Maybe One Reason Guns Make Americans Crazy

In The Tempest, Prospero sends the spirit Ariel to wreak havoc on the king’s ship to drive his enemies to land on the island. When Ariel reports back, they have the following conversation:


My brave spirit!
Who was so firm, so constant, that this coil
Would not infect his reason?


Not a soul
But felt a fever of the mad and play’d
Some tricks of desperation. All but mariners
Plunged in the foaming brine and quit the vessel,
Then all afire with me: the king’s son, Ferdinand,
With hair up-staring,–then like reeds, not hair,–
Was the first man that leap’d; cried, ‘Hell is empty
And all the devils are here.’

This coil has infected our reason. Our response? “Hell is empty/And all the devils are here.” Evil, people say, causes massacres. Hell is empty. The devils, all of them, are here.

To me, evil lets us off easily as people. Evil sounds like a curse, or a motivation from beyond the human. Violence is very human, and it is, of course, everywhere. Reason is overrated these days, and maybe the history of violence suggests why; violence responds to violence with its own kind of logic, which is a sort of reason.

Arm teachers, say people like the President. Of course, as the first author points out, the state of school funding and the general zeitgeist about teachers is not one of deep respect for competence in any other realm, but to some, the logic of violence says prepare for more violence. After all, evil – Trump’s “sickos” – lurk. These people are, of course, deeply wrong.

And now that the children who survived the horrific attack on their school, on themselves, arise and speak they are, almost unbelievably, again attacked by fearful mariners whose reason loops tightly, fearing devils at every turn. Hell is empty.

#Neveragain seems like another conspiracy for everyone on the king’s ship – this is evil, nobody can stop it. Conspiracy addled and propaganda poisoned, these citizens don’t believe in the power of possibility or change, but only fear. Guns make fear. Guns break people. To stand and speak after guns is to be aglow with St. Elmo’s fire, possessed.

But the kids don’t care. Cameron Kasky, my new hero, “told CNN that anyone who had seen him in the school’s production of ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ knows that ‘nobody would pay me to act for anything.'”

Humor might help. Bless that kid.

The terrified are humorless, as the terrified always are. They are beset by devils. Hell has emptied.

Of course armaments are worthless as protection against devils. Instead, guns make the imagination real, devils corporeal. This is the madness. Hell is only an idea we make real.