Sunday, February 10, 2013

A Minor Musing About Fear And Normativity

Over at The Madville Times, PNR offers the following bit of wisdom: It's always easy to say my fears are realistic and yours aren't."

He's speaking about South Dakota's proposed school pistolier bill and other gun laws. Although I am positive that some bean counter buried deep within the catacombs of some insurance company can provide a statistical certainty that additional guns in school increase the risk of innocents being killed, PNR rightfully asserts likelihood of a school shooter or a sanctioned pistolier in South Dakota killing someone are relatively small.

If one goes a level deeper, the real fear is that cherished norms may soon be violated. Professor Terry Eagleton in After Theory presents one of my favorite analyses of normativity:
It is a mistake, however, to believe that norms are always restrictive.  In fact it is a crass Romantic delusion.  It is normative in our kind of society that people do not throw themselves with a hoarse cry on total strangers and amputate their legs.  It is conventional that child murderers are punished, that working men and women may withdraw their labour, and that ambulances speeding to a traffic accident should not be impeded just for the hell of it.  Anyone who fells oppressed by all this must be seriously oversensitive.  Only an intellectual who has overdosed on abstraction could be dim enough to imagine that whatever bends a norm is potentially radical.Eagleton, AfterTheory 15
A similar norm would be that first graders are not to be shot in cold blood. I had always believed that norm provided the reason that guns stayed out of a school building. For as long as I can remember, those who wanted to hunt after school locked their guns in their vehicle before coming inside.

Further, I had always thought it a norm that the freedoms enshrined in the Bill of Rights had a few limits. One cannot shout fire in a crowded theater if there's no fire. The longer the school pistolier bill discussion goes on the more I'm beginning to believe that the bill's supporters don't see any limits to the second amendment except the size of one's wallet. In short, the only thing preventing one from owning a predator drone is the damned drone is expensive.

Perhaps I've lived in my own personal echo chamber. I don't recall ever having a discussion with anyone about the priorities within the Bill of Rights, but threats to Amendments 1, 9, 4, 5, 6, and 8 worry me far more that real or perceived threats to Amendment 2. (For the record, I have never seriously thought about Amendment 3 and probably couldn't state its subject if I hadn't just looked it up. For the curious but lazy, it forbids housing soldiers in citizens' home without the citizen's consent.) I have also always believed that one should not sacrifice one of the enshrined freedoms to preserve another

I'm guessing here, but it seems that my concern that putting guns in school irrevocably removes an essential norm may be similar to the concerns that opponents of gay marriage or opponents or legalizing marijuana or opponents of a fence across border the express: sanctioning gay marriage, legalizing marijuana, or building that fence somehow irrevocably violates a norm. Hence, the heat generated behind each issue.

Perhaps the discussion needs to move beyond guns, gay marriage, marijuana legalization or whatever the hot button issue is; instead, the discussion should begin by asking what norms should govern our living together.

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