So, a “friend” on Facebook posted this video with the comment, “I don’t care who you are…this is funny.”
So I watched it. And it wasn’t funny to me. Not after having watched several of my cycling friends this summer get crunched by aggressive drivers and people who “don’t care” what happens to other people on the road.
You might ask, what’s the connection between John Wayne jokingly picking off cyclists with his rifle and people running cyclists off the road, or crashing into groups of them and driving way?
Well, there’s a dangerously Freudian aspect to all such casual aggression. It’s quite clear there is a growing movement of people who hate cyclists for a number of reasons. Some think cyclists should pay road taxes for the right to ride. Neglecting, of course, the fact that a great number of us also own cars and houses and pay plenty of taxes. Giving us the right, by law, to ride our bikes on the road.
But the glee in the hatred toward cyclists seems to go to some deeper place for some people. As in, I Hate Cyclists Because They Exist, and wear Spandex, and enjoy a spot of coffee now and then.
And thus, some people think it’s really funny to watch a video in which it appears that cyclists are being picked off by a weapon-bearing John Wayne, who seems to stand for everything “American,” versus cycling, which feels so threateningly foreign to the pickup driving, gun-carrying crowd, or whoever.
To perhaps explore this reality, let’s take a visit to the website DefensiveCarry.com, where these comments about the video were traced with a simple Google search. The discussion was raised by one of their own members as to whether such a video was a potential harm “to the cause.” We must assume they mean the cause of carrying weapons defensively, which John Wayne clearly does not do in this video.
But here’s what one of the members wrote.
I really liked it!
I am so sick of cyclists using lanes meant for cars while pedaling away at two miles per hour. Share the road? Sure, as soon as you buy a vehicle that is suitable for use on the road.
And so, here you have a quick leap from glowing in the supposed humor of the video to expression very real aggression about cyclists.
Are we to assume that such thinking never manifests itself on the road? If your attitude is that all bikes should be banned from the road (despite laws protecting that right) then it is unlikely you will respect laws governing interactions between drivers and cyclists, which i many states require motorists to allow three feet between their vehicle and any bicyclist. In fact, and in direct contradiction of the law, you may be prone to flaunt your motorized superiority over cyclists based on what your idea of the law looks like, passing within inches to assert your dominance. That happened to me no fewer than three times this summer alone.
And that is the type of behavior so many of us cyclists see on the roads. People flaunt their power and authority in aggressive or careless ways. It has cost people close to me money, personal injury, legal implications, insurance deductibles and genuine grief and stress.
All because some people are so selfish, distracted or aggressive they can’t stand the notion of a cyclist using the road.
These are the facts: bikes are perfectly legal to ride on the roads. Laws in all 50 states protect those rights. They are the same type of laws that govern the right to responsibly own and use firearms. So cyclists do have an equal responsibility to obey the law. There are some who don’t obey the law, and some who don’t understand their obligations.
But what the comment above reveals is a prejudice against all traffic on the road that is not motorized. That would include young children, we must assume, riding their bikes along a neighborhood street, or even crossing a street, to get from one house to another. That’s a perfectly legal thing to do, but not acceptable according to this person.
All bikes are legal
It is also perfectly legal to ride a road bike, a triathlon bike, a mountain bike, a hybrid bike or your 1967 Stingray with a banana seat down every public road in America with the exception of Interstate Highways, where they are banned, and along certain designated roads. Most of us who ride know genuinely know how to avoid bad or congested roads. But there are people who don’t. Not everyone rides every day. Some are just trying to get from one place to the other and don’t choose roads very well.
Yet in urban areas where there are designated bike lanes, some people still get manic over the idea that bicycles exist. It Drives. Them. Crazy.
So they probably really like the idea of picking off cyclists with a rifle. It pleases them in some psychotic manner. So let’s look at another comment from a DefensiveCarry.com reader about the video:
a- it made me laugh.
b- cyclists are jerks
c- drivers are jerks
(why are we always at our passive/aggressive worst when we are collectively on pavement???)
d- if you are a driver, a shooter, a cyclist, an anti-driver, an anti-shooter, or an anti-cyclist …. and you were offended by this video?
then you are a whussy. the kind that is turning this country into a PC nightmare. it’s a joke. a dumbstick video, poorly edited together in some guys basement with free-ware editing software. did I say poorly edited?
