Two more mass shootings final week in South Carolina and Texas, earlier than we even had time to overlook the latest shootings in Georgia and Colorado, proceed to maintain lethal gun violence in America within the forefront of our nationwide consciousness.
However that doesn’t imply, as a nation, we’re critically interested by the right way to handle, a lot much less finish, this violence.
We have to weave a cultural narrative that addresses the very fact of the world we’re making and helps us inform a narrative that ends otherwise from the murderous methods our nationwide narratives have been concluding lately.
While you cease to consider the big variety of weapons produced, purchased, and bought in America, it ought to actually be no shock to anybody that gun violence is a lethal epidemic in our nation.
The Nationwide Rifle Affiliation, its supporters, and second modification fanatics (who sometimes don’t rigorously learn the second modification) will, in fact, proceed to hawk the mantra, “Weapons don’t kill folks; folks do.”
Perhaps. However wouldn’t or not it’s laborious to shoot folks, notably in mass trend, with out weapons?
Certainly, along with seeing a document surge in gun gross sales in 2020, the nation additionally noticed a drastic enhance in gun violence and gun crimes, with over 19,000 deaths from shootings and gun-related incidents. It will be laborious not see a relationship between these two details.
Even these politicians favoring gun management and in search of to reform gun legal guidelines, nevertheless, in hopes of curbing the gun violence, the mass homicide, that we’ve witnessed the previous month, don’t appear to handle the very fact of the mass manufacturing of weapons in our political economic system, the truth that as a nation we dedicate prodigious assets to creating weapons.
Perhaps we actually have to shift the main focus of scrutiny, relating to weapons, to the purpose of manufacturing itself and to consider the world we’re making extra consciously and thoroughly.
Famed Argentinian storyteller Jorge Luis Borges, in his 1970 story “The Encounter,” weaves a story that does precisely that. In offering a special approach of entry from which to view a world that has change into commonplace to us, as all good fiction does, Borges shifts our imaginative and prescient from specializing in how we use objects in our world to as a substitute specializing in how the objects we make use us, asking us to assume with nice deliberation about how we make our world and the objects in them.
The world we make, Borges’ story suggests, finally ends up making us in return.
Let’s check out this story, “The Encounter,” which opens with the narrator recalling an episode when he was a younger boy and his older cousin took him alongside to a barbecue of types, a gathering of older males. Bored as the boys drank, smoked, and performed playing cards, the narrator recollects exploring the massive nation dwelling, solely to search out himself misplaced at one second. The proprietor of the home finds him and invitations him to watch a museum case that accommodates “knives of each form and sort, knives made well-known by the circumstances of their use.” The proprietor “recounted the knives’ histories, which had been at all times kind of the identical, with variations of place and date.”
Earlier than the proprietor was capable of end relating the story of every knife, he’s interrupted by one of many visitors, Uriarte, shouting than one of many different males, Duncan, had been dishonest him at playing cards.
The new-headed Uriarte insists that Duncan battle him; and with the knives so shut at hand, he insists on the knife battle. Uriarte finally ends up stabbing Duncan to dying.
Or so we predict. Duncan is useless, however Borges ends the story complicating how we perceive the homicide, asking to query our imaginative and prescient—and model—of what occurred.
The narrator tells us that, “9 or ten males, all of them now useless, noticed what my eyes noticed—the lengthy thrust on the physique and the physique sprawled beneath the sky—however what they noticed was the tip of one other, older story.”
What is that this different, older story that our eyes, skilled of their methods, can not instantly see?
Nicely, the narrator corrects us that it was not Uriarte that fought with and killed Duncan. Somewhat, he abjures,
[I]t was the weapons, not the boys, that fought. That they had lain sleeping, aspect by aspect, in a cupboard, till the palms awoke them. Maybe they stirred after they awoke; maybe that’s why Uriarte’s hand shook, and Duncan’s as properly. The 2 knew the right way to battle—the knives, I imply, not the boys, who had been merely their devices—and so they fought properly that night time. That they had sought one another for a very long time, down the lengthy roads of the province. And ultimately they discovered one another; by that point their gauchos had been mud. Within the blades of these knives there slept, and lurked, a human grudge.
Issues final lengthy than males. Who can say whether or not the story ends right here; who can say they’ll by no means meet once more.
For Borges, lastly, on this story, folks don’t kill folks; the knives do. He pushes us on this story to re-think that conventional NRA adage that “weapons don’t kill folks; folks do.”
In asking us to entertain that the knives themselves, not the folks, are the true actors, Borges is popping our imaginative and prescient to generate a recent perspective, inviting us to replicate on the world we select to make, on the objects we determine to provide.
If we create a world filled with lethal objects that inflict violence, in the middle of inhabiting this world and utilizing these objects, we are going to possible interact in violent and lethal conduct.
The objects we make in the long run make us; they tackle a lifetime of their very own. Like energetic landmines nonetheless buried within the battlefield of a struggle ended way back. They stay on to kill.
If we make violent objects, we are going to stay in a violent world and be violent folks.
As an alternative of making a violent world after which in search of to manage it with “gun management” legal guidelines, possibly we have to replicate at first on what we’re devoting our valuable assets to producing.
The biblical prophet Isaiah provided an analogous perspective when he wrote that when God rebukes the folks, “they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not elevate up sword in opposition to nation, neither shall they be taught struggle anymore.”
If we make objects, corresponding to plowshares, to start with that promote peaceable interplay and serve human life productively, we gained’t have the possibility to be taught to make use of swords in struggle.
Tim Libretti is a professor of U.S. literature and tradition at a state college in Chicago. A protracted-time progressive voice, he has revealed many educational and journalistic articles on tradition, class, race, gender, and politics, for which he has obtained awards from the Working Class Research Affiliation, the Worldwide Labor Communications Affiliation, the Nationwide Federation of Press Girls, and the Illinois Lady’s Press Affiliation.