I’m starting to think this statement, “The screams of children have been edited out” is the perfect metaphor for modern America.
That’s the post.
Now this is a right wing message after my left wing heart!
Only it misses.
It’s a reference to Wounded Knee Massacre. which did in fact occur on December 29th, 1890. The rest of the account comes close to the truth.
Yet, the details of the story have been altered to suit the purposes of the gun rights lobby.
1: Referring to this as “the largest mass shooting in U.S. history” puts an odd spin on it. It is of course a mass shooting, in much the same sense that any other military operation (Whether it be a legitimate battle or an outright massacre) could be described as a “mass shooting.” Still, we don’t normally describe battles or even massacres carried out by the military as “mass shootings.” We use that phrase to describe the actions of people (usually civilians) acting on their own accord. Use of this phrasing is designed to bring this story in alignment with questions about civilian gun ownership rather than questions about military actions or the history of Indian-white relations. In effect, the author is inviting us to set aside the larger context of violence made possible, not only by government policy, but also a political economy hell-bent on predatory expansion and a U.S. population fully expecting to get everything Native Americans have in the end. Wounded Knee may be one of the worst of such stories, but none of these stories can be accurately compared to a seemingly random “mass shooting” carried out by civilians acting on their own.
I’m going to give the question as to whether or not this was “the largest” mass shooting a pass.
2: The timeline is over-simplified. The army did not first disarm the Lakota camp and then begin shooting, as this meme describes. The shooting broke out during the process of disarming the warriors. Certainly, a lot of the weapons had already been confiscated, but some Lakota still had weapons, and others may have been able to retrieve confiscated weapons in the early moments of the battle. By some accounts, Wounded Knee actually consists of a close quarter battle at the site of disarmament even as the army opened up with Hotchkiss guns on the women and children in the larger camp. Soldiers then proceeded to hunt down fleeing Lakota (men, and women, and children) long after any semblance of fighting wasover. (It also appears that some of the army’s own casualties were likely due to friendly fire. Seriously, …this was a clusterfuck!) Wounded Knee was certainly an atrocity, but it was not an atrocity that begins clearly AFTER the Lakota have been disarmed.
This is of course the central distortion of the narrative. It makes it possible to treat the massacre as a story of armed shooters and unarmed targets (thus conjuring the image of a “mass shooting” in the sense we see so often today). The resulting account not only ignores the weapons still in possession of Lakota; it also ignores the larger military context which made refusal to give up the weapons implausible. Once again, this was a military operation. The notion that Lakota could have simply refused to turn over their guns (as the author urges Americans to refuse themselves) is highly unrealistic.
Hell, it’s outright stupid!
3: The author tells us that America’s founding fathers saw fit to ensure that American citizens would be armed so as to prevent this sort of thing belies the relevance of this example to private gun ownership. Lakota were not U.S. Citizens at the time, and actual U.S. citizens (gun owners or not) were not exactly interested in helping them. There is nothing about the private gun ownership of American citizens which was ever going to stop this massacre from happening, and given the dynamics of actual war, it is highly unlikely that the private ownership of guns will make a difference in the event that officials in the U.S. government decides to attack a segment of its own citizenry will make any difference. You might get to shoot back. Those you shoot back at will be better armed than you.
This really is just one of many memes distorting history on behalf of the gun rights agenda. What’s particularly irritating about this one is the use of an atrocity carried out against Native Americans by a political lobby not known for supporting Native American rights. It’s cynical. It’s deceitful. And it’s pathetic.
If there is a case to be made for the right to own a gun, this is not it.
Mom always said that Dad’s nose would turn inside out whenever he told a lie. She didn’t mean a terrible lie, the kind you’d feel really bad about; she meant the kind of bullshit people sling around at their loved ones in the course of a regular day. Note quite a white lie, but not a serious deception either. That’s the kind of lie Mom was talking about, and yes, she was right. When Dad did that, you’d swear his nose was trying to turn inside out.
That’s one thing I remember about Dad.
Here is another!
It was often hard to get his attention. If he was watching television, for example, you could chatter away and he didn’t hear a word you said. You could ask him a question, tell him something, even something important, or otherwise make an effort to get his attention, all in vain. Short of shouting at the man, he simply didn’t hear you.
Yes, it could be damned frustrating!
