~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ I O 93 93/93 I O ~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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Location: LaGrange, Kentucky, United States

The opinions and interests of a husband, analyst and Iraq war veteran.


Tuesday, May 16, 2006

The antidote to Jarhead

The relationship between the US Marine and his rifle is indeed something profound. But I'm deeply unsatisfied with most efforts to convey the nature of that relationship to civillians. The Creed of a US Marine...

This is my rifle. There are many like it, but this one is mine...

... has been referenced many times, most recently in the movie Jarhead, which I recently rented, only to be as disappointed as I thought I'd be. I've never been happy with these dark and cynical portrayals of the Marine/rifle connection. Yes, war is strenuous. Yes, war is debilitating in it's demand for constant vigilance. But marksmanship is something else as well. Something zen-like. Something that's readily accessible to civillians. Elizabeth Keenan has put her finger on the connection in this wonderful article in TIME Pacific Magazine:

Trigger Happiness
New to shooting, a TIME writer learns respect for guns and for the marksman's art

[...]When I tell friends about my new interest (O.K., obsession), the conversation chills. It's as if I've taken up voodoo: they'll still talk to me, just not about It. "I just don't like guns," says one. "Don't like the idea of them." In the days when the only unholstered guns I'd seen were in the movies, I might have said the same. Guns for me equaled danger and crime. Even after I started shooting, I had a lingering sense that the rifle or pistol, even the brass rounds I was pressing into its magazine, might explode at any moment. I still handle guns with caution—the first rule of firearms safety is to treat every gun as if it's loaded. But I now know that to call them evil, as Australian Prime Minister John Howard recently did, is a statement of good-hearted ignorance.

Guns aren't moral agents, they're machines—elegant, superbly efficient, made to fit the human hand. I now think it entirely possible that the American gunsmith John Moses Browning "sitteth," as his admirers say, "at the right hand of God." Shooting for sport isn't, as I once thought, the desperate outlet of sad Hemingway types, but a fiendishly difficult art. As Peter, a former naval officer, says, "It's got all the Zen you could want." Trying to hit a bullseye smaller than a saucer from a distance of 100 m or more—and do it over and over again—demands things of you, and gives things to you.

In a kind of "you catch more flies with honey" style of persuading, Keenan uses the overly kind label "good-hearted ignorance." I tend to use much more vitriolic language in describing gun control advocates. While the First Ammendment entitles them to their opinions of course, I take a dim view of their personal philosophy of living a gun-free life the moment it presumes to force that lifestyle on others. And here in the US, I've found the Second Ammendment to be a fairly reliable barometer of what a person thinks of the First.

But how persuasive Keenan is! Athletes often talk of "switching on their game" or "being in the zone" to describe that state of concentrated effort when performing at their peak. Sport shooting is no different, as Keenan learns. And shooting carries a deeper significance, as well. A sutbtle, solemn hint of the Marine/rifle relationship:

Golf has targets just as small and distant—and makes people just as obsessive. The difference with shooting is that, well, you do it with guns. And bullets. Which were invented for one purpose: war. [...] it's hard to shoot, even at a cartoon [target], and not be reminded of what you owe all the people who've served as targets on your behalf.

[Emphasis mine]

I encourage you to read the whole thing. It's a truly remarkable piece of writing. Keenan explains her conversion to shooting enthusiast with grace, wit, and sensitivity. In short, she's written the article I wish *I* had written, but that I lack the subtlty to deliver.

(Via: Tim Blair)

(Linked at the Mudville Gazette Open Post)

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