As political idiocy and economic folly continue to become more the norm in the United States than reason, logic and freedom, one question continues to get harder and harder to answer: What makes us so special in America?
At some point in the Nation’s early history, revolutionary spirit would have been a sound answer. Later — around the time of Alexis de Tocqueville’s visit to the country — laws, freedoms, overwhelming civic responsibility and entrepreneurial vigor were all good answers.
The Nation has been through many hard times, tragedies and embarrassments over the past 237 years. There were times when the Nation seemed doomed and pulled through, and there were times of great prosperity. Much of the Nation’s success — despite some recent opinions to the contrary — can be attributed to its revolutionary roots and the foresight ingrained in its founding documents.
But the Nation is young. Perhaps it could even be correctly personified as adolescent in the grand historical scheme. As anyone with teenage children or who has ever looked back on their own adolescence with the wisdom of a few more years will tell you, adolescence is often a time of reckless abandon and great change.
There is a psychological term associated with adolescence that applies nicely to the mindset of mainstream America today. “Personal fable” is a common teen belief that arises from adolescent egocentrism. It is the adolescent’s belief that he or she is highly special and unlike anyone else who has ever walked the Earth. The adolescent living out a personal fable believes others are so obviously fascinated by him (adolescent egocentrism) that he must be a unique individual (the personal fable).
One great example of America’s collective personal fable arises in the recently feverish debate over gun control in the United States. After a bloody Revolution against a tyrannical ruling force, America’s Founding Fathers felt it proper to include in the Nation’s supreme law a provision allowing every American citizen to arm himself. The 2nd Amendment says nothing about hunting, self-defense, sport shooting or muskets. But it states its purpose quite expressly:
A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.
Gun control advocates never mention the necessity of firearms to the security of a free state. They argue that Americans have a standing army, police, civilized society and courts to ensure the state of freedom. But they fail to realize that the right to bear arms is not an outdated addendum to those previously mentioned markers of our modern civil society, but rather a last line of defense should they fail — or, worse, should they be used with malevolent intent by those in charge.
Slate magazine crime blogger Justin Peters outlined the mindset of the common anti-assault weapon crusader in a recent piece about the usefulness of the AR-15 as a hunting or home defense weapon:
But the guns also appeal to another demographic that doesn’t get nearly as much press—paranoid survivalists who worry about having to fend off thieves and trespassers in the event of disaster. Online shooting message boards are rife with references to potential “SHTF scenarios,” where SHTF stands for “shit hits the fan”—governmental collapse, societal breakdown. (Adam Lanza’s mother, Nancy Lanza, has been described as “a gun-hoarding survivalist who was stockpiling weapons in preparation for an economic collapse.”) An article on ar15.com titled “The Ideal Rifle” notes that “the threats from crime, terrorism, natural disaster, and weapons of mass destruction are real. If something were to happen today, you would need to have made a decision about the rifle you would select and be prepared for such an event. So the need to select a ‘survival’ rifle is real. Selecting a single ‘ideal rifle’ is not easy. The AR-15 series of rifles comes out ahead when compared to everything else.” Depending on where you live, it’s perfectly legal to stockpile weapons to use in the event of Armageddon. But that’s a far different argument than the ones firearms advocates have been using since the Newtown shootings.
Peters is right when he writes that firearms advocates haven’t made the proper case for the vitality of American assault weapon ownership. The National Rifle Association and other gun rights groups have stuck to the argument that assault weapons are good for hunting and home defense, with hardly a mention of the 2nd Amendment. They can’t make the proper case for the 2nd Amendment, because the personal fable mindset of a majority of the population simply won’t have it.
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” — George Santayana
While madmen in the United States may have taken a few hundred lives with guns in America over the past century, the world’s rulers — which some lawmakers say have the monopoly on legitimate violence — were splattered with the blood of 260 million human beings in the 20th century alone. They are poised to murder billions more in the 21st century.
Here are three infamous mass killers of the last century:
Adolf Hitler — Death Toll: Nearly 20 Million
“The most foolish mistake we could possibly make would be to allow the subject races to possess arms. History shows that all conquerors who have allowed their subject races to carry arms have prepared their own downfall by so doing. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that the supply of arms to the underdogs is a sine qua non for the overthrow of any sovereignty. So let’s not have any native militia or native police. German troops alone will bear the sole responsibility for the maintenance of law and order throughout the occupied Russian territories, and a system of military strong-points must be evolved to cover the entire occupied country.”
Nazi Germany established gun control in 1938.
Joseph Stalin — Death Toll: 61,911,000
“If the opposition disarms, well and good. If it refuses to disarm, we shall disarm it ourselves.”
In 1929, the Soviet Union established gun control.
Mao Tze Tung — Death Toll: 35,236,000
“All political power comes from the barrel of a gun. The communist party must command all the guns, that way, no guns can ever be used to command the party.”
China established gun control in 1935.
The American condition is fragile and changing all too rapidly. The “it could never happen here” mindset has, quite unfortunately, led many Americans to mistake patriotism and citizenship for all out support of the ruling class. And government in the United States has repaid its citizenry by installing a massive surveillance/police apparatus, methods by which it may circumvent courts and prosecute or kill citizens, and virtually all of the power it needs to do anything it wishes. Americans have gleefully allowed this to happen with hopes of becoming safer and more comfortable. If it weren’t for the adolescence of our Nation and the personal fable mindset to which we subscribe, we might recognize that these things have happened before and it is our Constitution which has protected the Nation from the same events thus far.