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Guns, Soda, Liberty

July 26, 2012

En route to the Paris airport a week after Bastille Day, my cab driver asked if I’d heard what happened the night before in America. No, I said, I had been enjoying our last day in Paris. I had been eating the foie gras and the chewy bread, and drinking the wine. I had been crossing the bridges, gazing at the rooftops and listening to the accordion players. I had been strolling around the city and noticing – among other things — I saw no people bent over laptops in cafes. Mostly, people were talking to one another and watching other people walk by. Stores were closed at noon for two hours while everyone ate lunch, presumably together.

Well, my driver said, there was a big shooting in America. Why do you have so many big shootings? Here we have shootings, but not like that. A person shoots one or two people, and then they stop.

That sounds so reasonable, I said. As violence goes, it sounds almost civilized.

No French people are allowed to own guns, he said. I am glad of that.

In our country we allow people to own guns so they may protect their family and property from intruders, I said. In our country we are also allowed to buy and sell enormous soft drinks.

That is not good, he said. The large drink in our McDonald’s is the small in yours. Why?

I don’t know, I said. There are many things I don’t understand about my country.  Everyone is allowed to own guns and therefore many people are terrified. Everyone is allowed to eat or drink whatever they like, much of the food is unhealthy and many people are sick. And when they get sick, they must pay for it on their own. This is a lot of freedom.

New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has recently become notorious for taxing the sale of enormous soft drinks in his city, is now asking our presidential candidates what they will do to protect our citizens from the guns, by which they are presently outnumbered. The candidates are squirming.

Perhaps you have too much freedom, my cab driver said. I kind of wanted to tell him to turn around and take me back to Paris, but then again I like my country.

So we are about to return to our lives in America, where I will now and then worry whether to send my daughter to the cinema with her friends, about whether we both should enlist in target practice and purchase twin revolvers so as to defend ourselves from lunatics who may, on an ordinary day, waltz into our public space and open fire.

And I am wondering what the freedom to buy and sell enormous drinks and semi-automatic weapons has to do with liberty, in its strict sense. With the bemused cab driver I am wondering what freedom is worth without a sense of the whole.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. July 26, 2012 10:41 pm

    This latest has dredged up such strong emotion on every side. I will back off on hunting, though it is not my favorite thing. But I think the notion of “my gun is bigger than yours” for personal security is simply wrong. And the notion of freedom meaning “I can own or buy whatever I want to with no regulation” defies my understanding of government. I understand no excuse for a person to own a gun or ammunition more powerful than what is required for hunting. And my personal opinion is that guns in private homes only provide risk, and should not be allowed. I know that is not going to change, the NRA is too strong of a lobby. But can we not get together on assault rifles and 100-round clips?

  2. Christina root permalink
    July 27, 2012 3:46 am

    Every American needs a good drive with a French cad driver. What a difference a drive makes.

  3. Jan Baiden permalink
    July 27, 2012 6:04 pm

    I believe that in the same way we don’t have freedom to shoot each each other, we should should be taught the basics of healthy eating and strongly encouraged in every possible way not to harm ourselves and our children by eating foolishly – hooray for the tax on giant soft drinks!

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