The Cult of the Gun: Its role as a fetish of identity, function and status.

The Cult of the Gun: Its role as a fetish of identity, function and status.

 By James C. Whiteside

Abstract:  Whether a troubled society in some degree at war with itself can accept the corruption of its basic democratic procedures by gun owners claiming patriotic virtue and special status.   The gun mechanism involved operating as a fetish seeking magical outcomes by means of violence and or the threat of violence. Individual power and force are conceived and claimed to be the means to civil liberty and protection.  Can   psychological and sociological errors of mind and action successfully counter rampant hysteria? How are alienated individuals to be dealt with and how can the industries promoting and then cashing in on the fear and mayhem of such individuals be dealt with?

Why is the government itself modeling such behavior in overseas violence and war making?  Finally, how individual legislators are coerced in such circumstances. 


We are a troubled society.  No other nation on earth has the kind and amount of gun violence citizens of the U.S. accept unless it is involved in a civil war.  The question therefore must be raised as to whether or not we are in fact involved in just such an undeclared civil strife.  It may be so.  We are certainly at some kind of war with ourselves. Numerous gun owners claim their right to gun ownership as preparation for defending themselves against government which in most cases is nowhere near to attacking them and for which they supply no evidence.   Such claimants often seem to be more a condition of hysterical fantasies caused by circumstances of diminished power and loss of status.


Some gun owners threaten that they are prepared to attack the government if an attempt is made to take away or even regulate their gun ownership or for other nebulous and undisclosed reasons.  Besides being stupid, preposterous and totally disproportionate to any claimed suppression, their “alleged patriotic necessity of resisting the U.S. government by force of arms in not only unconstitutional, but treasonous.”[i]  We have other means to control the government, they are called elections.  If citizens find governments inefficient and corrupt as too many of them are at times, then it is citizens’ civic duty to take civil action to change them, not hallucinate a projected excuse for personal armaments and violent action.


What boggles the mind is that the very performance history of truculent gun owners, a minority, and the abrasive function of the gun lobby, a minority of that minority, have consistently acted over a number of years to corrupt the democratic system of representative government and an informed public, not improve it as the short list on the previous page details.


This then is the cult of the gun.  It is this remarkably successful effort of the gun manufacturers to propagandize gun owners’ fears and to produce a fetish commodity that the nation must consider if it is to have any peace of mind or body.  The nation cannot continue to allow production of material objects and mechanisms, the ownership of which is propagandized to bring about magical outcomes for those who are enchanted by such fantasies.  In case of guns, that would be loud and startling noises, smashed, dispersed and destroyed objects, destroyed wildlife, even the disintegration of human targets whether paper or actual.  And of course, the perceived power and status of being able to wreak such havoc as the shooter chooses at any time of his choosing.


The effect of such a mistakenly coordinated and detached society, as fragmented as ours, is to allow itself to be endangered by these disembodied psychological contusions to human peace of mind resulting in a condition called alienation.  Alienation means individuals lost from all connection to social constraints, to other persons, even the wonder and beauty of small children, and to their own mothers and fathers.  Where jurisdiction over life function and purpose is left to the vagaries of such a stupefying hocus pocus as this industry throws up for profit, a nation is left with a history that is a sick and a monstrous abomination, a liability which can only be destructive of its civil life and health.  This we already know.  Anyone who doesn’t know has merely to consider the extensive national drug use, legal and illegal including cigarette usage.


Societies like ours produce such alienated individuals who are or may become poorly coordinated to and detached from valid social values for various reasons.  One is that this is a society constantly involved in the violence of wars.  Yet the public of this nation is greatly detached from those wars.  Few participate.  There are no specific taxes to be paid for the maintenance of such wars though everyone knows the money must come from somewhere.  There is great expectation and confidence that such war violence as occurs is “over there” and we will be safe from any of it affecting us “here.”  Though this supposition was somewhat shattered by 9/11 it still remains in effect toward the internal civil use of guns that plague our society.

Our government’s overseas violence does affect us here.  “More guns” are held up as the answer to internal violence.  How can that be?  I mean, of course, the astounding statistics of killing and mutilation by guns on a daily basis.  Gun suicides approach 19,000 a year in the U.S.  They outnumber gun murders which are more than 11,000.  A gun in the home increases the risk of suicide, largely because it is so effective and irreversible.  Nicholas Kristof writes when Israel moved to have many of its soldiers store guns on base rather than at home, its military suicide rates plunged.[ii]  Where does a civil society store its guns for safe keeping?  After all mass murder is merely war carried out on a smaller, individual shooter scale using the same weaponry.


[i] Lawrence S. Wittner.  “Gun control and Arms Control.”  Z Magazine, February 2013, p. 15.

[ii] Kristof, opus cit.