Whitlock: My real take on gun control
It wasn’t that long ago, in the aftermath of Washington Redskins safety Sean Taylor’s tragic death in 2007, that I was the toast of right-wing America. Before there were any arrests, before we knew the gruesome circumstances that precipitated his murder, I analogized Taylor’s assailants to the Black KKK in a column for FOXSports.com.
I’m fond of provocative analogies. That affinity bit me in the rear end Monday morning. In the aftermath of Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher’s murder-suicide, during an interview with Roland Martin on the popular Tom Joyner morning radio show, I groggily and inarticulately popped off a provocative analogy that I had yet to explain in writing.
I analogized the National Rifle Association to the KKK. Big mistake. My views on the NRA and distaste for the organization cannot be explained at 4:30 a.m. (I live in LA) during a fast-paced interview on a morning radio show. My column is the foundation for all of my most provocative opinions. My podcast is my secondary foundation for those opinions. I prefer to control my message and not hand fragments of my thoughts over to others to exploit, recast and define. I like to be interviewed about what I wrote in my column and what I said during my podcast.
Through no fault of Roland Martin or Tom Joyner, I went off message early Monday morning and spewed a half-baked thought. And by doing so, I gave the right-wing entertainment media the out it needed to further bastardize the rather harmless column I wrote Saturday night about Belcher’s murder-suicide.
The column primarily focused on my belief that it was inappropriate for the Chiefs to play a game 28 hours after Belcher murdered his live-in girlfriend and then drove to the Chiefs practice facility and killed himself in front of the general manager, head coach and defensive coordinator. Kansas City’s victory over the Carolina Panthers, nor the KC players’ insistence on wanting to play, in no way invalidates my contention that the NFL was wrong for playing the game as scheduled.
The column whined that football is our God and not even murder-suicide will slow us from worshipping at its altar. The still-in-shock and desensitized-to-violence players and coaches turned Belcher’s locker into a game-day shrine. Jovan Belcher is a murderer. His suicide did not transform him into a fallen hero.
There was one primary reason my Saturday-night column focused on whether the game should be played. I didn’t know what else to write. At the time, there was little concrete information about the tragedy. I wrapped up my column with an ancillary point articulating my belief that America’s gun culture is out of control, dangerous and a threat to our liberty.
I further argued that our Second Amendment is outdated. The right to bear arms no longer protects us from a government armed with stealth bombers, predator drones, tanks, nuclear weapons and all the other knickknacks James Madison and Co. couldn’t envision when ratifying the Bill of Rights in 1791.
Bob Costas quoted and paraphrased my ancillary point during a courageous halftime commentary on NBC’s “Sunday Night Football.” He infuriated the right-wing entertainment media and gave Bill O’Reilly and his disciples the opening to pretend the Second Amendment is under some sort of serious attack. It is not. We just finished a hotly contested election cycle, and not one political candidate that I can think of uttered a single meaningful word about gun violence, gun control, gun culture and the outdatedness of the justification for the Second Amendment.
This issue is so dead in this country that the flag-waving, right-wing entertainment media have to drag up a non-political, non-voting sports columnist and a talented sports broadcaster as their straw men to justify their phony outrage. I don’t think I’ll be called before the Senate to speak on any toothless gun-control legislation the NRA lobby lets slip through a crack.
But it appears I was summoned to testify before Speaker of The Big House Bill O’Reilly, the FOX News entertainer. O’Reilly is fixated on the mistake I made on the Tom Joyner show. O’Reilly spent part of his Tuesday show telling his viewers that I was afraid to come on “The Factor” and discuss my views on the NRA, the Second Amendment and gun culture.
I’m a grown-ass man and it’s 2012. I don’t have to shuffle off to the Big House when summoned. O’Reilly is not Boehner, Pelosi or Obama. He’s a TV entertainer who has spent the weeks after the election crying about the end of “white establishment” America, the end of the days when an upstanding white man felt entitled to summon whomever he wanted whenever he wanted to the Big House to dance.
I don’t dance.
Every cable TV network requested that I consent to an interview this week. I declined all invitations. Only Speaker of the Big House O’Reilly attacked me for exercising my constitutional right of freedom. It’s been a tough week for me personally, and I chose to control my message by using my platforms — column and podcast.
Beginning with my defense of Don Imus during the Rutgers controversy, I’ve appeared on O’Reilly’s program several times. You typically sacrifice two hours of time for an eight-minute segment that accomplishes very little. It’s not the deep end of the pool. There’s no room for someone like me to splash around.
If O’Reilly wants to talk, he’s more than welcome at my little house. I’d love to tape a podcast with him discussing the Second Amendment, gun culture and his fears about the end of white establishment America.
For now, I’m going to stick to writing my sports column. And when given a chance to broaden sports issues into social issues I will take that opportunity. That’s what I do.
And I do it without giving much thought to which politically partisan group I’m pissing off. When Taylor was senselessly murdered, I lambasted the primarily black "gangsta" culture that preys on black people the way the KKK once did.
I’m not paid to state the obvious. I’m paid to provoke thought, be compelling and explore the bigger picture. It doesn’t require much intellectual heft to point out Belcher is responsible for his reprehensible tragedy.
Recognizing his culpability for his girlfriend’s murder and moving on to make a deeper, more nuanced point isn’t irresponsible or an effort to excuse Belcher’s gross criminality. It’s a bid to probe alternative remedies that might lessen the probability of another Belcher tragedy. History has taught us that human beings are flawed, volatile, irresponsible and violent. What can we do to safely manage these human characteristics beyond the obvious?
I believe we should re-examine our love affair with guns. They don’t protect us from tyranny. Guns are toys in America. Guns are a dangerous hobby. Guns are a macho accessory, no different from a shiny sports car.
We can’t see this or even have a discussion about it because the propaganda-political-lobby-machine, the NRA, has hoodwinked America into believing handguns make us safer. The NRA, like the KKK, has brainwashed us through fear and division.
I don’t believe individual NRA members and/or gun owners — and I’m quite aware the NRA has members of every race — are racist. I do believe the NRA capitalizes on and promotes racial fears and ignorance that swings all directions. People of every race are buying guns to “protect” themselves from their own race or other races. It’s an unhealthy arms race. The NRA is powering it by promoting unnecessary and harmful stand-your-ground laws. The message isn’t subtle: Strap up, the other guy is out to get you.
The NRA traffics in fear, division and the seductive power of guns — the same tools used by the KKK. Other than money, I don’t think the NRA has a dog in the race. It just wants all sides armed to the hilt and convinced the other side is ready to shoot. That’s the recipe that left a 17-year-old Jacksonville kid dead over loud music blaring from a car.
It’s a dangerous recipe that I believe is fracturing our imperfect union. Nations as big and powerful as ours die from internal — not external — wounds. We’ve been duped into believing handguns are our salvation, an expression of our American patriotism. They’re just the opposite. Their rising popularity pushes us closer and closer to the brink, closer to a war inspired by racial divisions.
To much fanfare and derision, I’ve written provocatively about black people’s adoption of KKK-like qualities. I’ve bitched rather loudly and passionately about gangsta, hip-hop culture. I don’t run my opinions or analogies through a political point of view before airing them. I’m not part of the right- or left-wing entertainment media. I’m just a sports writer spouting my opinions trying to get you to look at the world differently.
If you read me long enough, it’s inevitable I’m going write something you passionately disagree with. But the opinions expressed in this column don’t come from a dishonest or partisan place.