Tocqueville's themes illuminate last week's school massacre and others like it: The weakened family, the crumbling of other forms of authority, the purposelessness of a life that resembles a video game ("mental dust" he calls the rapidly changing appearances of modernity), and the promise of relief through a benevolent bureaucracy that imposes centralized uniform rules. A comfortable, sheep-like existence seems to be democratic life's principal promise—occasionally disrupted by outbursts of religious enthusiasms. This is the “schoolmaster despotism” that gently oppresses us. But this opportunity tempts the baser instincts of human nature. When men and women behave like sheep, someone brutal…
Generally there is no need to respond to absurdities. Ignore them and they wither away. The temptation is to dismiss Jason Whitlock’s comment that the NRA is the new KKK as just such a thing. If you have not been following this, Whitlock’s wisdom on firearms policy was invoked by Bob Costas and that has given him a platform to share more of his deeply flawed insights.
The worry is that it takes a certain amount of cultural literacy to recognize an absurdity, especially when it is given a veneer of legitimacy in print and on the airwaves. This is a particular concern on issues of firearms policy where, as I demonstrated in my last post, many people hold wildly inaccurate views of the basic facts.
Presumably the suggested equivalency between the NRA and the KKK is a commentary on the view that the Second Amendment protects a substantive individual right to arms and that owning firearms is a rational choice and legitimate exercise of personal autonomy within our political system. The implication is that this choice should be no more appealing to Blacks than membership in the Klan. (Actually it’s even worse, as Whitlock seems to suggest the NRA, or some unnamed co-conspirator, is also responsible for the illegal drug trade)
At the risk of stating some obvious things, I want to respond to Bob Costas’ recent comment about the failings of “our current gun culture”. Costas endorsed without reservation, indeed just read from Jason Whitlock’s critique of the murder suicide deaths of NFL player Jovan Belcher and his wife.
“Our current gun culture, “Whitlock wrote, “ensures that more and more domestic disputes will end in the ultimate tragedy and that more convenience-store confrontations over loud music coming from a car will leave more teenage boys bloodied and dead.”
“Handguns do not enhance our safety. They exacerbate our flaws, tempt us to escalate arguments, and bait us into embracing confrontation rather than avoiding it. In the coming days, Jovan Belcher’s actions, and their possible connection to football will be analyzed. Who knows?”
“But here,” wrote Jason Whitlock,” is what I believe. If Jovan Belcher didn’t possess a gun, he and Kasandra Perkins would both be alive today.”
Retired Justice John Paul Stevens was recently in the news commenting on the right to keep and bear arms that was affirmed in the Heller decision, where he dissented. Speaking at the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, Stevens said he is surprised Congress has largely sidestepped policy debates over “the damage that is done by the unregulated use of firearms.” Referencing shootings in Colorado and Wisconsin Stevens lamented, “when an issue is a subject both of such importance and such widespread discussion, the fact that Congress doesn’t address it, I find mind-boggling, to tell you the truth.”