Public relations–wise, the gun-control movement could hardly have a worse champion than CNN’s Piers Morgan. He’s haughty, he’s self-righteous, and, worst of all, he’s foreign. For the Second Amendment freaks who see Barack Obama as suspiciously un-American, his government as potentially tyrannical, and themselves as heirs to the gun toters who shot their way to liberty at Lexington and Concord, what better foil than a modern-day gun confiscator who actually is English. For years, American conservatives have been calling American liberals wannabe Europeans. Now, with America witnessing its nastiest culture-war skirmish since Bill Clinton’s impeachment, the man helping to lead the liberal charge really does hail from that socialist dystopia across the pond. No wonder more than 100,000 Americans have called for his deportation to the land of Neville Chamberlain and King George III.
And yet, when I watch Piers Morgan these days, I smile. It’s not because Morgan’s views on guns are correct, although I think they are. Or because his arguments are especially clever. What I love about Morgan is precisely what the gun enthusiasts hate: his foreignness. When American liberals discuss their fellow citizens’ love affair with guns, they often strain to show cultural sensitivity, either because they know it’s politically necessary or because they don’t want to sound like foreigners in their own land. Thus, they pledge fealty to the Second Amendment (even if they think it’s an absurd anachronism) and vow never to infringe on the rights of hunters (even if they consider shooting ducks both idiotic and gross). Not Morgan. When denouncing America’s gun culture, he generally sounds both astonished and appalled, like a missionary who has just been told that the natives he’s been sent to civilize periodically barbecue their wives….
I like the fact that, as an outsider, Morgan has not been desensitized to America’s gun mania in the way so many of us natives have. I like the fact that he thinks Americans can actually learn from the rest of the world. And most of all, I like the fact that Americans are getting to see, night after night on TV, what it’s like to be judged by the rest of the planet. It’s not fun, but we’d better get used to it.