Mom and Dad always said this was on account of Dad’s years as a helicopter pilot in the early air-ambulance operations of the military. He had also experienced plenty of other loud noises in the military, including at least one very loud noise (complements of the North Koreans) that would have killed him had he not tripped and fell flat on his face at just the right moment just a moment before it went off. In any event, Dad had heard a lot of loud noises back in the military, and this had left him with hearing loss, so if he wasn’t focused on you, he just didn’t hear what you had to say.
I grew up knowing this.
It was annoying, being ignored like that, but that was the cost of Dad’s service to his country.
Mostly on account of the helicopters.
In time, I came to experience hearing loss of my own. It set in at around 22 or 23 along with a nasty dose of tinnitus. I don’t think I slept for about 6 months. The ringing in my ears just wouldn’t let me sleep.
The hearing loss itself was all kinds of disorienting. I remember that I could no longer orient toward a sound. If someone called me from the left, I would turn to my right and wonder where the Hell they were? In a crowded room, I could no longer tune other people out to focus on the person I was talking to. (I still find that impossible.) Also, I got a quick lesson in how much I relied on my hearing during day to day activities. Once I began to cross the street and got a honk from an oncoming car behind me. That’s when I realized I was using the silence in place of actually looking to see if the street was clear, which was about as far from smart as it could possibly have been. I didn’t even realize I had been doing this until it was no longer an option.
In the years since, I have come to live with all these problems, all without an aid. Mostly, things re okay now. I keep some noise going at almost all times, but the tinnitus doesn’t bother me so much anymore. I just don’t notice it. I can hear most things that I need to. It’s a problem when my students are shy and don’t speak up; otherwise, my hearing loss doesn’t affect my classroom. My fiancé gets tired of repeating herself, but that’s not the worst of her frustrations with me. (She’ll live!) I reckon, some day I will get the aid, but for now, I am fine,
The story of my hearing loss is nowhere near as interesting as that of my Dad. The truth is, I don’t exactly know what did it. It might be a particular guitar note from Toni Iomi on the Black Sabbath “Born Again” tour (which is incidentally the inspiration for the Stonehenge sequence in Spinal Tap). I always wore ear protection to concerts, but not that evening. I’m not sure why, but I decided to rawdog the sounds that night only to find Iomi’s guitar impossibly loud and high pitched. Still, I was enjoying the show when he hit one particular note that filled me with pain all the way to my toes. That might have done it! Still, that had been a few years before my hearing loss set in. More recently, I had been listening to Jimi Hendrix on earphones. That might have done it. Or perhaps it was all the shooting I did as a kid, all without hearing protection, at least until I joined a gun club, only to begin assaulting my ears once again with heavy met in my freshman year of high school. I really just don’t know how much any one of these could have contributed to my hearing loss. Any or all of these are good candidates for an explanation.
I also know that my own story of hearing loss doesn’t hold a candle to my Dad’s. My stories are stories of self-indulgence. His are stories of service to his country.
In any event, it was Dad who took me to get my hearing checked. I had aged out of coverage on his own military insurance the year before, but none of us knew it at the time. We thought that was how we would pay for the inevitable hearing aid. At the time, I really couldn’t imagine going forward without some help, so off to the hearing doctors I went.
The technician at the testing center didn’t tell me much, except that I had lost some hearing in my left ear. I was to take this information back to my doctor who would decide where to go from there.
On a lark, my Dad decided to take the test himself. He came back fine. Had the hearing of a young man or so the technician described it.
It wasn’t until hours later, that it finally dawned on me.
“He Dad, didn’t you used to say that your hearing had been damaged from your years as a helicopter pilot? Back when you used to ignore us while watching television? You always said it was because you couldn’t hear us.”
Dad didn’t say a word.
But his nose turned totally inside out.
The notion that gun control was the key to Hitler’s tyranny (and in particular to the holocaust) has become a standard talking point among gun rights activists. To say that this is utter and complete bullshit is an insult to bullshit, which somehow ought to be accorded more dignity than this perfectly idiotic and highly deceitful bit of right wing rhetoric. It is, among other things, an effort to co-opt the story of an atrocity for the convenience of an interest group defined largely by those in positions of relative social power, and frankly, one that has historically included a rather large number of Nazi sympathizers. Simply put, those harping the notion that gun control is the gateway to the holocaust includes far too many people who face no such threats themselves, consistently show little to no concern for those that do, and who frequently express views which would put them closer to the guard towers of than the inside of any concentration camps.
