This week, 86-year-old singer Tony Bennett sounded off on gun control. “I just believe that assault weapons – they were invented for war. They shouldn’t be on our streets here.” This, in and of itself, would be no surprise; virtually everyone in Hollywood is anti-gun control. But then Bennett went off the rails:
This is the kind of [turn] that happened to the great country of Germany, where the Nazis came over, created tragic things, and they had to be told off. And if we continue this kind of violence and accept it in our country, the rest of the world is going to take care of us in a very bad way. We should learn that we’re the greatest country because we’re all different nationalities, different religions, and we should show the rest of the world how to behave.
This is obviously faulty history. The Nazis didn’t rise to power thanks to an armed population. They secured their power at least in part thanks to a disarmed population. The Weimar government passed gun registration and licensing for all guns in 1928. And the Nazis were the purveyors of mass violence, not the result of it.
Bennett should know better than this. After all, he served in the infantry; he was drafted in November 1944, and was a replacement in the 255th Infantry Regiment of the 63rd Infantry Division, serving in France and Germany. He served in battle, including house-to-house fighting in Germany; he was there for the liberation of the Landsberg concentration camp.
But Bennett became a pacifist after the war, writing, “The main thing I got out of my military experience was the realization that I am completely opposed to war. Every war is insane, no matter where it is or what it’s about. Fighting is the lowest form of human behavior.” Now, America thanks Bennett for his service. But this is an infantile representation of the way the world works. Civilized people abhor war. But uncivilized people often use that abhorrence to push their barbarity, counting on civilized people to shy away from conflict.
Nonetheless, that simplistic take on good and evil surprisingly characterizes many in the Greatest Generation who were too anxious to accommodate children who were flower power advocates in the 1960s. Henry Fonda, who enlisted in the Navy during World War II because he didn’t “want to be in a fake war in a studio,” gave way to Jane Fonda, who would travel to Vietnam to do photo ops with the Viet Cong.
Now that Panglossian attitude toward war and peace has infused the gun control debate. The notion that America is great because of her diversity,as Tony Bennett seems to say, not because of the freedoms guaranteed to each American by God – freedoms protected by the citizenry itself – is a vision of the universe that cannot stand the test of time. Diversity rests on rule of law. And rule of law rests on rights. And rights rest on the American people’s ability to protect their lives, liberties, and pursuit of happiness.
Some people just don’t get it. The Jimmy Stewarts and John Waynes of the world are gone. In their place, we have the world according to Tony Bennett.
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