Only Comic Satire Can Do NRA Justice


I keep trying to think of a good drama that will do justice to the current fight over gun control, but the National Rifle Association keeps behaving in ways that make my job hard. Someone once said (I wish I knew who) that the best stories are not those that pit good against evil but good against good—which is to say, stories where one sympathizes with both parties in the conflict. (Antigone vs. Creon is a classic example.) The NRA, however, refuses to show us anything good.

Instead, it keeps blackening itself in such a way that I feel like I’m in the presence of facile good guy-bad guy fiction, with the NRA sporting the black hats. Following Sandy Hook, executive CEO Wayne LaPierre imagined America as the wild west and argued for armed guards in every school. He blamed Hollywood for gun violence, even though the NRA itself celebrates Hollywood gun violence. And he attacked video games, a hollow stance given that the NRA subsequently released “a branded target shooting game deemed suitable for kids ages 4 and up.” (Following public outcry Apple reclassified the app as suitable for children “12 years old and up.”)

Most recently, the NRA has gone after Obama’s daughters, claiming that Obama is a hypocrite for providing armed security for them while the rest of America’s children are defenseless.

All the while, it claims that Obama is a tyrant, and one Texas Congressman has even argued that the president should be impeached for trying to clamp down on assault rifles and large magazine clips.

Do you see the trouble I’m having here? No serious writer of melodrama would take a look at this story. The closest anyone might get is through comic satire.

In this area, fortunately for this blog’s sake, there are writers who are up to the task.  In Catch 22, Joseph Heller captures the insanity that can occur in people who are cocooned off from common sense solutions. For instance, he shows us a general who is more interested in having an aesthetic bombing pattern than in winning the war, even though creating such patterns puts his bombardiers at risk of their lives. He also has a capitalist who is so intent on profit (this fits the gun manufacturers perfectly) that the health and well-being of his fellow soldiers is of no concern. I’m thinking of Milo Minderbinder, who contracts with the Germans to bomb his own airfield.

And then there’s Jonathan Swift, who I’ve already turned to once: the NRA’s armed guards proposal, I wrote, resembles Swift’s Modest Proposal, only the NRA is serious. Gulliver’s Travels is also relevant in the way it shows the contortions that people are willing to go through when someone in power delivers marching orders. In our case, the NRA is delivering the orders and members of Congress must prove themselves agile acrobats to do and say all that is required. The colored silk threads that the emperor promises his subjects were originally the Order of the Garter and other such awards but, in our case, they can be seen as NRA ratings:

The emperor holds a stick in his hands, both ends parallel to the horizon, while the candidates advancing, one by one, sometimes leap over the stick, sometimes creep under it, backward and forward, several times, according as the stick is advanced or depressed.  Sometimes the emperor holds one end of the stick, and his first minister the other; sometimes the minister has it entirely to himself.  Whoever performs his part with most agility, and holds out the longest in leaping and creeping, is rewarded with the blue-coloured silk [an NRA A+rating]; the red is given to the next, and the green to the third, which they all wear girt twice round about the middle; and you see few great persons about this court who are not adorned with one of these girdles.

Satire is not taken as seriously as melodrama because it is not seen as capturing the complexity of life. The best satire, however, captures life only too well.

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