I had dinner with a colleague on Friday who was visiting Texas from another state. With her was her dear friend who was visiting the US from England. My dinner companions were very nice; we a lovely time and the discussion was lively. I was intrigued when at one point the discussion moved to the Second Amendment and the right of Americans to defend themselves, if necessary, with deadly force. This same spirit of self-reliance was seen by freedom loving Americans this week standing up for the Second Amendment in front of the Alamo.
Our English dinner companion appeared to be a little surprised to learn that in Texas is isn’t at all surprising for average citizens to routinely carry a weapon as they go about daily affairs. I explained that although many Texans don’t carry a weapon daily, most of us do believe it is our individual and personal responsibility to defend our lives and property. It is not only our right to defend ourselves, but it truly is a duty to defend not only ourselves, but those around us as well. In effect, the individual citizen truly is the “First Responder.” In our republic the citizen is supposed to be an active participant in governance and in self-defense.
She asked a couple of questions before sharing a story about a man in England, who as I write this article, is standing trial for killing someone who broke into his home. It occurred to me that the difference between this situation happening in England and the same event happening in Texas is all about how citizens in each culture view things. Moreover, it goes to the root of the disconnect individualist and collectivist Americans have in how we view the world. In authoritarian governments, such as exist in much of Europe including England, people have become subjects dependent on the government for their needs, including their safety.
From a cultural perspective there really are two Americas today. While there still are millions of Americans who believe we are individually responsible for ourselves, our prosperity, and in fact for defending the lives of our families, there is an ever increasing number of Americans who see the world very differently. This other American culture has a collective viewpoint. This perspective is oriented specifically to the idea that someone else is responsible for their well-being. These people are comfortable with government defending their lives and property, making economic decisions that impact their lives, and even in making medical decisions regarding who lives and dies.
To be brief, some people are only comfortable in the role of a child and desperately desire to have someone else in the role of the parent. They want someone else, an expert perhaps, to be responsible. While this analogy is probably a little derisive to those holding a collectivist viewpoint, I really don’t intend it to be. I am only using the parent – child metaphor to highlight the relationship regarding who holds responsibility for a person’s well-being. Going back for a moment to our English connection, consider the historical idea of a King being sovereign over his subjects as contrasted to the American concept of a Republic where citizens are sovereign. America was constructed around the idea that men and women are capable of ruling themselves. Think about it. Regardless of where your comfort level is concerning your individual responsibility for your own welfare you cannot serve two masters. You are either sovereign or you are not. At the end of the day you can be responsible for your life, or you can delegate that responsibility.
The problem America has today is that we want to think we are free, but too many of us don’t really want the responsibility. Face it, life is tough. Life is scary and bad things can and do happen to good people. For many of us, it is comforting to think that there is a government safety net for those who need it. My point today isn’t about how to best achieve the best result with regard to public assistance, but rather about the ownership of decision making. By its very nature the government accrues to itself the decision making authority that should belong to the individual. It is only fair for those paying the bills to make the rules, right? Anyone care to guess how many times we might have heard this line growing up: “As long as you live under my roof, you will do as I say!”
How many conversations have you had with someone about some tragedy or another, where someone will say, “The government should do something about…” That is the child within each of us that wants mommy and daddy to make the world right. When I look at the world today, what I see is a nation, the vast majority of which are nice hard working people who genuinely want to stop others from hurting or in some cases even from facing the consequences from their own behavior.
When debating someone about the Second Amendment and gun-control, I often have someone ask me why I need a weapon, or if not that, why an assault rifle. The obvious reply is the Constitution of the United States guaranteed my right to any weapon I can afford, but that doesn’t address the person’s core issue. What they are really saying is that they have trust issues with other people in society having the right to a weapon. Most of these people are really nice and only want violence to end. They have ceded the right to self-defense to government and with it their responsibility to defend themselves. They have faith that someone else will be capable of defending them. They believe that if only guns were not allowed the violence would end. Presenting statistics that prove America has an extremely low gun violence rate, once you factor out gang-related murders in cities with absolute gun control in force, is meaningless because of the emotional impact of tragedy’s hyped by the media. These horrific events are just too great for them to cope with emotionally. It makes them nervous when they see someone who still embraces their God-given rights. Regardless that a criminal will not adhere to the law, they simply want mommy and daddy to make them feel safe. It is tragic to see the results of what a crazy person with a weapon can do, and all of us just want it to end. Many Americans simply want to feel safe and that someone is caring for them. The same emotion applies to the government’s so-called war on poverty or the government’s takeover of medical care. This week’s battle in Washington DC over healthcare clearly illustrates that many Americans have outsourced the responsibility and the duty to care for themselves to government. They don’t want to have to think about any facts, they just want their lives to continue without any impact from reality.
The differences in this country are not about Republicans or Democrats, they are about world view. In Phoenix Republic Americans must learn to cope with what to do in a world where mommy and daddy cannot be trusted to help them. If you pick up the novel, let me know how you would react in the same situation as Megan, Annie or Kate. The point of the story is about individuals maintaining their dignity and their faith in challenging times. Even without an economic disaster, all of us face hard times at one point or another. Maybe it is a good idea to think about how we would want to react as people and as Americans.