by Matthew Boose
Unmixed admiration is the only appropriate response to Jack Wilson’s heroic intervention to stop the deadly shooting last month at West Freeway Church of Christ in White Settlement, Texas. With a single bullet, Wilson saved countless lives in his congregation. While Wilson has been humble, Americans across the country have been inspired by his heroic actions.
Others, however, have sought to diminish the significance of what took place, insisting that it should do nothing to dissuade us from the necessity of disarming American citizens.
“It’s the job of law enforcement to have guns and decide when to shoot. You just do not want the average citizen carrying a gun in a crowded place,” former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in response to Wilson’s actions.
This is ugly. What does it mean when the first instinct of many people in power is to turn an act of pure heroism into an afterthought of a national policy “conversation?”
Something has gone wrong here. It seems some of America’s leaders not only have lost their sense of morality but also their ability to appreciate true bravery. Sadly, it’s not just people in charge who feel this way. Many citizens share this jaded mentality.
Many on the Left point out that Wilson was a trained specialist, that the “good guy with a gun” is the exception rather than the rule. More shameful, some have tried to insinuate a racial narrative where none existed by speculating about the name of the town, White Settlement, where the shooting occurred.
What about Wilson’s reaction? With true humility, the volunteer security guard said he was just doing his job. Speaking with the press later, he said he did what he had to do because “evil exists.”
“I don’t feel like I killed an individual. I feel like I killed evil,” Wilson said.
Does our country still believe the simple truth that evil exists? It’s worth asking because it appears that we have lost not only our ability to distinguish right from wrong, but also to distinguish virtuous people from those who warrant our scorn.
While diminishing real heroes like Wilson, our liberal society honors and uplifts people for the virtue of being “oppressed.” It rewards and encourages people to make rash decisions, to “shout their abortions” with reckless and callous abandon.
Having forgotten evil, we now call bad things good, and good things bad. Our standards for appraisal are all backward, and increasingly we are unable to honor true heroism when it appears.
Honoring heroes affirms that the nation is one and it affirms the characteristics we should honor. Clearly, our liberal society doesn’t have much respect for any “good guy with a gun,” probably because he’s an inconvenient figure, a reminder that the ideal of the liberal, managed society is not the only option for a free and decent America.
Wilson is a hero not just for his bravery but because he represents an American ideal with which we have lost touch, that of the self-reliant citizen who knows right from wrong.
Self-Government or Surveillance
At issue in the “good guy with a gun” debate is whether America wants to be a free country—one in which citizens can trust their neighbors and be trusted to exercise their constitutional rights for good, or one in which Americans are not capable of keeping order themselves without the constant surveillance and the intervention of the government.
This is the scenario our country is now in: people have a distinct fear of getting gunned down at random, but feel unable to do something about it short of pleading for state protection.
A happy society wouldn’t need government to perform surveillance as a substitute for the basic moral regulation that civil society is supposed to do on its own.
Not that long ago, we didn’t need it to. But rather than asking what has gone wrong with our country, our betters insist that the only solution is to surrender more of our civil liberties. They call this “courageous,” but there’s nothing brave about telling lawmakers to “do something.” Just the opposite—it is the height of capitulation.
The liberal, managed society doesn’t want or need heroes. To the contrary, what it needs is obedient, vulnerable, helpless serfs. It wants and encourages the citizenry to become immoral and broken. This worldview is deeply undemocratic, but it’s the future the Left wants. When you have less trust in your neighbors you will want government to keep a close eye on them. And who does that empower?
Therapy or Morals?
Just as we have opted for surveillance over virtue and self-government, our culture is now in the grip of the conviction that society needs therapy, not morals.
Evil, to the extent we can see it at all, isn’t something to be opposed but something built into modern life, a defect we blithely assume can be managed. There aren’t really evil people per se, only victims who need to be cured with the help of professionals.
The moral conviction of the many has given way to a blind belief in the “expertise” of an amoral few. These “experts” have inculcated in the American mind the idea that what is good is always whatever the bureaucratic “specialists” recommend and that their former common sense approach to good and evil is a relic of a mistaken past.
When the worst of people is established as a given, then bureaucratic solutions appear to be required to manage their impulses. It tolerates evil (women will get abortions anyway, so why make it illegal?), rather than opposing it.
Gun control, ostensibly an attempt to prevent violence by preventing access to the tools that are sometimes used to commit it, accepts a fundamentally warped state of affairs while slapping band-aids on a deeper gouge within society. Thus a moral crisis is treated like a public health problem, like polluted air or water. The “experts” tolerate this evil status quo, rather than wondering how we got here or seeking to steer society back to a place where we don’t need mass surveillance and disarmament to keep everything from falling apart.
Spokesmen for Evil Rather Than Heroes
Having forgotten evil, our leaders have become its spokesmen. They don’t show any curiosity or courage to correct course from our spiritual malaise. Politicians no longer pretend to care about preserving a good and moral society, but instead encourage Americans to surrender their freedoms, relinquish their self-reliance, and capitulate to a corrupted order in which government tutelage is a substitute for civilized life.
There is nothing democratic about any of this. A nation that is incurious about its own corruption can not long expect to remain sovereign.
Jack Wilson is a hero. He represents an American ideal, one that is still alive but fading fast. Politicians should be able to say that Wilson is a model citizen and leave it at that. In better times there would be no need to downplay a good story and insist on disarming the citizenry. We would acknowledge Wilson’s courage—real courage, not the “courage” to make lawmakers take away more of our freedoms, or the “courage” to revel in one’s own depravity.
We would recognize that evil exists and that when it appears, there’s no policy, or “plan,” or perfect law that will stop it. The only thing that can stop evil is good people—people like Wilson. Heroes like Wilson appeal to a sense of justice with which we have lost touch. Our country needs it now more than ever.
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Matthew Boose is a Mt. Vernon fellow of the Center for American Greatness and a staff writer and weekly columnist at the Conservative Institute.