To arm pilots or not to arm—that is, apparently, an even more important question than the debate over whether or not we should allow unions, seniority rules, and affirmative action to hamstring every new effort to preserve national security.  George Bush wants a free hand with the unions, but his administration doesn’t want airline pilots to be armed.  Why?  Pilots have another job to do.  But so do most people who carry a gun.  Even policemen spend very little time shooting criminals or defending themselves.

The pilots themselves, for the most part, would like to be armed—and who can blame them?  These are men—most of them former military officers—who are trusted everyday to fly planes worth millions of dollars and to guarantee the safety of hundreds of passengers.  Who better to trust with a firearm?

The simple answer is that the government does not want anyone to be able to defend himself.  This is not because of any sinister plot; it is in the nature of bureaucracy to assume that people are helpless (and more than a little depraved).  As a man and a Texan, President Bush probably likes both guns and the people who like guns, but as a public official, he cannot escape the prejudice (shared by the big-city police chiefs and sheriffs, who are now, for the most part, bureaucrats rather than lawmen) that the people are cattle: They are helpless as individuals, but, en masse, they are all too likely to stampede and cause destruction.

As everyone with at least half a brain knows, guns have never been a root cause of American violence.  The Wild West, as historian Roger D. McGrath has shown, was peaceful in comparison with big Eastern cities, both then and now.  The problem is deracinated people, divorced from community, kinfolk, and religion.  Americans, for the most part, are not a violent people.  If certain ethnic minorities are excluded from crime statistics, the United States is hardly more violent than Scotland.

The Balkans has become proverbial for violence, and yet, before the breakup of Yugoslavia, a visitor was safer in Belgrade or Sarajevo than he was in Des Moines.  Traveling several times in Montenegro, I have watched, in the Podgorica airport, as tall, rough-looking Montenegrins in business suits surrendered their firearms before going through the metal detectors.  The guns were stored on the plane and returned to their owners when they arrived at the Belgrade airport.  One evening, I saw enough guns in the airport to have staged a coup in Panama, but since Montenegrins typically do not shoot for no reason, this is nothing to worry about, so long as you have not double-crossed someone in a smuggling deal, seduced his wife, or killed his cousin.

Even the wildest Montenegrin has a Christian respect for innocent life.  This is what divides them from Muslims, in and out of the Balkans, and from the American officials who wage war on civilians rather than send troops into battle.  Last month in Saudi Arabia, several high-school girls, trying to escape from a burning building but lacking the proper headgear that indicates their subhuman status, were forced back in by Saudi police to die a horrible death.  These Saudis apparently would rather kill their women than treat them as human beings.  These are the people we are not allowed to prevent from entering the United States or to profile ethnically as potential terrorists.

But if profiling were allowed, who would do it, and who would stop the Islamic terrorists at the border?  Agents of the same government that bombed the Serbs, inflicted two million civilian casualties in Iraq through an economic blockade, and is now planning to give the Iraqis a second dose of ultimate revenge?

Christians are truly caught between a rock and a hard place.  We wish only to be allowed to defend ourselves and our way of life, but we are being threatened by determined Christian-hating enemies in the Muslim world and by an increasingly dangerous Christian-hating regime that wants us to inform on one another, turn in our guns, and let them refuse to defend us in planes, trains, and automobiles.  Since resistance, as the aliens say, is futile, the only sane response is to make the best of life where you live it and to prepare mentally for the much worse times to come.