You Are Not a Tough Guy If You Shoot Small Animals and Watch Sports

bill-clinton-hunting (1)Last Friday, the White House released a picture of President Obama shooting clay pigeons in August of  last year, two days before he headed to Minnesota to discuss gun control. The picture, clearly designed to show that Obama is a tough guy and isn’t coming to take your guns away, highlights the most frustrating part of American politics that as a Brit, I can never fully understand. There are many problems in British society, particularly when it comes to violence and repressed anger (just watch any soccer game for an example of this), but we don’t have guns or require our politicians to shoot defenseless animals or bits of clay to prove how tough they are.

Politicians, generally speaking, are not hard men. They are largely Ivy League educated white males from extraordinary privilege – most of whom haven’t been in a fist fight let alone gone to war and shot someone. Halfway through his first term and the loss of both houses in Congress, Bill Clinton was suffering from an image problem with white males, so he enlisted Dick Morris to rebrand him for his 1996 re-election bid. Part of this involved dressing up as a hunter and shooting animals – a fool proof tactic to convince insecure white men that he was a tough guy and a ‘Real American’.

Barack Obama is a highly educated man who used his brain to improve his life and carry his family into the upper echelons of American society. He did not enlist in the military, and he did not grow up hunting. The pictures released of him shooting clay pigeons – a sad but probably necessary PR stunt – does not reflect Obama’s love for firearms. It reflects a pathetic culture that requires him to overtly declare an affinity for violence. For a large part of the country, this is mandatory for a leader. American politicians must epitomize an archaic ‘tough guy’ image – a gun wielding cowboy who shoots first and asks questions later. It didn’t matter that George Bush, a politician born into immense power and wealth, had never seen military action or experience hardship in his privileged life. He affected a Texas twang, wore military flak jackets and invaded third world countries that couldn’t fight back. Bush clearly believed his own bluster, and worked hard to cultivate his war leader image. In many American’s eyes, this symbolized toughness and bravery. To anyone who has seen real violence, behavior like that symbolizes massive insecurity and psychological frailty.

Sports culture reveals quite a bit about the country’s gun culture – particularly contact sports like football and boxing. A lot of extremely passionate fans get totally invested in a bunch of hyper athletic men smashing the living daylights out of each other. Most fans have never played football or boxed themselves. Super Bowl Sunday involves sitting round a large television eating burgers, nachos, melted cheese and drinking shitty beer while screaming at players for not executing incredibly difficult and dangerous athletic moves. I reported on boxing and MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) for years and would sit next to fans who would throw things at fighters they thought sucked. You just have to read through boxing chat forums to see how removed many fans are from the reality of how difficult professional fighting is. Fans routinely call fighters ‘faggots’ and ‘pussies’ if they lose fights or don’t perform to the peak of their abilities.  I grew up with friends who played rugby to a pretty high level, and never heard them insult other players when watching matches with them. I’ve boxed and practiced Martial Arts myself for many years and would never dream of questioning the bravery of someone who does it for a living. I’ve been hit by pro fighters before – an unforgettable experience that really brought home what those athletes go through on a daily basis.To me, screaming abuse at people who do things you couldn’t imagine doing yourself is a sign of deep insecurity and unresolved anger.

Sadly, that inability to come to terms with your own masculinity and unresolved anger  manifests itself in bizarre tribalism in sports, and more worryingly, leader worship in politics. Tough guy politicians like Dick Cheney were revered for their no nonsense approach to politics, their affinity for violence, and their belittling of sissy liberals. No matter that Cheney deferred from real combat in Vietnam five times and even had a child to prevent himself from being drafted for the war he ardently supported.

Guns are the ultimate representation of violence – big, shiny metal instruments that can deliver horrendous amounts of damage and destruction. Guns allow the shooter to remove themselves from the reality of maiming and killing. It requires a small hand movement to end someone’s life making the gun owner powerful far beyond their physical capabilities. The truth is that guns make people feel big, and people without power often want to feel like they have control in their own lives and more importantly, over others.

