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Guns and the Art of Sanity Maintenance: a few tips to US of A

Palash Krishna Mehrotra | Updated on: 12 June 2018, 5:25 IST

America adores guns. It sticks to and stands by its guns.

America loves its guns. It loves them so much that Trump has suggested arming teachers in order to tackle gun violence and mass shootings. He wants to remove ‘gun free’ zones in the country. It’s an attractive formula, in a medieval sort of way: an eye for an eye, a gun for a gun.

As Edward Ball writes in the NYRB (March 23-April 5, 2017): “Guns are embedded in South Carolina culture...Fathers give their sons, and some daughters, guns in rites of passage. A ceremony that survives is the first-blood ritual for adolescent hunters: a boy accompanies his father on a hunt and washes himself in the blood of the first deer he kills.”

The piece is about Dylann Roof, who killed nine African Americans at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in June 2015. On the occasion of his twenty-first birthday, Roof’s father gifted him a card that read: “Happy Birthday! Here is $400 for the gun and the concealed license permit.”

Last week, Georgy Cohen, mother to a five-year-old, posted on Twitter a photograph of a nursery rhyme scotch-taped to the notice board of a Somerville kindergarten classroom. The tweet went viral. It’s a rather nice and fluid limerick, a marvel of brevity with gravitas. “The Lockdown Poem”, meant to be sung to the tune of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”, goes like this:

“Lockdown, Lockdown
                       Lock the Door.
Shut the lights off
                       Say no more.
Go behind the desk
                      and hide.
Wait until it’s safe inside.
Lockdown, lockdown
                 It’s all done.
Now it’s time to have
         some fun”        
(spacing as in original)

I was surprised to discover that ‘Twinkle Twinkle’ is still being taught in American schools. I thought it was only Indian pre-schoolers who were put through this torture, the fingers and thumb closing in and opening out like a flower to illustrate ‘twinkling’. Or the twinkling hail of bullets.

I felt so inspired by the terrible beauty of the nursery rhyme that I decided to write some of my own.

“Twinkle Twinkle
  Little gun,
  Omigod you’re so much fun-
  I wanna grow up fast
  And fire one.”

The famous Jackson Five song ‘ABC’ can be deployed to teach the alphabet, counting and gun-empathy:

“ABC, 123,
 Baby that’s how easy
 Guns can be—
ABC, 123...”

One of the achievements of the Somerville kindergarten poem is that it takes the poem-as-artefact out of dreamland and deploys it as a practical weapon in the real world.
In the following one, I’ve tried to give it a feminist colouring (guns are not just for boys):

“Jack and Jill
 Went up the hill
  To fetch a semi-automatic.
  Jack fell down
  And broke his crown,
  While Jill went on
  To be trigger happy.”

Children, as they grow older, need to be taught the difference between ‘good gun’ and ‘bad gun’, just like they are taught to differentiate between good touch and bad touch.

“Johnny Johnny,
  Yes Papa,
  Want to fire a gun?
  Yes, Papa.
   Shoot your dad in the head?
   No Papa.
   Burglar in the house?
   Yes, Papa!”

As the kids grow older, the teacher will of necessity have to move beyond basic lockdown rhymes to types of guns:

“Yo my lil monkeys,
 How we doin’ today?
 Yo my lil Krispies,
  Lemme tell you
  ‘bout triggers and bullets,
 Lemme explain the difference
  Between a muzzle and a mullet.”

The teachers themselves will need to be taught some motivational rhymes by a drill instructor (or else, they might choke under pressure when an actual shooting happens), much like the marching cadences in Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket:

“Ho Chi Minh is a son-of-a-bitch!
Got the blueballs, crabs and the seven-year itch!
I don’t want no teenage queen,
I just want my M-14.”

The version for school teachers can be altered, watered down, to something like this:
“Teacher, quick, teacher,
  Shoot the boy dead.
  He’s out of his mind
  And off his meds.”

Americans shoot, Indians lynch

A number of factors are blamed for the mass shooting epidemic: mental illness, the cutting of public health funding for mental health, the sheer love for guns plain and simple, seeking revenge for an old grudge (being fired from a job or expelled from school) and a range of supremacist causes, which keep changing and churning.

