Freedoms Lost

Your Papers, Citizen

Gun Control and the Changing American Character

By Fred Reed

A staple of  American self-esteem is that we Yanks are brave, free, independent, self-reliant,  ruggedly individual, and disinclined to accept abuse from anyone. This was largely  true in, say, 1930. People lived, a great many of them, on farms where they  planted their own crops, built their own barns, repaired their own trucks, and  protected their own property. They were literate but not educated, knew little  of the world beyond the local, but in their homes and fields they were supreme.

If they  wanted to swim buck nekkid in the creek, they swam buck nekkid. If whistle pigs  were eating the corn, the family teenager would get his rifle and solve the  problem. Government left them alone.

Even in the  early Sixties, in rural King George County, Virginia, where I grew up, it was  still mostly true. The country people built their own boats to crab in the  Potomac, converted junked car engines to marine, made their own crab pots, planted  corn and such, and hunted deer. There was very little contact with the  government. One state trooper was the law, and he had precious little to do.

I say the  following not as an old codger painting his youth in roseate hues that never  were, but as serious sociology: We kids could get up on a summer morning, grab  the .22 or .410, put it over our shoulder and go into the country store for  ammunition, and no one looked twice. We could go by night to the dump to snap-shoot  rats, and no one cared. We could get our fishing poles—I preferred a spinning  reel and bait-casting tackle—and fish anywhere we pleased on Machodoc Creek or  the Potomac. We could drive unwisely but joyously on winding wooded roads late  at night and nobody cared.

Call it “freedom.”  We were free, and so were the country folk on their farms and with their  crabbing rigs. Because we were free, we felt free.  It was a distinct psychology, though we didn’t  know it.

Things then  changed. The country increasingly urbanized. So much for rugged.

It became ever  more a nation of employees. As Walmart and shopping centers and factories moved  in, the farmers sold their land to real-estate developers at what they thought  mind-boggling prices, and went to work as security guards and truck drivers. Employees  are not free. They fear the boss, fear dismissal, and become prisoners of the  retirement system.  So much for Marlboro  Man.

Self-reliance  went. Few any longer can fix a car or the plumbing, grow food, hunt, bait a  hook or install a new roof. Or defend themselves. To overstate barely, everyone  depends on someone else, often the government, for everything. Thus we  becamethe Hive.

Government  came like a dust storm of fine choking powder, making its way into everything. You  could no longer build a shed without a half-dozen permits and inspections. You  couldn’t swim without a lifeguard, couldn’t use your canoe without Coast-Guard  approved flotation devices and a card saying that you had taken an approved  course in how to canoe. Cops proliferated with speed traps. The government  began spying on email, requiring licenses and permits for everything, and  deciding what could and could not be taught to one’s children, who one had to  associate with, and what one could think about what or, more usually, whom.

With this  came feminization. The schools began to value feelings over learning anything. Dodge  ball and freeze tag became violence and heartless competition, giving way to cooperative  group activities led by a caring adult. The female preference for security over  freedom set in like a hard frost. We became afraid of second-hand smoke and  swimming pools with a deep end. As women got in touch with their inner  totalitarian, we began to outlaw large soft drinks and any word or expression  that might offend anyone.

Thus much of  the country morphed into helpless flowers, narcissistic, easily frightened, profoundly  ignorant video-game twiddlers and Facebook Argonauts. As every known poll  shows, even what purport to be college graduates do not know  who fought in World War One, or that there  was a Mexican-American war, or where Indochina is.

Serving as  little more than cubicle fodder, they could not survive a serious crisis like  the first Depression. And they look to the collective, the hive, for  protection. The notion of individual self-defense, whether with a fist or a Sig  9, is, you know, like scary, or, well, just wrong or macho or something. I  mean, if you find an intruder in your house at night, shouldn’t you, like, call  a caring adult?

The echoes  of the former America linger in commercials in commercials for pickup trucks  with throaty bass voices and footage of Toyotas powering through rough unsettled  country that almost no one ever even sees these days.  Mostly it’s just marketing to suburban  blossoms. The number of vehicles with four-wheel drive that have actually been  off a paved road is not high.

Many who  grew up in the former America, and a good many today in the South and west, substantially  adhere to the old values. They won’t last. We live in the day of the Hive, and in  the long run there is no point fighting it.

But for these  relics, who like to wind the Harley to a hundred-and-climbing on the big empty  roads out west, who throw the deer rifle in the gun rack on the first day of  the season, who set out into the High Desert for sheer love of sun and barren  rock and sprawling isolation—the terror of guns, of everything, makes no sense.

They—we—grew  up with guns. Since nobody ever shot anybody accidentally or otherwise, we  accepted as obvious: that people, not guns, committed murder. Did shotguns leap  into the air of their own volition, point themselves, and open fire? Or did  someone pull the trigger? If a murderer shot his victim, did you put the gun in  jail, or the murderer? If remote urban barbarians below the level of  civilization shot people, what did that have to do with us?

A different  America, a different culture. We really were free. You could come out of the  house on a summer morning and let the dogs run loose in the fields, nobody ever  having heard of a dog license. You could change the oil in your car or rewire your  basement without the county meddling. You could shoot varmints eating your  garden and no one cared. The government left you alone. This is not an unimportant  part of the dispute over guns—wanting to be left alone. Nobody in America, ever  again, is going to be left alone. Not ever.

source: fredoneverything


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *