Browsing the blog archivesfor the day Sunday, February 3rd, 2013.

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Obama Administration

Sometimes something just clicks:

He bought his first gun a week before the debut of He took a firearms class. He filled out the paperwork and went through the background check to get a permit to carry a gun. He now owns 18 guns.

“Once you put a gun on, you gain situational awareness,” he says. After he bought his first gun, he says, “I felt grown up. It was like a coming-of-age thing. I felt like an adult.”

In the 1940s and 1950s Joseph Campbell was writing stuff about myths and rituals and arguing that modern society suffered by the lack of them. He pointed out that a nearly universal feature of tribal societies was the rite of passage. For boys, this ritual often involved all the men of a tribe or village physically kidnapping a boy away from his mother and taking him off to some “men’s ground,” and the boy would be put through some kind of ritual that would be frightening or even painful. The ritualism often included obvious phallic symbols, such as snakes. But from that point forward, his status as a man was secure.

The corresponding rites of passage for girls are marriage and childbirth, which is pretty much still the case. But in modern western culture males seem to drift along as boy-men for a prolonged time. Campbell wrote in Hero With a Thousand Faces,

“It has always been the prime function of mythology and rite to supply the symbols that carry the human spirit forward, in counteraction to those constant human fantasies that tend to tie it back. In fact, it may well be that the very high incidence of neuroticism among ourselves follows from the decline among us of such effective spiritual aid. We remain fixated to the unexorcised images of our infancy, and hence disinclined to the necessary passages of our adulthood.”

So, hypothetically, there are a lot of men drifting through their lives never completely certain of their status as men. Add to that the feedback loop of popular entertainment, which (seems to me) often portrays males as perpetual juveniles. What you’ve got now is a big chunk of U.S. society sucked into an infantile caricature of manhood, and using guns as their phallic symbols to act it out. And men who display their firearms at seemingly inappropriate times, like these two, are really, unconsciously, showing off their mighty weenies.

Discuss. I’ll be back later.

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