The NRA and other pro gun groups have brilliantly tapped into this neurosis and have created a deadly political movement out of it. Even after the massacre of 20 small children with a semi-automatic rifle, there is still a debate in America over gun control. Regardless of whether you accept the interpretation of the 2nd Amendment that allows citizens to own lethal weapons, there should be no arguments as to whether there are too many guns in America and far too few background checks on the people who own them.

Asking for sensible gun control is being framed as an assault on America’s masculinity, and the President has to be seen shooting up flying bits of clay to counter it. It is sad that Obama has to play this game. I think it’s insulting, crass and troubling that he is bowing to the insecurities of repressed Americans. But then again, that is largely what politics in this country has become.

  • Dennis

    Well, Drake, this place is largely populated by Obamabots, but not on the order of one like you if you somehow believe that Obama is a master skeet shooter based on an errant comment and a photo that was produced five days after he made that comment to keep from looking like an idiot. The guy who can’t throw a baseball from the front of the mound back to the catcher, the guy who bowled a 37, the guy with the worst golf swing of anyone who plays 30 times a year, somehow is a master skeet shooter but no one ever knew about it. I don’t know if this place sought you out or vice versa, but you’ve definitely come to the right place if you think Obama decided to hide the fact from the world that he was a master skeet-shooter up to the point he was forced to because of the Newtown mass killings.

    • Christopher Foxx

      Well, Dennis, this site has seen it’s share of knee-jerk anti-Obamabots, but not on the order of one like you if you somehow believe that anyone claimed Obama is a “master” skeet shooter.

      But this is what you have to do to justify your not-in-sync-with-reality beliefs: make up an Obama (or a Drake, or a ….) that doesn’t exist and then complain about that imaginary figure.

      • Dennis

        OMG,amazing how obstinate you can be. You claimed people demanded Obama wield a gun and that’s who he was trying to pander to, when that was not the case at all. Someone asked if he ever even had shot a gun, and his response was that
        “Yes, in fact, up at Camp David, we do skeet shooting all the time,Not the girls, but oftentimes guests of mine go up there. And I have a profound respect for the traditions of hunting that trace back in this country for generations. And I think those who dismiss that out of hand make a big mistake.”
        No one one either side of the gun debate believes Obama’s statement that he goes skeet-shooting all the time or that he has a “profound respect” for the traditions of hunting. No one in his inner circle or anyone that has spent time at Camp David with him will go on record backing his statement that he in fact does go skeet-shooting all the time So it’s met with disbelief and mockery, which ranlkles Obama, and they produce a photo of him shooting a rifle at a shooting range looking very much like the inexperienced novice at it that you and I both know he is. So this Drake loon comes on here and compares him to a master skeet shooter. Again, no one is demanding Obama wield a gun, so of course no gun enthusiast is going to somehow be satisfied that Obama is a gun enthusiast from his advisers producing that one photo…. which is why I agree with Ben’s article that it’s silly for politicians to force themselves to be people they are not just to simply pander and act like tough guys.

        • Christopher Foxx

          No one one either side of the gun debate believes Obama’s statement that he goes skeet-shooting all the time or that he has a “profound respect” for the traditions of hunting.

          … looking very much like the inexperienced novice at it that you and I both know he is.

          No one believes Obama.
          I, according to you, know with certainty his level of experience.

          As I said, making up things and then arguing against your flights of fancy. In this case, insisting that things are absolute and that people believe things they’ve never said, because you need to have them believe those things for the world to be the way you want it to be.

          • Dennis

            Do you believe Obama goes skeet shooting all the time, Christopher? Do you believe he has a profound respect for the traditions of hunting that trace back in this country for generations, and that perhaps his ‘clinging to their guns’ comment was just bluster meant for a different kind of crowd and said in a different time than the situation we’re facing right now? And does that picture convince you that he has a level of experience commensurate with someone who goes skeet-shooting all the time, such that anyone who doubts his comment is a ‘skeet-truther’ as David Plouffe intimated upon releasing that picture? Because if you’re explanation is true, that Obama was trying to pander to the folks ‘who demanded he wield a gun’, then why did Plouffe say to these ‘skeet-truthers’ to “go ahead and make our day”? The picture was aimed at sticking it to the doubters, not pandering to them. You couldn’t be more wrong about that.

          • Christopher Foxx

            Do you believe Obama goes skeet shooting all the time, Christopher?

