Listening to white, especially American, dudes talk about weapons is some of the most scary shit on this planet. It’s so fucking fetishistic, almost cultish, and there is this profound disassociation between reality and what they want to be reality…which is faux machismo “in another life I’d be a a successful warrior” fantasies. So many seem to use a love of weapons to make them seem interesting and cool. They may claim to see a gun or a knife as not a toy, but a second later they start verbally masturbating themselves, mentioning how big their gun collection is, uploading pictures to facebook, and seeing any critique on gun laws as a personal attack on them because the dozens of guns hanging in their room are for looks. And the big kicker? These are the same guys who get upset when you point out you have more reason to be afraid of someone like them, when you live in a nation full of men mistaking weapons for their penises or personalities, than a terrorist.
And yes, you little snowflakes, its not always just white guys, but a large number of guys like this are white in my experience from North Carolina to Maryland to the under bellies of the internet. From cradle to adulthood I encountered these folks in the mostly white spaces I entered with alarming regularity. These gun toting men who’re very unaware they can act this way, as though this is normal and shouldn’t ever be questioned, so openly because is because of their privilege. Often these guys are “nice guy” types, nerds, awkward sorts, and the other half I’ve encountered tend to be men bathed in a household where guns were everything to a man. To them they aren’t speaking like guns are toys to be collected like mint condition Barbie dolls or G.I Joes. They don’t see how uploading a wall of guns in their basement with them grinning makes other people cringe and wonder “what if this guy snaps and thinks I’ve wronged him in some way”. They see their 2nd amendment rights, an unquestioned fact for many white people. They expect the world to know he’s dangerous, cool, but also an unquestioned and unfettered example of one of those mythic “good guys” the NRA and GOP like to mention. They laugh over their guns the way they laugh over their penises. Their eye rolling responses to the recent NRA video, which essentially declared that gun owners should attack “they” and “them” to protect “their president” from protestors and left leaning people, and dismissing other gun owners who were alarmed by it seems deeply attached to the “but I’m a nice guy so its ok” attitude a lot of melanin deficient men think is their protection from judgement.
That is a privilege…one I will not indulge and you shouldn’t either.
The problem of course isn’t just owning the guns. I grew up around guns. I’ll probably own a gun at some point, in fact. But there’s something deeply troubling about listening or watching a group of white guys whether on Facebook or in person brag about their weapons in such an open and often times pushy way. The weapons sound like toys, trophies, and the conversations remind me of men flashing watches, talking about houses, wives, and sex. Conversations where even if it isn’t gross there’s a one sided fascination that leads a person waiting for the gun lover to drool and lick their lips.
I couldn’t imagine living that way not just because I’m a woman, but because I’m darker than a Hershey’s kiss.
A black guy? A latinx guy? They’re “just thugs” and the associations both inter-personally and by others are different when they post weapons pictures. However the core function is in many ways the same. That said most know better than to be so…proud of exchanging weapons for character, or to boast so readily in a world where their bodies are considered super human weapons of inherent and imminent danger to others. Those who do either make money off it, or are in a life where they feel they have nothing to lose but everything to gain by being viewed as a badass. A way of being, which I can assure you has some thinking after the death of so many black men and boys…and even women who were believed to have guns or who did legally. Yet we’ll touch on this in general masculinity terms in a second, but just know that’s a response to cultural pressure, poverty, and shifts where guns give power, which is generally tied t racial class perceptions of what is “cool” where power is always cool. Guns are penis extensions, but for the poor and those wanting social approval they get this strange fetish object status which manifests across racial lines with different meanings.
Truthfully that’s a western attitude influenced deeply by western masculinity, whereas the role of weapons and becoming a man are aesthetically similar to other cultures until you dig deeper. Where other cultures tend to hold weapons as weapons, valued, but holding more significance and power than a dick extender (see the Masai, samurai, and numerous other cultures; also note how colonisation and loss of masculine power structures reorganize men around the gun around the world). The difference in part is those cultures tend to hold coming of age rites, and make distinctions of maturation and masculinity tied to a group identity. There is no need for a machine gun pensis…it has already been bequeathed. They have been scarred, taken hunting, traveled outside their communities, they’ve been asked to perform some sort of something or have had something given to them. American culture doesn’t really do that by and large, and when American culture has defined itself by White culture that has impacts.
Men using weapons to give a sense of masculinity and identity in place of rituals or rites signifying adulthood in modern culture is a grave condition that continues to associate male power with male aggression. But it makes sense. After all what is easier to produce than that which is already within yourself? Testosterone levels make humans more aggressive regardless of gender, and men have been socialized to angry and emotional so their emotions don’t appear weak. No matter if you are scarred ritually or can afford to travel, you can be aggressive and you can buy a gun. The gun becomes power, power is masculinity, and ergo the gun becomes something as phallic and edifying as the penis.
But why am I talking about white men specifically? Am I a racist?
Nope. Not even a little. I’m a realist, and I have been in and out of white circles my whole life usually as an outsider…a quite observer and very rarely a friend to a select few. I have seen this attitude in action, and have been forced to smile as male friends of friends show pictures of their latest gun buy a world away from the way my father taught me to feel about guns.
The fetishizing of weapons is exasperated in poor communities of all races, but also in communities whose cultures are so diffuse to no afford members specific identity signifiers. So white folks are “white” they as a group traded, across time, specific in-group positives to become a mass ultimate in-group, i.e the mainstream on every level.. Working class=white. Middle Class=White. People=White. Anything else is othered even if their counted. The result of course is plenty of white folk don’t feel this power, or this trade particularly if they aren’t racist consciously, in public, or in general. Much like how many don’t want to or incapable of seeing their privilege because it doesn’t necessarily manifest in their every day lives.
They gain net social power, but in a time when that power is being challenged, and when men in general are struggling to meet the coming of age and personal identity signifiers presented to them they seek out and construct their own. That’s part of why poor black dudes in Bmore ride off-the-road bikes. That’s part of why you honestly see a lot of gun nuts have tied themselves to imagery of the confederate flag etc. It’s a way to psychologically and socially establish what men have come to see as inherent to masculinity, various rites and markers tied to being distinct, part of a hobby/culture, and to feel as though they’ve come of age, have gained power which is implicit in the very definition of western masculinity.
White men don’t really have the unquestioned social power they once did, nor do they have an overt strongly felt in-group of identity that isn’t associated with being racist because…white culture was a construct designed to be the definition of normal every day life. American culture praises Machismo differently in every community, and many do not meet those communities standards. Many cannot. They’re too nerdy, quiet, mentally unwell, awkward, bossy, and yes even aggressive. Some just don’t have the money to do the “adult” things they’ve been taught mean they’re adults. But weapons, phallic and powerful, are easy means to satisfy the psychological and social needs taught to males. That’s also one part of why it’s so fucking scary because those who hold power and don’t see it, but feel powerful contingent on a gun that emboldens masculinity which generally excuses aggression…is terrifying. What truly soldifies it is how many of these men think they’re owed implicit unquestioned trust regardless…and that, as a black american raised to be aware of shit, is something I simply can’t afford to give.