There is nothing about this game that merits respect.
For the present, however, I wish only to remark upon one thing; a funny little made-up quote that features prominently in the babblerized politics of the gun lobby. Yes, it’s the quote of the meme to the left, which isn’t really all that funny after all, I suppose.
Except that there is no evidence that Hitler ever said it.
Of course, quote mining is a childish and deceitful enterprise to begin with. A single line here or there, presented entirely devoid of context, is no basis for drawing conclusions about anything. So, even when the quote is accurate, those passing these contextomies around like the tokens in a collectible card game are certainly not doing anything of merit.
But the whole pathetic project does get a lot worse when the quote itself is fake.
Excuse me, …spurious.
Oddly enough, Snopes thinks they have a candidate for something that comes close to this quotation, so they give it a mixed rating, saying that the claim that he said this is partially true. I think they are being overly generous, frankly, but anyway…
Let’s have a look!
The quote comes from a book called, “Hitler’s Table Talk, 1941-1944: Secret Conversations” which contains the following comments;
“The most foolish mistake we could possibly make would be to allow the subjugated races to possess arms. History shows that all conquerors who have allowed their subjugated races to carry arms have prepared their own downfall by so doing. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that the supply of arms to the underdogs is a sine qua non for the overthrow of any sovereignty. So let’s not have any native militia or native police.”
Of course, this passage does not match the wording of the quote in question, and those spreading that quote are not content to frame it as a paraphrase, so we probably shouldn’t let people get by with pretending to have an exact quote only to fall back on the pretense that it was only intended as a paraphrase.
It’s probably less helpful when someone else has to make that argument for them.
Snopes goes on to say that if you interpret “conquer a nation” in the spurious quote to mean making yourself a dictator over that nation, then sure, this actual quote from the actual Hitler would not fit the bill, because it is actually about the need to disarm peoples subjected by foreign conquest (eastern Europeans in this case).
If on the other hand, the phrase “conquer a nation” is taken to mean actually conquering another nation, then this quote might fit the bill after all because that is exactly what Hitler is talking about in the passage from the Table Talks volume.
The problem here is that the right wing use of this meme assumes the former definition, because the gun rights crowd is consistently using it as a means of commenting on domestic gun control. As always, the constant equation between gun control and disarmament is one of the central lies perpetuated by the gun lobby, but putting that aside, this quote doesn’t work at all if Hitler is really talking about how he means to treat subjugated populations of foreign countries, which Hitler is clearly doing in the table-talk passage. So, even if we grant the possibility that the quote could serve as a kind of paraphrase of the Table Talk passage, then the result is a passage that has no relevance to its present use by gun rights advocates.
So, even this bit of nothing much doesn’t mean what some folks might want it to mean.
Hitler simply didn’t say what some folks keep telling us he did.
At least, there is no reason to believe that he did.
Of course this is just scraping the surface of the garbage-heap that the present-day understanding of Nazi history among America’s ever-more fascist Republican base. Those closer America’s right wing gets to going full Nazi themselves, the more effort they put into redefining fascist policies and distorting the history so many of them now choose to emulate. Hell, I remember Glenn Beck once suggesting that empathy was the first step to the Nazi atrocities. If there was a time when America’s ‘conservatives’ would have known better, I can’t help thinking it is long since past. All of which is to say nothing of the not-even-post-hoc fallacy that goes with talk of a certain supposed gun control law, the Germans passed in 1938. In any event, the quote pictured above is
See this meme?
You can find it all over the net. The quote contained in it is extraordinarily popular in right wing circles. This should surprise nobody of course. It has George Washington singing the praises of private gun ownership as a means of preparing the population for possible war with their own government. The price of freedom, it seems to suggest, is the need to be ever vigilant against one’s own government, to be prepared at all times to rebel against that very government.
If you were to boil down the thinking of the Insurrectionists on January 6th, it might well be this quote right here.
