Gun control, religious freedom and the Constitution – a parable

After the tragic and sad events in Colorado this past weekend involving what appears to be unfettered access to weapons and ammunition that are inarguably above and beyond what is needed to hunt game, or protect oneself against an intruder or the threat of physical harm, the inevitable and predictable cries to protect the right to bear arms arise from the “right” side of the political spectrum.

I will be commenting on the ‘rights’ of the rest of us to go out into public and not be mowed down by a lunatic with a vendetta or a few loose screws who has his rights to purchase an arsenal protected more robustly than the rights the rest of us have to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness …

…but this is not that piece.

Today, I will share a parable, based on the story of a Fish who fancied himself a learned historian and general smarty-pants of major proportion. Mr. Big Fish had a reputation of being smart, but I suspect it was due more to the fact that he had travelled more extensively than any of the fish around him in his small remote pond, and that he had a position and a fishy sort of “presence” that other fishies deferred to automatically. I also suspect that he stumbled upon that collective “fishy-awe” and ran with it, never before experiencing what he clearly now believes; that he is “the smartest fish in his pond”. (it’s now legend, based on some of the espoused “wisdom” heard over the years, that prior to discovering the fawning-fishie-groupie-crowds, he was surrounded by many, MANY more intelligent fish, and always wanted to be like them, and couldn’t,…but I digress)

So here we go:

Mr. Big Fish was VERY happy being the “big fish in the small pond”, and being able to position himself as the authority on a topic of his choosing and proclaiming the “truth” as he knew it (having inhabited all sorts of other ponds throughout his swimming career) to all the little fishies who had never known anything beyond the small pond they swam in, and in which he now held court (and a little power, or at least the little fishies believed that he did).

The other little fishies would swim around him in awe, waiting for the next great bubble of wisdom to emerge from his big fish lips. They talked about Mr. Big Fish to others and among themselves, saying, “Mr. Big Fish knows all there is to know!” and everyone would swim in circles, blowing small bubbles in rapid agreement with the statement. On those occasions when Mr. Big Fish had some knowledge bubbles to release, he would swim over to a cluster of little fishies, puff himself up, smooth his big-fish tie with one fin and tell another big fish tale from a pond far away, and the little fishies would wiggle and giggle and say, “he’s the smartest fish we’ve ever known!” which made Mr. Big Fish puff up even bigger, and swim with a saunter, if that is possible.

One day, in the news beyond the pond, a report on Muslims, religion and religious freedom was the topic du jour, and a certain Ms. Odd-Fish was inhabiting a corner of the pond with Mr. Big Fish, as he was pronouncing (with certainty) that IF the founding fathers had known how prevalent that Islam would become, they would have never written the Constitution to protect all religions equally. Therefore, since “we know this,…” we don’t have to interpret the Constitution to protect the rights of Muslims the same way we need to protect the rights of Christians, who founded this country. [paraphrased]

Mr. Big Fish looked rather smug after announcing this in his “smartest fish in THIS pond” kind of way but just as he was smoothing that big-fish tie of his with his fin, Ms. Odd Fish did the unthinkable: she offered a counter to his pronouncement.

“Suppose we take that modern view of the Constitution,” she suggested with a few bubbles of her own, “and accept that, as you have mentioned, the founding fathers could not have possibly predicted the rise of Islam when they included religious freedom in the Constitution. Would you then consider that similarly, when crafting the 2nd Amendment while thinking of the need for each citizen to have the right to own the simple musket, that it is possible they could not have conceived of automatic weapons, the kind that can accommodate a 100-round magazine clip, and are capable of firing a shot every second? I wonder what they would have written if they could have predicted incidents like Virginia Tech, Columbine High School, Nickel Mines Amish Schoolhouse or the Batman movie premier?”

Mr. Big Fish looked at Ms. Odd-Fish for a minute, opening and closing his big-fish mouth so that bubbles came out, but no sounds. Then he said, “it’s not the same thing” and swam away, which Ms. Odd-Fish interpreted to mean that he wasn’t getting the wiggling and giggling his pronouncements usually elicited and realized that he was in serious danger of having to defend his pompous pronouncement with logic and fact, which would have been difficult, given the facts.

The moral of the story boils down to this: you can’t have your cake (interpret 1 part of the Constitution to suit you, using a 21st century lens), and eat it too (while insisting that the remaining parts of the Constitution cannot be interpreted through that same lens and must remain untouched by modern circumstances and reality).

~ The End

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