One of my favorite t-shirts.
Tonight, the Stanford-educated President of the National Rifle Association spoke in Kresge auditorium. The title of the speech, lovingly, was “Firearms in America Today Represent Freedom.” The flier for the event notes that the President, Sandy Froman, is the first Jewish and second female president of the NRA.
Diversity has made great strides.
Being mostly unfamiliar with the NRA but having watched the movie, Thank You for Smoking recently, I was expecting Froman to frame the issue as one of individual freedom and choice. She spoke for half an hour and, by my calculations, devoted all of five minutes to actually talking about guns. The rest of the speech was about freedom, and very generally so.
She’s probably aware that bringing up freedom in the context of guns, which are best known for killing people, seems a little strange. So, after first talking about how society oppresses us and forces us to conform and forfeit our right to free speech, she said, “You thought I’d be talking about guns. I’ll get to that.”
She got around to it almost 20 minutes into the speech, following her defense of Mel Gibson, Joe Biden, Trent Lott, critics of global warming, and anti-abortionists, all of whom have been muted by the, in her words, “thought police.” “By silencing those it doesn’t want to hear, [society is] silencing those we need to hear.”
So let’s hear it for guns. In fact, in addition to being useful for individual protection and sportsmanship, Froman also claims that guns are our best insurance policy against the “doomsday” scenario whereby our government turns autocratic and ceases to submit to elections. Failing to keep this insurance policy, she said, “is a mistake a free people get to make only once.”
Closing up her speech, Froman invoked the examples of Rosa Parks, Susan B. Anthony, and Martin Luther King, Jr., all of whom refused to be silenced by the thought police, whose latest “victim on YouTube” was Senator George Allen. Allen lost his re-election bid last year following some questionable comments.
None of what Froman said was very surprising. Perhaps the only thing that evoked mild surprise from me was when the audience (of about 70 or so people) booed the first student who stood up to ask a question that was critical of her. Froman told him that his question was a “statement, not a question,” but that she was “so glad to give everyone these opportunities” to speak out.
Interestingly, the booing crowd exemplified the very “thought police” she so strongly denounced in her talk at Kresge Auditorium tonight. They completely failed to heed her words on not forcing others to conform. But oddly enough for Stanford, they weren’t the same thought police that would have told people like Trent Lott and George Allen to sit down.
This talk will eventually make its way to Stanford on iTunes U.