Liberalism is not at fault for making David Mamet into a brain-dead liberal before his epiphany a few years ago. If one considers himself, with or without jest, to be a “brain-dead liberal” it’s only a matter of time before he refuses to be one at some point. Good for him. We should appreciate people who refuse to become products of their environment and I’m sure Mamet put some serious reading and thinking into his decision.
It doesn’t seem that he put a lot of thinking into his recent article, in which he demands the government to get its hands off his guns. Mamet’s biggest beef with the government is that he thinks it decides what one “needs”. “Where in the Constitution is it written that the Government is in charge of determining “needs”? – he ponders.
The Government routinely decides our needs and deprives us of many things: we can’t smoke in public places; we can’t drive a car without a license; we can’t go out and buy plutonium at a drug store. Why does a government decide that we don’t “need” plutonium and that we “need” a driver’s license? What is the more probable reason the government acts in this manner – emerging tyranny or public safety concerns? Spectacular leaps of logic can befall even a brilliant playwright like Mamet, as demonstrated in this passage about the government: “One-size-fits-all,” and that size determined by the State has a name, and that name is “slavery.” Slavery?! US Government, however inefficient and bureaucratic, is a democratically elected body. Does Mamet suggest on how to improve it? No, he compares its approach to slavery and complains about its “one-size-fits-all” method in determining citizens’ needs. If it is “one-size-fits-all” approach that grates Mamet the most, then he should be equally indignant of the NRA, an unelected lobbying group, whose “one-size-fits-all” solution to gun violence – more guns in private hands – Mamet apparently approves of.
Surely, the playwright like David Mamet knows a thing or two about human nature. “We human beings, in the mass, are no damned good—that we are biddable, easily confused, and that we may easily be motivated by a Politician, which is to say, a huckster, mounting a soapbox and inflaming our passions.” Agreed! But then can’t we be equally inflamed and misled by inscrutable lobbying groups? And furthermore, if we’re so fallible shouldn’t Mamet at least pause before endorsing unregulated gun ownership? Shouldn’t he at least give a tepid support to mental and criminal background checks? He’s strangely defeatist on this: “The country is broke. Do we actually want another agency staffed by bureaucrats for whom there is no funding?”
He praises the constitutional checks and balances: “It was to guard us against this inevitable decay of government that the Constitution was written. Its purpose was and is not to enthrone a Government superior to an imperfect and confused electorate, but to protect us from such a government”, and yet he never abandons his defiant tone. Wouldn’t the very brilliance of the US Constitution prevent the Government from coming for his guns? Either the Constitution is brilliant in its division of powers, or the President is king who’s coming to take the guns – but not both.
People who support gun control are not liberal sissies. They just want to go about their daily life focusing on important things – families, jobs, businesses – without looking over their shoulder, without expecting the worst, without fending off criminals on their own. They decided that to delegate the security measures to the professionals on public payroll is more convenient than worrying about it on an individual level. But it is not an “either/or” proposition, as many gun advocates pretend to believe. Delegating security to the state doesn’t deprive individuals from owning guns (yes, because of the 2nd amendment). There are more than 300 million guns in private possession today. US government has to operate in that grey area between the 2nd Amendment and the duty to protect its citizens. Why doesn’t Mamet attempt to explore the cures for the government inefficiencies that he complains about, but instead pretends to be a victim of government overreach? Is he prevented from getting a gun? Is his local school board prevented from getting a security guard? Our alternatives are not limited to completely deprive citizens of guns or to permit unrestricted access to all. Our options are something in between, and I’m beginning to think that fervent gun rights supporters like Mamet and Wayne LaPierre do not want to explore those because they are lazy at best, or willfully dishonest at worst. We know that they view the world in absolutes. LaPierre sees the world in black and white: “Good guys with a gun vs. Bad guys with a gun”, Mamet sees the world in black: “Humans are bad”. The concept of “social contract” does not resonate with such a worldview. So they both come to conclusion that more unchecked guns is the solution.
I think I understand why Mamet abandoned his liberal stance a few years ago. It’s possible that after living on the liberal fringes his entire life, observing the Prius driving tree-huggers, the vegans, the Palestine loving “self-hating” Jews, he realized that he’s not one of them. But before exploring the number of possible alternatives – one can eat meat, drive a BMW, support Israel and still be a liberal – he jumped right into the depths of conservatism that deals in mirror opposite concepts. It’s like he didn’t realize that the political middle even exists. In his attempt to ablute himself off that abominable Hollywood liberal stain he, like a fresh religious convert, is trying very hard to prove his conservative bona fides to the fringes in his new home.
Someone please tell David Mamet that there’s a vast grey area between brain-dead liberalism and brain-dead conservatism and, perhaps, he should give it a look.