The Evil that Men Do

When I was about nine my mother's church took a group of us boys up to the snow. We could all hear the downshifts on the bus ride down the mountain. One of the other boys, whose family ran a trucking business, told the rest of us that the driver was missing shifts. Knowing no better and trusting his familial link, I proudly announced to the whole bus sometime later the number of “missed” shifts committed by the driver. Immediately I knew I had embarrassed myself from the scathing looks of the adults. Not only was I ignorant of the subject, but I had presented myself as an authority.

Yesterday morning one of the guys on my team, a U.S. citizen, held forth on how “Americans are violent gun-nuts”. He informed us that the U.S. would be less violent if we just got rid of all the guns like other “civilized” nations. It is obvious from both his logic and his delivery that he considers it an immutable truth that firearms are evil. Not just bad according to some criterion, but actually a physical manifestation of evil. Hence, no firearms, no evil. His opinion was not moved at all when I mentioned that knives have similar lethality to firearms or that firearms allow the physically weak to defend themselves against the physically, but not morally, strong. Nor, I was assured, is culture at all related to the number of violent crimes.

I find this especially ironic. I was sitting at most five feet from him. In the past he has admitted that he does no physical exercise, vigorous or otherwise, let alone training. But I do and, if I decided to do him grievous harm, I most likely could without much trouble at all. If he fled, I could catch him. If he fought, I could strike or grapple with him. I say this not out of braggadocio but to make a point. There are always people that can physically destroy you and more often than not you are without police protection when such people attack. I suspect that he would not be so proud to be without defensive tools if he was sitting five feet away from a murderer.

Personal possession and use of weapons is a complex public policy issue that each society must decide on its own. I do not insist that everyone agree with my views on the issue. I must admit that I feel that the opinions of someone who has not been in combat (civilian or military) have little weight for me. Humans have been killing each other for eons, long before the invention of firearms. Having been through it gives one a visceral appreciation for humanity's capacity for evil that can not be duplicated.

It is just like my having an opinion on abortion but not really knowing what I am talking about because I have never been through it. In order for me to be an authority, I would have to do a hell of a lot of research to make up for the lack of experience. So, because I have neither the experience nor the research to back up my opinions, I keep them to myself.

Because I would rather not again be the guy that makes an ass of himself by assuming authority on a subject about which he knows nothing.

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