“This Is My Rifle” by Paul Crenshaw


A few months after I moved to North Carolina I was sitting on a porch with a half-dozen other people, drinking and talking about writing, movies, books we loved. It was October, and just cool enough to be pleasant, and the drinks tasted fine and a light wind stirred the falling leaves. I had just started graduate school, and though I didn’t know any of the people very well then, they were weird and funny and smart and I was in a new city with a new life stretching out in front of me, when four men wearing ski masks and carrying pistols ran up onto the porch.

It was around 11 O’clock. The table was littered with empty beer cans and drink glasses and ashtrays overflowing with cigarette butts. I sat in a cheap plastic chair. Two people sat in the porch swing. Another couple stood by the door, another on a bar stool we had dragged outside, another in a recliner salvaged from curbside on trash pick-up day. When the men ran up the porch stairs we all froze. I could see the guns gleaming in the porch light. Through the open window came the sound of a radio.

“Give us your fucking money,” one of them said.

Two of the men stood by the porch steps, heads swiveling from the street to us and back again. They held their guns by their sides. The other two moved among us, much like you’ve seen on any number of TV shows or movies, taking watches and wallets. But we were grad students, and none of us wore expensive watches or rings or necklaces. None of the guys carried cash.

By the time one of the men made it to me, he was getting angry. He had gotten no money from any of us. I could see his eyes through his ski mask. His knuckles were white where they held the gun.

He pressed the gun hard enough into my stomach I could feel the coldness of the steel.

“Give me your fucking money,” he said.

My wallet was in my front pocket, my jacket covering it. I’d had a few drinks and the air was cool and I was in a new city and the whole thing seemed surreal, so I told him I didn’t have any money. I even shrugged casually as I said it. I thought they would simply run off, but by this point he was too angry to give up. He moved the gun from my stomach to my neck. His fingernails were clean, I noticed. Strange what you notice at a time like that. One of the others said “Let’s go,” but he shook his head slightly, just a twitch really, then pushed the barrel of the gun into my neck hard enough my head moved. He cocked the hammer.

“You got any money now, mother fucker?” he said.

I got my first gun for my 12th birthday, a bolt-action .410 with a blonde stock. It held three shells. It had belonged to my grandfather, who fought in WWII and Korea, and that fall I walked through the woods behind my house with it every afternoon as the dark came early and the leaves left the trees.

When I was 17, I joined the military. When we qualified with our M-16s I hit 35 out of 40 targets, one short of expert. In the second half of my military training I learned to disassemble and reassemble the M-16, the M-60 machine gun, the M-249 Squad Automatic Weapon, the M-203 grenade launcher, the 9mm, and the .50 caliber machine gun, as well as fire all of them. I’ve thrown hand grenades and set off Claymore mines, stabbed practice dummies with bayonets, even learned to call in air strikes. I’ve fired thousands of rounds in the military and thousands more with hunting rifles and pistols, and if I would have had a gun on me, I would have pulled it that night. Short of a police officer or soldier who trains everyday for just such an occasion, I would have wielded it as well as anyone could, under such circumstances.

Some nights I dream about the gun. The cold steel. The gleam in the porch light. There is no one standing over me. The gun is simply there. Soon the trigger will pull. There will come a brief flash, then the acrid smell of smoke, though I do not know if I will be alive to smell it, to see the flash, to hear the report.

In Tobias Wolff’s short story “Bullet in the Brain” the main character, Anders, does not hear the bullet, or smell the smoke, or feel it penetrate his flesh. It carves a furrow into his forehead, but he is not there to know. He is remembering a long-lost Saturday afternoon during the heat of summer. A baseball game. A boy chanting in right field. He is remembering the power of words.

Had the gun fired when it was pressed against my neck, my last words would have been “I don’t have any money.”

The last words I would have heard were “Mother fucker.”

In the dream, I think that I do not want mother fucker to be the last thing I ever hear. Nor do I want there to be a last thing.

I am writing this a few days after 26 people, 20 of them children, were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. Six months after a gunman walked into a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado and opened fire with an assault rifle, wearing body armor and a gas mask. Five years after 32 people were killed at Virginia Tech, which is not very far away, geographically or metaphorically, from where I teach at a small liberal arts college. Thirteen years after Columbine.

