I've pursued many hobbies in my life. Typically, they tend to have a sort-of-radioactive life cycle; I dig in deep for about five weeks, and then they begin to decay until there's nothing left other than blurred memories and radiation sickness. And by radiation sickness, I mean debt and/or pain.
Also, let me say right now, I included "The Dog With a Human Face" in my title because that's trending right now; this will be the first and last mention of it in my blog. And more -- beware, this is going to be a tl/dr post. It's almost as if I copied and pasted War and Peace.
Exploring the desolation of my hobby history, you'd find a potentially disturbing patchwork of abandoned whimsies. Backpacking, archery, metalcraft, sculpting, bronzing, casting, carpentry, mechanics, rocketry, model-building, machirology...each of these at some point was my all-consuming leisure time distraction. Each of them, any more, is at best another box in my garage with a label and a date on it.
The few hobbies that have survived the formidable test of time and my attention span are things that I love, and am passionate about, and engage frequently. Photography, for one, is something that I've consistently enjoyed and excelled at for about 24 years now. Just for my own edification, here are two of my favorite photos I've taken:
It's just one of those things -- I love taking pictures, I love chasing a shot, and I love seeing the results. A few other hobbies that are near and dear to me are cycling, cooking, oenophilia, and being right all the time. Ask anyone about that last one, they'll tell you how dedicated I am to it.
Seriously, though, all of these things are very important to me. They give me a release, a constructive use of my leisure time, and an exercise for my brain and my emotions when they're not engaged in some sort of professional pursuit. And in the sense of being a functioning whole person, hobbies are a necessity.
My newest hobby, something that came about completely unexpectedly a little more than a year ago, is shooting. Some friends of mine introduced me to a sport called Cowboy Action Shooting, which is almost as ridiculous as it sounds. Basically, you dress up like a cowboy and target shoot with period-appropriate firearms for the "Wild West." This translates into single-action revolvers (Colt Single Action Army, for example, otherwise known as the "Peacemaker"), coach guns, and lever-action rifles.
Now, why would a guy do this sort of thing more than once just to try it out? Because holy crap, it's fun. Pick your favorite scene from The Searchers or The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, and then imagine getting to actually play out that scene. Remember playing with GI Joes and other action figures as a kid? It's like that...but you get to be the action figure. This got me interested in skeet shooting, which is also far more fun than I could have predicted.
I digress, though, because I'm not trying to recruit anyone to CAS or shooting or gun ownership. But I will take this opportunity to voice my opinions on the gun control debate that's raging right now. I don't do this lightly, because I really, really hate the prospect of having to moderate blog comments and defend myself to digital crackpots who are bound to leap to wacky conclusions based on my word choices as opposed to the actual statements I'm making. Of course, this also assumes people will find and read this post...which, by my Analytics, is a pretty massive stretch (rimshot!). I'm still going to use my teensy-tiny little soap box to try and make a point.
Watching Ted Nugent on Piers Morgan the other night sort of set me off, because the interview was a microcosm of the way snappy sound bites and charged rhetoric dictate what the rest of us think. Both Morgan and Nugent engaged a game of "I'm right and you're wrong," without any real substantiation, or as far as I could tell, any goal of actually convincing anyone of anything.
Nugent's entire discourse came down to a simple statement of "Leave Us [lawful gun owners] Alone!" because people who support gun control just "don't get it." One of the NRA's most public board members, like a petulant adolescent, is arguing against gun control with the rationale that "you just don't get it." The argument of second amendment rights is so difficult to communicate that you'd rather be "left alone" by the people who "don't get it."
I'd like to make a suggestion here, Mr. Nugent. Figure out a way to explain it so that other people WILL get it. If it's really that important to you, it shouldn't be hard. If there's a rational, non-emotional contingent to opposing gun control, explain it so that the people who "don't get it" might just identify. Stop engaging the condescending fallacy that liberals are just incapable of matching the rational thought of conservatives; I'm sure it's popular with your supporters and the pundits, but to a guy like me who doesn't firmly fall into any camp, it just turns me off. "Clearly, they're idiots, because, c'mon, I say so," makes me emotionally reject your stances without investigating any evidence you may have to present. Most of all, I'd appreciate that you stop treating Americans who "don't get it" like complete morons because they don't agree with you, and I would hope your supporters would appreciate not being expected to support positions with knee-jerk obedience.
