In the original series of Star Trek, the episode “Obsession” presents the story of an otherworldly monster threatening the inhabited planets of the Federation. Captain Kirk believes this creature to be the same that attacked a ship on which he served as a lieutenant years before, killing that vessel’s captain and leaving emotional scars on Kirk. Spock and McCoy are concerned that their captain has an obsession about pursuing the alien monster. The episode echoes themes developed in Herman Melville’s Moby Dick.
Of course, Star Trek being a western set in space, Kirk’s obsession turns out to be for noble purposes, not mere revenge as with Captain Ahab, and the sheriff who rides a starship saves the day. And this version of the story, the purely heroic rather than tragic, is the model adopted by activists, those dedicated people on a quest, often oppressed from all sides but fighting for the good. (Cue “The Impossible Dream.”)
But what’s the difference between the quixotic knights errant whose motives are pure, even if their methods are crazy, and a tragic figure? Let’s recall what tragedy properly means. A tragedy is the story of a hero who through some personal flaw or error in judgement commits an act of hubris and comes to a bad end. In the ancient world, the tragic hero was a noble person, someone whose ultimate failure would cause pity in the audience. And in that portrayal, the difference was one of result rather than the nature of the hero. Oedipus runs away from his adoptive parents to avoid killing them and ends up causing the deaths of his birth parents and his own exile. Kirk pursues the killer of his mentor, thereby preventing millions of deaths. But both characters are good men at heart. By contrast, Shakespeare gives us the tragic hero of Iago in Othello, a man whose jealousy causes the loss or ruin of many lives. This should act as a warning to activists who too easily cast themselves in the role of the noble figure and not the depraved.
For example, consider an article published in the NRA’s website, America’s 1st Freedom, titled, “The Gun That Survived 9/11,” about a J-frame revolver carried by NYPD officer Walter Weaver when he entered the World Trade Center on the day of the terrorist attack. Weaver died while trying to save others, but his handgun was found in the rubble and donated to the NRA’s National Firearm Museum. These days, the word, hero, gets tossed about willy-nilly, but I can think of many worse illustrations than someone like Officer Weaver, and I can imagine worse ways to reach the end of one’s days.
And then we have a tweet from Shannon Watts, the mom of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. In case she discovers wisdom and deletes it, I quote it entirely here:
#NRA is celebrating a gun that “survived” the 9/11 attacks today. No really: #NotTheOnion #NeverForget http://tinyurl.com/ow6wex5 #gunsense
Go back and read the article about Weaver and his revolver. Its whole point is to honor a police officer who sacrificed his life trying to save others. It does not celebrate the gun. In its own way, this artifact in the NRA museum is a modern relic of a saint, something left behind that lets us connect with a moment of honor on a day of horror.
This snarky tweet that Watts sent out on a day when the good people of this country are remembering our fallen speaks volumes to me about what kind of activist she is. I doubt she will soon offer us the words that her spiritual ancestor Iago speaks as his last: “Demand me nothing. What you know, you know. From this time forth I never will speak word.” I don’t know what motivates her to work against rights. Perhaps this is yet another public relations gig for her, or she may genuinely believe in the righteousness of her cause. We each must answer for our own actions. She will continue speaking her demands, but we can choose to reject her obsession.
The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the position of Guns.com.