There are different variations of the meme, to be sure, but the quote itself is near and dear to right wing America. They share it with each other, and with the rest of us, on a regular basis. I first encountered it when a friend posted it for my benefit on Facebook. I have seen it there many times since. The quote finds its way onto twitter every day. It certainly found its way into Parler a number of times before that crappy service found its way into oblivion. You can find the quote on Instagram. It’s all over Pinterest, compliments on websites like Zazzle and BrainyQuote. It certainly makes its way around Tumblr. You can find this quote on merchandise at various online outlets, …T-Shirts and such. I could go on, but you get the idea. This quote gets around. It’s popular.
I mean, it’s REALLY popular!
And it’s fake.
To be a bit more specific, the first 11 words of this quote are from the fourth paragraph of George Washington’s first address to Congress. Everything after that has been doctored so as to make it into a talking point for gun owner’s rights.
Here is the fake quote:
“A free people ought not only to be armed and disciplined, but they should have sufficient arms and ammunition to maintain a status of independence from any who might abuse them, which would include their own government.”
Here the original:
A free people ought not only to be armed but disciplined; to which end a Uniform and well digested plan is requisite: And their safety and interest require that they should promote such manufacturies, as tend to render them independent on others, for essential, particularly for military supplies.
So, what happens when you call people out on this? Well, sometimes, folks get the point. Some decent people actually take the correction and get on with their lives. More often, they refuse to believe they are wrong. Some just ignore you. Some sources, I suspect, are bots, programed to simply post this and other propaganda over and over without regards to any efforts to engage them. The most common response, I get, however is to tell me that the quote above is actually a paraphrase of something Washington actually said. Some even provide me with a link to the actual speech. (Whether or not they have read the speech is another question.)
In a parallel development, I have noticed a lot of people taking to twitter in recent years to post the actual quote above. This might well be a response to the fact that some of us keep addressing the fake quotes wherever we find it. Realizing they don’t need the fake quote, they use the real thing for pretty much the same political purpose. In their minds, the real thing is still very much a statement about the importance of the Second Amendment. It may not contain an explicit prescription for revolution-readiness, but at least it makes the case for private gun ownership, ad we all know what that means…
The problem is, it doesn’t.
If you read the rest of Washington’s speech, you can see quite clearly that its overwhelming theme is the exercise of the Federal government’s newly expanded powers. Yes, that’s right, Washington was actively working to expand the powers of the Federal Government, as did many of the founding fathers now celebrated by those whose very definition of evil is encapsulated in the phrase “big government.” One of the powers Washington was most happy to have at his disposal was the ability to outfit a viable military force. THAT is what this paragraph is about. It is nestled in between two other paragraphs that are most explicitly about troops and preparations for war. Keep reading that same speech, and you find Washington speaking quite explicitly about the prospect of war with Indians in the present-day southeast.
Among the many interesting objects, which will engage your attention, that of providing for the common defence will merit particular regard. To be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace.
A free people ought not only to be armed but disciplined; to which end a Uniform and well digested plan is requisite: And their safety and interest require that they should promote such manufactories, as tend to render them independent on others, for essential, particularly for military supplies.
The proper establishment of the Troops which may be deemed indispensible, will be entitled to mature consideration. In the arrangements which may be made respecting it, it will be of importance to conciliate the comfortable support of the Officers and Soldiers with a due regard to œconomy.
What Washington is actually talking about is the ability to field an army. He sees this as an essential exercise of the powers newly granted to the Federal Government under its new Constitution. He is urging Congress to encourage the manufacture of weapons so that the armies of the United States will not have to rely on foreign powers to arm them in the event of any future war.
Just to be clear, the prospect of such future wars certainly does include the possibility of open rebellion, but Washington isn’t arguing that citizens might need to rebel against their own government. If anything, he is mindful of the prospect that he might need to put down such a rebellion. Remember, it was Shays’ Rebellion that triggered the urgent need for a constitutional convention in the first place. Its purpose was to fix perceived weaknesses in the Articles of Confederation, specifically, the inability of the central government under that plan to tax the population directly so as to give it the means of fielding an army capable of putting down such an insurrection when it happens again. That’s right. The trigger for creation of the U.S Constitution was the need to put down rebellions, and Washington himself was fully down with that very agenda. Lest anyone think this might have been idle speculation, one has only to remember the whiskey rebellion.