I keep thinking of that classroom. My wife teaches kindergarten, and I see her room, which I have visited many times. I see her children, some of whom, from previous years, are stored on digital photos on my computer and often pop up when the screensaver switches on. The gunman would have walked through a door with a hand-written sign on it that says “Welcome to Mrs. Crenshaw’s Kindergarten Class!!!” My wife would have been standing at the board, or sitting at her desk. The children would have been coloring, or learning to form letters, or sitting in a circle on the carpet listening to my wife read.

She would have been the first to see him. To see the rifle raised. To see the fire shoot—I imagine this in slow motion—from the barrel as the bullets began to fly. She would have been the first one shot, and the last thing she would have seen would have been the bodies of her students falling beside her, their little shirts and dresses blooming now with blood, their mouths trying to form words but finding only screams, or nothing. I imagine seeing that would have been hard, although perhaps not as hard as the phone calls some parents would get later in the day. To learn that, only a single moment before it all began and everything ended—everything in your entire world—your children had been practicing their Rs, or drawing pictures of winter, or listening to my wife’s voice as she read to them about a snowy day, as I have heard her read to my children hundreds of times.

There is something broken in America. Something devastated, and devastating. That classroom. Those guns. The noise it must have made. The broken glass, the pools of blood. The children with their eyes closed as they were led out. The phone calls. Dear God, the phone calls.

Outside, the sun slanted toward winter. Leaves went rattling along the sidewalk. The rest of us were going to work, or drinking coffee at a window, steam from the cup condensing on the glass. My daughters had climbed on buses only an hour before, were sitting in classrooms much like that one. I was sitting at my computer as I do every morning, trying to make some sense of the world with the words I write. That morning, I kept thinking about the bus pulling away. That classroom. The way my wife looks when I visit unannounced, and stand outside her room looking through the little window in the door. She doesn’t see me, but I watch her with her children.

Like most of us, I felt something break. Like most of us, I will spend days or years or forever trying to understand what it was. That morning, I kept writing the same lines again and again:

What is wrong with us? What in the world is wrong with us?


I keep coming back to the gun in my neck. It’s the only thing I can relate this to. That October night. Wind in the trees. Drinking and talking too loudly with writer friends about what most moved us in the world, about what we might change if only we ever learn to capture the words to unlock what most moves others.

The guy in the ski mask patted me down and found my wallet. He kept the gun to my neck as he dug it out of my pocket. It had 43 dollars in it, the same amount a man was killed for in a famous country song. He flipped it open, saw the money, and took the gun away from my neck.

The four of them ran off down the street. My friends and I looked at each other in disbelief for a moment, then called 911. Cops arrived, guns drawn or holsters unsnapped and hands hovering near, but the men were gone.

Some nights I think that if I had had my own gun, I could have defended myself. I could have pulled it out and squeezed off a few rounds. The robbers would have shot back. The others on the porch would have dived for cover. If they had guns they could have started shooting too. The robbers would retreat from the porch, all of them firing back. Perhaps a bullet would have gone across the street, broken a window, and the owner would have come out with his gun, firing back at us. The police, upon arriving, would not have known who were the good guys and who were the bad guys, and they would have started shooting as well, until all up and down the street, all over the city, all over the state, all over the world, people were firing at one another, and it would be easy to believe this is the way the world would end.

It wouldn’t be anybody’s fault, and there wouldn’t be anything you could do about it.


Paul Crenshaw is a graduate of the MFA Writing Program at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where he was a Fred Chappell fellow. His stories and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in Best American Essays 2005 and 2011, Shenandoah, North American Review, Southern Humanities Review, and Hayden’s Ferry Review, among others. He teaches writing and literature at Elon University.

4 thoughts on ““This Is My Rifle” by Paul Crenshaw

  1. Francis Reynolds
    Francis Reynolds is The Nation’s Editorial Producer.

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    Bushmaster Rifles Has Been Running The Most Evil Ads I’ve Ever Seen
    December 19, 2012 By Noah Brand 87 Comments

    How do you defend your fragile masculinity? With a gun! Prepare to throw up in your mouth.
    The primary weapon used in the Newtown massacre was a .223 rifle manufactured by Bushmaster, and that is the last time I will mention the massacre for the next five paragraphs.
    Because if that had never happened, if NO mass shooting had ever happened, Bushmaster’s “Man Card” [site down at present, see screencaps and related images throughout this post] advertising and promotion series would still be indefensibly awful, grossly irresponsible, and plainly harmful.

