Let’s go out with a bang

This appeared on the Internet recently. It’s a very common trope, and the more reasons that emerge to disbelieve it, the more people like this one dig in their heels and engage unwittingly in intellectual self-abasement.

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When someone overdoses on heroin, political leaders and other members of society don’t typically start jabbering about the number of responsible high-seekers who can use opioids safely, or the vast number who take prescription painkillers without selling them to people who then grind them up and snort them, etc. Sure, the government doesn’t actually care about the opioid epidemic at the moment, but no one is actually coming out and saying that drugs aren’t the problem in drug addiction and overdose deaths.

If someone goes through a fifth of bourbon a day and ultimately dies of cirrhosis of the liver, you won’t hear his friends and family or other people in his community talking about how many people they know who can drink in moderation, or about the root psychological causes of substance abuse, or about his extended family’s history of questionable hepatic health. Anyone who tried to flat out declare, “It wasn’t the alcohol that killed him!” would be regarded with a mixture of pity and scorn.

When a woman who’s an admitted adrenaline junkie dies violently when her Porsche smashes into a bridge support at 130 miles an hour, there’s no chance in hell you would see anyone claiming she would have been killed even if she’d been going 25 miles an hour and that the real problem was that she played way too many games of “Pole Position” on Nintendo, or saw too many films like “Lethal Weapon.” Everyone would at least admit that she lost her life because she was driving her car at excessive speeds.

In each instance, new laws could never completely eliminate the problem described. Yet narcotic analgesics, alcohol, and driving have all been subject to increasing levels of regulation in the U.S. over the years, with measurably positive, if obviously imperfect, results. You never see people (obvious cranks excepted) advocating for the wholesale legalization of drugs or booze at all ages and the dissolution of speed limits and DUI laws. Even the most idiotic libertarian would have to acknowledge under pressure that most laws pertaining to potentially and demonstrably unsafe things do result in some degree of harm reduction — which is always the real goal, or should be.

But when it comes to guns, it’s an entirely different conversation with completely different rules of “logic.” The powers that be have been very successful in promulgating the idea that guns aren’t the real problem in shootings. Politicians and the gun-makers who own them expected to say these things because they are ferociously awful people, but the Sunday school teacher from Fort Gay, West Virginia (I know, you can’t make any of that up) whose words are below is not being adversarial; she’s being earnest. She’s so damn wrong it’s enough to make anyone choke, but to her, every single thing about kids’ lives map on to school shooting *except the availability of guns*. This lags behind the reasoning powers of a fairly blessed chimpanzee or dolphin, yet is fairly mainstream thinking these days.

People truly believe this crap, and this in turn is the main reason the notion of, say, an impending nuclear war doesn’t concern me (at least in the abstract; I’m sure I’d become a lot more frantic if I knew it was actually happening) even when my life is going as well as it ever will. I’m able to operate with a decent level of personal optimism despite having slid into philosophical nihilism as far as this collective human circus is concerned, and while I wouldn’t recommend it, I imagine I’m not alone. And it’s certainly no more nihilistic than ignoring things like gun violence.

If something resembling our species managed to resurrect itself from a post-nuclear hellscape and gather its collective resources over a period of a few hundred thousand years, maybe it would do a better job than we have. Not likely, but you never know.

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