Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Police deploy Peacekeeper

The Prescott PD gets to roll out the new toy it unveiled last week -- to bust a nonviolent non-offender with an entertaining penchant for self-decoration (and, perhaps, because of it). This is clearly a case of having a new hammer and looking for nails. How much did this pointless exercise cost? What would it have cost last week? Who ordered this deployment of both equipment and expensive personnel? Has it become PD policy to roll a SWAT team for every apparent break-in?

This incident amounts to outrageous buffoonery that diminishes the credibility of the Prescott PD as well as us as a society. Will the Courier follow up with appropriate questions? I won't hold my breath.

Editorial: Good journalism died with Cronkite

The unnamed Courier editor leaps onto Walter Cronkite's descending coffin decrying the state of journalism today and setting himself up as the last bastion of goodness and light. I'm sorry, Editor, but Cronkite would take one look at your work and send you to the mail room.

The key to maintaining your ethics is constant self-examination. Ask yourself the tough questions, seriously, challenge yourself to be toughest on your own biases, and drive the snakes out of your own nest.

Short of that, and given the Courier's history of political favoritism, the headline reads rather like triumphalism.

Talk of the Town: Permit holders are not the threat

Matt and Sherrie Seibert deliver the NRA position in response to the editorials against the booze & bullets bill. Dismissing the objections to the new law more or less out of hand, the Seiberts, who make their living by certifying people to carry concealed weapons, spend the bulk of their column space pushing the paranoia button, attempting to convince the reader that people with hidden holsters are our only dependable defense against the crazies who are presumably out looking daily for knots of undefended people just to kill us all.

The illogic and fearmongering here speak for themselves, and are hardly worth the trouble to refute. What I'd like to focus on is the Bizarro world that these people and their followers live in.

Let's leave aside their financial interest for the moment and assume that they're sincere. They truly believe that on some random day there is a reasonable chance they will face a nut with a gun intent on killing them or others, and that their training and ready weapon will allow them to eliminate that threat with deadly force.

Ignore the actual likelihood of this scenario arising. Ignore the actual statistics on what happens to amateurs who pull guns on professionals. Ignore what happens to bystanders at gunfights. I just want to look at the psychology here, because while I think relatively few Americans buy fully into this John-Wayne mythology, many of us keep one foot in that world.

What they're describing is a world fraught with deadly danger. I dunno about you, but if I were to even suspect that I were in that much danger on a daily basis, my survival mechanism would move me out of there posthaste.

So I have to conclude that for these people survival is not at risk. Rather, they are attracted to the role of invulnerable hero, the white-hat cowboy who never takes more than a flesh wound in the left arm as he wipes out the black-hat gang. Many go further, seeing themselves as the reliable defender of American values against the forces of evil, particularly their own government -- meaning in my book, the rest of us.

In its essence this is the adolescent expression of powerlessness. But like adolescents, frightened, powerless adults with adolescent fantasies are dangerous to society. I'll agree with the Seiberts that most gun-owners will hurt no one. But a few of them, with the help of drugs or lack of drugs or emotional trauma or yes, alcohol, will become the very crazies they fear.

Or is it just fear? Perhaps for some it's the hopeful anticipation that one day they will be able to pull that weapon and become the flag-wrapped hero. Either way, I really don't want to be there when it happens, and to the greatest practical extent I want to eliminate that pathology from my community, because it is the gateway drug for school shooters, letter-bombers and fascists, most of whom, I notice, think of themselves as flag-wrapped heroes.

Eliminating guns won't eliminate this problem, but what we can do as a society is limit our exposure to it while we educate against it and treat the pathology.