Freedom. It’s the basis of not just our system, but the values that the system was created to protect. Americans value their freedom above everything else.
But do we really have what it takes to be truly a free people today?
In January of 1941, President Roosevelt outlined what would be the basis of his policies, domestic and foreign. It became known as the Four Freedoms Speech because he distilled freedom down into four basic elements – Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Worship, Freedom from Want, and Freedom from Fear.
Freedom from Want has always been the hardest one to define and implement, but Freedom from Fear should be obvious. Yet it seems to be the basis of far too much of our politics today. That’s especially true when we talk about guns.
If you ask the National Rifle Association (NRA) what it’s all about, they will tell you it’s not guns. It’s the freedom that guns represent. The Second Amendment, they’ll tell you, outlines a God-given right to keep and bear arms that no one can take away from us.
Increasingly, however, they are not about freedom but fear. The exact opposite of freedom in many ways.
The video below is just the latest from the NRA youtube channel showing how they have moved on. After eight years telling people that Obama was going to grab their guns any day now, there isn’t a bogeyman to push. So now it’s a general fear:
What exactly should we be afraid of? It starts off with criticism of the President, but it moves quickly into something … something dark and cultish. The look in the eyes of the presenter says far more than her words.
Be afraid, be very afraid.
Barataria has long had the position that the problem with guns isn’t guns, per se. Guns don’t kill people, people kill people. It’s largely a matter of attitude. As long as everyone thinks guns are the solution to everything there will be a problem with guns. New laws? If they break out the crazy, changing attitudes, they might just work. But more than anything we need a new attitude.
Consider, instead, this much longer video from Canada. The rate of gun ownership there is similar to ours, befitting our status as brother nations on the North American frontier. But the rate of violence is one seventh ours. What’s the difference?
In this video, people are is “into” guns as people in the US. The main difference, as shown by the visit to an NRA conference, is fear. Or rather, a sense of fun that is present in everything from north of the border. They enjoy their guns, sure, and that’s what it’s all primarily about.
Can a difference in attitude make all the difference? Yes, especially in the eloquent words of FDR:
Since the beginning of our American history we have been engaged in change, in a perpetual, peaceful revolution, a revolution which goes on steadily, quietly, adjusting itself to changing conditions without the concentration camp or the quicklime in the ditch. The world order which we seek is the cooperation of free countries, working together in a friendly, civilized society.
He was talking about foreign aggression, yes, but his words apply to change in general. They were delivered at the end of the previous depression, a time of great change in America. As he said previously, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
Today we live in a world defined by a politics of fear. Long gone is Reagan’s “Morning in America” or any other sense of great hope moving forward together, left wing or right wing. One side is driven by a general fear, stoked by agents like the NRA, and the other side is motivated by fear of them.
Gone is a sensible middle like that shown in Canada. It sounds so boring to us, but in practice it isn’t. It’s decent, it’s fair, it’s even fun – and it’s freedom. It works. Nobody gets all worked up about nonsense.
What is the state of freedom in America today? Do we have dark threats which we should fear and be ever vigilant against? Perhaps but … the chief among them seems to be the exact opposite of freedom, which in many ways is indeed fear.
The fear-mongers of our world tell us they stand for freedom, but it’s quite an obvious lie. A simple glance to the north shows what a life without fear looks like. It looks just like freedom.