Op-Ed: California - Living Proof of the Slippery Slope of Rational Apathy

by C. D. Michel

"It started with a coffee date. Now I'm married with kids. How the heck did that happen?"

How indeed? Life sneaks up on us. Change occurs in tiny increments. Before you know it, the order of life has been inverted.

It's the same with the law. Aristotle knew what he was talking about when he wrote "Jealously maintain...the spirit of obedience to law, more especially in small matters; for transgression creeps in unperceived and at last ruins the state, just as the constant recurrence of small expenses in time eats up a fortune."

The California slippery slope of anti-freedom legislation – whatever the political agenda – has been a model for the rest of the nation. This is the ceaseless, incremental strategy of the California gun control movement that continues to this day. On gun control, thankfully, the rest of the nation has mostly failed to follow. But here in the Golden State, the Golden Rule of gun control has always been to swipe freedoms one small step at a time. Over, and over, and over again.

The "slippery slope" is legal jargon for the decline of a rule or law once exceptions are made. It matters not if it is religious law, the Bill of Rights, or even the rules you make for yourself – the first step is one tiny “exception.” Pass a law that chisels one corner off a right, and after a while another politician will want to lob off another corner. Soon, the cherished right ceases to exist – death of your right by incremental steps. California is now the poster child for gun control's inevitable civil rights mud slide into history's open grave.

Boiling Frogs in the Waters of Rational Apathy

Politicians love the piecemeal-dismemberment-of-your-rights strategy, because it works – unless met with blunt political force. Take the words of former Stockton, California Mayor Barbara Fass, who rallied for the state's "assault weapon" ban. "I think you have to do it a step at a time and I think that is what the NRA is most concerned about, is that it will happen one very small step at a time, so that by the time people have 'woken up' to what's happened, it's gone farther than what they feel the consensus of American citizens would be. But it does have to go one step at a time and the beginning is the banning of semi-assault military weapons."

Ponder the evil of that politicians' tactic for a moment. She publicly stated that in order to eventually pass laws that are not in the "consensus of American citizens," her ideological crew would have to enact one seemingly less controversial law first, then another, then another. She has an end game that goes beyond a subset of rifles. She admits that whatever her end objective is, it cannot be accomplished based on a candid policy debate with an informed citizenry because she already knows that it is not what the American people want. But she's smarter than us, and knows what we should want I suppose. So instead of being aboveboard, she swings one hammer at one chisel to knock one corner off your Second Amendment rights. How do you argue the merits of a particular proposal with politicians, when the proposal isn't really what they are proposing today?

Pathetically, this is a time dishonored California political tradition; appealing to the "rational apathy" of the public. Rational apathy is a simple concept: In this mad, hurried world of ours, most folks have apathy toward what is perceived as minor. If you do not own a so-called "assault weapon" then you are apathetic toward banning them because the perceived threat is small or the topic is too detailed to invest time in learning. Thus you may buy a politician's story – echoed by a non-critical media – about the criminal danger of "military assault weapons." You are not apathetic about freedom; you simply do not have the bandwidth to understand or appreciate why you should care at the moment. Politicians count on this.

Rational apathy is amplified by the human desire to belong, which often entails avoiding the appearance of being an extremist or just petty. If you have ever been to a San Francisco cocktail party (which may be a redundant phrase) and found yourself with the lone center-right political opinion, odds are you didn't speak up. The need to not be socially repugnant is basic sociability. This is why the very word "extremist" is lobbed ferociously in political squabbling. It is akin to calling someone racist, a label which by its very definition paints someone as outside social norms.

Click here to read the entire op-ed.

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