The Desire to Kill: Blood Fantasy, Guns, & the Song of the Week (4/20/2015)

monkey-with-a-gun

A while back, I was watching a discussion about gun control on Facebook. One commenter identified himself as a gun owner and said, “If anyone comes into my home without invitation they aren’t coming out alive.”

It was, of course, the typical overweening and simplistic power-fantasy posturing we see from so many gun owners. I was curious about the guy, so I glanced at his wall, where I saw him complain that both pro-gun and anti-gun folks couldn’t argue reasonably on the issue. And yet, all he brought to the discussion where I encountered him was his “I have a gun, I am powerful, I will kill the wabbit” comment.

I started to ask him if shooting a prowler non-fatally would be enough, doing just enough to stop them from their dread and fearful action but not actually taking their life. But I’ve been in such discussions, and the answer is always that if they’re on the gun guy’s turf, they’re dead. It’s not just a matter of using the gun as a practical tool in order to do what is necessary to protect yourself. It’s a matter of violent punishment: you’re on my turf, so you die.

And, you know, that’s a different sort of mindset than we want with gun owners, really. We allow police to carry guns, and we train them how to use them properly and responsibly (whether they actually do is, alas, another matter). Do we tell them, “If someone is involved in a crime, use your mighty boomstick and slay them?” No. We teach them to (hopefully) do the minimum violence necessary to solve the problem.

You don’t see that mindset in gun owners, or not very often. They harbor this violent power fantasy in which their gun is their talisman against evil and they are victorious (and unerringly accurate and effective) heroes in the dark and bloody moment. It’s not just that they might have to kill in certain circumstances, it’s that they want to. And that very critical difference ought to be enough to make us wonder if they, as a group, really have the maturity to wield these powerful weapons, or if their very stated desire to wield death is reason enough to question allowing them to have them.

Here’s a look at what letting them costs us.

And here’s the Song of the Week…

“Whenever Kindness Fails” (live) – Robert Earl Keen

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Childish Things

Hearing this week’s song of the week today brought to mind a discussion I had with another writer on Facebook a few weeks ago. The release of World of Warcraft‘s latest expansion was nigh and, as many of you know, it was introducing the pandaren as a playable race. The pandaren are basically kung-fu pandas, mystical shaolin-style monks, and their homeland is based heavily in eastern cultural tropes. (They also predate the Kung-Fu Panda movies by several years).

Now, I haven’t played WoW in many years, but my son still does occasionally, and I’d watched him play some of this content during its beta testing. It was fun stuff. the pandaren had a lot of charm and character, their abilities were clever and different than the stock WoW fare, and the world-building for their lands was gorgeous and epic in its scope.

Anyway, this writer snorted derisively at any grown-ups out there who were actually looking forward to playing panda warriors. Why? Because pandas are cute, naturally, and only children could conceivably want to play such cute creatures. I challenged him on it, because not only do I see the pandaren as neither more nor less intrinsically ridiculous than elves, dwarves, gnomes, or any of the other fantasy races you can play in WoW and similar games, but I think a fantasist attacking other people’s fantasies rather unbecoming. This writer makes his living writing face-to-face roleplaying games in which the players pretend to be monsters (as indeed I used to when I was a writer for White Wolf Games). Quite a few people would consider that sort of thing childish.

I wrote:

I just have an innate negative reaction to arguments that denigrate the tastes of others in ways like calling them “childish,” when as far as I’m concerned pretending to be a kung-fu panda is no more ridiculous or childish than pretending to be a stalwart shaman cow. Or a magical mystical mummy, for that matter.

He wrote:

I *completely* accept that the pandaren might be considered cool by players of a given age range, those of commensurately immature taste, and those who engage them as part of spending time with their kids, and I hope you’re right that those folks enjoy playing the hell out of it. But it’s not for me, play-wise, nor for the adults with whom I game on the regular…Pretending to be a bouncing anime panda-person may not be more ridiculous than pretending to be a shambling mummy, but it *is* more childish, and there’s just no way around that.

Note the pointless zealotry, the refusal to accept that any mature adult might be able to enjoy playing these fantasy creatures, while playing other fantasy creatures is presumably quite adult. Pandaren might be enjoyed by players “of a given age range” or “commensurately immature taste” or those playing alongside their children. He couldn’t just take a reasonable step back and think, “Maybe an adult might enjoy this simply because it’s fun and they get a kick out of it.” He had to insist that an adult who liked this sort of thing was not the proper sort of adult at all.

I replied:

To personalize it, I think the pandaren are cool, and were I still playing WoW I’d be looking forward to playing one. To therefore say that only people of a certain age range or “commensurately immature taste” can find them cool is insulting. I seriously doubt my tastes are any less mature than yours, and in fact the tendency to argue the “maturity” of such things seems to me an immature one.

As C.S. Lewis put it, “When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.”

But, to be agreeable, I’ll cede your point that making believe you’re a scary monster is much more grown up than making believe that you’re a panda-esque warrior. Because what the hell.

Don’t try too hard to be a grown-up, folks. It’s something that happens naturally in its course, and it has nothing to do with whether you can still have fun or not.

Here’s James McMurty with our song of the week…

Safe & Sound (Song of the Week, 2/20/2012)

Taylor Swift and the Civil Wars present this hauntingly lovely ballad that seems straight out of old-time Appalachia. It’s the theme song from the upcoming Hunger Games movie, but very much to the makers’ credit the melancholy and beautiful video avoids resorting to film footage.

For the record, I’m a big fan of Suzanne Collins’s series of books and am really looking forward to seeing the film.

Good Memories of 2011, Day 2: Brandi Carlile

A lot of folks don’t know Brandi Carlile, which is a shame. I’ve been listening to her for a few years now, featuring her music here several times. She’s a wonderful talent. This year, no other artist was there for me as much as she was, in good times and in bad.

Early in the year, her live cover of The Beatles’ “I Just Saw A Face” perfectly captured the wonder and joy I felt when I looked at the woman I loved… Continue reading

Dancing Under An Outlaw Moon

I’ve made a YouTube playlist of most of the Songs of the Week and other music I’ve shared on this blog (89 videos in the list at this writing), and will add new entries as I feature new tunes in the future. Of course you’ll need to find individual posts themselves to see what comments, embarassing overshares, memories, or funny thoughts I originally shared with the various tunes.

The link (which is also in the blog’s sidebar, under “Special Stuff”), is:

http://www.youtube.com/playlist?p=PLBA769A23F4B98284

By Way of Sorrow (Song of the Week 3/1/2010)

I’m starting a new tradition here under the ol’ outlaw moon. Every week, I’m going to share a song with you. And I’m going to begin with one of my favorites, a song by the lovely Julie Miller called “By Way of Sorrow.”

This is a song that I’ve listened to hundreds of times over the years and it has never lost its power to move me. Aside from the elegant softness of the music and the gentle beauty of Miller’s voice, the song is like a shelter from the cold, a loving touch on a lonely night.

I suffer from depression, and just listening to Miller sing this song adds a bit of hope to my time in the abyss. This winter has been a time of crushing solitude and torpor for me (it’s become apparent that my depression is very cyclical, and the colder months damn near crack my bones spiritually), and I’m only just starting not only to see sunlight again, but to care whether I see it or not.

Julie Miller’s song helps me feel like perhaps there’s still someplace I’m headed besides base survival.

Lyrics after the break:

Continue reading