Month: February 2018

Black Panthers and Pop Gun Cultures

Splendid and silly and better than average….. But I support the American orphan over the Afro-fascists of Wakanda

Excerpts from a recent dive into Facebook (sigh)

I’m not one to think too deeply about this type of movie because if we did there would be no end to it. It is part an parcel of pop culture and inescapably safe for the current social order of the 1%. But, I thought a more interesting script would have been to see the victory of the bad black guy who would then take over Wakanda and begin to pursue his dream of global conquest, but just as the movie ended show a sense of conscience and doubt about his simplistic vision and absorb some of the old world wisdom of Wakanda, and then a series of Black Panther movies could follow him through some sort of moral transformation and re-envisioning of what power is and how it can be used, coming to an ecstatic realization of something contained in the Forrest Whittaker and Angela Bassett characters that power exists in some sort of religio-discursive domain and that all the silliness with guns and power suits are in fact mere evidences of the truism that war is the failure of poltics. That would make for a nice multi movie story arc that could still have plenty of gun battles on the way to an Asoka-like come-to-Buddha moment after the battle of Kalinga (with a nice echo of Mkwawa’s home). Because the Black Panther was not and really can never be African but African American… The orphan of the slave trade, the fatherless son full of rage and fighting with exaggerated machismo against the social order like Huey Newton, always fighting as ferociously with his own demons as with the pigs and Hoovers and symbols of hegemony. The black panther is not, as a matter of fact African, but American.

I am serious about my version of what the plot line should have been…But even the movie’s current fantasy version of Africa is, of course, itself very African American as Africa becomes a mythical land of origin like Tolkien’s Middle Earth. And thereby the African king is not structured as the enemy of the African American, but an ancestral alter ego that acts as moral superego. In that sense the king is just as much African American as the orphan and none of it is really African. The tribes and the pangas are not African ones, but repurposed images from the evening news version of Africa deployed in a reconfiguration of that Africa of famine rape and tribal war. The reconfiguration is not a reinforcement of those images because their redeployment happens in a context that parallels the fetishist violence of Game of Thrones type shows of macho (white) violence. Violence, in the idiom of American pop culture, is a stand-in for agency. So it must needs be here.

As for the culture of guns. I respect that deep-seated gun culture of which we are a part. It is a culture that thinks of guns as a fearsome tool, that needs to be treated with respect and care, and thought about how it will be used. Think about how a gun owner teaches a son or a daughter how to handle his or her first gun. A father puts a carefully unloaded gun into his son’s hands, to let him feel its heft, it is his first sign that this is not a toy. This is not a cap gun or a water pistol. Its solid weight tells you that. You teach your son to hold it properly. You teach him a set of rules: never point a gun at someone, as a joke, even if you know it is unloaded. Always keep your safety on until you are ready to shoot. Store your weapon in a safe secure place in your home. Make sure it is unloaded when not in use. Check the chamber. These are the habits that a responsible gun owner teaches his or her child, so that the child will also grow up to be a responsible gun owner. And here is the real gun culture, one in which handling and owning a gun is a rite of passage into adulthood. You teach your child to think about how he or she will use the gun on what circumstances. If it is for hunting, you teach the outdoors skills that are necessary for a successful and safe hunt. If it is for self-protection you teach the child to think through how to make a decision about whether and when to shoot, because it will be too late to think clearly when an emergency arises. In an emergency you need to rely on well-trained instinct to make a snap decision. An emergency will require a snap decision about whether or not to take another person’s life. That is not a decision to be taken lightly, you need to think about it ahead of time. These are all the habits of the deep-seated gun culture that you speak of. A responsible gun owner of that type would normally extend that care and respect into his or her thoughts about public policy. Public policy should reflect that sober attitude. Our current public policy does not. In our current policy, we make only token efforts to prevent criminals (and I count terrorists merely to be another category of criminal) from getting weapons. If they can’t purchase them themselves at a gun show or other unregulated sale, they can get a shill buyer to purchase for them. Why would a responsible gun owner want that? It makes no sense at all. The 2nd Amendment speaks of guns in the context of a “well-regulated militia”. Here it was envisioned that communities would maintain their own militias of men who brought their own weapons when called out, and therefore required the right to keep and bear arms. The purpose of this right was for community defense, and perhaps they took it for granted that weapons would also be used for hunting. They were responsible gun owners, and the duty that this amendment implied was a weighty one. I take it that this is the gun culture to which you subscribe…. When I speak of “popular gun culture” I am speaking of the way in which guns are portrayed in movies, TV, and video games, where the bad guys always miss and the good guys always hit, where every problem can be solved in a flashy gun battle. I am speaking of video games where the player looks at a screen and sees the sights of a gun and goes around and shoots off endless rounds killing scores of zombies or criminals or cops. These video games are mere fantasies, I know, no different than the movies. But those childish fantasies leak into our realities. And that is what I mean by a childish culture. But you are correct, it is impossible to make a rule for every danger in life. We have to live with danger in this world. And that is one aspect of Benjamin Franklin’s quote here. But if we look carefully, rules are usually imposed because people have acted irresponsibly. A bit of responsible gun safety legislation will not kill the 2nd Amendment, far from it. It will strengthen it. If you want to damage the 2nd Amendment, continue to allow people to shoot up schools, and churches, and concerts every month. Continue to allow criminals to buy semi-automatic weapons and bump stocks to make them act like automatic weapons. Continue to watch as your children die. For they are your children, and mine. And they will revoke the 2nd Amendment out of spite for our inaction. And, that also will be a childish act for all the reasons that Franklin and Jefferson explained in proposing the Constitution and Bill of Rights. The Constitution, as written, presumes a mature citizenry. We, as a people, are not acting like one.