Because we are a nation based in fantasy. Much that is in the fantasy is a great, good thing in the world: equality under the law, for example (albeit almost fatally betrayed by slavery, and institutionalized racism for 100 years thereafter); the “Sermon on the Mount” Christian vision of Winthrop (routinely, almost idiomatically betrayed by far too may Republican officeholders today). These were ideals, most of them germinated in a skeptical-minded Enlightenment (not that skepticism hasn’t become the entire worldview of too many hardcore liberals now). But still. In the omnipresent mediascape, it’s the fantasy of your choice now. Build a bunker in Alabama, where Postmanisms are located, then kidnap a child from a schoolbus and take him down there? So we can viscerally feel your depthless paranoia while respecting your right to own lethal weapons, a law-abiding gun owner right up until the moment you shot the bus driver dead? Amy Bishop, too, was a law-abiding gun-owner, until, at the end of a department meeting, she whipped it out and killed several of her colleagues, in Alabama, at a research university. The line is so thin, LaPierre. And the end of that bunker story (which we’ve already forgotten, right?) is the natural end of all bunker mentalities.
There are no doubt many sane gun owners like a friend of mine who needs them to defend against an occasional drunken, hostile neighbor, or to stop feral dogs from killing his baby lambs (and his wife makes a fine lamb stew). But the vast majority of gun owners own guns to entertain themselves, we contend. Some of these entertainment-gunners just like to shoot at stuff, at a range or on their own property (knock yourselves out, guys’n’dolls). Some like to run around in paramilitary gear and pretend they’re fighting off a fantasy government that has the will+resources to come try to take 300 million guns away from them (guys, really—we can’t even keep the Post Office solvent). Some build bunkers and hijack school buses, or shoot up movie theaters or grade schools. Could it possibly be as simple as this: Either the world you live in is real, and requires real compromises, while discouraging mental scenarios that have exactly 0% chance of occurring; or the world is whatever is in your head, and every wretched excess is justified by the mere mentality that you’ve staked your existence on?
If the preceding is even partly true, then the NRA, as currently configured, is a nascent death cult, as surely as the Islamic extremists they so fear really are. (“Mon frère! Mon sembable!”) Maybe the NRA hasn’t actually advocated for consumers to be able to buy “cyanide-tipped armor-piercing bullets” (that’s a Simpsons joke), but when they advocate for all teachers to be locked and loaded and ready for a firefight in a building full of students AT ALL TIMES (recall, for the nonce, that Postmanisms are teachers), they seem to be advancing the view that 24/7/365, paranoid, hair-trigger “vigilance” is the only way a good society should function. And don’t start with your movies and video games yadda yadda–the fantasy media that produces an apocalyptic bunker mentality is on the InterWeb and talk radio, in fundamentalist churches, and to a lesser extent, underlies the merely self-serving commercial enterprise of Fox News.
Yeah, we saw that film from the PSA about what to do if some previously law-abiding citizen came onto our campus and started unloading on us and our students, and you know what it made us think? That if we had that kind of crap at the front of our cerebelli every second of the day, we might build a bunker too.