Our leaders would receive full collaboration from sinners like me in creating their gun-free world if they would do one simple thing.
My position on firearms is ready to evolve. Like a decaying chrysalis about to yield a butterfly, my warped pessimism has rotted away to the point that it may yield a sparkling, winged ideal at any moment. I await but a single cosmic trigger-event—I’m sorry, I mean “catalytic occurrence”—before I confess my sins and announce my conversion; and I look east to Washington, D.C., in hope of this glorious dawn.
That event is the personal renunciation of wicked gun culture by all members of our government—emphasis on the word “personal”.
The Houses of Congress must not be guarded by armed officers. Not a single bullet must be found on the premises of the Senate. The White House itself must be utterly purged of any tincture of saltpeter. Security details may practice judo and karate, and they may even carry nightsticks and handcuffs (but not, I think, knives). Under no circumstances whatever, though, may federal agents or private watchdogs carry any sort of explosive weapon: rifle, carbine, handgun (revolver or automatic), grenade, bazooka, mortar, or blunderbuss. If there are colonial muskets mounted over some hearth where our government does its sacred work, then these must be checked to ensure their non-functionality. Cannons on the lawns must be purely ornamental. For good measure, bronze statues of Minutemen with long-rifles in readiness should be tastefully updated: their manly facsimiles might be recast to hold fishing poles, longbows, or perhaps shelalaghs.
It goes without saying that individual legislators should never, ever carry a concealed weapon even when away from D.C. (which, of course, will become the premier and blueprint Gun-Free Zone). These people are our leaders. They are our beacons to a brighter future, our lighthouses to the harbor of humanity, our flame taken from under the bushel to illuminate Heaven’s gate. We dull sinners with scale-covered eyes cry out for their higher truths, their greater vision. What an unspeakable calamity it would be for the progress of the human race if those who know so much more than we—and know it so much better—should be unmasked as mere despicable frauds, hypocrites, imposters, charlatans, mountebanks, and confidence-artists! Think of the cynical backlash! How many hundreds or thousands of innocent lives would thereafter be lost because a struggling humanity, feeling itself deceived in the high idealism of its prophets and saints, had backslid into depravity!
Gandhi would do it—he would abstain from gun-toting. Gandhi never wore a gun or surrounded himself with armed guards. Socrates was willing to drink hemlock even though his friends arranged for him to leave Athens secretly: he would put his life on the line, without doubt. Christ would do it, too—he told Peter to sheathe his sword. Even though our elected luminaries realize that Christ was just a fiction, they will concede that the historical Jesus, that Gandhi of the Jews, had virtually sought out crucifixion in order to make a point.
When I was a boy, I distinctly recall that Buddhist monks were setting themselves on fire on South Vietnam in order to impress upon the public eye their despair and indignation. I do not ask that our congress-persons do the same: I ask only that they accept a mild risk of immolation.
And what, after all, is so very bad about such a fate—about being shot, that is, in martyrdom to create a world without shootings? President Lincoln’s apotheosis would never have been accomplished without his assassination. He presided over a civil war which cost his nation around three quarters of a million lives, and he did so in violation of a Constitution which he swore to uphold. His putative quest to free slaves only produced the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 (a timeline suggestive of a strategy to undermine morale within the South, whose slaves were sometimes fighting side by side with their masters). Yet this most lethal of American presidents (until, at any rate, Wilson and FDR manipulated their people into entering European wars) has become the darling of propagandists up to and including the masters of the twenty-first century Hollywood machine.
If death in the good cause can so impress us all, I repeat, then why will our legislators not offer us one or two deaths so that we may be rid of firearms forever? Gandhi stopped British trains in South Africa by instructing his followers to join him in lying on the tracks. Are our elected angels of mercy so devoid of moral courage that they cannot muster this much resolution? Gabby Giffords offered herself to the assassin’s bullet without flinching—for she must surely have known that staging a person-to-person, open-air event without any bodyguards in one of the most crime-ridden sectors of the country would place her at high risk. Yet she persevered. Where is her equal in this class of representatives? Where are the other Gandhis?
I will even go so far as to cast the issue in these terms. Every child who dies henceforth in a shooting should lie heavily upon the conscience of every representative, from the White House on down to the most humble freshman congressman, who does not publicly pledge a commitment to going unarmed and unattended by armed guards. Only martyrdom can be the midwife to this brave new world in which we shall all live in utter safety. Gandhi brought the British Empire to its knees by starving himself. Socrates forever undermined the totemism and tribalism of Athenian religious practice by drinking hemlock. Jesus forever loosened the hold of atavistic legalism upon the individual conscience by surrendering himself to the Cross. Lift up your hearts, inspired leaders! Yoke us to the future’s easy burden with your example! All men and women on this earth must die tomorrow or the next day, if not today: no one escapes mortality. What more glorious end, then, than to write the final chapter of one’s life in words that will transform the future in the direction of the only heaven we postmodern progressives can ever know?
Do that, and I’ll beat my guns into yogurt cups. I await your response, O Supreme Beacons of the Better Way!