Neurosis: a relatively mild mental illness that is not caused by organic disease, involving symptoms of stress (depression, anxiety, obsessive behavior, hypochondria) but not a radical loss of touch with reality.
Last night while listening to the Sam Roberts show on Sirius radio, the discussion centered around the latest killing of a black man by a cop in Minnesota. Roberts struggled to show respect to the nation’s police whose culture centers on protecting their own whenever a difficult choice or a public relations crisis hits an officer that has used excessive force. While discussing the issue with a New York state trooper who called into the show, Roberts stated, and I paraphrase: “You need to get the good cops to start saying they do not support this kind of behavior.”
To which the cop replied, “There were 50,000 black people stopped today, and this was the only incident of its type. The rest were all handled well and people went home.”
It should not be too difficult to see the imbalance in that arithmetic. Why are 50,000 black people per day being stopped by police? What type of profiling is going on that leads to that kind of suspicion? Doesn’t that level of interaction generate reasonable suspicion about the motivation of police, even resentment? And aren’t the odds actually in favor of the fact that something bad is eventually going to happen when that many people are essentially being haggled every day?
From a broken tail light to a murder. That’s how one of these police interventions just turned out. And the reason? That’s simple too. Cops are afraid for their lives. The New York state trooper admitted as much. “We don’t know what’s going to happen on any traffic stop,” he intoned.
The discussion then turned to the fact that when a driver has a gun in their vehicle, it is their responsibility to inform the office right away. “At that point,” the trooper explained (again in paraphrase) “it is the responsibility of the Concealed Carry citizen to inform the officer and turn over their weapon to the police.”
Now we can actually see how dangerous the world has become because of laws like Concealed Carry. Combined with weapons carried illegally, Concealed Carry laws have upped the ante on the presence of guns all across America.
Concealed Carry advocates love to cite the right to carry weapons in case of the need for self-defense. But what about our police? To those chartered with enforcing the law, Concealed Carry adds an entirely new level to the fear of being gun-whipped at a normal traffic stop. So let’s stop for a moment and think about the term Concealed Carry. That literally means you can legally hide a weapon on your person. How are police supposed to know if a gun is legally or illegally carried? If everyone has the right to hide a weapon on their person, there is no safe place in America.
Concealed Carry has created an additional layer of legal burden and a threat to civil order on all of society. Which makes it quite ironic the law is so favored by conservatives, who purportedly hate regulations of any kind. Yet the unintended consequence of Concealed Carry is that law enforcement is now trapped in a situation where the power balance is exceedingly in the public’s favor. Concealed Carry has forced an entirely new layer of inquiry to every police stop in the country. But the real fact is even more disturbing: The police are literally outgunned, outmanned and out of control all across the nation.
In response, the police have had to militarize to counteract the number of weapons now owned by Americans legally and illegally. They have also been forced to change their culture to one of patent aggression. That’s just to save their own lives. That’s why cops throw people to the ground, cuff them automatically or use tasers to subdue those who question their arrest. If you stood at risk of being shot by any citizen that you stop, wouldn’t you do the same thing?
The reason why Concealed Carry was passed, and why there are now more guns than citizens in the United States, is that the patent neurosis of gun ownership has been promoted in America by a selfish and well-funded minority that purposely confuses fear with freedom. The reason for that approach is that fostering fear is a highly profitable venture for gun manufacturers and politicians who get elected by backing the self-interest of those who chose to live in fear. The net result is that attitude has been forced on American society, which has succumbed to the collective neurosis with Concealed Carry laws. Just like slavery which was once a legal and supported aspect of American society, Concealed Carry is sold as beneficial to society and something the nation cannot do without. As a result, we are all slaves to the gun industry and its henchman.
But let’s step back and take a rational look at this dynamic that the idea that people have to carry weapons in order to enjoy the basic rights of American citizenship. That is plainly neurotic, and possibly manic. We thus live in a bipolar society created by those who are depressed by the idea of not having enough weapons. Yet there are more guns than people in the United States. Neurotic.
One of the excuses given for mass shootings by gun lobbyists is that most are committed by people that are mentally ill. Yet mental illness can be manifested in many ways. The structure of a fear-based society dependent on guns is a reflection of a collective neurosis. We know this because other societies in the world are able to function without such proliferation of guns. And in societies such as Australia where weapons such as assault rifles have been banned, the number of mass shootings has been greatly reduced. That leaves America standing alone in a global society, violent as a crazed and jealous cousin at a family reunion.
We also know there is mental illness afoot when gun advocates refuse any responsibility for the crimes perpetrated by other gun owners. Where is the remorse for those gunned down by police when those attacked are clearly innocent? Instead, gun proponents hide behind the shock of the event and say, “It’s too soon to talk about gun control in the wake of this tragedy. We need time to process and let cooler heads prevail.”
But now the shootings simply overlap from week to week and even day to day. Last night in Dallas, Texas, snipers opened fire on Dallas police and killed five officers in cold blood. And guns are not the problem?
Neurosis as a way of life
Organizations such as the NRA have shown no sincere commitment to this problem. Instead, they advocate even more guns as the solution to the problem. NRA supporters speak in terms of fear to defend their position that Concealed Carry is a necessary layer of protection in America. And hidden behind those fears, but not very well, is the patent racism shown by both the police in their arrest methods and by society in blaming blacks for the majority of crime.
Yet the predominant number of mass shootings in America have been committed by neurotic and perhaps psychotic white males. The gun lobby absolutely refuses to connect its collective neurosis with the pattern of psychosis driving shooters to act on their imagined power by using weapons in the streets, at shopping malls, even public schools and theaters. But we’ll say it here: the collective neurosis of rife gun ownership simply becomes too powerful for some people to resist. They can kill easily using guns, and guns are easy to obtain, so they go do it. There’s nothing magical about that. The neurosis of our gun mentality creates a straight line equation.
Invented for killing
Guns were invented for killing. There is no getting around that fact. They would never have been invented had it not been the need to kill more efficiently in war. That history, and the collective neurosis that leads to all violent wars, is the reason why America is at war with itself.
“But I’m not neurotic!” you can hear the panicked voices of so-called law-abiding gun owners complain. And that may be true, to an extent. Yet the collective neurosis that led to Concealed Carry laws across the nation affects us all. It is plainly paranoid to need to carry a weapon around with you. It’s a sign of social stress when a person cannot deal with society on anything but defensively violent terms.
Mix that with racist fears, or fear of “the other” of any kind, and it is clear that America’s phobia about being gunless is a mental disorder of a national kind. The patent neurosis of Concealed Carry is an admission that fear rules. It is a symptom of an addiction to the idea that vigilante justice is heroic, and that the national character of America is formed through violence, and that shooting another person is a solution to a problem.
It is not. Instead, the neurosis of Concealed Carry reveals the fact that gun owners are, without exception, responsible for 1) the fear of cops both within the force and 2) fear of the cops from the citizenry at large. It’s a repeating cycle of a fearfully militarized society. In other words, a patent neurosis.
Fear creates war, which is why more Americans have died from gun violence (both by force and self-inflicted) than all the American soldiers ever killed in foreign wars. That, we must admit, is a sign of a neurosis that must be cured. Because too many of us are dying while trying to figure it all out.
Perhaps if we treat the nation’s gun obsession as a collective mental illness, we’ll be better able to assess its impact on society. That way we can get to the reasons why so many people feel so afraid in a nation that is supposed to stand for freedom, but instead has created a prison of its own paranoia.