This was one of the lines in the film The Truman Show that I’ve always remembered. Christof spoke this line to explain why an ignorant Truman Burbank never questions his artificial reality (The Matrix had the same premise as well). It’s difficult for many of us to question our own realities. It’s especially difficult for Americans to think that we can live in a world with less guns.
It’s been engrained in our heads that guns are patriotic and owning a gun makes a person more American. We think it’s a vital part of the American culture. Granted, I really don’t blame Americans for thinking guns are part of the American culture. It’s one of the few items that the Constitution explicitly says we can have. Not even education, marriage, or privacy is explicitly written into the Constitution. But the Founding Fathers went out of there way to say something about bearing arms.
While I’ll save the majority of the historical and legal arguments against the expansion of gun rights in the U.S. for later, I think many of us Americans can’t contemplate a country with less guns. A society with less guns is a society that is less American, many of us think. We believe it’s a natural right because somebody told us so–somebody that lived over 200 years ago said it’s a natural right. And many of us don’t question that.
We’ve accepted the reality of the world with which we are presented…by a few lawyers that lived over 200 years ago. We’ve simply taken a law written by fallible humans and apotheosized it. We’ve taken the 2nd amendment and made it God’s infallible law because we think it’s a natural right. Do you know who said it was a natural right? Do you know what natural rights are?
I’m not simply being contrarian and say the Founding Fathers were completely wrong. They got many laws right, but that doesn’t make them perfect. They knew that. They knew they could be wrong eventually. Heck, they got the first constitution of the United States wrong. Remember the Articles of Confederation? It was so bad, they trashed it. They wrote a whole new constitution that included an amendment process. The Founding Fathers essentially said to future generations, “This is a good start. Make sure you make it better.” This is what the Founding Fathers meant by a forming a more perfect Union in the preamble of the Constitution.
Thanks to the amendment process, we’ve changed the Constitution to keep it up with the times. We amended the Constitution to end slavery, to expand citizenship to all races, and to enfranchise women. For much of our history, Americans accepted and wholly endorsed slavery, racial discrimination, and gender inequality. The Americans that lived during this time accepted the reality that was presented to them. Change and progress happened when people chose to question the reality and suggest that it’s possible to live a society where people of color and women could be socially and legally accepted.
I dare you to question your reality. Altering your reality can feel uncertain. It’s not easy. It takes courage and sacrifice. Will you choose to make progress in our society for a perfect Union or stick to the status quo? Can you accept a reality where owning guns isn’t a natural right, but an earned privileged?