living the dream

Wayne LaPierre by DonkeyHotey via flickr and use under a Creative Commons license.

Early Sunday I walked outside to dump the compost and ran smack dab into one of those perfect December mornings—the world awash in new yellow light, deep blue sky through leafless branches. My anxious mind was reassured: It’s still here. I can still touch it.

I poured myself a cup of coffee and settled down with my e-paper, only to read that America’s nuttiest nutbar, Wayne LaPierre, is still on the loose. Talk about transcendencekill.

Not to blame the messenger, but it was the AJC’s Alan Judd who took the opportunity—two years after the Newtown shootings—to analyze the NRA’s confusing attitude toward the mentally ill. It appears that while NRA frontman LaPierre blames mental illness, rather than the ubiquity of firearms, for mass killings like the one in Newtown, his organization recognizes that crazy people constitute a key segment of the gun market. Really. In the two years since Sandy Hook, LaPierre has been ranting about maniacs running loose and pushing for a nationwide database of the mentally ill, while the NRA has been lobbying state legislatures, like Georgia’s, to expand the gun industry’s customer base by making sure that the mentally ill can get guns too.

Once you hack your way through the jungle of irony, you see that it makes perfectly callous sense. LaPierre gets to pretend that he cares and his organization gets to push product.

Now, back to the irony. LaPierre’s constant message is the danger that lurks, the “maniacs,” the “lunatics,” “the unknown number of genuine monsters” walking our streets. He means to scare the hell out of us and apparently does a fine job of it—even without having to add that all these crazies looking to light up a schoolroom or shopping mall are in fact armed to the teeth, thanks to the NRA. About the only thing a sensible person can do is buy a gun, or two.

More irony? I am scared. I’m scared of Wayne LaPierre. Not just because he’s crazy, but because he’s so good at it. On Meet the Press, just nine days after the Sandy Hook shootings, LaPierre came across as a college professor at the end of a long day, exhausted from having to repeat the same obvious truths to dull-witted students. Interviewer David Gregory played his role well, insisting on wandering down the same irrelevant pig path: So guns don’t figure into your thinking at all? David, David, let me tell you what the American people want. . . .

I found the Meet the Press clip, but my quick browse through the digisphere failed to turn up anything juicy about LaPierre. He was born in New York and grew up in Roanoke, Virginia. His father was an accountant; the family was Roman Catholic. He’s been a career lobbyist for and officer of various conservative organizations, and in 1991 he became CEO and Executive Vice President of the NRA.

What had I hoped to find? How about an advanced degree in necromancy—or psychology at least. Because, friends, this guy has pulled a mighty mindfuck on America. He has turned the standard misreading of the Second Amendment into sacred text: Shoot anything that stands between you and all the guns you want. And he’s apparently convinced an inordinate number of people that a reversion to barbarism (good guys with guns v. bad guys with guns) is the rational way forward.

It’s crazy. It’s scary. And, for reasons easily divined, our elected representatives eat it up like a hot fudge sundae. Judd reminds us that after those 26 deaths at Sandy Hook Elementary, gun-control advocates and at least a brave handful of public officials, including President Obama, figured it was time to push back. Gently. Just the easy stuff—some restrictions on assault rifles maybe, or background checks on gun buyers? No and no. The NRA wagged its finger, and not a single gun-control measure was taken up by Congress.

Which makes me rethink the whole deal. Yes, the gun fetish is crazy. The violence that shapes our culture is crazy. But the dapper guy in the gray suit and wire-rimmed glasses, the guy with the million-dollar salary and more power than a whole capitol city full of politicians? Hey, Wayne LaPierre is living the dream.

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Image: Wayne LaPierre by DonkeyHotey via flickr and use under a Creative Commons license.
John Yow

John Yow

John Yow has written two books about birds, both published by UNC Press: The Armchair Birder: Discovering the Secret Lives of Familiar Birds (2009) and The Armchair Birder Goes Coastal: The Secret Lives of Birds of the Southeastern Shore (2012). His blog, "From Pumpkinvine Creek" (frompumpkinvinecreek.blogtspot.com) is generally concerned with the fate that awaits birds and all other species if we don't stop trashing the planet. Yow and his wife Dede live in the woods in northeast Paulding County.