Honestly, if all that can be said in defense of legal gun ownership is, "Leave us alone" -- and even the most liberal person would agree that there is more basis of argument than impetuous ranting -- I hope the rest of the country does just that. I hope that the far right's response of withdrawing from discourse and the imperative of compromise inherent in functional democracy is answered with inflammatory legislation that snaps them out of their obstinacy. If preserving their own unwavering confirmation bias is more important than playing a part in a larger system that has a wide range of differing opinions and viewpoints, let them be left behind and ultimately ignored.
There are bigger issues here than just the flaws in the Morgan-Nugent interview. The whole gun control debate is sickening as it's playing out; murdered children being bandied about for political gain and reactionary rhetoric. Name calling and posturing to establish ideological positions. The far left attacking gun rights, the far right digging in for a fight to prove their mettle.
It seems to me that by aggressively pursuing gun control, we'd be attacking a symptom, but not the disease. There's no question that when compared with other industrialized nations, gun violence in the USA far outpaces the rest of the world. But if you start examining figures more closely, it's clearly a larger problem of violence than specifically gun violence. This graph, borrowed from The Washington Post, is just representative of general assault deaths in the US, not specifically shooting deaths:
To me, this indicates something beyond a gun issue: Americans seem to have a higher likelihood of becoming bloodthirsty maniacs. Availability of guns makes the violence more brutal and easier to accomplish. So, making it harder to get guns that hold lots of bullets and can fire them very quickly will probably have an effect on shootings, but we'd be doing nothing to get to the heart of the problem -- why there are so many maniacs wandering about in our midst. That's where we need to be focusing our attention; not just guessing at if it's violence in movies and video games or making unsubstantiated statements about the erosion of traditional family values. Stop guessing, do work, figure it out, fix it. And in the meantime? Despite the heated rhetoric, I'm sure that there's a compromise solution to address shootings and murders that reasonable Americans can support together regardless of their political affiliations. That's how it's supposed to work, anyway.
I'll say this much -- as a gun owner, and someone who really does care about Constitutional rights for Americans...I don't trust the NRA to protect my rights any more than I trust Dianne Feinstein to make me safer. I'd join the NRA in a heartbeat if I could believe they actually supported the second amendment from the perspective of the citizen. But that claim is illegitimate in my eyes -- you can't believe in an individual's right to bear arms against government tyranny and with the same breath preach for the most heavily armed military and law enforcement in the world in order to "protect" those same citizens. Those two things are mutually exclusive; the government's guns will always be bigger and they will have more of them, and that's the way the government, politicians, industry, and the NRA want it, no matter how hard the push to convince you that they're working to support your interests. They're there to convince you that their interests should be your interests, and not ask any questions.
On a personal level, being lucky enough to have never been touched by gun violence or any kind of violent crime, the gun control debate is destroying what little faith I have left in our processes. It's one more event in a long series that's contributing to my belief that it's just too damned much to ask for Americans to work together for a better America. Instead, it's more important for Americans to fight about different ways to not fix anything while shouting angry, meaningless slogans back and forth. It's more important to let our governance be shaped by the points of view of only select groups who represent fewer and fewer people. It's more important to have extremists dictate what it means to be an American to the rest of us and to the rest of the world.
In a perfect world, I want my guns. I want my right to buy them intact, as well as my right to use them safely. But I also don't want to live in a world where my safety is dictated by whether or not I own, can carry, and can use a gun better than other people. I like to play Wild West games, but I don't want to exist there for real. America can do better than that, I'd hope.
You know who just doesn't "get it?" The people committed to polarized views. The people who refuse to find a middle ground, refuse to admit that that there might be validity to opposing viewpoints, and refuse to let this country heal and progress.
This weekend, I'm going to take some guns, and I'm going to go shooting. And while I'm doing that, I'm going to hope that between the NRA, the government, the pundits, and the People, everyone can calmly figure out how to address the nation's many ills, and do what's right for Americans regardless of what'll be a political win or loss for the ego-driven sociopaths driving the bus.