Guns and the Creation Myth of America
In February of this year, Caitlin J. Stout tweeted
I have written before about how Ancient Near East creation myths were designed to show that a king's rule or a temple's practice of religion are legitimate. America has its own creation myths and they're designed to show that owning guns is primarily beneficial for the safety and security of individuals and society.
The term creation myth does not necessarily refer to a false belief but rather describes the stories that we tell ourselves, our children, and our society at large about how we came to be. A creation myth explains where we came from.
Our country's creation myth talks about how great minds and guns brought about the development of the foundations of our government and our independence.
Those great minds owned slaves, gave authority to white land-owning men like themselves, and developed a form of government that established checks and balances to limit authoritarian power (when used). It definitely was not entirely bad, but it certainly has questionable foundations. In the subsequent centuries we have changed and tried to change lots of it, but functionally we still own slaves, authority is still assumed to be with wealthy white men, and the rights of the people still rely on the checks and balances among the executive, legislative, and judicial branches at all levels of our government.
The myths about those guns continue in many forms. We tell our children in school famous quotes from the American Revolution like "don't fire until you see the whites of their eyes" in order to show how important those guns were and we explain to the victims of gun violence that the founding fathers' ideas about a well regulated militia mean that we cannot enact new laws that distance guns from people who have a history of violence. Our creation myths tell our society that tools of death are necessary today because they were essential to our independence from England. We say that guns brought about order in this chaotic New World and yet we used guns against native populations and against people stolen from Africa. By what our creation
Myths teach us, both guns and the founding fathers are to be worshiped by means of laws paid for by owners and managers of these tools of death — these priests who interpret at the altar of the Second Amendment.
For a time, my family owned guns. I shot my first gun before I turned 10 years old. I squeezed a trigger many times on a number of guns as a kid. The sound of gunfire was common in my childhood winters once deer hunting season opened (the first day of the season was a holiday). One of my childhood friends was murdered with a gun. There are many ways in which guns are familiar to me and to you simply by living and moving around this country. It is far too straightforward to define a state sanctioned religion of the worship of guns.
What, then, is the fruit of a faith that honors guns? What does that kind of ritualized practice of honoring guns lead to? When people develop a piece of technology that can be used for many purposes but that technology often leads to death at the hands of some, should we not find a way to determine who can use that technology and how they can use it so that we can limit deaths? We do that for so many forms of technology and praise such work (cars is an easy example, though we have a lot more work even there) but our priests of the Second Amendment consider it unholy to try to do so with guns.
And people are sacrificed daily at the altar of the worship of guns under the direction of the law of the Second Amendment, under the perceived and supported authority of the police, under racism, under misogyny, and under the plain old love of tools of death.
Let's tell stories about our country's founding that we ignore and perhaps find a better altar. A religion that sacrifices the lives of children is not one worth perpetuating.