The longstanding battle of pen versus sword

The longstanding battle of pen versus sword
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You will have missed this piece over the weekend sent to paid subscribers concerning the killing of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Aqleh by Israeli forces and their subsequent attack on the pallbearers at her funeral.

Look at what we can do. Even this. And what will be done about it?

A journalist's life is no more valuable than that of any other average person but the killing of one by the state can often represent a very different type of thing considering the awareness of the increased coverage it will always get.

Look at what we can do. Even this. And what will be done about it?

I also looked at the disgusting effort by Fox News to establish a class of migrants they are calling "illegal babies" surrounding the formula shortage. Those segments above all came before the racist terrorist attack in Buffalo but it's the same idea that motivated the killer and which you can hear regularly on the same network morning to night. That there's an unworthy lower class of vermin that are always looming and always coming to steal what is rightfully yours as a pure white American.

The result is horror like this:

I'm at a loss for words again regarding the killing in Buffalo. Shootings like this as I've said before feel like the weather report for a state you don't live in. Until the day it is where you live.

I wrote this bit below a couple of years ago which you can read in full here:

I get very nervous when something bad happens
You probably couldn’t sprint that far without getting winded

It’s disorienting bouncing back and forth between news of the various shootings and the hurricane right now. Bullets are weather.

We measure the damage of storms in feet like the water is going to rise five feet and we measure shootings by the number of bodies but I wonder if it would do anything if we measured shootings in feet too. If you gathered up all the spent bullet casings at a specific shooting how deep would it be? If you lined up the bodies head to toe like you were laying railroad tracks how far would they reach?

Ok let’s do some fun math. The average adult in America is about sixty six inches tall. Around 36,600 people die from gun violence a year here.

66 inches per body
2,415,600 inches

That’s roughly forty miles of bodies if I didn’t fuck up the math. Does that seem like a lot or a little to you because I guess I was thinking it would be more but then again I’ve never thought about it in these terms before so I have no frame of reference.

Forty miles is a little more than the distance from where I grew up in Kingston, MA to Boston and when I think of it in those terms it starts to become easier for me to grasp. It would take you about an hour to drive from the beginning of the bodies to the end depending on traffic I guess. The average person would have a very hard time walking that far in one go you’d have to take a lot of rests along the way and stay hydrated. Your kids would get bored on the trip in the back of the car and you’d have to turn around and be like alright you two that’s enough.

And that’s before we even add in the 100,000 merely injured by guns per year.

Hmm think of it this way maybe instead. One hundred people die from gun violence a day which is 6,600 inches which is 550 feet which is almost two football fields of bodies lined up head to toe every day. You probably couldn’t sprint that far without getting winded.

I guess that number of deaths per year is a little low by this point. In 2020 there were 45,222.

I’ve written about gun violence in here so many times I don’t know if I have anything novel to say about it at this point any more. In the longstanding battle of pen versus sword the latter seems to be on a pretty devastating winning streak.

There's also this from before here:

When I died they washed me out of the turret with a hose
It’s hard to outrun it because it moves very fast but not so fast that we don’t see it coming

Sometimes I feel like on the day America was founded a single bullet was fired and it’s been circling the country ever since visiting each of us in our homes one by one like a bloodthirsty Santa Claus and it’s hard to outrun it because it moves very fast but not so fast that we don’t see it coming and couldn’t stop it if we all tried.

And this here:

Extending the area of freedom
To be caught happy in a world of misery was for an honest man the most despicable of crimes

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted recently that “Sandy Hook happened six years ago and we can’t even get the Senate to hold a vote on universal background checks,” and that is very true and a good point and all but did you realize Sandy Hook was only six years ago because to me it feels like it was a lot longer than that. It feels like it’s a story that we were born with. It’s like the thing about how Romulus and Remus were raised by wolves and then went onto found Rome but in our case it’s about how a guy with a gun massacred a school full of tiny little babies hundreds of years ago and we decided to build a country on the very spot to mark the occasion and weave its inevitability into our patriotic mythology. If we ever end up redesigning the American flag it should probably be a third grader with a bullet hole in her face and then you could have an eagle or something in the background so everyone still thinks we’re tough.

You may also appreciate this interview with author Pat Blanchfield I did a couple years ago about America's gun culture.

America decided the death of children was bearable before America became America
The message he sent was the dead bodies

I have a poorly articulated thought that always comes up around mass shootings which is if a guy goes and kills seven people randomly we freak out about that, but somebody is probably shooting three or four people in their home today as we speak and we’re never going to know about it?

That’s absolutely right. You have to ask why. You can also express Gunpower as a system of beliefs, beliefs people don’t even know they have. One of those is that there is always going to be a place where gun violence is “ok,” whether that’s on the frontier, the ghetto, or in homes. There’s always a place where gun violence is seen as regrettable but inevitable, and this is the perverse thing, but also that it may be good. Like when you see these Democrats say Well I carried a gun in Iraq and that’s where “the weapons belong” in their streets not ours.

Mass shootings represent breaks of that logic of containment. Violence that is ostensibly ok when it happens in specific spaces to disposable people suddenly becomes a national crisis when it is mirrored by violence that happens to people who “valuable.”

It’s historically born out that our response to high profile episodes of violence in “valuable” spaces to people who are “valuable” is almost always to double down on mechanisms of policing and military control that inflict even more gun violence in those others spaces on those disposable people.

Like the Rep from Tennessee who just tweeted something like “want to shoot a rifle? go to Iraq.”  It reminded me a couple of years ago Buttigieg had something he tweeted like I didn’t carry an assault rifle in a foreign country so I could see them used at home. He was saying, in other words, I carried an assault rifle in a country where you can reasonably assume they belong.

That brings up a question I have. Whenever these things happen some asshole in your mentions says Well what about Chicago? Obviously that’s a deflection and supposed to be taking the heat off the problem of gun violence at large, but what about Chicago? What’s a reasonable response?

Those people, even if you talk about Chicago all the time, they never care, it’s always disingenuous. But this is one of those points where I want us to think about our investment in different categories of violence. Yeah, the situation in Chicago is terrible, but where are most of those guns coming from? Other spaces around Chicago, Ohio, Michigan, wherever, with comparatively low level of gun control. They’re getting funneled into the city. If you consider the political dimensions of this, those are states that affirmed the rights of men, exemplarily white men, that they have a right to be armed. And because of their rights to be armed, those guns will flow. That’s one of the things I can’t hammer home enough: guns are always going to flow.  A lot of these conservative assholes will say stuff that’s true for the wrong reasons. They’ll say bad guys will always get their hands on guns. That is on some level true, but it’s true because we’re constantly arming the good guys. The nature of guns is that they change hands. Also you’re a good guy right up to the point that you pull out a gun and shoot your wife and you become a bad guy. And it’s because there are bad guys out there that you had to have a gun in the first place.

And this is another thing: I’m drawing on the work of the psychologist Jonathan Metzl to argue this... Chicago is the reason a lot of white men buy guns that they then use to kill themselves. Basically white men are so invested in controlling the territorial space of their home and the suburbs from “invasion” by “black thugs” or whatever, that they are willing to do that even and especially when it means killing themselves. That’s one of the things that is so bleak. Everyone is disposable. Everyone. I use the language of the Charmed Circle, a feminist thing. The idea is the white man with the gun is more of a position than a real person. People get to have that position. But the system is ultimately indifferent to whether or not they eat their own gun or kill their family. And this gets at the hidden racial calculus of this. There is a way in which whiteness is determined by who shoots who.

Anyway. Hope you're ok. See you next time.