A. Citizen: On Liberty
Liberty: We Americans tend to bandy this word about with little concern for what it means. And we love to use words like “freedom” and “individual rights” when we talk about liberty. And talk about “Founding Fathers” and “Sacrifice” and the “American Way” when we beat our chests and compare our ways with others in the world.
And that’s all well and good. We are the best country in the world. We came into the 20th century as the savior of the free world. Everyone wanted to be an American.
But something happened in between saving the free world from Fascism and Communism and today’s American. We lost one of our words. We lost our “responsibility.”
The wave of violence that has overtaken our nation is nothing new. We are a violent people born from a violent past. George Washington did not lead a sit-in near Lord Cornwallis’ headquarters of the King’s Army – he and his fellow patriots took up arms and led a bloody revolt against the sitting government.
Gun violence has been a part of our culture as long as there has been an American culture. What seems to have changed in the last several years is the American response to violence. We used to be a people of “responsibility” the word that seems to have been lost from our American lexicon. Maybe it’s the changing lens of history.
As we have left behind our personal responsibility, we have asked others to enforce that responsibility. We have imprisoned people at an ever increasing rate. In 1970, 0.16 percent of the adult population (112,362 inmates for a census population of 92,228,496) of the United States was in prison. By 2010, that had changed to 0.52 percent of the population (1,612,395 inmates for a census population of 308,745,538).
Have we become what Jefferson described in 1814 when he wrote “it is said man can not be trusted with the government of himself. Can he, then, be trusted with the government of others?”
All of which brings me to our current dilemma: Gun violence. In the wake of the murder of Christopher Lane, the Australian baseball player, people are clamoring for “gun control laws.” Lane was murdered by three teenagers claiming that they were bored. I contend that the focus is all wrong. We are a people who have lost our sense of responsibility. Whether the tragedy is bored teenagers shooting an innocent college athlete, or drunk driving, or corporate embezzlement, the root of our problem is personal responsibility. The solution is increasing our sense of personal responsibility, not creating a myriad of laws to govern behavior. With our freedoms come responsibility. The freedom guaranteed by the Constitution to keep and bear arms carries the responsibility for our actions with the firearm.
“Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.” (Franklin 1787)
America, where is your virtue? Where is your responsibility? If we can not find our virtue and responsibility, I fear that we will become servants of a government master. And we will deserve it.
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