I am really getting tired of people not being able to collectively take a joke.
personally the moral in all of this is that I highly doubt “The Duke” would be offended, butt-hurt, crying, calling lawyers, filing petitions or greivances (sic), or basically acting like a little kid if someone slapped together a video of him getting “shot”. he would laugh it off, act like a man, and go do manly things. not cry in his starbucks frappacino vente.
Perhaps he had something of a point, until the very end there. It is true. It is important to be able to “take a joke” as he suggests. I listen to raunchy comedy all the time on Sirius radio that flirts with racism and sexism and hurtful takes on culture and politics. I know how to keep things in perspective, and I believe in taking risks with your perceptions. You can learn things about your own sense of right and wrong. But sometimes I change the channel or turn it off. I have my limits.
But apparently this guy thinks it’s just fine to whack cyclists as a joke. And toward the end of his comments, he displays his real problem with cyclists, which seems to have to do with some sort of class or cultural difference characterized by the “unmanly” aspects of cycling. So he groups all cyclists into a category handy for prejudicial judgment, and his gun buddies on DefensiveCarry.com are expected to laugh along.
I don’t want to take away anyone’s guns. That’s not my point at all. I think they should be well-regulated as our Constitution states. My friends hunt and many keep guns in their homes for self-defense and protection. All very American.
It’s wanton shooting and casual acceptance of violence I protest.
And so, despite his claim that it is a harmless, slapped together video from some person’s basement, it has been viewed more than 4M times (according to one Internet note) or 4,000. The difference is not the point. The real joke is how poorly this guy gets the potential impact and reach of this “joke.”
Missing the point intentionally
What these people don’t get is that symbolism, even unintentional symbolism, has real power to drive emotions in this world. Just look at the manner in which these two quickly jump from calling the video a joke to ranting about why they hate cyclists. They don’t pause a second. It’s the excuse to go off on someone they clearly hate. That means the “joke” video is a fulfillment of some aggressive instinct in them that the images on the screen satisfy.
And then we take a look at what happened in the Gabby Giffords shooting, where aggressive targeting of her politics led to someone actually hauling off and shooting her and several people in her company. Certainly that’s not what anyone would call “defensive carry.” Unless, we must assume, people feel so threatened by the politics of a female liberal politician that the only way they can conceive to stop her is to shoot her dead. Someone shot John Kennedy. Robert F. Kennedy. Martin Luther King, Jr. Ronald Reagan. John Lennon. The list goes on and on and on, and when people aren’t famous, they get mowed down in classrooms or movie theaters. And the illogical response to that is to force everyone to own more guns. Meet violence with violence? So where does it stop? That’s all that some of us want to know, and we think sensible gun regulation remains a tool to accomplish that aim, and curb the potential for aggressive instincts to become public tragedies.
No one can anyone honestly stand there and insist that there is no connection between aggressive instincts and the ultimate decision of some person to actually start shooting other people for political or personal reasons. Clearly there is a thought process there. And that’s no joke.
This idea that all people who go on shooting sprees are “crazy” or “mentally ill” neglects a very important element of each and every story. In many cases, those people were judged to be “harmless” and/or “good citizens” until they got the idea that shooting a bunch of people, or setting off a bomb at the Boston Marathon, would solve their problems or satisfy their need to be heard. This may seem radical to say, but that’s not crazy. That’s acting on aggressive logic.
And that points out the irony and cognitive dissonance of the comments expressed on the website called DefensiveCarry.com. Granted, someone in the group raised the question, “Is this something we should support?” Because, you would think that any use of a weapon, even to make the supposed joke of shooting people on bikes, should be frowned upon.
But no. Instead the members raced to dismiss any such responsibility. And there we have the approach of so much of the gun lobby in a nutshell. The means always justifies the ends.
This is a brand of cognitive dissonance that drives so much cultural conflict. People who put doctrine, even as a joke, in front of genuine logic are prone to laughing at the suffering and pain caused to others.
Because to some people, racism and sexism are “just a joke.” Because it’s really not about “political correctness” in the end. It’s being able to discern what has deadly or painful consequences, and what does not. I simply didn’t find the visual attack on cyclists to be all that funny. It’s hit too close to home, too many times.
Perhaps it really is time for us to start shooting back.