When private citizens decided to rebel against the Federal government over taxation while Washington, foreshadowing so many of the themes of modern right wing politics, far from backing the rebels, Washington sent troops to put down that very rebellion.
Now there is an interesting detail here insofar as the troops in question took the form of a militia. I reckon some might say, “See! See, that’s what we are talking about,” but of course that ignores the difference between the actually regulated militias of Washington’s day, and the self-appointed weekend warriors who call themselves militias today. More to the point, it ignores the fact that the militia in the Whiskey Rebellion was not defending itself from “their own government”; it was actually serving as the arm of enforcement for that very government. You see, that Constitution whose powers Washington wants to flex here gives Congress authority over the militia, a provision quite controversial at the time, and arguably one of the inspirations for the Second Amendment still in draft form as Washington made this speech. One of the newly expanded powers of the Federal government Washington is actually trying to build upon in this very speech is power to arm and control the militia.
The enumerated powers of Congress includes the following:
To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;
To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;
Hopefully, you caught the part about “suppressing insurrections.”
Because that’s what Washington actually did on his own watch.
This meme would have us believe Washington would side with the rebels. This meme would have us believe that Washington was hyping the virtues of an Amendment not yet ratified as a means of countering the very power he was actually seeking to build in his First Address to Congress.
This meme is a lie.
It is not a paraphrase of Washington’s actual statement, and it is not (as several folks have assured me) an honest description of Washington’s actual views. It is not an honest mistake; it’s not a different point of view.
It is a lie.
“Never bring a knife to a gunfight!”
It really is a bad-ass line. It’s the kind of thing you’d say to put someone else right in line. The line comes with a few variations, of course, but all of them just smack of really great smack-downatude. You think about saying that line, and you can practically hear the people around you going ‘booom!’ as the object of your derision shrinks in abject humiliation.
I wonder how many people remember where this line comes from?
…or how the scene worked out in the end?
I’m beginning to think that left wing politics is the object of a higher grasp, so to speak, or at least that this is how it must appear to its critics. There are those, of course, who simply reject left wing politics outright. Hell, there are those for whom scorn of left wing politics is a favorite sport. But what really fascinates me about the response to various left wing messages are the number of people who can’t quite bring themselves to say ‘no’ outright. Instead, they have all sorts of advice for the lefties among us. You’d almost think these critics were down to help, assuming of course that help means something else.
And by ‘something else’, I mean, something other than anything actually requested at any particular time. The ‘else’ in this case is that ineffable thing in itself. Whatever thing a lefty actually wants to see done today, whatever case he makes for it, whatever she does to draw attention to that case, well that thing that is surely out of the question. But something else? Some other request or demand, made by some other person in some other way…
I expect the folks in the not-your-mascot movement could write a book about all the helpful suggestions they’ve gotten over the years. Instead of protesting a football mascot or opposing a team name, so the thinking goes, y’all should be fixing the reservations, feeding the hungry in Native American communities, and just generally doing practical things to help indigenous people. Rarely do those offering such advice take stock of the actual efforts of such activists to help out their communities, and these critics don’t seem at all impressed by the many Native American activists who say that issues like derogatory sports teams may have something to do with the larger problems facing their people. No, the response is as simple as it is common. Stop protesting and go do something more helpful.
I hope I’ll be excused for suspecting that the ‘stop protesting’ is a little more important to those offering such advice than the “go do something more important.”
Those taking a knee at football games have certainly received similar advice. People just want to watch the game, so they are told. This isn’t the right time to protest, and when the National Anthem is playing, well then, that CERTAINLY isn’t the right time to protest! Anyway, this is all much too divisive. You’ll only alienate people. The players protesting are rich and pampered anyway, so what do they have to protest? If they want to help out more, then they should donate money and do charity work in their own communities.
You read all this stuff, and you might be tempted to think some of these critics aren’t open to concerns about possible police abuse at all, but surely that isn’t the case! Those criticizing protesters couldn’t be more clear about their willingness to consider the issue.
On another day.
In another context.
With a different messenger.
After that messenger has done a certain number of other things to earn their respect.
On this last point, you might be tempted to suggest that people like Colin Kaepernick have indeed given to charity and actively worked to help those in need, but of course this is missing the point. Clearly, he and those with him need to do more. If they do more, then people will listen to them.
…just not during the Anthem.
