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.