(DISCLAIMER: This post gets long. It gets political. And it gets even a little bit religious. Three things I typically keep from putting on here, but, well, I’ve decided to change things up today)
As an author, I get to craft evil villains. I love crafting evil villains. I like developing back stories, coming up with over the top intentions, and ultimately, I love just allowing the crazy to come out and become a living (fictional) being.
For a long time, possibly due to the naiveté of youth, I didn’t really perceive evil in this world. Sure, I grew up during the first Gulf War where Saddam Hussein was painted as this absolutely atrocious human being (which he was, don’t get me wrong, just let me get to the point), but he still appeared human. He had motivation, albeit mostly power, and well, he still seemed like a person. He wasn’t like those guys you see in the movies and comic books, those like the Green Goblin or Lex Luthor whose motivations outside of insanity can appear hazy at best (depending on who is writing them). Or, more notably, the Joker, whose real motivation is purely to create havoc.
That’s what I saw as evil. Something you couldn’t predict. Something that was done purely for the sake of chaos. Something that was so absolutely insane that attempting to find the reasons for it were an impossible task. Hussein, at least in my childhood mind, was just a really mean dude, not someone who might suddenly decide to blow up another country.
This was my perception of the world for a long time. There were bad men, but not really EVIL men. Then one day, I realized Adolf Hitler was a real person. Not that I confused history with fiction, but that I had never really considered what the reality of Hitler was. He was just this bad man in the history books who started a war. Suddenly I realized that this man, who, for the record, did a heckuva lot of good for his country, was absolutely bonkers. And evil bonkers at that. Adolf Hitler wasn’t just killing traitors, he wasn’t just killing enemies (which is why folks like Stalin and Mussolini make a bit more sense in my mind). He was killing an entire race of people.
That’s comic book evil. That’s what I understood to be evil.
To be fair, before this realization with Hitler, I did see one form of comic book evil through The Devil, but that is an entirely different conversation for an entirely different time.
Of course, as I got older and the specifics of the civil rights movements or the history of the Native Americans were learned past the history book versions of “something bad was going on, but it’s getting better”, I realized that evil is pretty much anywhere.
I want to stop here for just a second and note in a highlighted form what I just said. Racism is evil.
Now, obviously all racists are not of the lynching genocidal type. Also, I think the term racism gets thrown around a little too loosely nowadays where terms like insensitive and uninformed would probably be more appropriate. Just take a look at the textbook definitions of racism. They all infer a belief of superiority, but even if you just take the definition as being prejudiced at face value, well, like I said, I think we’re a little over-eager to slap the term racist around.
I make this distinction because I don’t believe all folks who are insensitive or ill-informed or just plain stupidly stereotyping individuals based on a characteristic they inhabit are evil. Racists are evil.
For example, perhaps you honestly believe that people of a certain color have a predisposed attraction to the flavor of watermelon. That’s not evil, just uninformed. Should you believe that those people are less intelligent than you because of their color, evil.
Now you may be saying, but Adam, just look at the statistics, you can prove certain things about certain races. There are statistically valid reasons for believing my stupid belief about these people. Shut up, you’re dumb. And you’re probably evil.
Why am I so ready to plaster the word evil to folks who think this way? Why couldn’t I just say prideful, or stupid, or, I don’t know, white? (<—-see that right there, that’s called using an obviously inflammatory statement to make a joke. You know, because I’m stereotyping a group when I’m writing a post about how we probably shouldn’t do that. Unbunch your underpants)
Simple. I will call you evil because of folks like Hitler or those who lynched [insert category of people here, could include blacks, Native Americans, or witches, as well as many others]. I’m calling you evil because you represent a group that has time and again followed through on their beliefs with evil. Time and again these racists have followed through on their feelings of superiority by declaring that these other groups shouldn’t even exist on this planet anymore. Or, maybe they should be around but considered animals to be used for harvesting crops or building giant funeral palaces made out of sand bricks.
The man who entered a building this past weekend with presumed intention of killing people based on what category they fall into? Evil, obviously. Heck, even if it turns out that he just got mad because some dude turned him down, he’s still evil, but that doesn’t really apply to what we’re talking about here.