Every major mass-shooting seems to trigger a wave of similar advice. Don’t politicize this! It’s too soon! Now is not the time to raise questions about gun control. Nope! Not now. Not yet.
So, it seems that America might one day have a serious talk about gun control. It will have to be scheduled during an intermission of indeterminate length between actual mass shootings. This will of course require the cooperation of mass shooters, because they will have to create a pause in the carnage of sufficient length to allow the keepers of the conversation to make the call. It’s not clear just how long we must all wait between shootings, but presumably when the time frame is reached, the keepers of the conversation will proclaim the moment and we can begin to deal with the issues in a serious manner. Surely, they will tell us, when it is time! This whole too-soon thing couldn’t just be a stalling tactic. They will tell us when it is time. Until then, well, it is just to soon.
Hell, it’s too soon to ask if it’s to soon.
Shame on you for wondering about it!
Of course, one might be excused for thinking that the moment any of these conversations could take place (when the issues aren’t in the news and at events people aren’t paying attention to) would in effect constitute precisely the sort of time when the public finds the whole topic easiest to ignore, but such thoughts are far too cynical! Surely, all this advice is sincere. Surely, all these people telling us its the wrong time and the wrong message mean what they say. If only the right version of any of these messages reached their ears and eyes, they would happily consider the whole thing.
But that never seems to happen!
The actual left wing politics that we see in America is just just a little too human to be worthy of consideration. The real message, the ones so many keep saying they would consider, always seem to rest out there somewhere in the world of possibility, just a bit beyond the grasp of mere mortals. If only we could ever confront that message in itself, the real message, the properly timed message, phrased in just the right way, and put forward by the right person with just the right presentation to be worthy of consideration. Hell, I don’t know that the left wing messages could or even should win out in such an event (a lot depends on the particulars), but that’s rather academic at this point, because the time is not yet right. Under the right conditions, so it would seem, we could at least consider those lefty messages. Until then? Well, we all seem to have better things to do.
You know, like sitting on our couches watching other people do stuff.
And drinking beer.
I was about 15 or 16 when my father cancelled our membership in the National Rifle Association (NRA). Money was tight back then, but Dad said that wasn’t entirely the issue. He was also fed up with their politics.
I was mortified.
The old “If guns are outlawed” sticker was then sitting on the bumper of my first car (which wasn’t yet running), and a stack of hunting and shooting magazines rested on a shelf in my bedroom. My private arsenal had already outgrown the gun-case. At the time, there just wasn’t much about the NRA that I didn’t like. Oh sure I’d noticed a myopic one-sidedness to some of the articles in those magazines, but for the most part, I was down for the main agenda. Dad never did explain to me what had bothered him about the NRA back then (the early 80s). I reckon he was just hoping I would grow a dose of moderation at some point. This was hardly the only obsession that could have given him cause for such concerns.
I guess Dad got his way on this one at least. My views on guns and gun control are complex. ‘Ambivalent’ may be a better word. My take on the legal issues doesn’t map well onto either the left or the right on the actual issue of gun ownership. I’m open to gun control, but skeptical of its impact (at least one any scale that’s practically possible in the present political climate). It hasn’t escaped my notice that I live in a region where firearms can be damned useful. (By way of illustration, one of my students took a job collecting plant samples this summer. Part of her training including a day or so learning how to handle a firearm. In the land of polar bears, a gun can be an essential part of scientific research.) I’ve also got a lot of friends and neighbors who feed themselves by use of firearms, and I’m not in the habit of turning down a good bowl of tutu (caribou) stew. The bottom line is that I won’t be campaigning for full disarmament anytime soon. Few do, really, but if complete disarmament is your bandwagon, then I am definitely not on board.
There is one other bandwagon I’m not climbing aboard any time soon, and that is the one run by the NRA. Any latent interest I might have had in that organization slipped away during the Clinton administration. The television ads from that era telling us that every honest gun owner ought to be a member didn’t exactly inspire me to get out my checkbook. Hearing countless people spouting their fears about ‘thuh guvment’ was enough to send shivers up my spine and put a large dose of queazy in the pit of my stomach. I recall “Impeach Clinton” bumper stickers within the first few months of his first administration. In time his critics would find reasons. In the interim, suddenly Bill Clinton was the source of the New World Order, notwithstanding Bush Senior’s use of the phrase to sell Desert Storm. Within the space of a single election, Clinton became the source of all that was wrong with the world. Seeing the same people who had supported centralization of power throughout the Reagan and Bush administrations suddenly play underdog against government authority was more than a little disconcerting.
