have taught me that sometimes it's better to just shut up and go with the flow. But that's hardly ever what the worst movies tell us. The worst movies tell us over and over that being smart is nothing—that thinking, assessing a situation, the freedom to add 2 and 2 and always know it's 4—all these are worth shit, because it's really about what you feel. That what makes a human being a human is the ability to love and care and hug and, y'know, fuck some dude because you just adored the way he sounded on the radio.

Bullshit, okay? Just bullshit, through and through. Emotions aren't what set humans apart from animals (and do we really need to keep on telling ourselves that we're set apart from the animals? Relax. Please. When the squirrel armies come, you can all blame me.). Consciousness is; it's the ability to choose your reaction to a given series of stimulants that makes us special, the power to not always do what instinct dictates. Yes, if you're trying to decide between becoming a soulless businessman and a world class dancer, following your heart might make more sense than working out the finances; but then again, if three months down the road you're realizing you're built entirely out of left feet, and you go to bed dreaming of Excel spreadsheets, maybe following your heart wasn't such a great idea.

What really bugs me about this is that you don't need to champion emotion. People are naturally inclined to let their hormones run the show. It's like celebrating how cool it is to have sex—that's nice and all, but you're not telling me shit I don't already know. My "heart" is a wonderful thing. I'm passionate, loving, and I can be kind. But I can also be a miserably greedy little asswipe, and there are days when I want to punch walls and tell everyone I meet how fucking stupid they are. It's okay that there's that side of me; we all have that side. What's wonderful about us is that, those of us lucky enough to be privileged with a comfortable life and access to good literature, we can actually decide not to do what our heart tells us. We can say, "This feeling is strong, but it will pass. I'm going to wait till it passes, because if I don't, I might do something I'll regret."

And this is why I hate guns. Although I'm not sure that "hate" is the right word; when I see a gun, I don't go red, and I have at least one friend who likes to go target shooting, and I have no issues with that. But I'll never own a gun, and I won't go out of my way to use one. The thing that gets buried under all the controversy, all the debates about the Bill of Rights, the adoration of firepower here in the US and the political gimmickry, is that a gun is a machine for killing things in the easiest way possible. You point it, you pull the trigger, and something gets fucked up.

This takes about, what, a couple seconds? Less? A gun in hand is an instant gratification delivery system of the most deadly variety. I worship the human race because we can make choices, because we have a free will; but that free will is never easy to come by, and there are a hundreds of ways to bury it. A gun is the simplest. You hold it, you feel the trigger, and you think "Pull," and you're reduced to just another machine. And anyone around you, they lose their right to make decisions as well.

I'm not saying we should be coddled—I actually believe that the more choices we have, the more potential we have to be great. Not right now though. Not how things currently are. In a culture that worships the unthinking response, that makes the monumental mistake of valuing impulse over consideration, guns are never going to be a simple tool. Our lives are much too fragile for such easy answers. It would be nice if more people would remember that; remember not the polemics or the punchlines, but the simple truth of physics and human physiology.

Shakesville is run as a safe space. First-time commenters: Please read Shakesville's Commenting Policy and Feminism 101 Section before commenting. We also do lots of in-thread moderation, so we ask that everyone read the entirety of any thread before commenting, to ensure compliance with any in-thread moderation. Thank you.

blog comments powered by Disqus