Because what I’m talking about here is that folks are now starting to recognize evil. Or at least they think they do. When Hitler came around and starting rounding up people of a particular lineage, the world was relatively slow in declaring evil. The US still hasn’t done any form of apologizing (as far as I’ve been able to find) for the mass genocides of Native Americans that have happened throughout the majority of our 200 year presence. But now, we see evil. Those folks who ran planes into buildings. Those folks who created shoe bombs and make us take off our shoes at the airport. Those folks who bombed a big group of people just trying to run impossibly long distances for reasons no one will understand (yes, I’m questioning why runners run). Actually…I’m sorry, no, Muslims. That’s who we see as evil. Muslims, right?
A few months back I was talking to a local Muslim (honestly, didn’t know we had an organized group of them in town until I chatted with her) about how they had received a bomb threat regarding an event they had put together for giving food and water to needy people (or something like that…I’ll admit that it was long enough ago that the specifics of their event were lost to me, but I can promise you that it wasn’t to plan terrorist attacks on our country). Let that sink in for a moment. The Muslims were receiving bomb threats…
Because, you see, Muslims are not the issue here. In fact, the second you begin labelling that entire group as the problem, you start running into the racist territory, thereby gaining my designation as evil. But most people don’t realize this. Most people see Muslims, all folks who have this category attached to their name (or, in many cases, just people who look like they might), as being evil. And it’s not going to be long (if it hasn’t happened already…I’m not immediately thinking of any such thing occurring) before we see mosques getting the same attention as our Baptist churches or gay night clubs or giant buildings of commerce. All because of people thinking that other people are the problem and deciding they don’t deserve to be on this planet any more.
Whether you’re destroying towers with planes or shooting up a night club or attacking people because they look like the people who attacked you earlier, you have the same evil problem. You’ve stopped caring for life. You’ve determined that your life and your beliefs (thoughts, desires, whatever you want to call them) are more important than the existence of that other person.
But how do we respond to evil? Whenever events like the tragedy in Orlando occur, the discussion immediately turns to gun control. One side says we need to get rid of all the guns so things like this will never happen again (an impossible dream to be certain), the other side says we need to load up on weapons so everyone is strapped and we’ll be in a constant Mexican standoff (is that racist? I’m not sure…well, obviously not evil racist, but possibly insensitive…I’m not familiar with the etymology of the phrase) where no one will shoot because of everyone being capable of shooting. So…you know, a version of the Cold War, but between every single person on the planet.
Of course, both of those are wild exaggerations on the thoughts of the majority for each side of the debate. I think if you discuss with most folks, you’ll find that they all fall somewhere in the middle quite close to each other. Do people need to be walking around with semi-automatic assault rifles strapped to their chest as they go in for their happy meal at McDonald’s? I’m guessing a very small number of people really think they do. Do we need to live in a gun-free world? Well, to be honest, I’m not totally against it, but I don’t think guns are evil here. I just don’t think we need to have them on our person at all times.
Gun control has this terrible connotation with it, as least as far as gun proponents see it. It says that the guns will be taken away. But does it? It might say control of your guns could be taken away, but not necessarily your guns. In fact, there are very few proponents (in my experience) who are for removing all guns from private possession. America is the land of explosions and hunting and whatever else. We like to shoot things. But I think there needs to be some social understanding in what is acceptable gun usage. We currently have some gun control, in that if you shoot someone with your gun, the law will get involved. Let’s start there. Threaten someone with a gun, Law. Carry your gun around in public…there are many laws, some of which are cool with it, some that aren’t. My personal thought: Why? Bringing your gun down to the Wal-Mart with you isn’t going to do you any justice.
So often I hear the comment from gun proponents about how they’ll be willing to save even the anti-gunners. That statement terrifies me. Does this not sound like the words of someone who sees themselves as the white hat in the wild west? How many people do we want pulling out guns in a situation like the one in Orlando? Yes, it’s possible that the issue could be resolved faster and with fewer deaths. It’s also possible that things could be a lot worse.
