Barbarous Ancestors

by Sam Melden

“I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions, but laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.” - Thomas Jefferson

While in DC last week I got up early one day and took off for a quiet run. It was to explore the mall by myself, and take in the different monuments without the pressure of moving along with the rest of a group. It worked out perfectly. I loved the MLK & FDR monuments. I stood where Dr. King stood when he stood in that symbolic shadow. It was really cool.

But before that, the first monument I found, was Jefferson’s. I ran up the steps with no one in sight. And as I walked around that enormous statue, reading the inscriptions I found this quote. This was just under one week after the Orlando shooting. It struck me that while I was taking this picture, our entire country was dusting off their 2nd Amendment entitlements and loading their freedom arguments.

Think about that quote. The man who wrote the Declaration of Independence was open to the fact that as we evolve, and as things change the very rules that make up our society should change as well. It was quite a moment. The pillars of this monument standing tall and strong, and yet in that moment the words etched in stone lead me to a more progressive, adaptive understanding of the world and how to continue to form this great society of ours.

So please forgive me if I shrug off your 2nd Amendment argument. We aren’t talking about muskets and militias. We live in the day of the drone. If your government wants to come for you, your handgun won’t save you.

Please forgive me if I don’t buy into the myth of redemptive violence. I’m not dreaming of “good guys with guns” standing their ground.

As a society we grow, and evolve. We gain new understandings and new insights. And then we need leaders to stand up and hear the call. We need leaders who are willing to risk their political approval for the sake of the marginalized. The coat from our boyhood doesn’t fit anymore… time for something new.