            Wow, you mean you’re actually asking me what I think. Seems like only yesterday you were telling me.

          • Dennis

            Chickenshit response, but I expected that from you since you boxed yourself in. There’s no nuanced explanation for you here, so you refuse to give one. That’s how you argue.

          • Christopher Foxx

            - State your view clearly.
            – Have the other person ignore it and instead declare you believe something that you’ve never said.
            – Point out that the other person is making things up.
            – Watch as the other person asks for your opinion and then goes on to tell you what your opinion is.
            – Refuse to attempt to debate any further.
            – Get called chickenshit.

            The six steps of talking with Dennis.

          • Dennis

            You didn’t state your view clearly or accurately. No one was demanding Obama wield a gun, like you stated, and Obama didn’t release that picture to appease or pander to folks who demanded he show one when none of them were demanding he show a photo as some sort of proof that he goes skeet-shooting “all the time”. You refuse to defend either one of those ridiculous statements because you can’t without looking ridiculous yourself. If Obama and Plouffe were trying to pander to folks who won’t accept that photo as proof that he is in fact an “all the time skeet-shooter”, then why did Plouffe immediately start calling them ‘skeet-truthers’ who he challenged then to ‘make my day’? It was all about Obama’s image-management and nothing else, which is wrote Ben wrote about.

          • Christopher Foxx

            You didn’t state your view clearly or accurately. No one was demanding Obama wield a gun, like you stated

            For not having stated my view clearly, you certainly seem to be able to recall the clear statement I made.

            As I said, you make stuff up to suit the view of the world you want to have and then argue against things that didn’t really happen.

            OK, done here.

  • Christopher Foxx

    Asking for sensible gun control is being framed as an assault on America’s masculinity, and the President has to be seen shooting up flying bits of clay to counter it.

    Again, I think the President went exactly wrong here. Tho counter the framing as you describe (accurately) the President shouldn’t join it. He should instead set an example by NOT attempting to use a gun as a sign of his masculinity. By showing a gun isn’t necessary.

    Instead, he’s shown himself to be insecure and pandering.

  • Christopher Foxx

    The pictures released of him shooting clay pigeons – a sad but probably necessary PR stunt

    No, absolutely unnecessary. And counter-productive.

    The ONLY people demanding a picture of Obama firing a gun are exactly the same folks who won’t agree with or support him no matter what he does. The folks who demanded he release his birth certificate weren’t mollified once he did. Over and over the people of that ilk have shown that they won’t be satisfied no matter what he does.

    So he shouldn’t bother to do it. It has not effect. Instead of pandering to those who won’t like him no matter what, he should direct himself toward the rational, reasonable folks and marginalize/ignore those who insist he wield a gun.

    • Benthedailybanter

      Yeah, see your point Christopher. It’s beyond pathetic. Would have had more respect if Obama chose not to have it released.

    • Dennis

      He only did it because he has thin-skin and he doesn’t like being mocked
      for saying something stupid like he goes skeet shooting ‘all the time’
      in response to a question asking him if he’s ever even shot a gun. He
      could’ve released a statement saying that he misspoke and that it may
      have been a stretch to say he goes skeet-shooting ‘all the time’ but that he has occasionally
      partaken in the sport (which, judging by the way he’s shooting straight
      ahead along the horizon in that photo, it looks like whenever that photo was taken it was
      probably the first time he ever held a gun like that, because it’s all
      wrong). He had to release the photo for his crowd so he could somehow
      get back at the people who mocked him, and not for any purpose that’s
      going to help in the gun debate. He released the photo for his admirers
      to show that he has shot a gun and he can look at the situation
      objectively. That’s who he was pandering to. Just like when John Kerry
      went goose-hunting away from the cameras in Ohio just before the 2004
      election. It’s all for show.

      • Christopher Foxx

        I agree with how you started off, Dennis. That he was being thin-skinned and reacted by doing something stupid.

        But then you go on and have to contort what you’re saying to twist it around into him pandering to his fans.

        You make far better points when you stop before your bias shows.

  • Dennis

    One of your best articles.

    • Benthedailybanter

      Thanks Dennis. Appreciate it.