Daily Archives: 03/22/2013

A Bus Ride Into Insights on Guns, Breaking Bad, Iraq, Politics and Freeways

Blogger Freddy Deboer posted this description of a bus trip.  It is excellent and I reproduce part of it here with a few of my own thoughts.


The bus ride was okay, aside from the expected physical discomforts, and a couple of guys on the bus. They were young, one in his early twenties, the other probably still a teenager. And they had one of those American bro downs, where they talked exclusively in ways that projected whatever strangled definition of manhood has implanted itself in their brains. They talked about all the girls they got … how good they were at high school football (despite failures to grasp even rudimentary football vocabulary) and how many girls they’d fucked …

At the St. Louis bus terminal someone disrespected the younger one’s girlfriend. …But real or fake, it caused their conversation to devolve into the expected racism, not a half hour after they had been talking about their love of hip hop and fetish for black women. In any event, the ritual began, one that will be familiar to just about every guy, the choreographed expression of offense, the hyperbolic discussion of one’s own fighting prowess, the insistence on the rights of women to not be disrespected by men who had moments before been talking about them as brainless babymakers…I try to tell myself that masculinity has improved within my own memory, but it just isn’t true. Then and now, for so many masculinity’s value has been indistinguishable from its capacity to commit violence. [emphasis added]

How sad and how true.  The recent revival of the discussion of gun control has set me on edge not so much because of the likely end – likely no change at all – but the way that so many people;s immediate reaction to Sandy Hook was:  “damn the guns, AND MY IDENTITY AS A MAN have to be protected”.  In discussion of the issue what I hear so often is the notion that:  I need to protect [fill in the blank – freedom, my family, etc.] , you don’t touch my gun!  In fact this all boils down to romanticism about committing violence.

At the same time this version of masculinity is juvenile:  wrapped up in wanting to do dangerous things just prove you are stupidly fearless; or in doing things for no reason other than their dangerousness (rock climbing anyone?).  I can understand dying for a just cause, and taking risks for a just cause when you have to.  I can’t understand showing off doing stupidly dangerous  things for no reason or in an ill considered way.  That seems like the most common vision of masculinity to me.  I’m totally befuddle by adrenalin junkies. 

Check this video or any by WildBillforAmerica.  I don’t think Bill or his crazy fans dread violence, they live for the day they can have a gun fight with a home invader.  They are in love with violence, and the means of violence.  The only good thing you can say about them is they aren’t criminals, but they are worth being afraid of as a particularly dangerous adrenalin junkies.

On the sad 10th anniversary of the start of the war in Iraq what better example could you come up with of a display of stupid machismo?

I more admire someone who when given no choice takes a risk for an honorable end, not someone who’s itching for a fight because they love violence.  I suppose that what I like about Breaking Bad to go down a bunny trail.  Walter White is someone who at least at first shows immense courage in a desperate situation.

In the end I think he becomes addicted to the thrill, and that replaces the original decent impulse to care for his loved ones.  That may be the tragedy and the appeal of the show.

The story continues:

My seatmate for a long while was a man named Mui Moi. He spoke very little English. He told me he was going to Chicago. ..In Kansas City, they wouldn’t let him get back on the bus. He had missed a transfer somewhere. … His leather coat was in the storage space above our seats. I grabbed it and came to get off the bus to give it to him. The Greyhound employees wouldn’t let me off the bus. They said if I got off the bus I wouldn’t be able to get back on, and I’d have to purchase a new ticket for the bus that left the next afternoon. I said to the guy, here, this is that guy’s leather jacket, he’s 25 feet away, can you bring it to him. But they wouldn’t. They just wouldn’t. ..My politics exists to understand the difference between him and me, between both of us and the people who will never worry about how to get home. It is political. ..This is part of what libertarians always talk about. But you can get crushed up in the machinery of industry just as well as the machinery of government. Greyhound bus can fuck you just as well as the DMV. I don’t know how anyone who has ever talked to Bank of America customer service remains a libertarian. What scares me is that, even past politics, after victory, there will be something in humans that compel them to do harm when they could as easily help.

It does seem to that everyday I see people pass up the chance to do something decent even when they could at little or no cost to themselves.  How often do you see people not cut a person enough slack to merge on the freeway, when they so easily could do so?  That puzzles me, but exemplifies people don’t do help when they could easily do so.