I have wrestled over whether to feature Pulitzer Prize winning playwright ( author, screenwriter, director, teacher) David Mamet’s recent essay in what is left of Newsweek on Ethics Alarms. The essay is at least 50% political/ideological, maybe more, and I try, often unsuccessfully, to keep the ethical analysis of political events as separate as possible from the political analysis—some would argue not hard enough, and not well. I also don’t agree with a lot of his piece, but that’s the least important factor. I decided that the essay, titled “Gun Laws and the Fools of Chelm” belongs here because I know, from his plays, his screenplays and his essays, that Mamet is driven by a pursuit of ethical thought and action, and it is a theme underlying most of what he writes. He is also a vivid and expressive writer, one of the very best alive, in my view. Mamet is blisteringly smart as well. That doesn’t mean he is always right—he is, after all, a conservative, and in the prevailing view that puts his presumed brain capacity somewhere between Hulk Hogan and Todd Akin—but he is always thoughtful, and to those few with open minds and good reading comprehension, potentially persuasive and necessarily enlightening.
Mamet’s essay is relevant to current events, of course, due to the sweeping gun ownership restrictions being proposed by Sen. Diane Feinstein, and the hysterical over-reaction to the Newtown tragedy, fanned by a shameless media and demagogues of all stripes that cleared the way for it. I’ve written plenty about all that already, alas not as well as David Mamet could. I am less alarmed at the prospect of Feinstein’s effort succeeding (because it won’t) than I am at what its sudden leap to the fore of Obama Administration priorities indicates beyond question: these people really have no intention of taking any serious, responsible and courageous efforts to address the debt and deficit. To only slightly paraphrase the excitable Matt Hooper in “Jaws” speaking to the pusillanimous mayor of Amity, I think that I am now familiar with the fact that our current leaders are going to ignore this particular problem until it swims up and bites us on the ass. This is unconscionable, incompetent, weak and despicable…but I digress.
The money quote in Mamet’s essay, I think, is this:
“Disarmament rests on the assumption that all people are good, and, basically, want the same things. But if all people were basically good, why would we, increasingly, pass more and more elaborate laws? The individual is not only best qualified to provide his own personal defense, he is the only one qualified to do so: and his right to do so is guaranteed by the Constitution.”
What ever your thoughts are regarding gun control policies, you should read Mr. Mamet’s essay, and you can, here.
Graphic: All Music