NRA, Slavery, Cigarettes, Guns, Lincoln, Mad Men, Cloud Atlas & the Evil of the Assault Weapon Industry

In this incarnation of the strong against the weak, it’s a maniac with an assault rifle versus school children.

“The weak are meat the strong do eat.”

That’s my favorite line from my favorite movie of the year: “Cloud Atlas.”  In many ways it sums up the whole history of our uncivilized civilization.  Pyramids, castles, plantations, factories and multinational conglomerates have been built for the aggrandizement, glorification and enrichment of the few and the strong by the abusive exploitation of the many and the weak. The song remains the same, only the singers change.

At this moment in history, the assault weapon industry is the strong, we are the weak meat, and they are eating us alive. With the help of a small but incredibly disturbingly vocal segment of the National Rifle Association (which sadly seems to have devolved from a group dedicated to citizen’s rights to protect themselves and to hunt, into the National Gun Manufacturers Propaganda Association) they’re making a bloody fortune.

And they’re not about to let a bunch of murdered moms, dead dads, and slaughtered children get in their way. The pro-gun lobby has systematically put laws in place so that gun manufacturers can’t be held financially or legally responsible for the carnage and slaughter their products produce. The right to bear weapons of mass destruction is readily available to homicidal maniacs everywhere.

And we just walk around pretending it’s normal. Just like some Americans used to think having a slave was normal. George Washington, father of our country: slave owner. Thomas Jefferson, Declaration of Independence superstar: slave owner, who impregnated a woman that he legally owned like his owned his mule and his cow. Plantation owners were the strong and slaves with the meat they got fat on.

This weekend I also saw the Steven Spielberg biopic “Lincoln.”  Another movie that’s about one per centers trying desperately to protect the aristocratic opulence they built on the backs of human beings who were hunted down and captured, selectively bred, bought and sold. Daniel Day-Lewis, exquisitely channeling Abraham Lincoln, is one man who doesn’t pretend it’s normal. Knowing it may cost him his friends, his reputation, and ultimately his life (!), he faces down the slave industry, and changes the Constitution so that slavery is forever abolished.

Watching “Lincoln” felt like déjà vu all over again.  The slave owner’s shills, lobbyists, and propagandists, screaming and wailing with furious irrational rage, trying desperately to hold on to all that money for themselves and their clients.  Exactly like what the NRA is doing for the assault weapon industry.

I also recently started re-watching the beginning episodes of “Mad Men,” the show about the rise of Madison Avenue advertising executives. In the early 60s, the tobacco industry was under massive attack, screaming and wailing with furious irrational rage, trying desperately to hold on to all that money.  Sound familiar?

Cigarettes weren’t just normal, they were sexy. In planes, trains, and automobiles, in elevators, offices and maternity wards, everybody was smoking.  In “Mad Men” when you watch a pregnant lady in a smoky bar suck down an unfiltered cigarette, it takes your breath away. Don Draper, the most dapper leading man in recent memory, smokes like a thermonuclear reactor. As the series opens, it’s his job to come up with an ad campaign for a frantic tobacco company, which has been told that it can no longer use doctors to testify in their commercials about the health benefits of cigarettes. Even though the tobacco companies spent millions putting together bogus medical reports emphatically stating that cigarettes were as wholesome as mother’s milk, and hiding the fact that they were getting rich by killing American citizens.

The assault weapon industry, on the other hand, spent their millions infiltrating the NRA and buying politicians to be their evangelists, apologists and lawmakers, so they couldn’t be held responsible, legally or financially. But America’s love affair with cigarettes didn’t end because of the money. As more and more people stood up to the modern day robber barons in the tobacco industry, and we saw our loved ones die torturous cancerous deaths, the more we saw smoking for what it really was. Here in the 21st century, when I see some shmo smoking, it doesn’t look sexy.  It looks like evolution has passed them by.

The assault weapon industry has wrapped itself in the American flag for so long that America has been hypnotized into believing that having an AK-47 that can slaughter hundreds of school kids in minutes is our God-given right, and that anyone who says it isn’t is a pinko commie USA-hater who should be immediately deported. See Piers Morgan. The worst kind of evil has always been the smart kind.

I have a five-year-old who goes to kindergarten. Two of my sisters are teachers. I just kept imagining getting that phone call over and over and over. Your daughter’s been killed by an automatic rifle. Your sister’s been gunned down so the assault weapon industry can make more money.

As the aching pain in my heart for all those kids and teachers and their families moves up into my head, and I try to figure out what I’m supposed to do about all this, I’m filled with anger. My favorite part of Obama’s speech was when he got all riled up and said, in effect, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!” What is to be done? This is always the question, isn’t it?

I want to be Abraham Lincoln. I want to be the whistle-blower who exposed how the tobacco industry was poisoning Americans to get rich. I want to be one drop in the ocean that says it’s not normal to have weapons of mass destruction available at my local Kmart, so evil can walk in the door, buy an NRA-approved assault weapon and go gun down some more kids. The answer to the assault weapon epidemic isn’t more assault weapons. It’s treating the assault weapon industry like the middlemen of misery it is, and giving it a smackdown for what it’s doing to our country. Just like we did with the slave owners. And the tobacco bandits.

