rn: Carolyn Chute & the gun issue


Jan Slakov

Dear RN,

For those of you who have never yet heard of Carolyn Chute, I should explain
that she is the secretary of the 2nd Maine Militia, a "common sense, common
decency militia". Back in 1998 Carolyn read one of Richard's articles about
the need for "right" and "left" to work together in building a better world,
in defeating corporate globalization. She heartily agrees and sent Richard
one of her classic letters, along with lots of political material.

The tracts Carolyn puts out look almost childlike; they are innocent of
anything high-tech (except for photocopying). Too bad I cannot scan you an
example: at the top of the page: "This thought for the day is brought to you
by" then an arrow pointing to a drawing of "The Abominable Hairy Patriot",
flanked by two idiosyncratic trees and a couple slogans: "Be a free
thinker." "Be free!"

And then below that a caricature Yankee woman holding gun, flag, wearing a
button that says: "Don't tread on me" (meaning herself and the US Bill of
Rights, freedom in general, I think)... and surrounding this mighty little
caricature are bubbles with things like: "The no-wing militia grows!", "Get
big biz _out_ of _our_ government", "Give 'em hell, Hairy!", etc. And "WRITE
Carolyn Chute Secretary 2nd Maine Militia P.O. Box 100 parsonsfield, MAINE

This might not be so surprising, but when you realize Carolyn is a
best-selling novelist, the contrast is simply delightful. The contrasts
don't stop there. She devotes much love and caring to the ailing or
handicapped dogs which are part of her family and I am sure that she is
revolted by the kind of violence against animals (and others, incuding
women) that some guys who live in her neck of the woods engage in. (Her
descriptions of this in the novel _Merry Men_ are not pretty!) But she
refuses to go from there to rejecting her own roots and the local context
she is part of. She rejects "big city" feminism and gun control efforts
although she is happy to work with people from that "big city" crowd, as
long as they are mainly interested in what she is mainly interested in:
justice and freedom and liberating ourselves from the clutches of big biz.

I find her free thinking refreshing and even challenging... I have supported
gun restrictions (especially in the wake of the "Montreal massacre" of 1989
when a gunman with an automatic weapons killed 14 women at l'École
Polytéchnique). But I live in a rural area (as does Carolyn Chute) where
owning guns and hunting is just part of the culture. I've worked with people
who are vehemently opposed to gun registration. They point out that one of
the first things Hitler did was register guns... that "when you outlaw guns,
only outlaws will have guns". (I recently asked students in a class where I
was substitute teaching to write letters-to-the-editor. One student wrote
about the gun laws, arguing that honest country people ought not to have to
pay for the misdeeds of "low life city criminals":)

In the end, I think what we need is for people who care deeply about the
issue, both "pro" & "con", both country & city, and people like Carolyn, who
care deeply about violence and protecting basic rights, to get together and
develop laws that will be fair and will also tend to make guns less widely
available, especially in cultural contexts where they will be misused...
Hmm, writing this, I realize I do have trouble seeing how guns can ever be
used "nonviolently"; while I can see that restrictive gun laws, especially
when registration fees make it nearly impossible for poor people to won guns
while posing no obstacle to gun ownership for the wealthy, can end up only
serving to make guns even more attractive than they already are, I still
think making guns less widely available and especially making them less
attractive to own and use, makes sense.

Anyhow, one thing Carolyn points out I strongly agree with: the gun issue is
dividing people who ought to be working together to defeat corporate
globalization and this is truly a shame. 

Here are some things Carolyn has to say about the gun issue, followed by a
posting one of our subscribers sent in.

all the best, Jan

Carolyn Chute:

What the Drug War has done to imprison and molest the inner city people of
colors, the gun war will do to molest and imprison rural whites (_as well
as_ the inner city people of colors).

What the Drug War has begun to do to our Bill of Rights (everyone's Bill of
Rights) the GUN WAR can finish.

