Liberal Dreams Of Gun Control Run Straight into Liberal Dreams Of Civil Liberty
Get out the meatballs, Mother, we’re coming to a fork in the road. The progressive road, that it. The latest spasm of violence featuring white loners and guns (as opposed to the never-ending scourge of black urban violence which never abates) has the guns-versus-psychiatry debate roiling again. And one of its sacred cows is going to be gored.
For the Left, gun bans have been the go-to response to the unexplainable cruelty of these murderers. Because they haven’t been able to revoke the Second Amendment the seize-the-guns folks continue to think better background checks will improve everything. (While completely ignoring what is causing the murder sprees in Chicago, Baltimore, St. Louis and more,)
But the psychiatry aspect is finally getting more attention. President Donald Trump said “mental illness” pulled the trigger in Dayton and El Paso. (Dayton’s Democrat mayor has already said she thinks it’s all about gun laws.) Are these simply mentally ill people, and are guns merely a tool? As part of this debate many are suggesting early identification of the mentally ill could be justification for rejecting legal gun purchases.
It’s touching that earnest types in government think they’ll get mentally ill people to forgo purchasing a gun when they can’t even get mentally ill people to not sleep on the sidewalks. Or they’ll sweep up all the guns in America when they can’t even get criminal aliens out of the country.
What they’ll discover is that earlier civil libertarian policies stand in the way of their well-meaning plans. President John F. Kennedy abolished mental institutions with The Community Mental Health Act of 1963. It replaced them with 1,500 community mental health centres to deal with the mentally ill people— who were released onto city streets where they now sleep on grates in the dead of winter.
Likewise, the idea of snitching on family, friends and colleagues to prevent their gun purchases will encounter civil libertarians. How would you feel if you were having tough patch in your life and your co-workers decided that you couldn’t own a gun or drive a car because you’re… mentally ill? Hello Soviet Union. I’m sure the ACLU would have no problems with this.
We talked about these conflicting liberal urges in our December 2015 column. “For many Boomers, Jack Nicholson’s performance as Randall McMurphy in the movie One Flew Over The Cukoo’s Nest was a seminal film moment of the 1970's. In the Milos Forman opus, Nicholson plays a free spirited drifter locked up in an asylum in the U.S. Pacific Northwest of the late 1950's. Expressing the human yearning for freedom, Nicholson leads his emotionally destroyed co-inmates in a bid for liberation from the regime of drugs and shock therapy applied by Nurse Ratched.
To liberal audiences in the ‘70's, Nicholson’s insouciant charm symbolized the fight against The Man in the era of Vietnam and Richard Nixon. Channeling R.D Laing’s psychiatric work, the film preached that adapting to the world’s cruelties, not rejecting them, is the real insanity. Watching the hapless inhabitants of the ward, we were meant to believe that locking up mentally unstable people is cruel and unusual punishment.
Certainly that was the take of the author of the 1962 book upon which the movie was based. Ken Kesey was an early hippy, an enthusiastic consumer of hallucinogenics and a precursor of the moral relativism about to sweep America culture in the 1970's.
What Coming Home did for the anti-war movement, Cuckoo’s Nest did for psychiatric revisionism in pop culture. It helped cement the campaign to reduce institutionalization for mental patients (which had been going on since the ‘60's). Where once they were housed in institutions such as Toronto’s 999 Queen Street West or the Douglas Hospital in Montreal, they were suddenly outpatients, free in the community.
Unfortunately, many ended up sleeping on subway grates or in alleys of major cities. Instead of the deadening boredom of psychiatric wards they were turning up dead of drug overdoses or predatory violence in the mean streets. All in the name of their civil rights — or “freedom” as Kesey saw it.
The irony of Nicholson’s performance is that the accepted liberal notion of the film was not the meaning its director Milos Forman had for the film. Forman saw the film as an allegory for a sane person living within an authoritarian state. In Forman’s case it was his take on the Soviet Union’s oppressive grip on his artistic freedom and on his native country of (then) Czechoslovakia.
The grip on speech that big-government progressives love to wield in their quest for a more-perfect state. Their calls for increased government regulations around hate speech and health care are precisely the opposite of what Forman intended in his critique of the over-bearing state. But good liberals never let the facts get in the way of a favourite narrative.”
Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy is the publisher of his website (http://www.notthepublicbroadcaster.com). He’s also a regular contributor to Sirius XM Canada Talks Ch. 167. A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada's top television sports broadcaster, he is also a best-selling author whose new book Cap In Hand: How Salary Caps Are Killing Pro Sports And Why The Free Market Could Save Them is now available on brucedowbigginbooks.ca