Through the Looking Glass

By: Patti Bankson

Tragic events like last weekend’s shootings in Arizona stop us in our tracks. For whatever reason(s), one young man, identified by some who knew him as “scary”, decided to end the lives of people he didn’t even know. Strangers or not, it’s always difficult to understand what drives a person to do such a thing. Even if he “told” us why, there’s no possible way to get into another human being’s head and heart. In spite of that fact, it didn’t take any time at all for the political finger-pointing to become part of the picture. There’s just something inside us that not only wishes these events wouldn’t happen, but we want to see them fixed. Unfortunately, in our desperation to fix our problems, rational, sane people seem to lose their minds, or at the very least, their common sense.

The minute I heard the news about this shooting, I knew what would happen next… the people who want guns removed from the planet would begin their anti-gun rhetoric… they’d be tripping over their own feet in their rush to restrict individuals’ gun ownership… to follow Rahm Emmanuel’s advice: “ You never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that it’s an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.” However…

On June 27, 2008, in District of Columbia v. Heller, the Supreme Court ruled that the Second Amendment explicitly protects the right of Americans to own guns. But, because that case addressed only federal laws, the Supreme Court was asked to look at this issue again, in June, 2010. Once more the court ruled in favor of our right to bear arms. Justice Samuel Alito, Jr. writing for the majority, said… “the right to self-defense protected by the Second Amendment was fundamental to the American conception of ordered liberty. Like other provisions of the Bill of Rights setting out such fundamental protections,” he said, “it must be applied to limit not only federal power but also that of state and local governments.”

As important as I believe those rulings are in protecting our right to protect ourselves, we need to wake up to the fact that we need to protect ourselves from ourselves, and have needed to do so for a very long time… as far back as when the author of “Democracy in America”, Alexis de Tocqueville, much quoted by journalists and politicians (who died in 1859) came away from “studying” our country with these observations: • “In America the majority raises formidable barriers around the liberty of opinion; within these barriers an author may write what he pleases, but woe to him if he goes beyond them.” • “Americans are so enamored of equality that they would rather be equal in slavery than unequal in freedom.” • “In the United States, the majority undertakes to supply a multitude of ready-made opinions for the use of individuals, who are thus relieved from the necessity of forming opinions of their own.”

Interesting… almost two centuries later, those observations are still relevant. Guess it’s true: the more things change, the more they remain the same.

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© 2011 Patti Bankson

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