It got a lot more disconcerting after the Oklahoma City bombing.
You can’t run a direct line of reasoning from Charlton Heston’s “take my gun from my cold dead hands” speech to that bombing, no, but these two notes fit in the same damned tune. The right wing now sings a constant chorus of ‘don’t tread on me’ messages, and most of them serve simultaneously to valorize the weekend warrior games of countless over-gown boys and to demonize the best efforts of anyone involved in pretty much any kind public service. Hating the government is a popular sport in what passes for ‘conservative’ circles these days. The problem is you can’t shoot at the government and you can’t bomb the government. Hell, you can’t even shout at the government. You can only do these things to real people, people who work for the government, and the trouble with demonizing that government is its a damned effective way to demonize real people. It’s a damned effective way to justify hurting real people. An awful lot of people died in Oklahoma City because someone decided to strike a blow against the government, and his ideas about that government had an awful lot in common with those pushed by the NRA for a couple decades now. Is the one the cause of the other? Maybe not, but it’s a damned reckless message just the same.
What I specifically object to is the scorched earth tactics that the NRA keeps producing. Talking of Second Amendment solutions and other confrontations with the government may sound like the words of brave people put-upon by dark forces and powerful institutions, but they are also clear and obvious efforts to intimidate the rest of us. While other interest groups go to the voting booths, hire lawyers to plead their case, or sometimes take to the streets with a sign or three, elements of the gun rights crowd keep threatening to use their guns under some unspecified conditions. It’s easy enough to imagine the scenario without its details. They will fight back against tyranny, of course; that’s what these people keep telling us. The problem of course is that tyranny may very well be a few unwelcome regulations and the tyrant may well be (as it was in Oklahoma City) ordinary people just trying to do their damned jobs.
Don’t get me wrong. For better or for worse, the Second Amendment is part of American government. There are certainly arguments to be made about its proper scope, and still other arguments to be made about the effectiveness of various gun control measures, but there is no excuse for the constant litany of violent fantasies surrounding firearms ownership. An awful lot of people keep telling us they and their guns are the best protection from government overreach, and every time I see or hear this message I find myself hoping for protection from precisely the folks producing it. I realize echos of this message come to us from the days of America’s founding fathers, but those echos have been twisted by ideology, augmented by fraudulent representations, and generally milked for everything they could possibly be worth. In the end, it isn’t America’s founders that keep this threat of violence alive in America’s politics today. It is the words and deeds of shameless people.
…which of course brings us to the latest twist in Donald Trump’s campaign. These are his words on the subject:
Hillary wants to abolish, essentially abolish the second amendment. By the way, and if she gets to pick, if she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do folks, although the second amendment people, maybe there is, I don’t know.
To say these remarks have sparked outrage is putting it mildly, but let’s be clear. This is not an obvious call for gun owners to assassinate Hillary Clinton. It isn’t even a clear call for armed rebellion in the case that Hillary wins the election. There isn’t really anything clear about this message at all, but then again there wouldn’t be.
It’s Trump, remember?
He and clarity have never really been on speaking terms.
What this rhetoric ALSO isn’t is a responsible case for the Second Amendment. To begin with, the claim that Hillary Clinton wants to abolish the Second Amendment is hardly supported by the evidence. She favors a variety of gun control measures, yes. This does not mean she wishes to abolish the Second Amendment after all. It’s a straw Hillary that Trump is talking about, not the real one.
It’s really not clear how the straw Hillary who wants to abolish the Second Amendment altogether would even go about it, but it actually is clear that she couldn’t do it just by appointing a few judges. That move is neither sufficient nor necessary to do away with the Second Amendment (in principle or practice).
Hillary may well support gun control measures that many gun owners wouldn’t want to see passed. She may even advocate measures that ought not to be passed by any objective measure of their merits. Gun control measures, perfectly sound or bat-shit crazy, do NOT add up to the abolition of the Second Amendment. And let’s be clear, even Scalia, in the infamous Heller decision suggested that some regulations could be consistent with the existence of the Second Amendment, a Second Amendment he construed explicitly (and quite controversially as an individual right).
