Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Pssst: guns are dangerous

Bedroom in house about to burned at UL, Northbrook.

     Department of Homeland Security ...
     Gosh, that’s an awful name, isn’t it? It’s been around for almost a dozen years, and I’ve never gotten used to it.
     Anyway, Department of Homeland Security officials announced they’re seeing ...
     I’ll tell you why it’s such a bad name. Have you ever, ever, referred to this great country of ours, the United States of America, or America for short, or the U.S. for shorter, as your “homeland?” Have you ever said anything like, “I like to travel abroad, but it feels great to get back to my homeland”?
     Of course you haven’t. No American has. Pretend you’re writing a play, and I gave you the line, “We must fight for the homeland!” What kind of character would you create to utter that line? A proud Soviet officer? A jaded Nazi colonel? It sure wouldn’t be a U.S. Army Ranger who would say that.
     You wonder what kind of bureaucratic imbecile came up with the name. The same person, perhaps, who changed The Medill School of Journalism to “The Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications” or who called the Bloomingdale Trail “The 606,” which will never be popular.
     Sorry. Department of Homeland Security officials say they’re seeing greater numbers of armed dopes trying to bring guns through airport security checkpoints, a reminder of what a Bad Idea a gun-carrying nation truly is, and how the sober, level-headed in our country — what few of us remain — do everyone a disservice by shrinking before NRA fanatics for whom packing heat represents patriotism at its zenith.
     I heard the news on the 7 a.m. CBS radio report at WBBM-AM. Like most nonzealots, I shrugged it off. Not as bad as those buffoons carrying their AK-47s into Targets to revel in the fact that they can.     
     Like most Americans, I’ve surrendered the fight. Our congressional leaders are bought and paid for by the NRA. Nothing to do but take cover and pray it passes.
     Which it may. This isn’t the first time Americans have armed up, a fact I was reminded of less than an hour later. On the 7:36 Metra into Union Station, I fled the bad news of today, losing myself in my book, “Brann and the Iconoclast,” Charles Carver’s 1956 biography of William Cowper Brann, the great 1890s poison-pen journalist, whose Waco-based Iconoclast newspaper gleefully scourged and scandalized.
     Then this paragraph, discussing nicknames given 1890s Waco, leapt out of the book and gave me a revivifying slap across the chops:
     "'Six-Shooter Depot' was a title bought with the blood of hot-tempered citizens who adjusted their differences according to a relaxed interpretation of the dueling code of the Old South. In the days of the cattle drives following the Civil War, Waco lay close to the Chisholm Trail, and the town supplied the drivers with recreation, which often involved high-spirited killing of one another. This buoyant mood lasted through the century - as long as guns were a usual item of wearing apparel."
     Well, well, happy days are here again!
     I don't say it much anymore, because nobody is listening who isn't at the same time hocking spit to prepare a formal reply, but I will, out of habit, restate the key, undeniable fact regarding the carrying of firearms:
     The moments when having a gun is useful are very, very few, even for police officers. Even for soldiers, one can serve years in combat zones and never fire a shot.
     The rest of the time, every second, the gun is a threat to the owner, no matter how well-trained, and a threat to whatever passersby the owner might, through mistake or anger, feel obligated to shoot. The romance of guns blurs this fact. It would be clearer with any other precaution: If I carried a welder's mask 24/7 so I'd be ready to look at the sun during an eclipse, you'd think I was an idiot. But at least I'm not going to drop the welder's mask and maim myself, which happens quite frequently with gun owners.
     The redeeming quality of Americans is that, while we have proven ourselves all too willing to embrace nutsoid self-flattering fiction, eventually the truth will dawn on us. Look at gay marriage. After decades of legal repression and social persecution, suddenly the basic fact - there's no reason gays shouldn't get married that isn't mere Bible-based bigotry - became clear, and society shifted. Some states (Helloooo, Indiana!) haven't read the memo yet. But they will.
     Ditto with guns. They're dangerous and don't help beyond whatever gild-the-lily ego boost owners get from swaggering around armed. Someday we'll figure that one out.


