This post definitely shifts gears from the musical-filled fun of last month’s post, but when I came across this timely and important article from The New Yorker, I felt that it needed to be shared. It may have been written three years ago, not long after the horrific shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Connecticut, but it is, unfortunately, just as relevant today as it was then.
To put it lightly, this year has been a tough one for many, many people. News media continues to report on tragedy after tragedy, and it seems like a shooting shatters a new community every few weeks. While some of these tragedies happen closer to home than others, all are equally devastating and serve as reminders of the alarming rates of violence and gun crimes.
As a Canadian, there are two aspects of American society that I will simply never understand: the opposition by many to universal health care, and the legality of guns. But now, in the horrendous wake of recent shootings and the build-up to November’s 2016 U.S. election, American gun policies are at the forefront of many social and political discourses, and many are demanding change. This is not to say that the Second Amendment hasn’t always been a contentious issue, but with two presidential nominees taking radically different stands on this issue, it is once again a divisive policy amongst American voters.
As students of history will know, America was proudly built on a Classical legacy and the traditions of ancient Rome. Intentional parallels between the United States and Republican Rome in government, law, and society are too numerous to mention here (let’s save that for another post), but this tradition has been a source of pride throughout American history. What The New Yorker article points out, however, is that American gun laws share no commonalities with Classical predecessors. In ‘How the Greeks Viewed Weapons,’ author Melissa Lane notes that the use of a weapon of war at home in civil society “would have shocked the ancient Greeks.
I’m not going to say much else about this, as Professor Lane’s eloquent expose needs no further substantiation. I’ll just end by noting the intersection, yet again, of modern society with ancient; America may look reverently at its Classical foundations, but it should make sure that it is aware of all that that entails. While Mr. Trump continues to insist that the right to bear arms and carry a concealed weapon is “a right, not a privilege,” the ancient Greeks would have disagreed on both of those fronts. In the Classical Greek world, it was never a right to carry a weapon amongst innocents at home, nor was it a privilege for a select few; carrying a weapon had a time and place, neither of which involved self-defence on the home front. “Let the laws rule alone. When weapons rule, they kill the law.”
featured illustration: Sergio Ruzzier, from ‘How the Greeks Viewed Weapons’