Monday, May 25, 2009

Citizenship: Pen Versus Sword


Remember this popular TV series?From the theme song, Paladin was portrayed as "a knight without armor in a savage land."
Not much has changed, has it?
Maybe, it has always been this way.
But now, in this age of Internet, all sorts of weapons and countermeasures are much more widely available.
And, not just to trained knights either!.
Was this weapon really mightier than the one shown below?Maybe before modern times, but not now.

How can a feather pen be a more effective weapon than a sword?
One reason is it can readily use a much broader field of engagement.
Another is it can recruit reinforcements, while enforcing fairer rules of engagement that invite public scrutiny.
Of course, there are no guarantees, but the potential is always there - despite tactics that deliberately obscure truth and serve mainly base or selfish purposes.

But, Paladin was always ready to use a gun in his work, and often did.
That's not a very liberal or progressive method for a do-gooder San Franciscan to employ, is it?
And, much more sophisticated weapons -including WMD- are still around, and sadly still necessary for enforcement of laws and civil conduct.
That's because there are still people who only understand the use of force.
That forces those who prefer to act more civilized and profess non-violence to continue to deal with this reality.

But, democracy doesn't rely too much on wishful thinking, alone.
It requires continuous hard work that never ends.
And, it allows Constitutional rights to continue to be available to all citizens.
That includes the right to bear arms, as was certainly necessary during our revolutionary times and periodically since.
So, the NRA and 'gun rights' advocates are within their rights, as are those who sincerely oppose firearms.

What should we do to resolve this conundrum?
Are current gun laws sufficient?
How can better enforcement be done?
After all, most laws are mainly enforced by the voluntary compliance of citizens.
For a less dramatic example, just look at the so-called 'landlord accountability' problem of nuisances in neighborhoods.
How could the City, or any municipality, ever ensure even near-total compliance?

I believe the only answer possible lies in consistently broadening 'the field of engagement', just as the pen can surpass the sword.
Citizen awareness, communication and cooperation are all important elements in today's society.
And, there really aren't any viable substitutes.
Laws and the threat of enforcement are needed as well, but the primary 'enforcement' is that of public awareness of undesirable practices, and the expectation of good behavior by all citizens.

What a bother!
Paying attention to all those people who use a pen instead of a sword seems a full time job, as it may be at times.
But, do you have another answer?
Think about it.
Sorting through the overwhelming mass of information that confronts us daily is an annoying and daunting job.
That means we have to work smarter, learn to prioritize, band together as neighbors, and expect government intervention only as a last resort at times.

Are you sorry our founders stuck us with this never ending task?
I'm not, although I am tempted!
The pay off comes when we avoid needing to call a 'Paladin'.
Those folks don't come free, and never did.
Plus, they never seem to really 'solve' the problem.
And, it is OUR problem, not someone else's.
No need to pay for gunslinger from out of town, if we do our jobs as citizens, is there?

As Thomas Jefferson said; "The price of freedom is eternal vigilance."
I think he meant it.

Have Gun Will Travel Theme Song

"Ballad of Paladin" by Johnny Western, Richard Boone, and Sam Rolfe
Performed by Johnny Western

Have Gun Will Travel reads the card of a man.
A knight without armor in a savage land.
His fast gun for hire head's the calling wind.
A soldier of fotune is the man called Paladin.

Paladin, Paladin Where do you roam?
Paladin, Paladin, Far, far from home.

He travels on to wherever he must;
A chess knight of silver is his badge of trust.
There are campfire legends that the plainsmen spin
Of the man with the gun,
of the man called Pa-l-l-l-l-a-din