  1. Genius Neil. I was just telling my wife that now that the Blago and Patti Cake Toll-way signs are down, we need to tear down the Department of Homeland Security signage. My thoughts exactly.
    On a non-sequitar, did any person win the "What IS it?" photo contest? My wife thinks it's a statue in your basement, assuming its not flooded with all this rain! Needless, the paperboy is still working, now if I could just figure out who prayed for all this biblical weather! My prayers have (not) been answered. Happy Hump Day. --Phil

    1. I think Marty from Wheaton won. It was a bronze in the Modern Wing of the Art Institute of Chicago.

      Terry L. & Alan
      Round Beach Lake

  2. @ Phil,
    Leave Neil alone. Waking up at 6:15 a.m. every goddamn day would get to you too. The man wrote about Indiana, the drive-through state. Not many care enough to mock a state that puts an Indy car on its quarter.
    I like the musical "Hair" where LBJ took the IRT down to 4th Street USA...DHS wouldn't work in that song. Besides, Phillip, what's Neil suppose to do, just pack a duffle bag, board a plane, and head out for a new life? You've never been in Chicago, the man lives to ride his Divvy in the rain. He carries WD-40 and a notebook in his handlebar basket.

  3. To Anon.:
    Only a lib like you would like a freakish Broadway rip-off of Jane Fonda's Barberella, although Hair did inspire the neo-classical revival of Tron on the Great White Way. As for Neil leaving, he's stuck by the Sun-Times even when Jerry Springer broke up Ron and Carol and Neil is championing green, sustainable bicycle riding. No matter what, Neil will be write. That living document says "militia", can I see your "well-regulated" draft card, And if you must, it's Dr. Phil, to you. And Neil went all the way to Underwater Labs to get a shot of a bed in flames; don't even think about reading into that photo. Don't you dare.

  4. Guns are great. We need to repeal the current harshly restrictive federal, state, county, and municipal gun laws. Every human being on the face of the planet should be armed with whatever weapons they want. Gun control is fascist. I am voting against Quinn because of his gun control stand.

  5. The NRA is a sellout group that supports the current vile federal laws. Gun Owners of America is the true pro-Second Amendment group.

  6. Thanks for saying what needs to be said Neil, in a forum where many will see it...whether they agree wholeheartedly or seeth in anger.

  7. You know, I disagree with just about everything Neil says but I do have to hand it to him. He is a great writer. He puts his views out there in a great way. He is good at his craft and for that hats off to him.

  8. That being said. I don't feel the NRA is this great evil monster. I own firearms, I don't belong to the NRA and have never given them a nickle. I agree with some of the NRA stances and disagree with others. Even without the NRA the responsible firearm owner would not just sit there and let congress roll over us. The NRA is a nice little icon of gun ownership and is a convenient target for the anti gunners but they are not as evil as they are portrayed to be.

    1. I've never portrayed the NRA as "evil" -- they are extreme, true. The idea that any restriction of guns--cop killer bullets, large capacity magazines, you name it -- is the first step toward oppression, is extreme. Nor do I find gun owners evil. They're dealing with a frightening, dangerous world in a way -- one of life's cruel ironies -- that makes it more frightening and more dangerous.

    2. they are not etreme, they support prohibiting felons and the "mentally ill" from getting guns. They are sellouts.

    3. for seven short years! Only law-abiders abide the law. The felons get slick lawyer/liars and the mentally ill get pills. Thanks Obamacare! (back to my second job at the Palatine Walgreens.)

    4. I am just a lurker, but I have to agree with Neil. Bravo on the Midway post today. Thanks.

      Sally Richards

  9. As a non gun owner, I have to admit there is a certain allure to having a firearm: it's like being a double male, as Jean Genet would say. And there's probably nothing wrong with that. It's the consequences of other people owning (and using) guns that bothers the "level-headed" amongst us. The most rabid NRA member doesn't want to arm the Insane Vice Lords or the Nazi Skinheads, but that is exactly what they're doing when they shove the 2nd Amendment down the throats of those who take homeland security seriously.

  10. you're right: it is pretty pointless. but please keep it up.

    p.s. in view of NU's recent graduation faux pas, shouldn't that be “The Medill School of Journalism, Media, Itegrated Marketing Communications”?

  11. NU Wildcats! Woo Hoo!

  12. Neil's blog is on fire today....I think he is trying to convey that life is short and to use safety devices such as smoke detectors and never smoke in bed. Thanks for the reminder, Neil.
    (This is truly my favorite blog.)

    P.P.S. I just assume that S. Court justices are on the take, as a simile.


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