There has been a marked propensity for far too many to view the works of “Founding Fathers”, whether in political or religious context, in a manner that uses selective passages of important documents (let’s go with the U.S. Constitution and the Bible for the sake of this column) for the sake of political argument, (as opposed to knowledge). In that light, please allow me to re-introduce you to one of the most influential American “Founding Fathers” of all….Thomas Paine.
As an original Founding Father of the United States, Thomas Paine was an English-American political activist, philosopher, political theorist and revolutionary.
Among those the most noteworthy that proclaimed his writings as primary influences were: Robert G. Ingersoll, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Edison, Abraham Lincoln, etc. If you are pre-disposed to favor bumper sticker political science then perhaps this one by Thomas Paine will ring a bell; “These are the times that try men’s souls.”
Indeed they are. I would expand this to include “fathers and mothers, sons and daughters souls”.
Founding Father Thomas Paine’s The American Crisis not only describes the beginnings of the American Revolution, but also the life of Paine himself. Throughout most of his life, his writings inspired passion, but also brought him great criticism, as most noteworthy writings often do. As a polished but simple communicator, Paine took the ideas of the Revolution to common farmers as easily as to intellectuals, creating prose that stirred the hearts of those in the fledgling United States. He had a grand vision for society: he was staunchly anti-slavery, and he was one of the first to advocate a world peace organization and a form of social security for the poor and elderly.
In Jan. 1776, Thomas Paine anonymously published Common Sense, the most effective and important pep talk in American history. Consisting of 48 pages of duck soup arguments for independence from England, it quickly circulated like wildfire among thousands of colonists and became something of a rally point behind a war for freedom. In essence, “Common Sense” helped ignite the American Revolution. Paine’s ideas and philosophies on the intersection of government, society, and human nature continued to be extremely influential throughout the war, and even more so after it was won. In other words, common sense was the foundation upon which the U.S. was built.
So, ummm, where the hell is that common sense today?
As the United States continues to be rocked by mass shootings, with another happening in San Bernardino, California just yesterday, it became the one thousand thirtieth since the barbaric Sandy Hook attack on, of all things, an elementary school. Almost the definition of insanity, the state of Texas has decided that the best way to prevent gun violence is to have more guns in more places. This summer, governor Greg Abbot signed Senate Bill 11 into law, making it legal for license holders to carry concealed handguns into public college and university buildings in Texas.
In response, author Jessica Jin, (University of Texas alumna) created a satirical Facebook event called “Campus (DILDO) Carry.” Her impetus for the event, in Ms Jin’s own words, “The State of Texas has decided that it is not at all obnoxious to allow deadly concealed weapons in classrooms, however it DOES have strict rules about free sexual expression,” Jessica Jin, organizer of the Facebook event (#cocksnotglocks) and a UT alumna, wrote on the page. “You would receive a citation for taking a dildo to class before you would get in trouble for taking a gun to class.”
She obviously thought it would be funny to make a spectacle of the law by turning her alma mater, the University of Texas at Austin, into an entirely different sort of spectacle. What better way to mock the proliferation of guns than by proliferating dildos? Our culture is teeming with references and ironies that connect guns and phalluses; not the least of which is the fact that most mass shootings are perpetrated by white males and white males are the largest segment, by far, of the NRA.
We do so love to be packing in America. Jin’s event went viral.
It turns out everyone is frustrated; the vast majority of Americans are tired, embarrassed, infuriated and just plain fed up of hearing about preventable gun deaths in the US and the resulting NRA/GOP reaction that the only cure is more guns to more people and fewer restictions on just who can and can’t have them. And they are tired with the NRA and members of Congress controlled by the NRA with their constant propaganda that there is an actual American love affair with guns—a romantic attachment that has, and will continue, to literally sacrifice scores of innocent lives. Supporters of Jin’s event therefore saw the dildo as an apt team mascot, matching our lax gun laws in absurdity.
So again, where is the common sense and why have we completely turned our backs on why and how this country’s laws and underpinnings were conceived by the often misquoted Founding Fathers?
A survey to be published this week asked 382 police and sheriff’s departments nationwide to rank the three biggest threats from violent extremism in their jurisdiction. 74 percent listed white male antigovernment extremists (domestic terrorists) as the biggest, while only 19 percent listed “Al Qaeda-inspired” violence, according to the researchers, Charles Kurzman of the University of North Carolina and David Schanzer of Duke University.
Personally, having being born in, and resided in Mississippi for 60 years, I’d never really taken the time to fully form my ideas around the issue of guns. I owned a sawed-off shotgun, a .44 Magnum hand canon, a .32 caliber pistol, and just for good measure, a .25 caliber Beretta.
But after 9/11, I knew that there was something deeply broken about our violent American reality…but I also understood that gun culture is much more nuanced than some opponents give it credit.
This means that there may never be a “simple” way to prevent gun deaths, even though there is a perfectly simple and reasonable interpretation of the 2nd Amendment that refers to individual gun ownership for the preservation of “well regulated militias”, not the slaughter of elementary school children, or black Christians at prayer service! The thought of confronting such a heated and tangled mess of deliberately misquoted history, mortality, fear, and raw human emotion seemed honestly just too hard to me. I’m an economist, a rare liberal from a deep red state. So, like many similar Americans, I chose not to simply not deal with it and have always internalized a sense of despair from afar.
The curious thing about jokes is that they have a magical way of putting safety bubble around controversy. They allow you to invite something you might normally find too difficult to face right up onto your doorstep for closer inspection.
But in light of the fact that just since December 2012, when a gunman walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, and killed 20 children, six adults, and himself there have been at least 1,030 MASS SHOOTINGS, including the killing of 9 black Christians attending a Sunday night prayer service by a so-called white Christian, (which would seem to render the term “white Christian mass killer” oxymoronic in this instance) with mostly white male shooters killing approximately 1,300 people and wounding 3,699 more just since Sandy Hook.
Would someone please explain to me how this insanity is covered under the 2nd Amendment’s “well-regulated militia” clause?
After the Sandy Hook massacre, 90% of Americans favored at least some sort of background checks before one could purchase a weapon, but the GOP NRA-Paid-Stooges refused to even bring it to the House of Representatives floor for a vote; which begs the question, just who in God’s name do these idiots represent, their constituency or the NRA and their bribe money?
It’s easy to allow our feelings of helplessness to overwhelm and paralyze us. It’s much more difficult to define and publicly present a set of ideas.
While the employment of ridicule, satire, and mockery by #CocksNotGlocks has worked to highlight our gun-saturated culture—sadly, or perhaps revealingly, it has also drawn some of the most vile, hateful cave dwellers out to throw stones in the sunshine.
Still, progress has never been easy—just ask Thomas Paine. Paine had full faith in the power of human reason, and the intellect to transcend both his time and the status quo. More than 250 years ago, Common Sense served as a rational catalyst for the establishment of the country we call home. Today, that home has abandoned common sense and reason when it comes to making simple changes to the irresponsible gun laws which some advocates estimate help to kill an average of 88 Americans every day, every year. That doesn’t mean we stop fighting. I have never known America to back down from a challenge.
Common Sense encapsulated the ideals of the American Revolution and inspired patriots to fight for a better future. But the Founding Fathers simply could not have envisioned the twisted bastardization of the 2nd Amendment any more than they could have envisioned space travel. So now, as we wage this contemporary battle against the nonsense of unregulated gun violence, I submit Jessica Jin’s dildo: a perfectly absurd symbol for the absurd times in which we live…and many of us die for the simple lack of common sense to an issue that for any reasonable, sane human being should be a no-brainer.
Harvey A. Gold