Fear is born of the unfamiliar. The familiar, no matter how horrifying, has a way of becoming accepted, of losing its edge. It’s why after 9/11 people feared flying in airplanes. Not because of the possibility of plane wrecks, but because of the fear of terrorist attacks. It did not matter that statistically people were more likely to die because of engine failure than terrorism. In fact, it did not matter that air travel was still safer than traveling by automobile. Fear had been created, and in the minds of millions of Americans it was very real.
Fear serves an evolutionary purpose. It makes sense that our ancestors would be more likely to survive, and therefore pass on their genes, if they approached the unknown with a biologically built-in emotion creating uneasiness. This genetic caution was the precursor of our emotion, fear.
But just as our ancestors developed fear, they also developed the ability to live with, accept, and in many cases defend pre-existing conditions. Most likely, as societies grew, this tolerance for conditions found in nature was extended to social opinions and societal norms.
Again, it makes evolutionary sense. As humans evolved, having an affinity to what was already around them, enabled them to build stronger social bonds, settle in permanent areas, and keep the aspects of their culture that led to success.
However, the same impulse that gave rise to medicine, agriculture, and complex social institutions, also created an attraction to illogical and unsound practices and ideas.
Take for example the GOPs conservative stance on “gun rights.”
One of my favorite lines of reasoning for “gun rights” is that if the citizenry loses their right to protect themselves, the government “could just take over.”
Right. Let’s deconstruct the argument, shall we?
You’re saying that the average person is going to be able to defend themselves from the largest, most technologically advanced, and highly trained military— in the history of the world— with whatever happens to be lying around in their gun cabinets.
“Hey, honey! Those damn Feds are here with their heat seeking missiles, bunker busting bombs, and remote-controlled drones! Give me my rifle; I’m sure I can hold them off!”
Only in a badly done 80s movie (yes, I’m looking at you Red Dawn) would this be plausible.
Taking the “I need my guns to protect my liberty” to the next level of rationalization, one begins to see that not only is it implausible, but it is also horrific.
What conservatives are saying is they need guns to “protect their liberties.” Therefore, if our democratically elected government were to pass a law, or enact a policy, taking away a “liberty,” people should reasonably be allowed to go out, and shoot anyone they disagree with.
“Did you support that new law?”
“Support it? Hell, I voted for the politician that introduced it. And you know what? I’m going to vote for him again!”
Jerry just took the first step to reclaiming his liberty. He just needs to find all the other supporters of whatever policy took his “liberty.”
The biggest insult in all of this is that the conservatives are the ones panicking that their liberties may be taken away. It’s ironic, because taking liberties away from others is kind of the conservative’s thing.
Can same-sex-partners get married?
Uh, no. Says the conservative.
Can women have control over their bodies?
That would be a negative.
How about Muslims building an Islamic culture center in Manhattan?
Maybe I’m just going about this the wrong way. The conservatives may have a point. Perhaps people should use a loose and sophomoric interpretation of the second amendment, justifying use of armed force against oppressive entities. (Please note the sarcasm that went into constructing this paragraph).
But instead of this line of logic being utilized by conservative gun owners, it should be used by people who are actually having their liberties infringed.
Chris Christie vetoes a bill, denying gays the right to marry. Church leaders support candidates that use homophobic scare tactics to get elected. The solution is simple. Go get a gun, the conservatives claim, and “reclaim your liberty.”
“Lock and load,” as one irresponsible Alaskan politician says.
Women, are your liberties being infringed on? Don’t worry, just join a band of marauding freedom fighters and take back your country!
Republican legislatures, beware.
Of course, most conservatives at this point would shout, “NO! This is not what we mean!”
But what the hell do you mean?
If guns serve to protect you from a liberty-sucking government and activist groups, shouldn’t everyone have access to this course of action?
My guess is that conservatives would say, “No. Not everyone is entitled to use violence to protect themselves.”
The same gusto that John Wayne had killing people for freedom, doesn’t look as good in the hands of non-white, non-conservative, non-Christian individuals.
Imagine Martin Luther King Jr., boldly claiming he has a dream, as he waves an AK-47 above his head and shoots wildly into the air. Or Japanese Americans, refusing to be rounded up into camps during World War II, and instead taking their country back by force. Or how about if Caesar Chavez decided that the best way to gain liberty was through violence?
The odd thing is we celebrate all of these individuals and movements, exactly because they didn’t use violence. They’re heroes because they used a higher sense of humanity to secure their liberties.
If anyone had the right to use violence to secure their political freedoms, it would have been the nation’s ethnic minorities. Not only were they denied liberties, but they were actually terrorized with violence. Odd, conservatives never bring that up when discussing the finer points of gun ownership. By the right-wing standards, the South should have been fire bombed back into the Stone Age during the last century.
By allowing illogical arguments to go unchallenged, or worse repeating them, we do a disservice to our society. Whereas bad ideas and sloppy reasoning should become extinct, we cannot wait for a meteor or other natural forces to do the work for us. We have to be the ones to see that our culture evolves. Although our ancestors did develop a fear of the unfamiliar, they also adapted the tools of logic, reason, and rationality. It’s a heritage worth defending, and you don’t need to use the second amendment to do it.