Ronald Reagan was in office. El Salvador was suffering under a brutal regime. Thousands of people were “being disappeared” throughout Central and South America and the United States administration considered the Marxist-led Nicaraguan government a threat to national security. Roman Catholic clergy were raped and murdered. The Berlin Wall had not yet crumbled, the Soviet Union was involved in Afghanistan, and the Cold War was at full throttle.
I’d become involved with a group of people opposed to adventurist U.S. policy, but I was also concerned about the historical political and social ramifications concomitant with all neo-Marxist regimes.
The problem with the rhetoric of my peers was that it was grounded on the Marxist dialectical paradigm of class struggle. With some quasi-Freudian symbolism thrown into the mix, the rhetoric advanced to the point where white, western male-dominated imperialism was the unqualified evil oppressor of the once peaceful, matriarchal societies of long ago. A firearm was nothing more than the symbolic penis of masculine aggression.
I don’t buy that argument, however.
Violence is owned by everyone, and the myth of peaceful, coexisting indigenous cultures is a lie. In Christ’s age, women were consistently stoned for infidelity, and David, of course, committed genocide. In BCE India, King Pusyamitara is reported to have placed a bounty on the heads of Buddhist monks. Physician and ethnographer James R. Walker, who worked and lived from 1896-1914 in Pine Ridge, S.D., quotes an Ogallala elder’s description of a cuckolded Lakota husband in the mid- 19th Century as mutilating and then dragging his wife through beds of thorns. The elder perceived it as an accepted social practice.
Imperialism, sexism and violence, then, from what I can discern, is not the sole domain of western culture and/or men. Accounts of those who survived the Nazi Holocaust8212;as well as the genocides in Bosnia and Rwanda8212;support this.
On the other hand, my father, a Marine veteran who’d served in the Pacific during World War II, is an advocate of non-violence. He’d urge me to not involve myself in fights, advising instead to disengage from threatening situations. Nevertheless, he kept a pistol in his bedstead and several rifles in the closet. He also taught me firearm safety, which included learning how and when to use them.
The practicality of this came home when I was six years old. My family had been away from the house for a day. Upon return, we discovered that someone had broken in. He, she, or they, had cut the croProxy-Connection: keep-aliveCache-Control: max-age=0
hes from my mother’s panties and the nipple areas from her bras. The perpetrator was never caught. The incident served to heighten my own awareness. Not everyone, I learned, is nice, kind, benevolent and honest.
And so it is that we live in a nation allowing choices, and an important one is to choose whether we’re willing to defend ourselves. The question is, how?
The best form of self-defense comes with the First Amendment by way of Free Speech, but as one of my Christian friends pointed out, “The Word can easily be abused.” A despot’s rhetoric is a case in point. I also want to clarify things when it comes to free expression. It’s a quote about risk from author Anne LaMott.
“It’s better to fall face forward,” LaMott writes, “than to fall by leaning too far back.”
The Second Amendment, “The Right to Keep and Bear Arms” helps. The Dalai Lama, considered one of the sanest alive, is quoted in the May 15, 2001 issue of The Seattle Times as saying, “If someone has a gun and trying to kill you, it would be reasonable to shoot back with your own gun.”
Consequently, I don’t have faith in absolute non-violence. I’ve also little confidence8212;at least in a pinch8212;with reason, pepper-spray, and/or stabbing and cutting instruments. Reason can be perceived as cowardice, and pepper-spray can only aggravate somebody who’s committed to hurting us. A pistol, however, makes a would-be assailant think twice. As my friend “Downtown Steve” said, “a .22 in the face is better than a .45 in a case.” The caveat is that a person who carries a gun for self-defense needs to be knowledgeable, wise and willing enough to know when, how and where to lawfully and ethically use it.
That’s a mighty big caveat, folks8212;but it’s the truth.
–Keith Brumley is an SDSU alumnus and current journalism graduate student at SDSU.