I bought my first handgun after watching Michael Moore’s film Bowling for Columbine. At the time I had a burning question in my mind. I had been a Police Explorer beginning in 8th grade until my sophomore year in high school. At that time a shooting occurred in my town in which a parent manipulated a youth into shooting another adult.
As a youth myself, I couldn’t parse the circumstances of this crime. The case never went to trial because it was resolved in back room negotiations between the prosecutor, judge and defense team. Because of this, the facts of the case where concealed from public view.
As a justice oriented person, I could not conceive how this circumstance could come to be. For me, things fell into clear “wrong” and “right” categories and there was nothing I could conceive that would manipulate me into using illegal, illegitimate and unauthorized deadly force against anyone, or was there?
In the police department where I Explored there were a variety of opinions around risks posed by the occult following the case of the West Memphis Three. One officer I knew perceived great risk. After a call came in about a couple on a train track bridge with candles and a blanket he proposed the candles might symbolize the occult. The meeting on the bridge was potentially a suicide ritual. The officer referred to national police training on the risks of the occult to officers and the community. Another officer sighed and rolled his eyes, tired of conspiracy theories coming in to basic patrol duties. The couple on the bridge indicated the gentleman was leaving the next day and that they wanted to have a romantic final night together. The officer in charge warned them of the risks of being on the train bridge, and indicated it is private property that cannot be trespassed and sent them on their way.
I observed the variety of opinions of the officers and it stuck with me. At the time of the shooting described above I thought about the risks caused by mistaken perceptions that could spin off of of a heavily mediated case like The Memphis Three. Could it be that cause-correlation fallacies could impact me into increasing risk rather than protecting the community? Could I be manipulated through a variety of positions into going onto a similar bridge, gun drawn, expecting Satanists to be sacrificing a victim and spreading the blood on the ground? Or worse, could an individual manipulate me into doing harm to another? Could my own conception of justice be turned toward political harm as Communism, Nazism and Fascism turned people toward causing harm to others in the name of righting “wrongs” against workers, national identity, race, or even something as abstract as governmental efficiency. (Fascism proposed that complete control and complete alignment between government and business would result in the greatest form of society.)
The environment was too murky. I couldn’t, as a sixteen year old, comprehend how to make sense of these abstractions, and I retreated into relativism. Maybe there was no “code.” Maybe ethics, morals and the framework for right and wrong was just made up as we go along.
If one person could commit attempted murder and face no incarceration, and another could face stiff penalties, maybe I was putting faith in the wrong place. I stopped shooting, one of my favorite weekend pastimes, and locked the guns up. My family sold our .22 rifle to another family of an Explorer and eventually donated a Remington pump shotgun to a flea-market fundraiser for a human rights group. I also resigned from the Explorers and got involved in the arts, dance and theater.
I went to college to study literature and the arts – the world of inquiry and exploration. The university culture, which promotes inquiry into the roots of every value system you bring into it did its work. I graduated effectively incapable of testifying in court without destroying my own testimony. I moved on to graduate school.
I became a college art instructor following graduation from my Master’s program and slowly began re-constructing my framework for justice. The first rule: it’s reasonable for an instructor to control and manage a classroom and to expect certain conduct from students. Bullying and grade grubbing is unreasonable conduct from a student. Once a student’s conduct begins to negatively impact the learning environment for other students it is reasonable to follow a documentation, reporting and accountability process. A college student has no “right” to education. Misconduct will cast the student out of the school and may also result in civil or criminal penalties should harm be sufficient.
After becoming a full-time faculty member the Dean asked to chair several student conduct committee meetings. My experience, though small, with procedural justice made me an effective moderator among faculty members who wanted to provide benefit of the doubt to the student and others who couldn’t see the reason not to move to summary judgment.
At the end of my first year of teaching the World Trade Center was attacked on 9/11. I had an afternoon class to teach, so I went in to the school early to see how we would handle the day’s schedule. The college, which did not have cable television at the beginning of the day, had CNN up and running in the library by 11am. Students were released to go home, watch the coverage in the library, or stay and work during their class period. For the most part, instructors stayed to work with students, and I went back and forth between the classroom and the library to touch base with my students in both areas.
9/11 changed things for the whole nation. A budding anti-globalization movement, spurred on by activists like Michael Moore, was crushed as Americans realized that international trade was not the evil a small group of activists portrayed it to be. Terrorism was capable of true horrors – taking two passenger planes and crashing it into a building of innocent civilians. Personally, I saw a few things – first, I realized that I, just like most people in America, am immune to the manipulation that I had so many questions about. My life experience made me someone who would think for myself and who would not take manipulation from an ideological position to do harm. My willingness to use deadly force extended only to stop the illicit use of deadly force or to stop or prevent a forcible felony. Second, I saw that the positions on culture and counter culture bandied around in the arts were false. I saw some counter-cultural artists and activists in Portland, Oregon claim that finally, Western culture was reaping what it deserved. Some of these activists even delighted in the attack, a concept that is clearly wrong and is based on delusional conceptions of society.
When I finally saw Moore’s Bowling for Columbine it solidified things for me. His emotional argument against guns relied on the cause-correlation fallacy again and again. Charlton Heston’s principle based code was concise, clear and to the point. It was this intellectual showdown that proved the truth. Sociological conceptions that “deviance is contextual, and therefore fluid and that fluidity means that identifying crimes is wrong” is off base and illogical. (I will write further about this concept in later posts – this is basically the foundational justification for all counter-cultural movements since the 1960’s).
I’ll call these false conceptions of culture ‘interest group liberalism.’ In contrast I prefer classical liberalism.
Today’s liberals argue that sexuality is an individual right and that to protect people from the harm of sexually transmitted disease we need to preserve freedom, provide education and arm people from the time of youth through adulthood and old age with the tools to help protect themselves. They acknowledge that condoms in and of themselves do not make people fully safe – there are risks involved, but the risks are better than infringing on individual rights and legislating how sexual activity will play out to keep the community safe. I would agree with their assessment.
The same group will turn around and say that, although the police have no responsibility to protect the community and the military has no right of intervention within the country, individuals should be stripped of their tools of protection, and that all activity around self-defense must be regulated to the point that people do not have the right to protect themselves. They say that the risks to the community of self-defense tools are too great, and that they must be made illegal. I would disagree with their assessment, as it violates the core principles that give rise to the conceptions of safety through education and protection in the case above.
A classical liberal perspective would agree that people need to be educated about risk and trained in safety as a core principle that would span a full range of activities from sex to driving to guns to texting to social networking. The principle would drive the strategy and tactics, not reaction to any individual circumstance of pregnancy, drunk driving accident, bullying, driving while texting, or shooting.
Michael Moore takes the illogical ‘interest group’ approach that has taken over the title ‘liberalism.’ On Christmas Eve Michael Moore wrote a convoluted, “deranged and delusional” piece on the Huffington Post. In his blog post he states that gun bans will… Continued…
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Contributed by Alan Murdock of The Gun Tutor.