    I do not like asinine gender enforcement in advertising. I do not like it in my beer, I do not like it far or near. I do not like it on my soap: do I like it? Fucking nope.
    There is no time when any talk of a “man card”, or any implication that one’s entire gender hangs on a purchase, does NOT piss me off.
    But nowhere, EVER, have I seen it done so nasty, so viciously, dangerously stupid, as it is here.

    Let me be clear: I’m a gun owner. I pack heat, I’ve got a roscoe, however you want to put it.
    And one of the criticisms gun owners face is that guns are just macho assholes buying lethal penis metaphors to cover up for their desperate insecurity.
    Responsible gun owners raise the counterargument that that’s not so, we are aware that these things are not toys or fashion accessories, they are deadly weapons and should be treated as such.

    Well, except the indefensible assholes at Bushmaster, clearly. They’re explicitly selling rifles as toys, as fashion accessories, as a way to reassert your threatened masculinity.
    You think I’m kidding? The site they have up provides a list of ways to threaten your friends’ masculinity, and lets you inform them that they can have their masculinity back if they’ll consider purchasing some of Bushmaster’s line of firearms.
    If I were making up a parody commercial to INSULT American gun culture, I would consider that model way too on-the-nose to actually use, but Bushmaster just rolled with it.

    This is not remotely okay. You sell weapons as weapons, because that’s what they damned well are.
    You do not sell them as some sort of cutesy little social one-upmanship dick-measuring thing, because that is not a good reason to buy a gun.
    Not saying there aren’t guys who buy guns for exactly that reason, just that they shouldn’t, nor should they be encouraged to.
    Note, by the way, how fragile they’re assuming their customers’ masculinity is.
    When revoking your friends’ cards, you can’t make up your own reasons, no, you must choose from their preselected list, including such heinously genderbending offenses as doing pilates, being on a “short leash”, and feeling threatened by… fifth graders.
    Your five paragraphs are up. A few days ago, kids that age got murdered for real, by yet another spree killer, another guy in the “danger age” between 15-35, another alienated, unhappy, fucked-up guy whose interior life was so far out of whack that the idea of shooting a bunch of children to death started to make sense to him.
    We have enough of these cases now that we’re starting to see some patterns.
    Most of these guys felt alienated, felt humiliated, felt stripped of their power and their agency, and were also so damaged that the only way out they could imagine was cathartic, even redemptive violence, murder on an appalling scale.
    It’s still a bit early to say if Adam Lanza followed that pattern exactly, but it looks pretty likely that he did.
    Imagine it. He felt powerless, impotent, unmanly, so what did he do? Why, he picked up a Bushmaster rifle to fix that feeling.
    Just like the ad said he should.
    About Noah Brand
    Noah Brand is the editor-in-chief of the Good Men Project, and possibly also a cartoon character from the 1930s. His life, when it is written, will read better than it lived. He is usually found in Portland, Oregon, directly underneath a very nice hat.
    1. Morgan says:
    December 17, 2012 at 7:44 pm
    It’s bullshit like this that makes me glad GMP exists. Feminists have (rightly) spent a great deal of time critiquing the messages that advertisements send about women. However, relatively little attention has been paid to the toxic gender stereotypes that are sold to men. That has to stop.
