Contrasting attitudes

Decades ago, I was the only non-pot-smoker machinist on the crew of a high-precision machine shop that made aerospace parts, including pieces for the new project that would become the Space Shuttle. When I was moved to the big Brown and Sharpe vertical mill, I encountered a cartoon taped inside the lid of the day shift man’s tool box. It depicted two policemen on the beat, with one speaking: “I tried marijuana once. It made me want to rape and kill.”

I was wryly amused at the time, because I knew from the evidence of the smokers around me that it did not make people want to measure and cut accurate jet engine components. The cartoon, illustrated, however, that a person’s basic tendencies are brought into their future experiences.  I was reminded of this recently, seeing two articles from people about their experience carrying a handgun.  One of them, published in New Yorker Magazine, showed a man clearly frightened and more than a little intoxicated by the gun he was given. Some excerpts:

Years ago, when I was twenty-two, I was a policeman in Wellfleet, Massachusetts, on Cape Cod, and I had a .38 Smith and Wesson. It wasn’t mine; it had been given to me on my first night of work, selected by the sergeant, who took it from a desk drawer in the chief’s office, along with another .38. He measured them beside each other then decided that one of them had a problem with its trigger and gave me what he was pretty sure was the other one. … A few days later I was taken to the firing range and given six bullets to shoot at a hillside, which was all I could hit. It was the first time I had fired a gun, and by the time the chambers were empty I understood something: a gun was an object in which a power of nature was concentrated so forcefully that a person could use one and feel party to a solemn and thrilling mystery. The thought crossed my mind, unbidden, that if I pointed the gun at the man beside me I could end his life. I don’t mean that I had a murderous impulse, I mean that I had become aware of the authority that the gun had given me. Absent its hard, mechanical shell in my hand, I had no special power. I was just a guy. …

I did stupid things with the gun. … Once during the winter I had driven up to Provincetown on an errand and coming back along Route 6 a car of what I took to be high-school students, or maybe fishermen, drew alongside me. This was the late seventies, when some of the people who lived in Provincetown had hard feelings for the gay people among them. The boys, taking me for being gay, I suppose, began cursing at me and pointing to me to pull over, so we could fight. I pursed my lips as if offering them a kiss, and when they began screaming and shaking their fists, I pointed my gun at them, and they fell away like bridesmaids parting at the end of the aisle. I was so excited that I sang “Me and My Uncle,” by the Grateful Dead, which is about cowboys, all the rest of the way home.

His conclusion, after carrying this evil deodand of a weapon for a year, decades ago?  Guns are bad (a “dark presence” as the title indicates) and make you want to … “rape and kill”?  Well, not rape, perhaps. He doesn’t mean that he “had a murderous impulse,” of course.  Utterly irresponsible. (And after his possession of a gun, however stupidly, might just have saved his life.)

Contrast this with a person who is far more familiar with guns. He, too, is left-leaning in his politics, but Michael Cuccaro’s attitude here is commendable:

… Instead I’d like to list some things about me that exist or are reinforced because I carry a gun.

Because I carry a gun I avoid fights at all costs. Before I acquired my concealed carry weapons license, I was not nearly as vigilant about avoiding meaningless confrontations. I am not a fighter by any means, but a disagreement with a stranger in public could lead to a heated argument and in one or two rare cases over the years end up in some sort of physical skirmish. Now that I carry a gun this has no chance of happening. I will not instigate an argument, I will not agitate anyone verbally. If challenged, I will walk away. Because I accept the responsibility of protecting my life and the lives of my family or innocent civilians, I also accept the obligation to remove myself from any confrontation that is not life threatening especially when my presence could make it so.

Each of his points is similarly illustrated by a rationale. I’ll list the points only, but go read the article:

Because I carry a gun I make an effort to NEVER go anywhere that the law does not allow me to go with my gun.
Because I carry a gun I don’t drink when I am out.
Because I carry a gun obnoxious people annoy me.

…and so on. One of them is worth quoting for amusement; you might recognize the species I wrote about recently:

Because I carry a gun I think it’s fantastic that you would make it obvious to me that you don’t have one. If you walk around with your baggy jeans around your ankles and your boxers or tighty-whities are the only think covering your dangle I would like to say “thank you” at this time. You might look like an idiot, but you are broadcasting your tactical disadvantage and overall harmlessness to me and I appreciate that. You are a rebel and as such, no one discounts you as much as I discount you.

Indeed.  Here’s the image from that previous post:

Cultural humor

Cultural humor

They don’t have arms long enough to shoot from the hip, do they?

===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

  • Welcome!

    Looking around, I see references to it as a Gahan Wilson cartoon “circa 1971” if that helps. I don’t have a clear enough memory of the artwork to confirm Wilson’s authorship, but it seems plausible.

    I had no luck finding the cartoon itself, though the caption is oft-repeated.

    ===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

  • Jim Wiggin

    The cartoon of the policemen was from The New Yorker as well. I have been trying unsuccessfully for a few years to find it online. Used to have it cut out on the refrigerator but for some reason it has not been reproduced. I think The New Yorker published a book with all of its cartoons but I have not found the contents online.