And what the Drug War has done to scapegoat and divide people, the Gun War
can do doubly and triply well. This is an especially classist "issue".

The GUN "issue will divide this country like nothing before it. Class
against class. Region against region. Brother against brother. _The people_
will not benefit from keeping this "issue" alive. But certain eleite and
powerful entities will benefit greatly.

A _prohibition_ or even _just a bunch of regulations_ will not make guns
disappear from citizens' or criminals' hands. We are not babies. It isn't
just corporations that can make guns. _We_ can make guns. Guns are _not_
going to go away.

from a "Dear Revolutionary Abby" letter: "I see a lot of very nice,
seemingly smart people open their mouths and out pops all this talk about
getting guns out of the hands of the American people. And they seem to
sincerely believe that having a gun prohibition will end violence. Some
admit it won't, but they believe some lives will be saved.
        As I see it, there will be _more_ death if there are prohibitions on
anyhing which people are driven heart and soul to have. Street drugs.
Alcohol. Abortions. Gambling. Sex. Dirty pictures. Whatever. Creating a
giant underworld (which all such prohibitions do) is not the way to save
lives. And underworld doesn't mean a bunch of guys doing deals in dingy
apartments, wearing black shirts with white ties, smoking cigars and
completely separate from NICE people. Prohibition underworlds permeate
everything. Organized crime, in order to succeed, is always entangled with
government. There are many very wealthy highly respected types making money
on, for instance, street drugs. While millions of the lower echelon folks
have shoot outs, get caught dealing and go to jail, and become part of a
"culture of crime"... these are usually poor persons (and more of us are
entering the poor zone every day) who have not many other ways to make
money. And MONEY is what our American society has been about since Colombus
raped and Indian or two in 1492.
        Us humans all need to simplify most of the time. But to oversimplify
what our nation's problems are by blaming inanimate objects like guns or
drugs or even a particular politician..is just...just...kinda simple-minded.
We need to fix our society. We need to bring back neighborliness and
responsibility to others. And dignity for all. And THE TRIBE. We need to get
people working together again. No, not in teams. _In families_, as
_communities_. Not in competition, We need to get rid of that winner-loser
        If there's one inanimate object that needs to be prohibited it
whould be schools (as they exist now). Burn 'em down. Start over.
        Ending our property ownership-money _society_ next week would be
impossible and _highly unpopular_. But we can at least admit it is probably
the real root of our mess.
        And to dismantle corporate power, we need to talk about getting rid
of human rights to corporations, limitiing their size, getting them out of
the lobbies and campaigns etc etc, not picking on particular companies,
particular products like guns or tobacco.
        I'm not arguing with you, I'm not saying that guns haven't hurt
people. Nobody is. I'm just asking you not to kill, imprison, and agitate
and divide this population, your eyes trained on that hand holding the gun,
while your won hand steers your anti-gun tank over the bodies of thousands.
        Yours in truth, Revolutionary Abby

Date: Tue, 22 Feb 2000 14:34:40 -0800
To: •••@••.•••
From: CyberBrook <•••@••.•••>
Subject: America Needs About 200 Million More Capitalists

 Published on Tuesday, February 22, 2000 in the Cape Cod Times

 America Needs About 200 Million More Capitalists
                     by Sean Gonsalves 
             Almost every week, I get some correspondence in which concepts
are attributed to me that I
             neither support nor understand. I've come to expect it. But
this past week, regarding my
             cursory thoughts on the gun industry, the mostly polite
projections of naysayers reached a
             fevered pitch, unsurpassed in the five years or so that I've
had the wonderful privilege of writing
             this column.

             Let me quickly say that I also received engaging and perfectly
reasonable remarks from
                             anti-gun control proponents. So if you didn't
know, you better ask
                             somebody: There's more than a few anti-gun
control folks who are not
                             "conservative" or - for lack of a better term
- "rednecks."