Dylann Roof was a variety of white supremacist. When, during a video interrogation, an FBI agent asks him if he is a white nationalist, Roof explains: “I am a white supremacist. We are superior to blacks. Only East Asians are equal to white people, Chinese and Japanese.” I was upset when I read this. If you’re generous enough to include China and Japan, then why leave us Indians out? And what about the Vietnamese?

In fact, white kids from southern American small towns should be made to pay a visit to the badlands of India: U.P. Bihar, Haryana and Rajasthan. In Allahabad, where I grew up, it was easier to buy a country pistol and place an order for crude bombs than it was to buy pineapple cake. The security is lax in most Indian schools; there are always ways of entering and escaping. The Doon School, for instance, is a bit of a fortress, but the municipal primary school, down the road from me in Dehradun, doesn’t even have a chowkidar guarding its entrance.

And yet, despite the easy availability of firearms and explosives, and little security, Indian youth, simmering with rage and resentment, don’t enter schools and open fire indiscriminately. We prefer rape and lynchings, when we want to make a violent statement; the chosen mode of violence can be culture specific. In India violence is often a collective act, while in America it’s about the atomised lone wolf striking out.

In his piece, Edward Ball describes billboards that go up in Charleston come December. These are gun stores advertising military weapons for the average Joe. One such billboard features an AR-15 assault rifle with a red bow tied around it: “All I want from Christmas is you.”

Ball visits the store selling the AR-15: ‘The idea that a young man shops for guns in a 40,000-square-foot store with Van Halen playing on the ceiling speakers is, in this part of the US, unremarkable.”

Here’s an idea. It cannot happen, which is why it’s an idea. When the love for guns is embedded in the culture, the economy and as a right in the constitution, it’s never really going to go away. Some American schoolboys will not grow up into the adarsh balak.

Think about what they did in Switzerland with heroin. One goes to a government-sanctioned clinic and gets one’s fix of clean heroin (along with counselling). One can’t take the drug out of the premises. This simple measure managed to bring street deaths from overdoses down to zero. Similarly, how about a large amusement hall of real guns where you can shoot down dummies of whomever you hate: Blacks, Asians, women, schoolchildren.  (The gun superstore Ball visits in his piece sells “targets in the shape of men, like a guy in a hoodie”).

After you’re done shooting, you will have to return your weapons to the store—no one is allowed to take them out. And if you’ve been shooting the dummy of a black man in a hoodie, you will undergo counselling in race sensitivity, where it will be gently explained to you that if, as a white supremacist, you put Caucasians, the Japanese and the Chinese on the same plane, then it’s rude to leave Indians and African-Americans out. (And, what about the Vietnamese?)

Incel trouble has an Indian cure

As I’d mentioned earlier, the multifarious supremacist causes are in a constant state of churn. Incels are the latest to have joined in the festivities. Incel is short for Involuntary Celibate.

In April this year, a Canadian Incel, pledging allegiance to the ‘Incel Rebellion’, killed ten people by driving his van (not firing a gun) down a crowded Toronto street. Most of the victims were women. In Incel argot good-looking men are called Chads, while good-looking women are Stacys, and the two conspire to keep the Incel celibate for life for no fault of his.

The hero of the Incel movement is one Elliot Rodger who killed six in a shooting spree in Santa Barbara, California. Of course, being an American, he used a gun rather than a van. Rodger has been hailed as the ‘Supreme Gentleman’ of the Incel ecosystem.

This problem has an easier solution than gun-control. All Incels should come to India. In India, there are no involuntary celibates. On the contrary, we have a surplus of the involuntarily wedded. Everyone is married off in India, even if you’re homosexual. Your class and looks—it really doesn’t matter. Every Indian gets married as a matter of right. The ugliness of the Indian male has been the subject of much discussion but it hasn’t prevented him from marrying, as a matter of course, generation after generation.

And dear milk Incel, here’s another point to note: Indians worship white skin. You will find yourself changing from lonely white banana to prized catch in a matter of hours. Do check out my website: Incel @India Wedding Tours.

(The writer is the author of The Butterfly Generation: A Personal Journey into the Passions and Follies of India’s Technicolor Youth, published by Rupa)

First published: 12 June 2018, 5:25 IST