    One of the most insidious aspects of the sexism that men face is that it primarily comes from other men. Feminists have been helped, in a way, by the fact that most of the oppression they faced was external. By contrast, men are hedged in by a set of taboos and insecurities that are of our own making.
    To my mind, the worst part about this ad campaign is the way it invites men to belittle and intimidate each other, to accuse each other of not being real men.
    It’s so weird that we treat manhood as something that has to be earned, that can be lost or revoked. We certainly don’t talk about womanhood that way.
    Women might be accused of not looking or acting feminine enough, but it would be unusual to tell a woman that she wasn’t a real woman. We take that kind of talk for granted when it comes to men, though.
    Ben says:
    December 17, 2012 at 8:00 pm
    It use to be found at http://www.bushmaster.com/mancard as of a few hours ago. Maybe they decided to take it down.
    MediaHound says:
    December 17, 2012 at 8:02 pm
    Oh They Did – and they can be viewed via the wayback machine That’s h ttp://archive.org/ and copy in the URL for h ttp://bushmaster.com/mancard/
    The last snapshot was from June 2011 – but curiously nothing since – the wayback machine does normally re index at least once per year and the last entry is over a year. – June 2011.
    Google cacher indicates that there was a page present 17 Dec 2012 22:36:40 GMT. ..ot at least there was a page with flash content … and that would agree with what’s in the wayback machine.
    MediaHound says:
    December 17, 2012 at 8:07 pm
    … and it’s all a shocking poor quality regurgitation of so much else on the net h ttp://www.buzzfeed.com/scott/bushmasters-shockingly-awful-man-card-campaign the list is endless! It’s been doing the rounds for a couple of days
    Julie Gillis says:
    December 17, 2012 at 7:52 pm
    The system makes us all complicit to a certain extent though. I found this article fascinating, but there is a whole gender missing in it. Not that what I’m saying is about blame, certainly not. But about how do we break out of a system where dominance and then humiliation for “failing” that dominance cracks people.
    Morgan says:
    December 18, 2012 at 7:19 am
    I think that Salon article does a pretty good job of framing the issue. In many ways, I think that male insecurity is the flip-side of male privilege. The article points to men’s loss of dominance in society as a cause of male insecurity, but I think it runs even deeper than that. Men were insecure about their place in the world even before the advent of feminism.
    It’s a little like a twisted version of Spider-Man’s maxim, “With great power comes great responsibility.” With male privilege, it’s more like, “With unfair power come unfair expectations.” Men have long been granted a greater degree of respect and freedom than women, and the way that we justified that to ourselves was by positing manhood as something greater than mere humanity. Real, true men are expected to be strong, brave, and taciturn to a superhuman degree.
    There’s been a lot of discussion of how male privilege is unhealthy, but less discussion of how the unrealistically high standards we hold men to are also unhealthy. I think that the privilege and high expectations reinforce each other. Some men believe they are entitled to preferential treatment for upholding a “superior” code of conduct, and the privileges that they receive as men blind them to the way that unreasonably high standards foster male insecurity.
    (I should note here that expectations of men are not unreasonably high across the board – one of the primary forms of male privilege is the way that male misdeeds are excused with the justification, “Boys will be boys.” )
    Danny says:
    December 18, 2012 at 6:25 pm
    There’s been a lot of discussion of how male privilege is unhealthy, but less discussion of how the unrealistically high standards we hold men to are also unhealthy.

