I have always believed that folk music can offer a glimpse into the soul of a people. Country, bluegrass, blues recite the history of a people, set the tone they live by. Then music takes a political turn:Americana often reveals their troubles, their anger, their hopes and fears.
Then when the music stops and there is silence the illusion is gone and that soul is nowhere to be found. What is left in its place is a culture that seems too foreign to understand. How can they still freely arm the hands of mass murderers? how is it possible to burden the survivors of a massacre with hospital bills? The less important part of the free world judges from a higher place, criticising through ever-creative sarcasm. Why can’t these people see the obvious? Guns are bad for you.
The US, like all nations is built upon the narratives it has woven. Narratives that maintain and validate its global position. The ‘free world’, where freedom of the market guarantees freedom of the people; where everyone has the opportunity to succeed if they are hard-working and clever. Where people of all races and creeds co-exist in harmony; A nation that keeps the world safe and maintains peace by taking out ‘the bad guys’.
And the average ‘American?’ Good, honest people- a bit naive, going by Hollywood tropes. They value their family and their country, ‘the greatest country in the world’. They value their family-they are caretakers and protectors. The need to protect is emphasised in popular culture- because if they don’t who will? They are hard-working, they are generous; they build a life for themselves with their own two hands.
The emphasis is always on the individual. The state is not part of this story. Society is nowhere to be seen. If anything, the state is not to be trusted. It won’t protect anyone, won’t take care of anyone. A person must fend for themselves in a dangerous world where institutions are irrelevant. A gun gives a person the opportunity to defend themselves, it gives them the illusion of security, the illusion of power. Most importantly, it distributes that power equally, making it accessible.
The Republicans try to divert the discussion away from gun control whenever a massacre happens. They talk about the underlying issues, the gun they say, is only a tool. It seems to me that actually addressing the underlying issues is a discussion they would prefer to avoid even more.
I tried to imagine myself in this situation: if I ever lived in the US, would I buy a gun to defend myself? In my hypothetical scenario I am threatened by another person with a gun. I also have a gun. We have now two guns in between us and twice as many bullets. What happens next? If life was a movie I would quick draw and shoot first, just like a cowboy. If life was a movie maybe the attacker would allow me time to reach for my gun, pull it slowly out and aim at them; then they would realise we are at an impasse and back off slowly. All this seems as likely as me roundhouse-kicking the gun out of the attacker’s hand and delivering a witty one-liner.
In real life, you can’t shoot your problems away. You can’t sing them away either, but if you do sing, you might realise they are shared.