I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of being meat.


Read more about Guns on The Good Life.

Image credit:  dok1/Flickr

About David Henry Sterry

David Henry Sterry is the author of 13 books, with another five coming out in 2013.  He is also a performer, muckraker, educator, activist, and book doctor.  His anthology, Hos, Hookers, Call Girls and Rent Boys was featured on the front cover of the Sunday New York Times Book Review.  He is co-author of The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published, and co-founder of The Book Doctors, who have helped countless writers get published, His first memoir, Chicken, has been translated into 10 languages.  His newest book, the novella Confessions of a Sex Maniac, was a finalist for the Henry Miller Award.  He has been featured everywhere from National Public Radio to the London Times to Playboy, and he is a regular contributor to the Huffington Post.  He has appeared on, acted with, and presented at: Will Smith, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Stanford University, over 100 independent bookstores from the Strand in NYC to Books & Books in Miami to City Lights in SF to Powell's in Portland, Miami Book Festival, Michael Caine, 92nd St. Y, Smith College, Brooklyn Book Festival, Reed College and Zippy the Chimp.


  1. Fact Checker says:

    Abraham Lincoln did not fight against slavery, he fought to reunify the union. He wrote in a letter to Horace Greeley in 1862 ” My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that.”

    • Nonetheless, he opposed slavery. He was expressing the concept that his duty as president was first and foremost to preserving the Union, despite the fact that as a private citizen he abhorred slavery.

  2. Berta Avila says:

    YES!! I feel that same rage and passion about the whole damn thing! I’m with you 100%. I just wish I didn’t feel so f*cking powerless about it. I’m tired of being “meat” too!

  3. courage the cowardly dog says:

    You should know something about human history. Slavery is without a doubt bad and it is good it no longer exists in most of the civilized world. In some remote places on earth it still exists and to some extent even in the civilized world it operates in pockets illegally, but since time immemorial one group has enslaved another group even before the Egyptians enslaved the Hebrews. In Ghana the Ashanti enslaved the Ewe and in fact the Ashanti were in close partnership with the Spanish during the height of the slave trade in capturing and delivering to the Spanish the “inventory” of slaves that ultimately were sold in the West Indies and then re sold at auction in the American south. Because of the need for manpower, before the invention of much modern planting and havesting technology, agriculteral societies relied on slavelabor to sustain their eonomies and in fact part of the reason for the Civl War was the belief in the south that the North sought to destroy the southern economy. Having grown up in the south in all the history lessons I took the Civil War was referred to as “The War of Northern Aggression” or the War for Cession. For all of human kind slavery is a shameful part of our history, not just white southerners. And quite frankly I am really tired of my southern hertiage being attacked because of its association with a practice that is common to cultures throughout the world. I feel no guilt.

  4. courage the cowardly dog says:

    “Thomas Jefferson, Declaration of Independence superstar: slave owner, who impregnated a woman that he legally owned like his owned his mule and his cow. Plantation owners were the strong and slaves with the meat they got fat on.”

    I think this is a slanderous statement. It is hyperbole of the most divisive kind. It does nothing to bring liiberal and conservative togther and it is in the opinion of some historical scholars wrong!!!

    Concering the popularly advanced assertion that Thomas Jefferson fathered children with a slave, the Thomas Jefferson Heritage Society (TJHS) Scholars Commission (2001), have argued against the Thomas Jefferson Foundation (TJF) report and reached different conclusions about the DNA tests. All but one of the 13 scholars expressed considerable skepticism about the charge, and some went so far as to express a conviction that it is almost certainly not true that Jefferson was the father of Eston or other Hemings’ children. The TJHS report suggested that Jefferson’s younger brother Randolph Jefferson could have been the father, and that Hemings may have had multiple partners.[30] Three of the Hemings children were given names from the Randolph family. Herbert Barger, the founder and current Director Emeritus of the TJHS and the husband of a Jefferson descendant, assisted Foster in the DNA study. In the Science article, Foster is reported to have agreed that the Nature report should have given credit to Barger, who was “fantastic” and “of immense help to me.”– Wikipedia

    Contrary to popular belief it is not conclusive that Thomas Jefferson had an initmate relationship with any of his slaves or that he fathered children with any of his slaves.

  5. Richard Aubrey says:

    Perhaps you could prepare for various contingencies. Remember Bill Clinton thought cops in schools was a good idea.
    And recall that assault weapons–not automatic weapons–are nowhere near the deadliest weapons in terms of total deaths. Illegally owned pistols are.
    A woman recently was hiding in her crawl space with her two kids when the intruder eventually found them. She shot six times, hitting him five times. She was out of bullets but he wasn’t down yet. Got away. Fortunately for her, there weren’t two of them.
    I suppose she and her children being dead is morally superior to her being armed.

  6. “The worst kind of evil has always been the smart kind.” So sadly true.

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