    Precisely. The expectations and standards that men are held to are usually either actively left out of the conversation (such as leaving the male experience out of body image discourse), they are minimized to the point that they may as well not have been brought up in the first place (such as being treated like one off anomalies instead of regular occurrences) , or at the worst are twisted until said expectations are no longer associated with men but with women (as in the fact that they harm men is only a side effect of the overall “real” purpose of keeping women down).
    (On a side note I think this is a big part of why people get so upset with the gender discourse.)
    Morgan says:
    December 18, 2012 at 6:52 am
    I didn’t mean to imply that women were entirely blameless. Our whole society is complicit in the establishment and policing of unhealthy gender norms.However, I do think that this particular problem is more the doing of men than of women.
    I can only speak for myself, but I would guess that for every time I’ve had my masculinity questioned by a woman, it’s been done ten times by men. Maybe I’ve simply been lucky and have known unusually reasonable women. There have certainly been a few who bought into sexist bullshit, but not very many. Most of the women that I know are mystified by the whole phenomenon of male insecurities.
    I don’t suppose it matters that much either way, though. Regardless of who started it, we’re all going to have to work to end it.

    Most women just don’t respect men who stay home with their kids. They see other women raising kids and think, sure, she’s a traditionalist or a post-modern feminist proving she doesn’t need a career to be a strong woman. Go, sister!
    When they see a man raising kids, they think he’s lazy. They can’t help imagining his poor wife busting her ass trying to make partner while he stays home wearing flip-flops and eating Fritos on the couch.
    Jameseq says:
    December 17, 2012 at 9:57 pm
    We have enough of these cases now that we’re starting to see some patterns. Most of these guys felt alienated, felt humiliated, felt stripped of their power and their agency, and were also so damaged that the only way out they could imagine was cathartic, even redemptive violence, murder on an appalling scale. It’s still a bit early to say if Adam Lanza followed that pattern exactly, but it looks pretty likely that he did.
    Imagine it. He felt powerless, impotent, unmanly, so what did he do? Why, he picked up a Bushmaster rifle to fix that feeling.
    Just like the ad said he should.
    Rob says:
    December 17, 2012 at 9:04 pm
    OMG! The two black men of the DC Sniper case used a Bushmaster too. But as I recall, the press and libs focused on black-anger and a lifetime of unfairness…not enough hugs n such.
    Morgan says:
    December 18, 2012 at 6:17 am
    I think it’s whoever you’re worried about judging you, really. The guys in the locker room. Your wife/girlfriend. God. Anybody and everybody. It’s one of those beliefs that doesn’t make much sense when you look at it, but it’s taken so completely for granted that it rarely gets examined.
    The logic at work here is not too far removed from the penis-stealing witch panics that happen in some parts of sub-Saharan Africa. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but the fear of losing one’s identity is a very basic, primal fear.
    I’m reminded of a post that I saw on this site (I think) quite a while back. I’m not sure who wrote it – it was posted very shortly after I started reading GMP. The author talked about how boys (and men) insult each other by calling each other girls, and posed the question,
    “If being called a girl is such an unforgivable insult, what does that say about men’s attitudes towards girls and women?” I spent a lot of time thinking about that question, because I had the “girl” insult directed at me many times over the course of my childhood and adolescence, and I found it very hurtful and offensive.
    However, I’m about as far from misogynistic as a man can be – most of my close friends have been female, and I’ve gotten along better with women than with men for most of my life. I don’t view being female as a bad thing at all.
    However, being called a girl still really bothered me. I eventually came to the conclusion that what was so hurtful about it – for me, at least – was having part of my identity negated by someone else.
    Being told, in effect, “You’re not the person you believe you are.” I suspect it’s similar (although smaller in magnitude, I’m sure) to the way that a transgender person feels when being told that their biological sex determines their gender, regardless of how they feel about themselves.
    I think the effect is compounded by the fact that being a man is a privileged social status. So when men worry about not being men, they worry not just about losing their own identity, but about losing their place in society.
    Danny says:
