There’s talk – silly, absurd talk – of banning the private ownership of cars. Molon labe, baby! You can have my Yukon, my three-ton id, when you pry it from my cold dead hands. And you can forget the self-driving nonsense, too: up here where I live, you can’t see the lines on the road four months out of the year on account of the blowing snow. Good luck dealing with that, Google.
Ayn Rand, in one of her two major works of fiction (I’m going to go with Atlas Shrugged, but someone correct me if I’m wrong – it’s been almost 40 years since I read it) has her heroine wax rhapsodic (as if there’s any other way to wax) about the act of smoking. Dagney (or possibly Dominique) marvels at the flame held in obeisance inches from her, the spark of destruction so casually lashed into service for the pleasure of mankind. Never having been a smoker, and coming of age as I did during the first great anti-smoking crusades of the ’70s, I admit that the imagery was less compelling for me than it might have been for someone of my parents’ generation. But Dagney’s ruminations have remained with me, an oddly vivid example of our peculiar attraction to dangerous things – and to mastering them.
I like guns. I didn’t always: when I was a child, I was indifferent to them. Then I became a man, a lover of liberty, and an enthusiastic critic of the insipid and emasculating idea that safety comes first. Lots of things are ultimately more important than safety. Being able to credibly say “thus far, and no farther” is one of them; merely reaffirming that we have the right, the moral right and the legal right, to say that is another.
Safety is important, don’t get me wrong. But of all the parameters that define the human experience, safety isn’t the one we should seek to maximize. John Lennon’s “Imagine,” the most comprehensively evil song ever written, is an ode to safety above all else, the pathetic celebration of the apathy-induced coma. I’m glad Lennon never became a US citizen.
Living as an adult male – as opposed to an androgynous, pajama-clad, cocoa-sipping man-child – means spending years, decades even, standing precariously close to the edge of doing something stupid. (The life of a young man is a race between the rising arc of sensibility and the statistical certainty that, if we’re only given enough time, we’ll have our “hold my beer” moment and, if we’re lucky, the ER visit that goes with it.) That sometimes leads to tragedy, but most often to maturity, and there’s no path from baby to man that doesn’t, at least occasionally, tread close to a dangerous edge.
The best things in life are dangerous: freedom, love, faith, women, sex. Children – those raw nerves we thrust out into the world. Cars. Guns. Saying what you think.
Time to go. My son, the one who works at the gun shop, just arrived with a tee-shirt for me.