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Mental Illness Pulls Trigger

Friday, 16 August 2019

Dear Mr President.

I want to compliment you on your speech last week calling for the suppression of the “evil contagion” of gun violence lately diagnosed in Gilroy, El Paso, and Dayton. Your measured and thoughtful delivery, following two days of reflection and meditation at Bedminster, gave the lie to those detractors who call you “reactive” and “impulsive”. Indeed, it achieved the heartfelt warmth of a banking executive extending his “deepest sympathies” for the loss of a great aunt with a trust fund.

There was one sentence, however, that has fascinated the news media – not because it penetrated to the core of the national problem with guns, but because nobody could figure out what the hell it meant: “Mental illness and hatred pulls the trigger, not the gun.”

Let me help.

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For that tiny portion of your base given to grammar and logic, the singular verb “pulls” suggests that “Mental illness and hatred” are one thing and thus that all the angry people in your base are nuts.

In the first place, for that tiny portion of your base given to grammar and logic, the singular verb “pulls” suggests that “Mental illness and hatred” are one thing and thus that all the angry people in your base are nuts.

But more important, there are some syntactic problems. Is “the gun” the subject of “pulls” or its object? If the subject, you seem to be saying that the gun doesn’t pull the trigger – a fact that your base (and especially your base) already knows. Or if it is the object, you seem to be saying that people don’t pull guns – except in the sense of pulling guns out when encountering other people like, say …those who have darker skin. Either way it comes across as Zen-like, and your base doesn’t do Zen.

But maybe the problem is that “the gun” has no function in this sentence at all. Perhaps it is just left over from that favorite bromide about guns not killing people. The contrast you aimed at and missed might be between people who hate because they’re crazy (Dayton?), and those “very fine people” who hate for perfectly sane and historically validated reasons such as race, birthplace, religion, or gender orientation (Gilroy? El Paso?).

Of course, they both use guns.

dan embree 300

Dan Embree

Received by the White House at 1:00 AM EST, 16 August 2019.