    December 18, 2012 at 6:36 pm I eventually came to the conclusion that what was so hurtful about it – for me, at least – was having part of my identity negated by someone else. Being told, in effect, “You’re not the person you believe you are.” I suspect it’s similar (although smaller in magnitude, I’m sure) to the way that a transgender person feels when being told that their biological sex determines their gender, regardless of how they feel about themselves.
    I’ve been trying to get at this for a long time. These days in the gender discourse the questioning of a man’s identity has been (I think) falsely tied to the idea that it’s all about trying to “turn him into a woman” and from there making the entire conversation about “why is female seen as so bad?” when in my opinion it should be about “why are people so hell bent on trying to negate/undo a man’s identity that they are willing to employ such means to do it?”
    Don’t get me wrong the whole bit about likening a man to a woman in order to knock him down is terrible but there’s more to it than that. To say that it’s all about hatred/disregard for women is the same as saying that Al Queda is dangerous because they have access to bomb parts and the skills to use them. If we woke up tomorrow with a headline saying that Al Queda could no longer make bombs, would we say that they were no longer an issue?
    Marcus Williams says:
    December 18, 2012 at 2:03 am
    I think this “man card” campaign is repugnant, and I support tougher gun control legislation to at a minimum reduce access to assault weapons. At the same time, I find this analysis to be a gross mischaracterization of when and how the Bushmaster ads ran.
    In particular, I can find no evidence – and definitely none in this article – that the “Adam L” examples were added *by Bushmaster*, *after* the shooting. That would be such spectacularly bad judgment about how to cleverly market their product that I find it impossible to believe the company or it’s marketing dep’t would allow it.
    I did find other examples (meaning screencaps with other names) of the “avoids eye contact with tough-looking 5th graders” thing, so that’s apparently been part of the campaign since well before the shooting occurred. I can’t verify since that part of the Bushmaster site is down (which shows at least an ounce of good sense), but it looks to me like they had a quiz in very poor taste that users could interact with, so rather than some marketing idiot coming up with the idea to revoke Adam L’s man card with a horribly inappropriate comment about elementary-age kids, some idiot user took advantage of the existing poor-taste quiz to make it look like a stand-alone ad that was conceived and run specifically to “capitalize” on the Newtown shooting.
    The disgust with the campaign or the products it’s trying to sell seems well-founded to me, but absent any reason to believe Bushmaster knowingly and intentionally designed the “Adam L” examples after the shooting, I think it’s outrage-mongering to imply or encourage readers to assume that the grossest example – that of “Adam L” having his man card revoked for being nervous around 5th graders – was Bushmaster’s idea of clever marketing.
    This analysis doesn’t explicitly state whether it thinks Bushmaster composed this copy fresh off the tragedy, but the implication is there, because if that’s not what the reader is supposed to believe, this “most evil” of ads would only be as tasteless and offensive as it was a week ago or a year ago when the same copy and images existed for any asshole to enter a name to complete a quiz and take a screencap.
    Morgan says:
    December 18, 2012 at 6:28 am
    Wow, I didn’t even notice the name attached to that one. I don’t know what Noah’s intent was, but I didn’t read it as him trying to say that Bushmaster was capitalizing on the tragedy.
    What I found so offensive about that particular ad (as opposed to the rest of the ad campaign, which is pretty damned offensive to start with) is the way it implies conflict between gun-toting manhood and 5th-graders. “You can feel like more of a man around children by packing heat!” is a pretty terrible message, regardless of who it’s directed at.
    Marcus Williams says:
    December 18, 2012 at 11:16 am I don’t know what Noah’s intent was, but I didn’t read it as him trying to say that Bushmaster was capitalizing on the tragedy.
    And yet, that’s exactly how I read it. So, either I’m an exceptional idiot for interpreting it that way, or even if that wasn’t his intent, or there are plenty of readers out there who would think the same thing, that Noah was responding to a campaign that was invented *after* Newton, as if that made the 5th grade line and reference to “Adam L” cooler and funnier. Honestly, it makes no sense to me how this could be the “most evil” ad he’s ever seen and provoke so much agreement unless people are drawing that connection. Do you honestly believe he could have written the same piece with the same impact before Newtown? I don’t, which means that between Bushmaster’s tasteless campaign, and this analysis of it, only the latter is taking direct advantage of the shooting.
    Principes scriba boni viri habet exitibus – as they say in Chelsea.

