We all have our blind spots.
Some of us believe in a God so all-seeing and unforgiving that the slightest infringement of the minutiae of ritual directly affects our chances of a blissful afterlife. Some believe that socialism is the root of all evil. Others feel the same way about capitalism.
Me? I have a problem with rigid ideology of all kinds, with absolutes, with certainty. And I’m not very fond of banks for that matter.
In that curious country called the United States of America, there are people who believe that the justification for citizens carrying lethal armaments is that somehow their handguns and semi-automatics protect them from the tyranny of the state. As if force was the only form of tyranny. As if, when the chips were down, any determined state actor would be deterred from using their tanks, drones, howitzers and bombs by a group of citizens wielding the ordnance equivalent of pea-shooters.
Americans who point fingers against nations governed by the precepts of a leader’s words and ordinances uttered in the context of the 7th Century have the nerve to justify their positions in the context of laws created when the scope of lethal force was limited to cannon, bayonets and flintlocks.
And so a mentally-ill youngster in Connecticut marches into a primary school and wipes out a class with the weapons his Mum was so proud of. Oh, and wastes his Mum in the process. A congressman from Texas says that legislators in Connecticut who banned weaponry in schools have blood on their hands because they deprived the teachers of Hook Hill of the means to defend themselves and their charges. As if a 26-year-old female teacher is likely to go to the gun-rack, grab an Uzi and start spraying the perpetrator! Is the congressman suggesting that all lecturers and teachers have weapons training and that every school should have a well-stocked armoury? Or that the thousands of cash-strapped schools in America should put a Rambo on the payroll, ready to fire off a clip at some random intruder?
Here’s another blind spot. A society with an insatiable demands for books, movies and games depicting violent acts thinks that the odd misfit from a generation of kids sitting at their laptops at home obliterating virtual humans will not be tempted to do the same to real ones?
It will take a few cities wiped out by nuclear bombs for the world to say never again to nuclear weapons. Clearly the dead of Dunblane, Oslo, Columbine, Virginia Tech and Sandy Hook are not a sufficiently powerful reason for the living to say never again. And anyway, “never again” is not an absolute. The effect fades with time. One generation’s determination born from experience is insufficient to deter the next generation.
Much as I love America, I find it hard to accept messages to the world of moral primacy from a nation that puts lethal force in the hand of almost any individual who asks for it.