December 28 is the Festival of the Holy Innocents. This festival remembers the the children slaughtered by Herod in his prideful goal to rid himself of a rival newborn King. It reminds us what strength there can be in weakness since, at times when we are most vulnerable, we are most open to the change that improves us. I see this every day at work in young men and women changing their lives because they know that they must in order to grow.

This festival and theme have much to do with gun control in American and not just because the last mass killing in America, in Newtown, Connecticut, included many “Holy Innocents”. Because so many of the victims are children, it seems as though there may finally be a chance that Americans would consider gun control seriously.

In the days following the shootings in Connecticut, the media was peppered with references to the differences in firearm-related deaths between countries with gun control legislation and the United States, whose constitution supports the “Right to bear arms”. The evidence is overwhelming: Better gun control = fewer gun-related deaths. Why then are Americans so resistant to gun control?

A hint of the answer can be found in the website of the National Rifle Association (NRA). I had been to this website previously but a reminder is worthwhile and, if you’ve never seen it, have a look. As the website opens, there is “The” image of the “American Eagle” and the “Stars and Stripes”. I am using quotation marks to demonstate that the icons of America are prominent on the website of the NRA, confirming the rifle’s position as another American Icon, constitutionally protected.

The Stars and Stripes and the Eagle in full predatory flight evoke every American’s pride. Freedom from tyranny was what the Founding Fathers won and they fought with arms they were not allowed to bear. America at its proudest is attached to the guns that they believe won their freedom in the Revolution. The NRA seeks in its website to remind Americans that guns are fundamental to freedom. Since owning guns is a “civil right” in America, the NRA, founded in 1871, bills itself as the first Civil Rights Association in America. It is my goal to link guns to the Collective Unconscious of the American experience and the NRA’s website makes it easy to do this.

Considering then that guns are an American symbol, pride is the reason that gun control goes against the American instinct for when we are most proud, we are least open to change. When we consider what makes us proud of ourselves, it is most difficult to see how we must change. Think of Canadians and healthcare: pride for our universal healthcare system has made it difficult to cosider how that system must change in order to improve.

The Festival of the Holy Innocents in the Christian Church is a reminder that human pride can hold us back, something worth remembering when we need to change.

One thought on “Holy Innocents: Gun Control and American Culture

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