    mark Greene says:
    December 18, 2012 at 6:45 am
    These ads did NOT have to have come out this month for them to spark outrage. It’s ridiculous. They CAME AFTER COLUMBINE.
    They came in America. Where I grew up. AND had to go through my journey to manhood amidst this kind of crap. That’s more than enough. God, to even have to say this is infuriating.
    I’m sick of seeing perfectly intelligent people type the sentence “but the implication is there” and then proceed to correct the poster.
    You, sir, are splitting hairs strictly for the pleasure of “hearing” the sound of your own voice. Outrage mongering? Seriously? Marcus Williams says:
    December 18, 2012 at 12:09 pm
    These ads did NOT have to have come out this month for them to spark outrage.
    In theory, you’re right, but how many articles to do you see on GMP or around the ‘net heaping outrage on this campaign prior to Newtown? From what I could find, it looks as though Bushmaster’s “Man Card” campaign has been around since before GMP even came online, so if it was just as outrage-inducing and evil a week ago, there was nothing to keep the outrage from going viral for the last two years.
    This reminds me of the outrage many people expressed on learning that in the popular Microsoft Flight Simulator software, it was possible to fly planes into buildings, including the World Trade Center.
    Prior to 9/11, no one really thought anything of it, but after 9/11, it became so offensive and outrageous that MS wisely modified the app so that couldn’t be done anymore. I understand how a previously-innocuous feature or joke (or plot in a movie, or whatever) can become intolerably offensive in light of current events, but it’s an illusion to think they were that way all along.
    The outrage in *this* piece largely depends on holding Bushmaster’s feet to the fire for something a site visitor did using an interactive quiz they’ve had up for ages. That makes as much sense as treating every trollish comment you might find on GMP as though it came straight from the Editor-in-Chief’s keyboard. MediaHound says: December 18, 2012 at 12:19 pm
    Post hoc ergo propter hoc, – the phallacy of choice!
    It also helps with indignation and big pointy fingers doing the blame game.
    Mark Greene says:
    December 18, 2012 at 1:33 pm Oh, dear. Is my outrage bothering you guys? Aw, shucks, I’m real sorry about that. Let’s forget the cynical manipulation of our entire country by millions of gun lobby dollars. I’m good and damned pissed off about all of it. Newtown is just one more horrible tragedy heaped on top.
    You may find the Bushmaster campaign to be a cheerful lark on the conceptual beach, but I do not. The underlying messages are the kind that get kids asses kicked in the locker room. Enough of this whole narrow bullshit view of what a man is supposed to be. Pandering to the narrow minded bullying mindset that looks the other way every time some kid takes a pounding. You want to dismiss the impact of advertising that glorifies alpha bullies? Well, tough luck. Cause not everyone does. And like it or not, the world is changing.
    December 19, 2012 at 4:49 am Marcus,
    Noah is not saying these ads are post Newtown. The Michael Vick moment is not here.
    This article says that these ads limit the view of what a man is. That ads like these contribute to a culture wherein men are trapped in a narrow frame of what is “acceptable”. And that these ads are a particularly nasty version of that.That being said, Bushmaster has taken these ads down. Clearly, they see some relationship to current events. I’d be curious to know why they made that choice.
    MediaHound says:
    December 18, 2012 at 7:27 am
    Same is True in Switzerland where gun ownership is higher than the USA and Gun Crime lower than the UK. So why the differences?
    Ellen Leemann says: December 18, 2012 at 10:38 am My husband is Swiss and I lived there. The guns are provided by the army which all boys were required to join at 18 in the 1990′s (not sure now) .
    They train extensively the first year with a huge focus on gun safety and do a repetition course annually. You are given an extensive mental and health physical before you join the army and any mental problem or suspicious report from your school would disqualify you – so no gun.
    The guns are kept in locked up storage areas in your home or else in a provided lock up. By law, Swiss citizens have to have a fall out shelter with provisions in case of an emergency assigned to each resident family.
    Landlords have to provide this locked shelter when they rent apartments and Gemeindes for the Cantons provide them if your home doesn’t have one.
    When not serving in the army the guns are to be locked up and the ammunition is not kept in the home with it. Shelters can be searched and the law can be enforced if these shelters are not kept in order and the guns locked up. It is not some free for all as is commonly represented.
    Also Switzerland has a far superior education system that is world renown for teaching neutrality and tolerance – you see little hatred or bigotry and very neutral news coverage in the Swiss media.
    That is why Geneva is the world hub for global organizations to protect human rights. The country’s philosophy is very much in the same order of the US constitution insisting that an ORDERLY militia is the way to protect the nation.
    Never – Ever would the Swiss and their 7 Presidents (who work together democratically) approve of this gun chaos we have in America.
    By the way, the Swiss also have great Universal Healthcare and Mental Health is fully funded for everyone. Switzerland is in fact the home of Psychotherapy and most medical labs- Jung and Freud began their work there.
    If your neighbors suspect you are not right in the mind – believe me they will report it to the authorities and something will be done.
    I got a ticket for throwing a dirty diaper in a grocery store trash bin one time – you are always being watched!
    There is very little comparison to a country as big and unwieldy as the United States – so the comparisons are not very apt. MediaHound says: December 18, 2012 at 11:32 am Ellen – I’m from Europe and have lived in Geneva.
    J. A. Drew Diaz says:
    December 18, 2012 at 11:39 am “world renown for teaching neutrality and tolerance” including tolerance for various dictators looking to hide funds looted from the public and neutrality vis other illicit transactions…
    Ellen Leemann says: December 18, 2012 at 1:45 pm Ha Ha! The Swiss have a lot more than infamous banking laws to be ashamed of – they did some REALLY dirty deals during the war. However, as the world has gone global over the last 20 years they have looked at themselves with a more critical eye and they admit their shame and their problem. Educated and Analytic they are and neutrality and tolerance have helped them see themselves as others see them and they have made changes. Accounts have been shut down and money sent back to the owners – no backs! We got a check for $40.00 in the mail several years ago for my daughter’s tiny Swiss savings account – (money made there and placed there before we moved here). The banking laws were set up many generations before us and served that time but in current times needed to be rethought and changes needed to happen in this conservative “well-respected institute”. This is what needs to happen with our gun laws. The laws were invisioned for a time that could not imagine the technology or populace we now have. Back to Man Cards!

