Good shepherds

Two mass shootings in as many weeks have prompted the usual American impasse about the apparently intractable problem of guns.  Meanwhile just about everyone else in the world can see the solution. And it’s not the one proposed by the gun lobby: more guns. In fact it’s the opposite: fewer guns. Or, heck, how about just fewer assault rifles? That would be a good start. But the so-called second amendment rights of the gun nuts seem to trump the first amendment rights of, for example, the Sikhs. Their freedom to carry lethal weapons must not on any account be infringed by the right of their fellow citizens to live in peace and safety. “’Tis mad idolatry to make the service greater than the god,” Shakespeare has Hector say in Troilus and Cressida. The one that got me, though, was philosopher Isaiah Berlin’s line: “Freedom for the wolves is death to the lambs.” That equation had a bloody resonance this past month. 

It has another kind of resonance this week, with the announcement of Paul Ryan as Romney’s VP pick. Ryan’s notorious Budget proposal, that, according to the independent Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, would represent “the largest redistribution of income from the bottom to the top in modern U.S. history”, argues from a purely ideological (and Randian) stance that America would genuinely be better off if the wealthy got breaks and the poor got broken. Obama’s called it “thinly veiled Social Darwinism,” but it’s worse. It’s aiding the wolves, and tying down the lambs.