Today I read a strange tale of a part-time web-cartoonist who lost his day-job just for talking about a .22 bolt-action rifle he was considering purchasing, while at work. As strange stories go, it’s fairly straightforward, and perhaps best summarized on the blog of yet another web-cartoonist, Robert Stevens:
Matt was working as a contractor for a branch of the government. He made the mistake of being interested in the hobby of paper target shooting at about the same time as the VA Tech shootings and talking to someone about this hobby at work. Keep in mind he wasnâ€™t even talking about those shootings, in fact he was discussing how he wanted a gun which would make it difficult to kill someone.
He was promptly fired and not allowed back to work because people were scared of him.
To top it all off, he was later visited by police detectives for making a comic about his experience, because it was a â€œborderline terroristic threat.â€ (Is â€œterroristicâ€ even a word? Did they get that from the Colbert report?)
The web-comic in question, Three Panel Soul, is not your typical web-comic. It is well-drawn, and usually funny, often quite funny. It is produced by Ian McConville and Matt Boyd, (I’m not certain but I think it’s Matt who writes and Ian who draws). But it’s a worthy addition to your RSS feed if you have one of those. The sequence involving the gun-interest starts here.
I have mixed feelings about this situation. The anarchist in me notes that Matt (I think he’s the one who was fired) was working for a major government contractor. So part of me feels, “serves you right working for the dark side.” On the other hand, I often miss having regular paychecks myself, and I can sympathize with just about anyone less morally compromised than, say, Condoleeza Rice, who loses a job due to a situation as stupid as this one.
It doesn’t help that Matt has since offered an apology not only for his remarks at his job but for penning and posting cartoons about what happened. In his rant box for May 3 we find this:
For anyone offended by this sequence of comics, I apologize. I don’t want to hurt people. I just wanted to write about what happened to me, and I did it in comics, because writing comics is what I do. I don’t want to make light of the VT shootings and my problems pale in comparison.
Well sure, getting fired is a lot less tragic than getting dead, but to my thinking Matt is not the one who should be apologizing. Whether he wrote this because the visit from the cops intimidated him, or because he really feels bad, or because he hopes he can placate and cajole his former masters into taking him back, only he can know.
What strikes me as most remarkable about this story is that there are so many people in this country who react the way Matt’s ex-co-worker(s) did. Anyone who talks of even thinking about buying a low-powered, single-shot firearm suddenly becomes A Menace To All Around Him.
I’m not the first to notice this, but we have developed in this country a Culture of Harmlessness which demands that everyone not presumably constrained by some command-and-control structure — that is, everyone not either a cop or a soldier — must render himself completely harmless and stay that way in order to be socially acceptable. Which makes things all cherries for cops and soldiers, and the plutocrats who command them, but it should be anathema to a free people.
Self-defense — which for practical reasons requires that one not be harmless — is as important and basic a bodily function as eating, breathing, and sleeping. Once we’ve forsaken not only the physical ability but also the mental capacity for using violence when necessary to defend our lives and our liberty, then we become something less than human. First we become slaves, and eventually we become extinct.
Matt Boyd, it turns out, is hardly a square-shouldered hero for gun rights. He is a part of this Culture of Harmlessness who, for a short time, showed just a bit of curiosity and interest in paper-target shooting. And got smacked down hard for it. Now he’s showing us his belly in the hope that he won’t get beaten further.
For his sake I hope this tactic doesn’t just bring more beatings.