    2. J. A. Drew Diaz says:
    December 18, 2012 at 8:18 am
    Aww come on guys…..
    Hand in your man cards if you can’t see the humor in these ads.
    Burn them if these really rub your tender egos that wrong.
    All advertising is about this, always has been & always will be.
    “Can’t be a man, cause he doesn’t smoke the same cigarettes as me”
    When we became feminists did we have to lose our sense of humor?
    Being a man includes an ability to appreciate a bit of self deprecating humor.
    Now I’m going to finish my coffee- black no sugar, put on my Carhartt & walk back to work on my Red Wings.

    PursuitAce says:
    December 18, 2012 at 7:09 pm
    One of the negatives of embracing progressive thought…check your funny bone at the door.
    When you’re always focused on the forest fires, you tend to miss out on the forest. The constant outrage is too draining for me. I wasn’t born with that much innate energy.
    AnonymousDog says:
    December 18, 2012 at 11:14 am
    That rifle used in the Newtown shootings was actually owned by the shooter’s mother. You claiming that those ads had that effect on her?
    mark Greene says:
    December 18, 2012 at 1:21 pm
    Oh, I’m sorry. Are these ads only allowed to be viewed as offensive in light of the Newtown tragedy? Who made THAT rule?
    wellokaythen says:
    December 18, 2012 at 12:25 pm
    Aside from the morally reprehensible nature of the ad, it’s also deeply illogical to me. How does owning a big gun make you more of a man, really? There’s nothing to prevent a woman from arming herself with such a weapon.
    There’s no chromosome sensor on the trigger guard. It doesn’t depend on male secondary sexual characteristics to fire. In fact, an infant could probably squeeze the trigger.
    If anything, connecting my manhood to the size of my assault rifle looks a lot like compensating for a lack of manliness. As I’ve written on other occasions, there are eight year old girls in Africa today who are wielding AK-47’s, so I fail to see how your Bushmaster is really a sign of manhood.
    It also seems counterproductive to base my confidence on a machine that jams, has to be cleaned, and only gives me a sense of manliness when it’s in my hands.
    And, it’s really counterproductive when someone takes it from me and shoots me with my own weapon. If I shoot myself by accident, do I get my man card back?
    Jack B. says:
    December 18, 2012 at 1:24 pm
    I came to read this article just so I could lambast you for being an unreasonable anti-gun Nancy-boy. You managed to put me in my place before I got out of it. Well done.
    The Bushmaster ads were akin to the “Real Men of Genius” or any other light hearted beer ad out there. Except this is not just some beer ad. And then when I get to thinking about it, saying you must drink beer, any kind of beer, to be a man, is just ludicrous.
    There are things you have to do to be a man though. Be responsible. Be stand up. Defend those who are weaker. Set proper examples for our youth. Be an advocate for the bullied and tormented. Step the hell up when need be. Do this, and not only will you be a man, you’ll be a gentleman.
    3. Christian Coleman says:
    December 17, 2012 at 9:10 pm
    Rob, are you arguing that he never picked up a Bushmaster? That seems unlikely, considering that he fired it. That’s not really the point of the article though, that’s just a timely example. The point is that these ads are saying firearms are substitutes for self-esteem or self-awareness.
    Don’t feel manly? Here’s thirty rounds of manly, go spread your seed.
    Full disclosure: I am a gun owner.

    1. Manhood, Guns, Mass Murders, and Insanity — The Good Men Project says:
    December 17, 2012 at 10:58 pm
    […] ONLY way to get that manhood back was to get a gun, as Noah Brand so brilliantly argued in his post “Bushmaster Rifles has been running the most evil ads I’ve ever seen.” […]

    2. Sandy Hook and the Battle of Fredericksburg: Guns, American Culture, and the Will to Kill « The Musings of Thomas Verenna says:
    December 18, 2012 at 12:42 pm
    […] We live in a culture where ‘manliness’ and ‘guns’ go hand in hand, where the company who manufactures the same rifle that was used in the brutal murder of innocent children can boast an add campaign that suggests […]

    Read more at http://goodmenproject.com/good-feed-blog/bushmaster-rifles-has-been-running-the-most-evil-ads-ive-ever-seen/#MqymxxepRUltjhkf.99


  2. Gracefully told, Paul. I’m thankful you’re still here to tell the story and illuminate the horrific events in Newtown.


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