If one has the temerity to reach the end of this list, the base incivility which envelops this nation should not be in doubt. And while the passive observer may glance and proclaim, this Memorial Day compendium should be parceled out and each incident treated judiciously as its own individual circumstance, the attentive observer must not so dismissively ignore the whole for what it is. For the whole is what WE are and what WE have become. Nocera’s list encompasses a single holiday weekend in America; this is a glimpse at the sickening reality of societal choice.
Society chooses for itself what it deems appropriate for the whole, that which it chooses to disregard, and that which it chooses to avoid. This Memorial Day carnage wasn’t unfortunate inevitability nor an unavoidable conglomeration of random events, but a societal choice, an unconscionable and unacceptable societal choice. America has chosen the mere possession of guns by individuals as more valuable to society than preventing the carnage produced by individuals possessing guns – be that carnage intentional or accidental.
By now, my position on guns in society should be no surprise. I find individual gun ownership untenable, the pretext of the 2nd Amendment indefensible. For me, as a concrete matter, the 2nd Amendment isn’t in question. Ultimately, with respect to rampant gun violence, the questions this nation faces do not involve 2nd Amendment Rights, but rather the rights of society as a whole to choose for itself its own course. Ultimately, should Society choose to do so, Society may rightfully repeal the 2nd Amendment.
Certainly, one would hope that the sickening reality of how American society has devolved needn’t be evidenced by this tragic Memorial Day weekend. But, the impact of its sheer and senseless volume does prompt one to step back from the sickening, empirical reality to the abstract. One cannot but be compelled to ask oneself the questions Society seems unwilling to answer: “Is this what a free and open society looks like?” “At what cost?” “Who is free anymore?” The questions we need ask ourselves as a Society are not so much legal queries, but philosophical queries and inquiries as to how Society wants to shape itself. The questions we need ask ourselves needn’t rely on verifiable data or statistics. One needn’t quantify the tragedies that occurred over Memorial Day weekend. One need only read through the list from beginning to end, and by the final tragedy, a certain sense of justice will be evoked. At some point Society must confront its philosophical underpinnings and adjust itself to its overall desires when its soul descends into incivility. It is within every Society’s purview to shape itself as its majority sees fit. Therefore,
Do we need a Second Amendment? Regardless of one’s interpretation of its meaning, what utility, what purpose for Society does the Second Amendment serve? Why do we need individual gun ownership? Why is the 2nd Amendment essential for a free and open Society?
Is there any wisdom in assuming individuals in American Society are the most trustworthy repository for arms and ammunition?
Do typical “self-protection” justifications for individual gun ownership like paranoiac fear of each other or fear of the “government” inhibit an open and free society? Can “open” and “free” be derived from or predicated upon excessive fear?
How prudent, or for that matter how moral or sensible is it to inhibit public safety to preserve the perception of individual safety?
Thomas Jefferson proposed the following syllogism in 1816, I propose we think on it now in 2013:
“Man was created for social intercourse; but social intercourse cannot be maintained without a sense of justice; then man must have been created with a sense of justice.”
For Jefferson, our sense of justice as human beings wasn’t Hobbesian or the kind of justice intimated by Destutt – as convention. But rather, justice is derived “from our natural organization” as we form ourselves into societal entities, and “..justice is the fundamental law of society.” To this I add, as a societal entity we ought not idly accept insensible violence as an individual phenomenon that isn’t preventable due to acclimation or convention. Jefferson acknowledged that society can’t be perfect, but it can be perfected. That we can’t eliminate all harm isn’t a rationale for not preventing as much harm as we possibly can. I would add, if Society cannot prevent widespread injustice, then an unjust society it will be.
On that note, a return from the abstract back to the empirical, to the sickening reality, and to Marian Wright Edelman: “As a nation we seem to be hardened and numb to what should be emotionally disturbing when we cannot legislate the most modest and reasonable measures for national gun safety even after children in as seemingly safe a place as Newtown, Connecticut, far from an inner city, can be shot down in school. We are numb when the same child can be shot one year at his own birthday party and shot again the next year at a Mother’s Day parade and both shootings are just another day on our cities’ streets. Why are we not calling our legislators and expressing outrage? How can we let the voices of gun dealers and manufacturers drown out the cries of children?”
Indeed. The sickening reality is that we can.