Obama’s Greatest Frustration–and Ours

The timing of this presidential comment was obviously fortuitous, but still sadly apt:

President Barack Obama has admitted that his failure to pass “common sense gun safety laws” in the US is the greatest frustration of his presidency.

In an interview with the BBC, Mr Obama said it was “distressing” not to have made progress on the issue “even in the face of repeated mass killings.”

He vowed to keep trying, but the BBC’s North America editor Jon Sopel said the president did not sound very confident.

Any British audience would be puzzled by this phenomenon, but then the Brits aren’t exactly freedom-loving, are they?

Well, actually they are, as are people in a lot of other advanced countries where there’s no expectation of any right to set oneself up as a private army.

And that gets to one of the roots of the ideology of “American exceptionalism.” If you compare the U.S. to other nations where there are reasonably solid traditions of self-government, respect for law, and democratic accountability, in what respect do we enjoy more “liberty?” When people tearfully sing along with Lee Greenwood’s “I’m proud to be an American,” what do they mean when they say “at least I know I’m free,” as compared, say, to a Canadian? The only thing readily identifiable is our unique freedom to pack heat. And so long as that is thought to be integral to American identity, and protected by powerful and wealthy interest groups, including maybe one-and-a-half major political parties, then efforts to take the most reasonable steps to keep guns out of the hands of potential shooters will continue to be “frustrated.”

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.