To understand South Africa’s gun culture, it’s crucial to go back nearly two decades. In 1994, apartheid ended. The official system of racial segregation, in place since 1948, took rights away from black Africans and gave virtually all power in every aspect of life to whites.
For generations, violence born out of apartheid spawned a kind of arms race; blacks and whites fought against each other, and everyone else armed themselves, afraid to be caught in the cross fire.
Gun violence was at a record high as the country made its first effort to become what archbishop and peace crusader Desmond Tutu envisioned — a rainbow nation.
Sort of sounds familiar, doesn’t it? A waning white majority panicked over the rise of people of darker complexion purchases crates of guns to protect itself in an overheated paranoid delusion.
Not surprisingly, that forced South Africa to toughen its gun possession laws. Less surprisingly, the anti-apartheid and liberation movements also stockpiled weaponry in response to the perceived threat that white people would start shooting black people on sight.
Even less surprisingly, home burglaries increased, primarily to steal guns that were grandfathered in. This adds a bit of a backdrop to the Pistorius claim that he thought there was a burgler in his bathroom, even if that’s likely a bogus claim.
At least South Africa has an excuse: there has been a literal civil war for generations. Here, it’s at best a figurative one and at worst the paraniod delusion of entitled white folks, even the poorest, somehow believing the government is teaming up with them against the common folk.
There’s a certain logic to the wingnut paranoia, though. In the Fifties and Sixties, a lot of this stuff was pushed by the centralized Federal government. The reasons were simple and clear: the states weren’t moving fast enough in passing civil rights legislation themselves, and people’s lives were at stake. There was a compelling interest in the Federal government imposing the future on these redneck yahoos.
The reaction, no matter how over the top, is basic human logic: if they could make those people go to school with my viginal kids, what else can they ram down my throat?
You’d hope sixty years later they’d have gotten over it, but here’s the thing: it’s such a powerful trope (“Something bigger’n you and me is comin’ fer us”) that it gets fanned regularly. And sadly, there doesn’t seem to be anyone pointing out there is no wolf whenever they cry “Wolf!”
Except us liberals, but then…well…
So we ignore them, and move on, and eventually history proves their irrelevance, which just makes them madder.
I don’t see a good outcome out of all this, unless somehow cooler heads step in. We may end up with a literal civil war after all, which will not speak well of nation founded on the people’s voice.
We can stop coddling them, however.
Or let them move to South Africa.