                             I raised the question: Is there a coherent
gun-rights argument? This was
                             enough to convince some readers that I'm for a
total ban on gun
                             ownership. (For the record, I don't think such
a position is currently
                             realistic, as morally desirable as it may be).

                             But I did try to make three points: 1.) The
gun "rights" debate has
             red-herring droppings all over it; 2.) Common assumptions
about guns, violence and
             non-violent action need to be re-examined in light of
arguments laid out by Tolstoy, Gandhi,
             King and the Dalai Lama; and 3.) the gun industry ought to be
regulated at least as much as
             the tobacco industry.

             The either-or thinking that led intelligent people to make
erroneous conclusions about what I
             allegedly believe - if you are against X you must be for Y -
is indicative of a serious lack of
             imagination. That's understandable in a political culture
permeated by propaganda. It's difficult
             to imagine that there are social and political ideas that do
not fit within the narrow confines of
             a conservative-liberal, either-or framework.

             Nowhere is this more evident than when it comes to talk of
economics. "Sean, you critique
             capitalism, then you must be for communism or big-government

             Although this particular piece is not about guns, it is about
the pursuit of genuine freedom.
             Incidentally, I haven't come across a single anti-gun control
proponent who has read the book
             that I referred to - "Making A Killing: The Business of Guns
in America" by Tom Diaz. I highly
             recommend it.

             Changing gears here, this one goes out to all those who have a
hard time imagining
             alternatives. It might also be of some interest to those who
can see deep contradictions
             between the ideals of democracy and our present economic
order, referred to by ideologues
             as the "free-market." 

             First, a few observations: Social power in America is rooted
in ownership. Democracy in
             politics without democracy in economics is a watered-down
version of plutocracy that does
             not provide equal opportunity for as many as possible;
paralyzes the political process because
             of the apathy and cynicism such a hierarchy breeds; and is an
affront to the dignity of those
             who lack considerable capital - the overwhelming majority of
people in the world.

             The right to life implies the right to earn a good living. The
cause of poverty in a capitalist
             society is simple: Poverty is caused by a lack of capital. As
in the game of Monopoly,
             ownership is the key, not income. The lethargy, sense of
hopelessness and violence found in
             the "underclass" is largely a symptom; an effect of being
dispossessed. And we've never had
             a war on poverty in America. We've had a war on the effects of
poverty, which has become a
             cowardly war on the poor.

             From a strictly economic point of view, there is such a thing
as having too much money.
             When your income exceeds that which you or your family can
possibly spend on
             consumption, the only thing that excess money can be used for
is accumulating more capital,
             which only increases the wealth and power gap and erodes
healthy competition. Not good for
             the economy.

             A big part of the solution is to get adequate capital in the
hands of as many people as
             possible. To put it another way, America needs about 200
million more capitalists. How?
             Workers should completely own the businesses that employ them.
Where is the money going
             to come from? The company's own income - right out of the

             This idea can be traced right back to Adam Smith.
Unfortunately, "free-market" conservatives
             spend more time praising Smith than they do actually reading him.

             This is not a top-down redistribution of income. Nothing is
taken. Nothing is given for free. It's
             all bought and sold. With such a set-up, there would be no
need for minimum wage laws or
             vacuous talk of welfare "dependency" devoid of any real
understanding of human psychology.
             And we could do away with most unions and government oversight
of industry. What we need
             is a kind of modern day Homestead Act.

             The Homestead Act offered land in the West to any settler who
would cultivate it for five years.
             As the late financier and inventor of the Employee Stock
Ownership Plan, Louis Kelso,
             pointed out, "It was paid for by sweat equity."

             The vision is there. The moral and political leadership is
what's missing.

                Sean Gonsalves is a Cape Cod Times staff writer and
syndicated columinist. He can be
                            reached via email: •••@••.••• 

                                  Copyright © 2000 Cape Cod Times. 

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