The right kind
Of live free or die
--Jay Farrar (Son Volt)
The phrase, "Live Free or Die" first entered my vocabulary as a child. Whether I was first exposed to it watching U.S. of Archie or from a car trip to Santa's Village in Jefferson, New Hampshire (it appears on their licence plates), I had it seared into my consciousness by the time Rene Levesque put "Je Me Souviens" on our Quebec plates - or at least before I was ten.
The 1995 Son Volt song above asks what I think is the great question of America. What is the right balance? While the phrase was apparently derived from the writings of a U.S. Revolutionary War general, I think it has now morphed into a question that we ask ourselves whenever mass murderers carry out their hideous University of Texas Tower Massacres, their Columbines, their Dawsons and now their Virginia Techs. How free do you need to be?
If anyone is clamoring to answer that, it's the U.S. Gun Lobby, and their answer is: "Free enough to die." For only a gun lobby group could look upon the massacre of a week ago today and see a golden opportunity to - get ready for this - relax the restrictions on carrying concealed firearms in the state of Virginia.
"This is a huge nail in the coffin of gun control," said Philip Van Cleave, president of the gun rights group Virginia Citizens Defense League.I'm not even going to weigh in on the twisted logic of gun-control being the culprit in the Virgina Tech massacre, except to say that in the context of a heavily-armed U.S. population, it may not sound as stupid to them as it does to me. My male Texas co-workers (quote: "I'm white, so I vote Republican") all own guns and consider them as normal an accessory as a wristwatch or cellphone. When you believe everyone else around you is packing, and that they may very well try to get the better of you, you need to know where your gun is so you can defend yourself. And for many Americans it's a measure of their freedom that they can do so unfettered.
"They had gun control on campus and it got all those people killed, because nobody could defend themselves," he told AFP.
"You want people to be able to defend themselves -- always," he said.
Van Cleave said the tragedy could give a boost to a years-long effort in Virginia to pass legislation allowing students to carry weapons on campus -- especially since existing laws failed to prevent Cho's murderous rampage.
"Gun control failed. That student under university rules was not to have a gun," Van Cleave said.
At least that's how one middle-aged (white) church-going Texan described it to me.
To which my response was that in my neck of the woods, the assumption is no one else you bump into is likely to have one, and therefore why should you go to the trouble? And who would want to pull a gun on you anyway? Unless you're connected to the criminal underworld, it's really a non-issue.
But that's not the only response, because my American friends, when pressed, don't have a good answer about what happens on the day they do find themselves in the gunfight they've so diligently readied themselves for (not unlike their dusty Y2K bunkers)? Cause once the guns are out and being fired, I don't think it's going to end like a James Bond or Die Hard movie.
Anyone who thinks otherwise may be prone to other illogical fantasies - like that invading and occupying a country halfway around the world will provide them with freedom. Or that Jesus will save the believers on the Day of Reckoning. Or that deregulation can solve our problems because the companies care about people more than governments. Or that your society can carry on polluting and consuming with reckless abandon as an exercise of your God-given freedom to enjoy "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness". The prospects of our planet sustaining human life in two generations be damned!
That's living. The American Way.
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