Sunday, April 06, 2008

Ben Hur, RIP

I found out moments ago that Charlton Heston died yesterday at the age of 84 (the same age my father was when he died late last year). He contributed his stereotypical-great-man face to some of the most watchable movies, including (obviously) Ben Hur and the underrated El Cid (one of the most sincere and dignified of movie epics), and the now-classic Touch of Evil. And then there was Soylent Green, one of the first statements of the shrieky environmental hysteria that now pierces the collective eardrums.

In 1998, well beyond the age when most men retire, he was elected President of the NRA, and began another career. Then he made one of his greatest contributions: he helped explain to people that liberty includes the right to possess dangerous weapons, that freedom means the right to be dangerous.

Alright, I know that sounds nutty, but look at it this way. Just admit that you have no right to be dangerous and you will soon have no rights worth having. Freedom of speech itself would surely have to go. No handgun could ever do the damage done by the words of a Hitler or a Marx. The human brain itself is proving to be an incredibly dangerous force.

Now that Nazism and Communism have had wooden stakes pounded through their hearts, the greatest threat to freedom is probably the mirage of security, the foolish hope to be made safe against everything. Just as humans are developing new ways to be dangerous to each other, they are at the same time -- perhaps it is no coincidence -- also yearning more and more for a Total Security State, for a Nanny State.

Heston's brilliant strategy, if strategy it was, was to go straight to the heart of this issue, and occupy the one position from which you can't be dislodged through your own contradictions. He declared the right to be a threat.
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