Dutch cartoonist Arend Van Dam presents the gun controversy with a touch of "O wad some power the giftie gie us."
I realize there is a popular definition of patriotism that involves not caring what anybody thinks of us, but self-confidence and arrogance are really two different things, and, while the former is a very healthy thing, the latter is one of ugliest of the Seven Deadly Sins.
And it does matter what others think. Years ago, standup comedian John Wing described Canadians as "unarmed Americans with health coverage," and noted that nobody's mad at Canada.
"You never hear a Shiite in the Middle East saying 'Canada! Canada is Satan!' because we're not. We're Satan's little neighbor."
Though I guess he said "neighbour."
Which sums up both our international image and the curious fact that a gun in this country will cost you less than a colonoscopy, even if you have half-decent health insurance.
What's more concerning than what people in other countries think of us is what we think of ourselves. You hear people say we have the best health care system in the world.
Sure. It's in mint condition, like Cameron's dad's car in "Ferris Beuller." Low mileage, permanently garaged, we're not allowed to touch it.
American: The 1961 Ferrari 250GT California. Less than a hundred were made. My father spent three years restoring this car. It is his love, it is his passion.
To which a superpatriot would respond, "They get good health care because we developed it and so we must pay the necessary cost of all that R&D."
Which is to say, we're smart enough to develop all this great technology and pharmacology, but too stupid to set an appropriate price for it and so are forced to cover our own losses.
Not an explanation that boosts our national image.
Meanwhile, on the "War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength" front, we're told that safety and freedom require armed guards in every elementary school, because the alternative would be taking the same sensible precautions taken in countries where they don't need to post armed guards in every elementary school.
And we accept this explanation, because we've been assured that we're the best.
"Alpha children wear grey They work much harder than we do, because they're so frightfully clever. I'm really awfuly glad I'm a Beta, because I don't work so hard. And then we are much better than the Gammas and Deltas. Gammas are stupid. They all wear green, and Delta children wear khaki. Oh no, I don't want to play with Delta children. And Epsilons are still worse. They're too stupid to be able …"
We've now moved beyond any semblence of rational argument, to the point where the NRA honestly compares the security issues around the First Family to those of an average person and pronounces the Obamas to be elitist for accepting Secret Service protection.
To the point where any restrictions become "gun-grabbing" and, in fact, the NRA began refuting the recommendations of Obama's panel before they had even been announced.
(Disclosure: I don't agree with every recommendation. But I came to that conclusion after their release, not before.)
You have to wonder, at what point do people step up and recognize that they are being manipulated, that when a madman in China attacks children with a knife and a madman in America attacks children with a gun on the same day, the moral of the story is not that people without guns will use knives.
The moral of the story is that every one of those children in China is alive today.
Every one of them.
When is enough enough?
At what point does Van Dam's cartoon become prophecy?
And will responsible gun owners stand up and become part of the solution, instead of remaining silent and being part of the problem? As in any popular movement, as in any transformative moment, he who is not with me is against me, and silence implies allegiance to the status quo.
Little darling, it's been a long, cold, lonely winter. And it's getting lonelier out here on the limb.