Let’s say some ‘terrorist’ comes out and decides to shoot down everyone who likes warehouse shopping. Are you that much of a Die Hard fetishist that you honestly believe having your gun on you is going to help? Most likely, you’ll create dangerous cross-fire due to your lack of training in the resolution of such conflicts and you’ll not only injure innocents, but make it difficult for the people with the training to get in there and help out.
You’re not John McClane.
Which brings me to idea #1 of gun control in this current world where everyone is terrified of everything. Societal Gun Safety training. Folks who are out there getting their hunting permits have to take a hunter safety course (at least in Wisconsin…I think they have an apprenticeship option as well, which seems a little scary, but I digress). If you’re planning on being the guy to save the day in a crisis situation, shouldn’t you be required to have some training for that as well? The gun lobby appears to be against much for limitations on licensing, but if a reason for getting strapped is because you want to hero up, why not be required to be trained in being a hero for these situations? You know, simple things like how to shoot, where to shoot (you know, things like disabling a shooter instead of a head shot (which is more likely to miss anyways)), and possibly some sort of actual issue resolution training that doesn’t involve guns. If you want to be a hero, get yourself deputized somehow instead of just being a wannabe vigilante with a gun. Having a gun does not make you safer. It makes you much more dangerous.
Second idea: we need to severely decrease access to items resembling military grade weaponry. It should not be so easy to get your hands, legally, on a semi-automatic assault rifle that you can do so with even the most limited knowledge on the gun purchasing process. Sure, you want your assault rifle because you think it’s fun to shoot. I like my fireworks, I get how much fun it can be to blow stuff up. Yet there needs to be a better process in place. A process which puts more emphasis on the safety of the public when a weapon designed for the purpose of mowing down dozens of people with a single press of a trigger is being put on the public streets.
Number one, in my opinion, don’t let these guns on the streets. You want to have one, great. Perhaps it has to stay at a registered gun range. Or even more lenient, you can keep it at home, but attach a friggin house arrest bracelet to that puppy or something to make sure it’s not leaving home without someone being alerted. These are dangerous weapons. They need to be treated as such. When I see these pictures of people wearing them like a fashion accessory, I can’t help but think something is seriously wrong. Whether or not you’re planning on using them to kill someone, that’s what they were designed to do. They weren’t designed for hunting, they weren’t designed for fun. They were designed for killing. Let’s keep that in mind here.
Bottom line is, I don’t think guns should be taken away. I love venison, I love duck, I love rabbit, and although I wish old school trapping techniques were more in vogue, I’m not the one doing the killing, so I’m not going to judge. I also totally understand they’re probably a lot of fun to shoot. I did my share of recreational shooting as a young boy growing up in South Carolina.
But safety needs to be a concern with these items, especially when you’re talking about people-killer weapons (by that I mean weapons designed for the purpose of killing man). The current debate seems to have the gun proponents sounding as though they are against any legislation on guns, simply because the bad guys are going to still have them. That’s dumb. We can make a lot of idiotic laws based on that precise logic. Why not open up nuclear weapon sales to the public? (<—That’s called exaggeration, used to make a point)
God did not give you the right to carry a gun. Nowhere in the Bible are guns even mentioned. The Bill of Rights gives you that right (or perhaps the right to own grizzly arms…), but not all rights are given without some sort of governing over them. You have the right to live, but there are many rules placed upon you within that life. You are given the right to liberty, but that’s liberty within a very constrained framework. And you are given the right to pursue happiness, but again, as long as you follow the rules. Hell, historically speaking (and not entirely historically speaking), people have been kept from pursuing their own happinesses due to laws about interracial or homosexual relations.
Regardless, your right to pursue happiness ends at the moment your pursuit endangers or threatens someone else’s pursuit. If it makes you happy to wave around a gun naked in the middle of a bank, I guarantee you will not be allowed to continue to pursue that happiness. Your right to bear arms should be considered similarly.
Guns need control. People need control. And ultimately, we need to learn to live in a little less fear and a lot more hope that the world can get better. One way we can help make the work get better is to start loving a lot more and hating a lot less. Because when you start hating an entire group of people based on one simple characteristic, you start heading down the road of evil. And I think we already covered how I feel about that.