Utopia, Pacifism, and Guns

By | 2017-06-02T18:30:05+00:00 March 3, 2018|
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Dennis Prager in a recent column examines the reasons the Left offers for derisively rejecting proposals to improve school safety by permitting teachers with firearms training to carry in the classroom. Prager points out that if claims like “we need fewer guns” and “even police officers fire inaccurately” were valid arguments against arming teachers, then they would also be valid arguments for disarming the police. He proceeds to show that, in its logical inconsistency, the Left follows its own consistent pattern of opposing armed resistance to any great evils, such as the Soviet Union, Iran, and Hamas. The title of Prager’s piece is “Why the Left Opposes Arming Teachers.”

All of Prager’s claims are factually accurate. But they do not provide an explanation of why the Left opposes arming teachers, or why, for that matter, it opposes Israeli retaliation against Hamas. The reason is important to know, and not obscure.

Those who align with the Left share a preference for a utopian society in which conflict, and above all violent conflict, is minimal if not entirely absent. I call this a preference because, while I doubt that many people really hold a concrete belief that such a society can ever exist, I am sure (because I know them, and used to be one myself) that many believe that they themselves are innocent of any temptation to violence and would flourish very well in the desired utopia were it ever somehow to arrive.

Thus, while these gentle personas are condemned to lives of continual disappointment amidst our fallen world, they accept a mission to demonstrate their superiority to their surroundings by affirming, when called upon by others of the utopian congregation, their personal commitment to the conflict-free society of the imagination. It’s all about themselves. This mission of advocating, not steps to improve the real world, but steps on a symbolic staircase toward an imaginary one, has recently acquired the label “virtue-signaling,” and the virtues signaled are those of the imaginary conflict- and violence-free utopia.

When such political narcissists think of guns they are drawn almost automatically into the role (I will not say the faith) of conscientious objectors for whom bearing arms for use against a fellow human, regardless of the circumstances, would itself make them guilty souls in the eyes of God. In the imaginary utopia that is their imaginary home, guns are unneeded and simply have no place. On the other hand, those in our country who do choose to own guns thereby mark themselves, by that choice alone, as completely alien to the utopian community; for utopians view a desire to defend oneself and one’s own not as prudent realism, but as ignorance, and symptomatic of an intellect too undeveloped to conceptualize and yearn for a day when self-defense is unnecessary.

With those benighted Yahoos (the Swiftian word for Deplorables) no civil dialogue is possible or acceptable—not possible because the benighted lack the mental equipment to understand utopia, not acceptable because the utopian cannot risk being seen socializing with Yahoos, lest he incur suspicion of a secret kinship with them.  

This scenario takes on heightened drama when acted out in schools, which even non-utopians like to imagine are in essence sheltered environments for the weak and innocent (undisturbed by bullies, sexting, drugs, or even competition), and where the native population of adults, teachers, posture before the public as indulgent rulers of a model community whose sole objective is universal beneficence. Saying, as American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten has, “Teachers don’t want to be armed, they want to teach,” isn’t like saying “Truck drivers don’t want to be armed, they want to move freight,” because teaching is special, one of the few ways of making a living whose practitioners are welcome in the imaginary utopia. Thus guns and their symbolism, foreign to the utopia, are also so foreign to the classroom that even gun-shaped pop-tarts in the hands of children may be subject to confiscation. So the mere thought of teachers bearing actual guns on their persons, for any reason whatsoever, effectively despoils teaching of its virtuous specialness. A utopian can’t be seen countenancing that, or even entertaining it for the purposes of public discussion.

It’s entirely true, as Prager says, that the Left (whom I’d rather call Utopians) won’t take up arms against evil enemies, or even raise a fist; nor will they allow others to do it on their behalf. But the reason isn’t usually that they harbor sympathy for the evil (although a minority, the ideological Marxists, sometimes do).  It’s that they consider the world’s conflicts to be in themselves a greater evil for which they, as Utopians, bear no responsibility and by which they wish to remain uncontaminated. What disturbs them about guns—including toy guns—is not that they are unsafe and perhaps need to be made safer, but that they are impurities forbidden to Utopian hands and minds, and thus entirely beyond the scope of a dialogue with moral inferiors about mere practicalities.

The arguments they condescend to make in public about banning only certain types of guns, arming only certain personnel, or selling only to those of a certain age, are all disingenuous, always. They hate the very idea of guns. That is why the Left opposes arming teachers.

About the Author:

Bruce Heiden
Bruce Heiden is professor of classics at The Ohio State University.