"And Otis did imbibe to excess; and Andy did leave the keys to the cell in plain view; and Otis did take the keys and let himself into the cell; and Otis did sleep it off; and all was fine in Mayberry..."
---The Book of Otis
Otis Campbell was a raging alcoholic. He was beloved yet reviled. And apparently, no one intervened. There was no viable support group where Otis could find fellowship. Otis could not break the cycle of self-medication, misery and self-destruction. He was unrepentant. He was an addict.
And everyone in town enabled his behavior. They never took Otis by his lapels and implored him to seek help, never begged him to look deeper into himself in order to discover why he behaved in this way, why he wasted his potential for health and happiness.
Instead, Andy, Barney and the rest of Mayberry just shrugged their collective shoulders and lived with Otis and his inebriated antics until he presumably hit bottom or died.
(Brace yourself for a jarring analogical leap in 3...2...1...)
Like our collective response to the American gun culture.
The incident in Newtown, Connecticut is the result of decades of indulgence of a sort of attitude from which such horrific and devastating destruction can only spring. Like alcohol, guns provide an easy answer to problems which deserve deeper and more courageous analysis. And like alcoholism or any other substance-based addiction, use of a gun has an effect that can destroy far more than the intended target.
Of course, it ain't the gun which causes the damage, it's the person wielding it (untouched, Otis's caustic rotgut was only damaging to, perhaps, the inside of the bottle in which it came). But just as culpable is an environment which consistently pardons the gun's misuse and abuse and even tacitly supports it, an environment which fetishizes, ennobles and enables it. It's the perfect environment to breed a nation of gun junkies.
So, in other words, America.
The steady stream of cognitive distortion which has been flowing from people and organizations bestowing upon themselves the grandiose appellations of either patriot or prophet (or both) have virtually ensured massacres like the one which robbed twenty-six families of their loved ones happening with sickening regularity. Never sated for long, it's the addict acting out over and over and over, requiring more thrill, more intensity, more devastation.
And it's time for this addict to hit bottom.
Otis Campbell binged and jailed himself, binged and jailed himself, over and over for our and the town's amusement. He and the town became inured to his self-imposed and ineffective punitive actions. Similarly, after each massacre of innocents, the patriots and prophets perpetuate the cycle of death by throwing up cognitive distortions and dissociations, reinforcing the myth of gun ownership as the key to liberty; the more guns, the more our freedom is ensured. The fierce power alone of the gun lobby speaks not to its constitutional rights but to its drunkenness; its frequent and incessant denial of any culpability positively shrieks of self-deceptive inebriation; its inability to see its own part in the bloody cycle of destruction is practically an admission that it is powerless to relinquish its dependency on its drug of "choice."
Otis Campbell and the concept of the lovable town drunk was a myth and an unfortunate one. The idea that guns are necessary in this profoundly addiction-breeding culture is also a myth, but it is more than unfortunate. It is deadly.
We're myth addicts.