To the editor:
In “A Study of History,” British historian Arnold J. Toynbee traced the development and decay of all of the major world civilizations in the historical record. Our civilization seems to be following that well-worn path. The current controversy about gun control is symptomatic of what is happening.
In many times and places in the past, violence was a hazard of daily life. Cities had to have walls around them. Travel was risky without an armed guard. Here in the U.S., stagecoaches had to have someone riding shotgun. Even railroad trains were robbed repeatedly.
Gradually, people learned to rely on collective action through government to get the situation under control. The establishment of rule of law, backed up by effective policing, made us much safer both at home and on the road than relying on individuals carrying arms. The march toward a more civilized society made life safer and more pleasant.
Now, we have the spectacle of many people promoting a return to the days when each person should depend on having a gun and being able to use it for his own safety.
The NRA proposes armed guards at every school. Witnesses at congressional hearings testify about the need for assault rifles in every home to be protect against marauders. Is that civilized?
It is ironic that we are destroying our own civilization, just as so many others have done before us. We are making the choices that are leading to our own demise.
We have discarded the financial regulations that led to decades of remarkably stable economic growth. We cling to an ineffective health care system. We waste thousands of American lives, trillions of dollars, and kill millions of foreigners in futile attempts to control what goes on elsewhere. We refuse to cooperate with the rest of the world in efforts to protect the environment, ban land mines, reduce international trafficking in small arms, and establish an International criminal court.
We tolerate a political system that has become dysfunctional. We support economic policies the concentrate wealth and power in the hands of the few and impoverish the rest.
What is there about advanced civilizations that causes us to self-destruct?
Gloucester and Exeter, N.H.