Supposedly, it was an anonymous Bush II-era aide who told Ron Suskind in 2004 that the Bush White House wasn’t operating in a “reality based community”; that they, the Bush White House gang and co-conspirators, created their own reality. Well, it’s clear that it isn’t just George W. and friends who create their own reality, it’s a lot of other folks, too. Like the Republicans who read a redacted Constitution their first day of business in the new Republican-controlled House of Representatives, leaving out the bits about slavery and women not being allowed to vote. And then there is the new edition from an Auburn University professor (Auburn!) of Huckleberry Finn, which removes the word “nigger” 219 times (and Lord knows what else), since some “readers” find the word itself offensive. But it’s mostly non-readers who find it offensive.
At times, words alone alter reality. One example: test-tube babies. Now that co-joining of sperm and egg happens in a petri dish, not a test tube, but the phrase “petri-dish babies” just doesn’t roll off the tongue the same way. The censoring of books has happened over the centuries. The Hardy Boys syndicate has redone earlier titles, taking out and replacing various anti-Semitic slurs and racial insults. Updated versions emerged, but not advertised as such (or two decades ago, last time I looked.). Famously, Thomas Bowdler brought out a cleansed edition of Shakespeare back in the 19th century, wiped of the salacious parts by his sister; hence, the term “Bowdlerized,” which goes to show once again that those women who actually do the work don’t often get credited (see Dr. Spock’s work, etc.).
But, taking out the unpleasant parts of the original Constitution and removing one word over and over from a classic text smacks of other things than Victorian niceties. People want to live in one world, rather than another. Well, after the unprecedented reading of the Constitution we had, in Arizona, the unprecedented (in terms of number of dead and victims) attack on a Congress member and her fellow citizens, including a federal judge. The shooter fit the typical pattern (becoming typical) of the unhappy college-age male with easy access to twenty-first century weaponry. Jared Lee Loughner (and perhaps the government should make a data base of anyone with the name Lee as one of three, as in Lee Harvey Oswald) reminds me of the Virginia Tech shooter, Seung-Hui Cho (Hui rimes with Lee), a young man with a number of the same problems who found the same solution, except that Cho killed himself.) At Virginia Tech thirty-three died; that many might have in Arizona had not the killer been tackled and disarmed by concerned citizens. Cho was 23; Loughner is, reportedly, 22.
Dallas got blamed a lot in 1963 after the assassination of John F. Kennedy; Arizona will be taking heat for this attack, some of it, like Dallas, well-earned. Even Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber, was steeped in the hot brew of Arizona, the city of Kingman, where he lived with an old army buddy. It was all fairly crazy back then in the Sun Belt, with the Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas, and the survivalist-minded in Arizona, back in the mid-1990s. Now all the craziness has gone main-stream, given the high number of non-reality based communities that have sprung up everywhere.
Only a few are blaming the wild-west arming of America, thanks to the NRA’s diligent work. Most people surfacing on the media say that Loughner would have found another way to wreak havoc. But then there’s havoc and there’s havoc. When I lived in New York City long ago I always thought the City was a testament to civilization, that so many could live (in Manhattan) so tightly fit and still function, spoke to human beings’ best natures. The many provide a check on the few. It’s the open spaces that allow for wildness to sprout so lethally. Malls in Arizona; big-box sports stores selling Glocks.
Before all this havoc we only had President Obama’s change is no change, with the appointment of more Clinton retreads, William Daley and Gene Sperling, to high White House posts. And many journalists actually said that both appointments were a sign of change, showing that they too had abandoned the reality-based community. If anything, change for the worse, I suppose. But, the only winner of this unhappy week is the NRA. Guns don’t kill people, people kill people, I heard all weekend. Which is about as helpful as saying, Rhetoric doesn’t kill people, people kill people. Yes, indeed, one person with a semiautomatic can kill six and injure a dozen, all in less than a half minute. And the NRA is so powerful in Washington, D.C., few even bother to suggest some mild limitations to impose on access.
Well, that makes sense, because no one wants to talk about America’s largest going-concern in manufacturing, armaments and weapons of war. Products bigger and more lethal than a mere Glock. Our military-industrial complex is healthy. And how. And if we had no wars to fight, unemployment would probably be in the mid-two digits. That’s reality based. The NRA has nothing to worry about. We’re all in the gun business.