My favorite reading is history. When living a couple of years in Illinois, I read more than ever about the Prairie President, Abraham Lincoln, and the years leading up to the Civil War. Right now I’m reading a biography about the sixth President, John Quincy Adams. Adams was the President who was the most outspoken opponent of slavery prior to Lincoln.
What strikes me while doing all of this reading about the “slavery” era of American history is — how it FEELS exactly like today! On the issue of slavery, progress seemed hopeless. Today — it’s the same on the issue of the “gun culture” in America. Progress seems hopeless.
A century ago, the impassioned opposition, the documenting of tragedies, the appeal to sanity – all that went into fighting the “slave culture” feels just the same as what’s going on today in opposing the “gun culture.”
Slavery in its day seemed unbeatable. The Southern bloc in Congress protecting the profits of plantation owners, the complicity of many Northern politicians like Lincoln’s frequent opponent Stephen Douglas, and the widespread racism in the land combined to block any advances.
The same type of obstructionism looms today: the pro-gun bloc in Congress protecting the profits of the weapons industry, the fright of even moderate politicians from opposing the National Rifle Association, the emotionalism felt by many across the land (“They’re going to take our guns away!”).
And the appeal by pro-slavery voices to “constitutional rights” sounds precisely like the pro-gun advocates, pleading their love of the Constitution.
The parallels would make us feel awfully depressed – except for a knowledge of – history!
Lincoln was certain that slavery eventually would collapse because of its inherent injustice. Robert E. Lee opposed the institution not because of some sentiment about equality but because he felt that slavery made white people cruel.
Lincoln proved right. The “slave culture” ended. What seemed unimaginable became reality.
It took a LOT: not only the Civil War and an amendment to the Constitution – and Abraham Lincoln ! – but another entire century for closing the loopholes finally with the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
But it happened. Today the institution is unthinkable as ever having existed. It remains an embarrassment for the nation.
On gun-control, I don’t think change will take so long in our time. Already a majority of the population is behind some types of legislation.
We need NOT ask, “Will something as insane as the gun culture in the USA and its powerful protectors ever change?” We need only ask – when.
How long will it take? At times it may seem never. If the mass murder of the kids at Newtown couldn’t bring about change, the further shootings at colleges don’t offer much more of a reason. Progress may seem never.
History, however, comes to the rescue. Something as seemingly hopeless as the end of slavery did occur. History assures us – change WILL happen. Injustice will collapse from its own weight.