Citizen Lars

Guns: More a Cult than a Culture

“I’m depressed,” the acquaintance posted. You’ve probably seen similar testimonials. Someone shares a deep secret on social media. In this case, as expected and warranted, friends offered their support, their love.

It was one of those moments when you think social media can be a beautiful thing.

Then, a week later, the same guy posted about wanting to buy a gun. His friends began offering tips on what handgun would be best. The same so-called friends who one week ago promised support for his deep depression were offering advice on how he might purchase a firearm.

It was one of those moments when you think social media can be an awful thing.

I didn’t know the guy well. “Friend” would be too strong, “acquaintance” more accurate. Still, I felt I had to say something.

A generous conclusion would be his friends were oblivious. Maybe they didn’t remember all the bro-hugging about support and depression from the previous week. I hesitated. Would this be an over-stepping of some kind?

I thought about it overnight. The man’s safety was urgent enough that I was willing to risk our acquaintanceship. I couldn’t be silent.

So I replied to the gun request. In essence, I said this: “How dare you help your friend buy a gun when he just said he’s depressed!”

The replies came back much as I feared. I don’t need to tell you what they said. You already know. They were the same logic-free NRA talking points that have been circulating for years.

  • “He has a right to a gun.”
  • “If he’s going to kill himself he’ll find another way, so why does getting the gun matter?”
  • The one I remember most was the context-free one: “We don’t want to become Europe.”

Who said anything about Europe?

I wasn’t discussing gun control issues in any way. I was mentioning a very practical matter: our acquaintence/friend here man openly spoke of how he struggles with extreme depression. Then he expressed interest in buying a gun. You decide to help him get the gun.

What about that sequence sounds okay to you? The depressed guy answered my comments with some mush about appreciating “both sides” of the discussion.

I wanted to say, “You need some new friends, stat.” But it never came to that.

Because soon after his “both sides” comment, the depressed guy deleted it all. His request for gun-shopping advice, my post telling him to not get one, and his dumb “friends.”

That was the last I heard of it.

I hope I made a difference but I’m not optimistic. Since he was but an acquaintance, I de-friended him. I did not want to be around should the obvious happen. And there aren’t two sides to keeping weapons away from the severely chronically depressed.

I’ve heard American society described as gun culture. It may be more accurate to describe it as in thrall to a gun cult.

I shared this in the hopes that should anyone be in a similar circumstance, they too push back against the gun cult. Or maybe someone in the gun cult will recognize that their noble ideals of self-defense have been hijacked, and it’s themselves and their friends that are in danger.

Citizen Lars

Tap-Dancing Discipline

The dust-covered tap-dancing trophy on my desk is a reminder.
You should never give up except when you should quit.
Let me explain.

When I was eight, my friend began tap-dancing lessons.
I suspect he was drafted because his sister was taking ballet.
Somehow, I got drafted too.
Our parents conspired to store all the kids in one place.
Anyway, I didn’t enjoy it and was relieved after our final recital.

They gave my friend a trophy, but not me. I wanted one, too.
I needed perfect attendance, yet I had missed one class, the first.
No misses while signed up, but because I joined one class late, too bad.
Damn it.

I signed on for another round.

My final recital climaxed with a somersault.
I rolled and jumped into a split-like touch-the-toes-mid-air move.
Solo. No big deal.

I got my trophy and promptly quit tap-dancing for life.
I keep it as a reminder: persistence and discipline always win.
Never give up! Right?

Not so fast.
In the years since I’ve learned discipline requires a little soft-shoe.

During college, my discipline was a hindrance.
I knew I hated attending classes.
But I kept trying, tweaking my courses, adjusting majors, transferring around.
I knew I didn’t want any part of it.
As in burning with a desire to leave.
As in overjoyed when I finally bailed.

Discipline, determination, and persistence are useful but can be abused.
Those traits help you get to work, even when you don’t want to.
But it can be dangerous to ignore your desires, to tell your heart to be quiet.
You may end up powering through an activity you don’t like and don’t need.

We shouldn’t avoid a task that requires effort or must be done.
But if we dread doing it, that’s a sign.
We need to scrutinize that friction.
Is it time to give up, or stay focused on the greater goal?
Must we continue? Is there another way?
How badly do we want or need the end result?

The fix is knowing yourself.
Never give up.
But sometimes it’s okay to quit.

Citizen Lars

The Fine Art of Not Liking Things

I’m going to share an embarrassing story.
Long ago, I did not like Saturday Night Live.
I felt the jokes were repetitive, but I’m allowed my tastes, right?
Except, once I stood between a friend’s sister and the TV as she tried to watch the show.
I blocked her view while I explained to her why I thought the show sucked.
The brazen obnoxiousness of it is somewhat funny.
I can hide behind the fact that I was a dumb teenager, but it’s still awful.

Why recall my teen jackass behavior?
Because I see people of all ages making the same mistake.
Luckily, they’re more subtle, but the root error remains.

They spend too much time insulting movies, shows, books, etc. they don’t like.
Then they try to convince the world.
Then they argue if you disagree.
They may even insult you.
They express a desire to obliterate the cultural item from existence.
But there is no objective standard for art, so they convince no one.
These are all variations on a wasteful way to dislike things.

Since my TV-blocking sin, I’ve refined my disliking strategy and experienced some benefits.
I get to the stuff I like quicker.
I don’t annoy the crap out of others.
My memory is filled with enjoyment rather than disapproval.
Who knew there was an art to disliking things?
A proper way to think a movie, book, show, music, whatever — stinks.

Another side-effect is I’ve developed a thicker skin.
As a writer, I’m in a subjective field.
Readers like or hate your work for any given reason.

Now when someone criticizes my writing, I’m able to ignore it more easily.
I don’t try to force people to like or dislike things.
So few, if any, attempt the same on me.
No one forces me to like something, even if it’s popular and wins awards.
The creators of the movies, books, etc. I’ve disliked aren’t phased by my opinion.
So I can be unmoved by harsh critiques just the same.

Learn to dislike things constructively, and you’ll end up liking a lot more.