Holding a gun does not make you powerful. It takes away your power and reduces you to nothing. If you want power, the tool you’re looking for is art.

I am always confused by what motivates people to commit violence. Always. Violence is not my thing, and I don’t understand it, even though I have studied it.

But I keep trying to make sense of it.

And in that spirit, I drew cards asking why the Boulder shooter did this horrible thing yesterday.

And I’m startled by the cards I drew, which emphasize stability and structure. Four of Spades, Four of Diamonds, Two of Hearts, and then from the This Might Hurt Tarot, the Four of Swords.

These 4s, to me, also make me think this shooter had been considering doing something like this for a long time. It’s as if it was all he could think about, an idea that was stuck in his head.

Okay, who commits mass murder to create stability?

Is this someone who wanted to go to jail? That’s a structure.

And yet, people do turn to violence to protect stability. It doesn’t make sense, and it doesn’t work, but they do it. Who commits mass murder to create stability? Oh, let’s see, Hitler, Stalin, the Khmer Rouge. It doesn’t work, but that doesn’t stop them from trying to force it to work. Kyle Rittenhouse in Kenosha (on a smaller scale). Rittenhouse was called out by the Facebook request of a former Kenosha alderman to protect local businesses, yet he, we can now see, was more dangerous than the protesters he felt the need to “protect” Kenosha from.

Sometimes it seems like teenage boys (and I count 21 as basically still a teen) think they need to prove their status as protectors by carrying a gun. (You could get all psychological and say their masculinity is threatened and they’re trying to defend that, but that’s a tired excuse and I’m not going there today.)

Looking at these cards I also see two sides. Well, there are two sides of a weapon, aren’t there? He picked a side of that, didn’t he? I’m trying to avoid more stereotypes here, so though one could leap to political sides, I won’t do that right now. For one thing, the last thing I would want to see is for any one political side to identify with being on the pulling the trigger end of a gun. But that’s where yesterday’s shooter was and where all shooters are.

They’re in a mental place where they think the best way to clarify who they are and what side they’re on is to pull a trigger. To them, it’s at the most basic level this: On one side of the gun is the shooter and on the other side is the victim and the shooter earnestly believes that he has proved he is not a victim.

And this is a thing that we learn from every detective movie and tv show, isn’t it? The person on the pulling the trigger side of the gun gets to call the shots. On tv, one minute someone else is in charge and the next moment someone has a gun and is saying, essentially, “aha, so now you see that I have a gun.” So some members of our society think the best way to safeguard their autonomy, their right to make their own choices, is to have a gun.

Do you see that that belief is fundamentally insane?

Are shooters the masters of their own domains? No.

Do shooters get what they want, any fucking thing they want, out of shooting even one person? No. They don’t get even the tiniest thing that they want out of their actions.

See, if I’m hungry and I go make a sandwich, then I have a sandwich. And I can then say, “aha, the labor of the last five minutes has brought me this sandwich! I, in my magical autonomy, have created food for myself!”

But if you are hungry and go shoot someone, you’re still hungry afterward. To quote Sean Connery in that one Indiana Jones movie where he plays Indy’s dad,

“Our situation has not improved.”

In fact, not only has your situation not improved, but you have just reduced yourself, in the eyes of everyone looking at you, to nothing. You’re no longer a human person with thoughts, feelings, passions, likes and dislikes: Nobody can see that about you when you’re holding a gun. They just can’t. They can’t see you any more at all. All they can see is the gun.

So, I don’t know how much more clearly I can say this, but if you think that holding a loaded gun will make you strong and powerful, dream on. It doesn’t. All it does is get you on the trigger side of the gun. Holding a gun does NOT make you the master of your own domain or anyone else’s. All it does is make you the architect of your own personal tragedy. The rest of the people in the world will find a way to move past this, even the survivors and the families of those who didn’t survive–it will take time, maybe some part of them will always stay in that moment, but they will continue to live their lives, they’ll love, they’ll laugh, they’ll make contributions to the world they live in. The shooter won’t do any of those things:

He will live in his own personal hell until he dies.

Shooters generally hope to prove that they’re not the victims, but, the fact is, they are the exact victims. Holding a gun does not empower you, it makes you smaller–so small that now you’re smaller than the gun is.

Ask any police officer or soldier if the general public tends to see them as human when they’re wearing a uniform and holding a weapon.

This is not a good choice. It’s not sane. It’s not reasonable. It’s not building a better world.

So if you’re thinking of picking up a gun, let me give you the best advice you have ever heard and tell you to pick up a paintbrush, a sewing needle, a pencil, a camera, some clay to sculpt, seeds to plant, something that lets you express your individuality. Do some cleaning or cooking. Decorate a pair of sneakers. Rearrange your desk or your room. ART and CREATIVITY are ways in which you can actually EXPRESS YOURSELF as a HUMAN PERSON and be seen as such.

Literally ANY artistic tool will give you MORE POWER as a PERSON creating a WORLD than a gun will.

Think about it. If you want a stable house, you have to build it, clean it, decorate it, etc. Setting a house on fire has never made it more stable. Ever. Shooting a person does not make them respect you. Ever.

Choose art, not horror.

And I want to say one last thing about this: There are men and women who carry guns and who do so for the sake of protecting us. You know this. For example, there are men and women who put their own lives and their own bodies between their fellow citizens and danger. But people who do THAT are serving their country. At their best, and I get it that there are exceptions, but at their best, such people are acting out of humility, out of a deep sense of service to an ideal that they think is more important than their own egos.

Members of the military know that they are not the masters of their own domain. They go and put themselves at risk anyway. They go where the military tells them to go, when they’re told to, and they carry out orders that they don’t necessarily even like. That’s a VERY different thing.

So if you’re picking up a gun to assert yourself, know that you’re not asserting yourself, and if you’re trying to be like a soldier, you’re not being like a soldier. Not at all.

If you want to assert your sovereignty, and your “I am a person not a victim”-ness, then choose art, not violence. Not because I said so but because that is what will work.

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