I’ve been exchanging emails on gun control with an old friend who also happens to be a gun-fearing, tree-hugging, knee-jerking, banners-snapping-in-the-breeze progressive.
Like Andrew O’Connor (my apologies for misspelling his name in the previous column), he appears to believe the Second Amendment is an anachronism that should be largely dispensed with if not outright repealed, and supports most of the liberal ideas for regulating private gun ownership in America out of existence. No surprises there. What did surprise me was when he unburdened himself of the following thoughts: “On the other hand, I don’t think America’s deeper problem with guns can be solved by regulating guns,” he wrote. “Our deeper problem is that many of our immigrant traditions — especially the Scotch-Irish tradition — brought with them cultures of vengeance.
“Americans kill Americans with guns because in many parts of the nation, our culture celebrates vengeance. What’s interesting is that the murder rate is three times higher in Texas than in New England, according to Albion’s Seed, a 900 page study of the different immigrant groups that shaped America. Why? The immigrant sources of Texas culture were from herding backgrounds (think Scottish highlands), in which one’s willingness to get even was the only way one prevented thieves from stealing the livestock. The immigrant sources of New England culture were more agrarian and didn’t celebrate vengeance as a virtue…”
If you are a standard-issue Boulder progressive nodding in agreement with this line of thought, I would like to point out one problem: It reeks of racism.
The racism in this case is directed against white Scots-Irish Americans, who are singled out for introducing vengeance into American culture.
If you don’t think the foregoing sentiments are racist, consider the following paraphrase I worked up, which is equally plausible, equally intellectually corrupt, and equally racist:
The reason there is so much gun violence in the black community is that its tribal-based culture celebrates vengeance. Gangs and gang violence are just a modern expression of tribal warfare based on score-settling and on avenging real and imagined grievances in hunter-gatherer societies. Blacks are into guns and gangs because they never got over being tribal hunter-gatherers in Africa.
It’s worth noting that the murder rate in Texas is three times higher than the murder rate in New England. This can be explained by the fact that Texas has almost twice as many blacks as New England, as well as disproportionately more Hispanics, another ethnic group whose culture, based on Spanish feudalism and Levantine tribalism, also contains deeply rooted traditions of vengeance.
See what I mean? Cast as an “explanation” of gun violence in the black and Hispanic communities, most progressives would consider this thinking racist on its face. Cast as an “explanation” of gun violence in America that blames it on the Scots-Irish whites, progressives like my friend can buy into it, oblivious to the underlying racism.
How can this be? I suspect it is because the progressive embrace of “identity politics” is implicitly racist and only a short step removed from overt racism, and it is easy for progressives to slip over the line and start talking racist trash about white Americans, especially white male Americans — as a number of Democrats and progressives have done while taking victory laps after Obama’s re-election.
I suspect most American progressives don’t realize how deeply they’ve strayed into racism, but the fact that a racist explanation of gun violence which they would find appalling if applied to blacks seems plausible to them when applied to whites means that they are knee deep into it whether they know it or not.
And it stinks. The truth is Americans don’t buy guns because America is a vengeance-based society. They buy them for self-defense. Self-defense is not just a macho fantasy rationalization for buying a gun, much as some would like to believe.
Americans use guns to protect themselves about 1 million times a year. In all but a few thousand of these cases no shots are fired. Just the fact that the person is armed is sufficient to deter attacks.
And the people who use guns for self-defense are not just white males, as much as gun control advocates would like you to believe they are. They include blacks and Hispanics who live in high-crime neighborhoods, women, gays, seniors living alone, abused spouses, victims of harassment, and otheres whose day-to-day safety can’t be guaranteed by the police.
Self-defense is not the same thing as vengeance, and not all violence is the product of vengeance. Sometimes, most of the time, violence is the product of evil. Disarming the innocent and the law-abiding doesn’t prevent violence. It enables it.
This opinion column does not necessarily reflect the views of Boulder Weekly.