How not to learn from history

learn from historyBefore getting married three years ago, my wife and I attended Catholic pre-Cana class. The teacher eventually faced the unenviable but entirely predictable task of explaining to half a room of lapsed Catholics, brought up in a modern culture that finds Ke$ha’s existence not only entirely acceptable but also worth broadcasting over countless radio stations, why the Church has such antiquated beliefs on sexuality and birth control. After some intro on Humanae Vitae and Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, the teacher unleashed this simple yet profound rhetorical, “You ever notice how you only disagree with Church teaching when it conflicts with something you want to do?” Well, duh, but… hmmm.

The problem is inherent to human nature. We trust in wisdom until it inconveniences us. It is extremely difficult to get someone to believe something when it is against their financial interest to do so. A rationalization that suits our self-interest or gratifies our emotions will always be the most appealing option.

That thought came to mind when reading about Piers Morgan’s latest silliness, when he added on to the short-sighted suggestion that we should amend the Constitution to remove the Second Amendment with the asinine recommendation that we also “amend” the Bible to remove verses that hurt the cause of gay marriage.  Morgan called both manuscripts “inherently flawed”.

The know-it-all presumption is as familiar as it is grating.  The foundational texts of the world’s most successful and beneficial religion and government are “inherently flawed” based on the snap reaction of a television commentator? The ignorance of history is also disappointing, but it’s a natural extension of the incredible levels of peace, prosperity, and civil democratic government witnessed in the Western world over the last 70 years. People who have known nothing else but Pax Americana simply assume it will last forever, and therefore can’t imagine that guns might ever be a necessary defense against tyranny, or that redefining marriage could have a deleterious effect on society. No, their personal perspective based on an emotional response to pop culture of the last 10 years or tragic events of the last month should be the basis for civilized society. Consideration of historical precedent is mocked.

This is not a defense of thoughtless adherence to one interpretation of the Bible or a Constitution created by mere men in the face of contradictory evidence. But 1) gun control advocates are yet to offer convincing evidence for why their proposed restrictions would do more good than harm, and 2) learning from history is impossible if you are self-righteously ignorant towards its long reach, and don’t at least start with a general trust in the conventions of a society that has achieved unprecedented peace and prosperity. George Washington cited the necessity of a religious people for maintaining a republic of limited government. Likewise, robbing the American citizenry of their right to bear arms and defend themselves may cause further degradation to our unique and vital ethic of self-reliance.

David GregoryWhile Morgan’s act seems clearly designed to draw attention to himself and thus boost ratings, David Gregory’s theatrics were more obviously the case of an advocate assured of his own rightness versus an objective journalist. While Gregory’s brandishing of an illegal, high-capacity magazine has drawn most of the attention (Mark Steyn captures it best), his line of questioning against NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre was the greater offense. Gregory angrily went after LaPierre for not telling him what he wanted to hear, and insinuated LaPierre was a nut for not accepting the media’s current conventional wisdom that the act of an insane person quite obviously requires new freedom-curtailing legislation. The fact that LaPierre’s supposedly crazy “only a good guy with a gun stops a bad guy with a gun” mantra was validated by an attempted but thwarted mass shooting in San Antonio only two days after Newton was never brought up.

The most ironic moment came in response to LaPierre’s mention of parents calling him to tell him they feel safer with guns at their side, when Gregory furiously interjected, “A feeling is not a fact. That’s a reassurance, not evidence.” Right on, David. Just like a rushed “do something” bill proposed by Dianne Feinstein is a reassurance. And an emotional outburst by a Meet the Press host trying to show how much he cares is nothing but a feeling.

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