There is a Christmas photo of a large family, that of Nevada politician Michele Fiore, dressed in red sweaters and jeans, smiling, holding young children and all carrying large weapons and handguns. In the center of the photo, there is a young boy, maybe five, holding a handgun. This is an American family — a stereotypical idea of the American family, as Fiore herself describes, “We’re just your ordinary American family. These people are so “American” that they found comfort and pride in juxtaposing one of the greatest celebrations of peace with the elements of horrific violence and death.
The image of the young boy holding the weapon is unsettling. He seems uncomfortable, holding the weapon down in front of him with one arm crossed over the other, his bespectacled face staring off in the distance. He’s in the photo, but he is not present.
This photo like so much of this nation’s rhetoric is posturing — posing to appear dangerous, armed, brave.
When I was growing up in the 1970s and ’80s, being brave did not include artillery. If I had a disagreement with someone, it wasn’t my duty to shoot and kill them; it was my duty to speak out and stand up for myself. My parents taught me that true bravery is being able to stand up without compromising my humanity. I grew up in a household with guns and visited the shooting range with my father many times. I’m not opposed to guns.
I’m opposed to using guns to project an image that cannot be maintained in the face of true violence and terror whether domestic or imported. The good guy with a gun is a myth. Firearms cause more damage and harm to Americans than eliminate any outside threat.
And still the National Rifle Association (NRA) and the Republican Party shore up this ideal of the armed American with bad rhetoric and lobbyist dollars. The idea of equating being more American with eating more, shooting more and buying more, this is killing us. More specifically, it is killing the most vulnerable of us — our children and our poor.
The more Americans feel the need to pose as threatening, the more we are expected to prove that we mean it. For some that comes in the form of aggression against our own. Just this year, we have seen 353 mass shootings in the United States. American citizens committed more than 90 percent of these shootings.
The image of the “ordinary American family,” to which Fiore lays claim, is phony, ridiculous, and it fails, repeatedly. We are more vulnerable to gun violence because we are inundated with guns. We have more guns in this country than we have people to shoot them.
We treat our obsession with weapons as if there is no pathology behind it. In America, the gun takes the place of basic problem solving skills. When life gets tough, we pull out our weapons.
I’m not sure what to make of it all. The “ordinary American family” is one that doesn’t have guns. In fact, there were more home with guns in the 1970s than there are currently. This seems to contradict that statement about the number of guns in America. Despite falling gun ownership, the people who are buying weapons are stockpiling them, and that should be cause for alarm.
America is holding on to an ideal that no longer exists. We don’t hold the same influence in the world and have less power to exert our authority over other nations. This doesn’t mean that we are doomed. It means that we need to bridge the gap between the rhetoric and the reality of our country. We are a young nation and with that, we have valleys to cross until we understand that our place in the world has to be one that is inclusive and not imperialistic.
The American worker does not control the world economy. We gave that control to Asia in return for corporate profits.
The rhetoric, “to make America great again,” is hollow speak for continuing to infest our government with the same policies that put the American worker behind profit, causing us to compensate by developing a distorted sense of who Americans are and what America should be.
This is what Fiore is projecting.
America has growing pains and we’ve hidden ourselves behind this image as a false sense of security to cover up the fear that we might just be ordinary. There is nothing wrong with ordinary.