Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Oh, The Horror Of It All!

I'm reading a book by a Briton (Grame Donald, Lies, Damned Lies and History*) that explains how the common understanding of a lot of "famous history" is garbled, over-wrought and/or just plain wrong (Napoleon, for instance? A strapping blond, wait; I made that up).

Where I can check his facts, he's mostly right; but when he ventures to opine, he sometimes strays off the reservation. Take, for instance, cowboys; he's correct in pointing out they were far from universally armed, especially with pricey revolvers (but more than a few were, more for protection from snakes and four-legged varmints, not bipedal ones). He then takes the opportunity to sniff about " who could determine their own destiny and the course of history with a gun and the willingness to use it," going on to whine that, "Unfortunately, there are still many Americans who, believing this to be true, seek infamy in the shadows of that myth with countless students and, for some strange reason, postal-workers (...) routinely paying the ultimate price in college and work-place slaughters." (ibid, p. 163) --Emphasis mine; exaggeration, his. What was the Robbie Burns line about "...the giftie gie us...?" (And to whom, or what, was it addressed?)

Not so fast there, Johhny Bull; I seem to recall two fairly serious occasions back in the 20th Cent. when that "American...myth" of "men...with a gun and the willingness to use it" was anything but infamous to an embattled Empire. As for "countless" and "routine" deaths (no wonder the marble at the Broad Ripple Postal Station is red!), the most recent case of "going postal" in the States was 2006 and the killing was done with an automobile. Far from countless; including suicides, there have been 35 deaths in 11 incidents between the present time and 1986. Most appear to be linked to job-related stress. Bad as it might appear from newscast anecodote, the homicide rate for postal workers is 0.26 per 100,000, not notably high. As for colleges, the U. S. rate appears to be about at par with other nations -- and you're in greater danger crossing a busy street.

It's okay to have opinions. Sneaking them in as faux-historic, histrionic snark is not so okay. More debunk, sir, and less plain bunk.
* The History Press, 2009


Kirk A said...

Whose lies?

Tango Juliet said...

Another guy who's afraid of the responsibilities of self-determination?

Ed Rasimus said...

Strangely enough post offices and college campuses are among the most British enclaves of the US, i.e. gun prohibited zones! Wonder what that tells us about disarmament and pros/cons of the armed citizenry. We came within a gnat's whisker last year of letting CHL holders carry on campuses in Texas. Maybe next session we will get'er done.

John A said...

Meamwhile, Chicago seems to be losing one child per month to... falling TV sets!

Drang said...

Apparently, he decided to provide the damned lies himsel, eh, wot?