America’s ideological landscape is like the continent itself: transected by deep fault-lines at the irregular boundaries of rigid plates. Though crushed tightly together, these great masses seek to move in different directions, and so they strain relentlessly against one another. The pressure builds, and builds — until, sooner or later, it must release itself in a destructive convulsion. In the weeks following the Newtown massacre, it has suddenly become clear that one of these fault-lines is under particularly dangerous stress.
Since Newtown, gun sales have rocketed as Americans, anticipating severe restrictions, rush to arm themselves while they still can. It seems that their concerns are amply justified, as executives prepare to act at the state and local level: New York’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, is expected to announce major new gun-control initiatives in his State of the State address tonight, and Joe Biden today hinted darkly about “executive orders” from the White House.
In announcing Biden’s remarks today, Matt Drudge provocatively accompanied his banner headline with photographs of Hitler and Stalin:
To those on one side of the fault-line, this is paranoid, inflammatory hysteria. To the rest of us, however, it is a reminder that the most profligate killers in modern history have not been private citizens, but their governments. As Hitler explained: “History teaches that all conquerors who have allowed their subject races to carry arms have prepared their own downfall by doing so.”
A great many Americans are keenly aware of this, as were the nation’s founders. They consider themselves not subjects, but free citizens of a republic of their own making. They will consent, within limits, to be governed, but they will not be ruled. And they will not surrender their arms.
The plates press and moan and grumble. The water in the wells is rising, and muddy. Dogs and cats fidget restlessly. Farm animals are balky and skittish. Migraines are up sharply, and radios are on the fritz.