On the heels of the “Zimmerman destroys wife’s iPad in a fit of rage,” story I got this letter from the founder of the United States Concealed Carry Association. What I really love about this letter is the way the author correlates what his son did with the SYG concept. He also uses the whole father/son pride/disappointment and bully/victim construct to pluck at the heart strings and open the wallets.

The formatting and bolding are his own.

It starts:

I’m a proud parent…

When my son was in 4th grade, the 5th grade bully started picking
on him at recess.

So he took matters into his own hands…

Now, most parents these days would hear that my son defended himself rather than “telling the teacher,” and they would likely
criticize…

But THIS is why I’m proud:

Since the boy didn’t tell the teachers the whole story comes from the 4th grader. I wonder what the school had to say about this “bully” and his son? How do we know that the 5th grader was the bully and not his son? We can’t verify any of this. But we do know what Dad’s first positive message was to his son, “I’m glad you didn’t tell your teacher.” Unsaid is a dislike of talking vs. hitting.

Next line:

He evaded the bully. He told the bully to stop.

He went so far as to swallow his pride and try to run away.

Note how he starts with the “retreating/evading” part and then the “I asked him to stop” part. He dismisses as ineffective the “duty to retreat” and/or discussing the issue rationally–like the teachers would probably make him do. But the critical line here is, “He swallowed his pride.” Tim Schmitz Sr.’s message to his readers is, “If you are armed, you won’t ever have to “swallow your pride” especially in the face of bullies.”

For people who feel like they are under siege all the time, or who think they are the victim or who believe that the world is a dangerous place (both in reality and in their imagination) this concept, “Don’t swallow your pride” resonates. It’s all about “honor” and “manhood” because winning by talking doesn’t count. He follows up with the perfunctory, “Hey, my son even did the wimpy “run away” thing and tried to retreat, but he just couldn’t…”

Next line:

But when the bully pushed him to his limit, and Tim Jr. couldn’t
escape, he struck back as ferociously as necessary to ensure the
bully would never mess with him again.

Hulk smash! Note his emphasis, he struck back as ferociously as necessary. Now who decides how much force is necessary to ensure the bully would never mess with him again? What level of damage would it take? A black eye? Broken nose? Unconsciousness? Death? Heck, if the bully is living he could mess with him again. But as an adult you don’t have to guess what it will take. Do you want someone to stop messing with you? Shoot ‘em! Take ‘em out! Let ‘em take a dirt nap. It’s legal! Here’s the wording from Florida’s SYG law. Emphasis mine:

(3) A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.

Oh, and the kid is a reluctant warrior. Next line.

He didn’t WANT to be forced to fight. But he did exactly what he
trained to do, and he came away unharmed.

Here’s the lesson:

My son knows how to defend himself. He even earned his black
belt before I did!

However, if he wasn’t trained, that fight could have gone very badly
for him.

You know, most people never think about a violent encounter until
the moment is upon them…

And as you and I both know, that’s just too late…

Of course, that’s why you’re here and why you’re reading this
email – because you care about taking action now to protect
yourself and your loved ones.

And that’s why the USCCA is here for you. We provide you with the education and information you need to responsibly protect your
loved ones with a gun.

This should be a promo for Karate lessons, right? It’s not. Instead he connects the “lesson his son learned” to the lesson that he wants his readers and members to learn:

  • Take matters into your own hands
  • Don’t let bullies push you around
  • Respond ferociously so the bully will never mess with you again
  • Adults don’t have time to train to be a black belt, but they do have time to get a CCW permit and learn to use it
  • We will teach you and provide you with insurance if you shoot and kill a bully with force
  • Become a member and protect your ego from ever swallowing your pride

I think this is a very effective letter. Yes it is “preaching to the Choir,” but as I have said, that is an important activity. This letter is giving the readers/potential members just the right notes to hit for when they need to use their guns. They have constructed a positive narrative around their actions. Plus, for a mostly male audience, he gives them the added bonus of, “Your dad will be proud of you. He won’t think you are a scaredy cat or tattletale to those wimpy teachers.”

Of course his son wasn’t packing, and that makes all the difference in the world. Tim Schmitz Sr. has justified his entire organization around the idea he’s doing it to “protect my kids.” It’s much more acceptable than, “I carry a gun to make me feel powerful. I need to wear this illusion of control every day while my children are miles away in the care of strangers.”

I wonder if the dojo this kid goes to tells this story the same way? What lessons are learned there? I’m all for standing up to bullies and appropriate force, but by co-opting the kid’s story he takes away its real message. He adds on his paranoia and fear. All the better to sell memberships (and guns) with.

The internal narratives about fighting we tell ourselves are important. They impact how we see local situations, and the world at large. They often get hauled out without someone challenging them. The question of their current effectiveness or applicability goes out the window, “It feels like the right thing to do–in my gut.” The “gut” is often created in childhood and influenced by your parents. And if  you believe it is a successful internal story, you keep using it.

You Ask, “What Does This Have to Do With Going to War Spocko?”

I’ve wondered lately why so many people (mostly men) jump to bombing and violence as this first response to violence. In the letter above I looked at this narrative and the emotions of  a bully on the playground. I wondered, can we see the same attitudes behind the Bush administration going to war with Iraq and/ or the discussion about the Obama administration going to war with Syria? Lots of differences, but some similarities. How much is based on if the leaders were bullies as children?

The early talk on both diplomatic solutions seemed so “unworkable” or “ineffective.” We heard about America needing to be “credible” and the US having to standing up to “bullies” like Saddam and Assad, both of whom, “gassed their own people.” We even had Bush articulating the desire to stand up for George HW Bush. “He tried to kill my dad.” He also wanted his dad to be proud of him. He wanted to show he could do things his dad couldn’t because he had to “swallow his pride” and run away from Baghdad.  No “jawboning’ for him!

The Bush administration set about to make Saddam a threat. A personal threat, ‘Nuclear cloud blah blah smoking gun. Boo!” and they attempted to show that talking and inspectors (teachers) don’t work.

While Obama didn’t make the same case with Assad as a threat, he did postulate that talking wouldn’t work. Then I heard people talking about the US’s credibility. I see in my head a scene from Back to the Future, with some Fox News Flea asking Obama, “What are you, chicken?”

“Obama said we can’t let them cross the line, but they did and he didn’t bomb ‘em. What a pussy!”

As I watch pundits and the Media talking about war I ask myself, “What Daddy issues do they have? What concerns about their own ‘Manhood’ and ‘Honor’ are tied up with what they want Obama to do and what they want the US to do?” Why is it that people who suggest that the “workable solutions” are violent bombings listened to? Why is the “talking solution” dismissed?  Where do they get their ideas of “workable solutions” from?

Did they study how bombing worked in the past? Or did they get that idea from being a bully growing up? Maybe they got it from standing up to bullies growing up. Was their weapon of choice as a child their fists?

What is their internal metaphor for a “solution” that works? Are they using the experiences of a child on the playground? Or an adult in the grown up world?

Photo by Erwan Bazin. Creative Commons License