The Alabama State Senate seems poised to pass a bill that would drastically restrict the ability of local sheriffs to deny anyone in the state who is not an already-convicted felon the right to carry a concealed weapon. Every sheriff in the state opposes the bill, for reasons that, for most of us, are quite obvious. But the bill is likely to pass anyway.
Next door in my home state of Mississippi, a similar thing just happened. Outraged by New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s attempt to limit the serving sizes of sugary drinks, the state legislature recently passed a law saying that nowhere, anywhere, under any circumstances in the sovereign state of Mississippi can anyone for any reason restrict the serving size of a sugary drink.
What shall we call this phenomenon? No one has ever imagined, until now, that the right to own a gun was somehow under threat in Alabama. And no one has ever imagined, until now, that the right to consume huge containers of sugary drinks was somehow under threat in Mississippi. But in each state, lawmakers apparently feel the need to act preemptively, as it were – in one case, it seems, to strike a blow against something being done by a northern mayor who probably has never set foot in Mississippi and never will, and in the other case to strike a blow against the very idea that anyone, anywhere, for any reason would ever limit the right of anyone to carry around a concealed weapon.
The culture wars are a funny thing. They seem to fill people up with aggression that needs an outlet, and if there is nothing practically that can be done at the local level – if there is no locally available evil to take action against – then the thing to do, apparently, is to strike symbolic blows against evils that appear to be or might be occurring in far-distant climes, or evils that, in theory, might one day – who knows? – actually show up here at home. The culture wars are a funny thing.