Guest Editorial by Brad Linaweaver: Without Kryptonite
By Brad Linaweaver
J. Neil Schulman and I have had similar careers as libertarian science fiction writers. We won some of the same awards. We wrote for the first Agorist publication, New Libertarian. We spent a lot of time in Hollywood.
So it was no surprise back in the nineties that both of us would attend a media event in Santa Monica, The Coalition Against PBS Censorship.
Neil and I have been remembering that event because of a firestorm started by Dr. Ben Carson in the wake of murders committed by a madman named Mercer in Oregon. Before Carson inadvertently lit today’s media fire, I witnessed Neil do much the same thing at the PBS event.
So, let’s set the controls in the nearest TARDIS and take a trip down the timeline. The most memorable aspect of the PBS event was the host.
Christopher Reeve was yet to have his terrible accident. He was every bit the actor we all believed was Superman. But not even super powers helped with the unenviable task of keeping everyone polite and good natured in a gathering certain to provoke controversy.
My contribution to civil discourse was avoiding contact with David Horowitz, someone I’ve always disliked for bringing SDS tactics to the American right. He was the only celebrity I went out of my way to avoid.
The stars were in alignment for me that day. I had the honor of meeting Reeve, instead. I was introduced to him as a libertarian. I’ll never forget what he said:
“You want to combine the NRA with the ACLU.”
It was a brilliant insight from an intelligent liberal. It was an insight beyond many of today’s liberals and conservatives. I was impressed.
My good luck continued. Naturally, I wanted to discuss movies with Chris Reeve, however briefly. Naturally, the last thing he wanted was another chat about Superman.
But I had recently seen a comedy with Reeve, Noises Off. That was the film I mentioned. Turned out it was one of his favorite films in which he had participated. We talked about it for several minutes. What actor can resist a good movie about the perils of live theater? Things went so well that I joked about not taking out the kryptonite I was keeping in a lead lined pocket.
A wonderful encounter.
Neither of us could know that by the anniversary of the PBS event, the following year, Chris Reeve would have been completely disabled for the rest of his life after being thrown by a horse. If I had known, I wouldn’t have made the joke about kryptonite. But in the context of the meeting, where there would soon be a controversy about speeding bullets, Superman might be objective about a weapon that could not harm him.
Neil made a difference at the event.
As libertarians, Neil and I are for the Bill of Rights, not just the First Amendment which was the cause for the meeting. Neil and I have always noticed that the Founding Fathers put a lot of thought into which rights they stressed right at the start.
So, it was not surprising that the Second Amendment would come up. I was the least surprised person at the event after Reeve made his insightful remark to me.
As Carson found out recently, Neil discovered that it was weirdly unpopular to make a common sense observation about how an unpopular minority with guns can stand off a dangerous majority. As a writer of alternate history stories, I did not find anything controversial about Neil’s suggestion then, or Carson’s suggestion now, that if the Jews inside the Third Reich had been well armed and fought the Nazis inside Germany then history might have taken a different direction.
At the very least, internal resistance at that level would have thrown off Hitler’s timetable for the war. Imagine if instead of using howitzers against a civilian population in Poland, Hitler had done that inside his own country. The world would have noticed.
After all, the world noticed the Warsaw Ghetto uprising in the history that actually happened.
Alas, most people don’t want to think about such things. Many people booed Neil at the PBS event. Chris Reeve defended Neil. After all, the event was about free speech!!!
After the dust settled, Ron Silver shook Neil’s hand and thanked him for his courage. Neil thanked Reeve for what he did. Not everyone booed, just far too many.
Why is it controversial to recognize that it’s better to die on your feet with a gun in your hand than being rounded up like sheep?
J. Neil Schulman and Ben Carson are vilified for what should not be controversial.
Except it is controversial.
That’s the problem.
Inside my fevered brain, libertarian thoughts were clawing at my feeble hold on sanity during Neil’s travails at the Coalition Against PBS Censorship.
I thought about the usefulness of guns in private hands during the Hungarian uprising in the fifties. The Soviets had to bring in tanks. The world noticed.
Then I thought about guns in private hands during the Prague Spring in the sixties. The Soviets brought the tanks Into Czechoslovakia. Again, the world noticed.
But then a particularly libertarian thought clawed and clawed until it got my attention. It was a “what if,” as Neil had asked a “what if”!
What if Japanese Americans had been better armed than they were, and put up resistance in Roosevelt’s America as the Jews might have put up resistance in Hitler’s Germany? After all, the Nisei had as little to do with Pearl Harbor as the German Jews had to do with calumnies Hitler was trying to put on them.
It could be argued that the Nisei were not being sent to death camps, but they had no way of knowing that. As was the case with Jews in the Reich, the Japanese Americans were having property and money stolen at the point of a gun, and were being marched off to relocation camps.
Years after the PBS event, but before 9-11, a magazine published by Jessie Lilley ran the first installment of a series I was doing about movie censorship. The magazine was Worldly Remains. (Amusingly enough, Jessie later became the editor of Mondo Cult, on which I’m the publisher.)
The series was “Unconditional Surrender,” and the first installment was about how American movies were censored in World War Two. A lot of it had to do with how Japs (and I’m using the word deliberately) were portrayed in American films as the enemy race, the way Jews were portrayed as the enemy race in German films.
When writing the article for WR, perhaps I was flashing back to that PBS event where Neil argued for human rights.
Would most of the Nisei have been killed if they tried to defend themselves against FDR? Or would they have caught the conscience of a country still reeling from Pearl Harbor? Now that we live in an America after 9-11, these questions are probably Thought Crimes.
I don’t pretend to know.
But individuals have a Natural Law right to self defense, regardless of victory or defeat.
There is one thing I know for certain.
Sometimes America needs Superman.