Regardless of your interpretation of the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, you’ve got to love this sentence.
Certainly in today’s political landscape my student seems to be absolutely correct: we don’t seem to be able to address the issue of gun violence, or domestic terrorism, or even street fashion anymore without getting embroiled in the old “right to bear arms” debate (I use the word “debate,” but the reality is more and more like a brawl).
But what she has written here may be even more true than she intended.
In this blog I’ve commented on a number of student sentences where the writer seemed to be passive in a world of lively inanimate objects, and here’s another example.
Notice that the “right to bear arms” has some way of being involved. That crafty right, always finding a way of inserting itself into all sorts of situations where it wasn’t necessarily wanted. Maybe as a young person you knew a kid who always pushed his way into conversations, parties, conflicts, outings, clubs where he hadn’t been invited. He may have been lonely, or egotistical, or greedy, or needy, or just plain insensitive to social cues—whatever the reason, there he was, and he wouldn’t go away. He ruined a lot of good times: he overheard secrets, danced with girls who didn’t like him, ate too much cake, kissed up to the parental figure, sat in the best chair…. You did know a kid like that, didn’t you? And you didn’t like him, did you?
My student makes the “right to bear arms” exactly that kind of kid. Always involved with everything. You can’t get away from him. And he’s always been that way, that right, from the very beginning. From birth! Not even enough courtesy to sit back and observe, to “lurk,” and get the feel of the group before horning in. The rest of us are evidently powerless to make him behave, or make him leave. That piece of paper—or idea, or law—is in charge; we must sit passively by and let him have his way.
Well, some people do like the Second Amendment the way it’s written (absolute phrase and all, governing the independent clause in good English), and others like the way the majority on the Supreme Court has newly read it (who cares about those words hanging off the front of it?). Of course the way it’s written is in words, and some of those words are open to interpretation (what is meant by “arms”? is “bear” the same as “always carry,” or does it mean “carry and use in battle,” for instance? how about “well regulated militia”?); some people like one definition while others prefer another. And some people wish it weren’t there at all.
But I think most people would prefer that the right just sit there until called upon, or invited. My student sees it differently: we sit there, and the right pushes his way in. As I said at the beginning, she might be wiser than she knows.
August 21st, 2015 at 8:57 pm
Brawl is the correct word.
In a world where information is flashed instantly (for better or worse) and “get there first” is saddled with texting and tweeting’s limited spacing, words’ actual meanings are being lost. Hey, these writers probably would be happy with symbols or pictures for most communications. Those still open to interpretations and creativity – short form versions!
August 21st, 2015 at 10:49 pm
Right you are, Phil. And where does that leave those of us who love words, love ideas…? Alas—
August 22nd, 2015 at 2:23 pm
A bit concerned that ideas maybe getting nudged out with all the chanting, repetition, and framed questions to elicit a particular answer ( so the kids can feel proud they guessed the “correct” answer and not waste time exploring other possibilities and connecting information)
Ok learning techniques in moderation, but now in overdrive.
Really need a return to actually using critical thinking and analytical thinking starting in the very early grades…but it’s a great deal of work on the part of teachers.
August 22nd, 2015 at 8:25 am
I’m glad your student had such wonderful intuition in these affairs. Perhaps he will someday run for president.
August 28th, 2015 at 1:22 am
From the very beginning the right to bear arms has always had some way of being involved with everything