Simply put, regulations are on the table with or without Hillary as POTUS. Also the Second Amendment remains on the table with or without Hillary as POTUS. Far from the dooms-day scenario Trump trots out in this speech, another Presidential Clinton is at best/worst just another twist in the long case history of the Aecond Amendment. It’s not the end of the Second Amendment or civilization itself. So, yes, Trump is exaggerating, which is putting it mildly.
That exaggeration is not simply a mistake. Realizing just how badly Trump is exaggerating the prospect of a Presidential Hillary helps us understand how to take the comment that Second Amendment people might be able to do something about her after all. These Second Amendment people would be acting in a fantasy world in which a President, and a President alone is enough to render the legal landscape hopeless. If Trump is really suggesting something as mild as voting or rallying to his cause, then there is no need to raise the specter of a gun-grabbing apocalypse in preparation for it. His wording is ambiguous of course, but it’s the ambiguity of plausible deniability. And when speaking to millions, some of whom are clearly quite excitable, Trump’s message will take on many meanings. He knows that. The man is not THAT stupid. Many, perhaps most will take his words to mean something as radical as it takes to say something really rude to a cotton-picking liberal, but some will take them far worse. Some folks are quite prepared to kick their John Wayne fantasies into high gear. A responsible candidate knows this, and a responsible candidate doesn’t rouse his support base, or any subsection of it to the brink of violence.
He has been doing this throughout his campaign. I know of no other candidate in recent memory who has deliberately provoked violence at his own rallies, always falling short of directly calling for it, but often coming as close as one might without explicitly endorsing it.
During the primary season, the actual violence at campaign rallies clearly worked in Trump’s favor. What began as a series of news stories about Trump’s own supporters beating various protestors transitioned seamlessly into a series of stories about protestors engaged in all manner of violence against Trump’s own supporters.
Trump’s fighting words couldn’t help but fall on angry ears for his critics. Many of us have responded with such radical actions as a contemptuous tweet or a few minutes of outraged gripetude, but some took it further. Some engaged in genuine violence. The pay-off for Trump was obvious enough as he and his supporters played the victim and cast his critics as those with no respect for civil society.
What better context for Trump to present himself as the law-and order candidate!?!
A responsible candidate would have asked his supporters to step back and let security handle matters. If Trump said such things on some occasions, on others he talked about how those beaten deserved it, suggested he would pay for the lawyers of those beating protesters, and otherwise said a number of things encouraging the violence in his own supporters. and to provoke violence against his opponents.
Simply put, violence has worked well for Trump. He provoked it to his benefit in the primaries, and it should come as no surprise that he continues to do so in the present general election cycle. He started the general election by fantasizing about hitting his critics at the Democratic National Convention. You can see it in this passage. It isn’t until the very end that we come to realize he is talking about something other than outright violence, and you come to that only after indulging in a long violent fantasy.
The things that were said about me, I mean, should I go through some of the names? I, You know what I wanted to, I wanted to hit a couple of those speakers so hard, I would have hit them, no-no, I was gonna hit them so, I was all set, and then I got a call from a highly respected governor, ‘how’s it going Donald?’ I said; “well it’s going good, but they are really saying bad things about me. I’m gonna hit them so hard, I was gonna hit one guy in particular, a very little guy, I was gonna hit this guy so hard his head would spin, he wouldn’t know what the Hell happened, and, he came out of nowhere, he came out of nowhere; they made deals with me, ‘would you help me this; would you make this deal and solve the problem.?’ I solved the problem. I do a great job. I was going to hit a number of those speakers so hard their heads would spin. They’d never recover. And that’s what I did with a a lot of, that’s why I still don’t have certain people endorsing me. They still haven’t recovered.
It could be an accident of course. And elves could bake chocolate cookies under a full moon. This is a conscious effort on Trump’s part. Just as above, this is a message calculated to stimulate violence. It is ambiguous enough to evade responsibility for that violence, but it’s evocative enough to encourage it just the same.
And so here we are, at a new low point in American politics, at least in my own memory, a Presidential candidate stirring up violence in the service of his own campaign. It says a lot about Trump’s character that he is willing to do this to get the position. It says a lot about how he plans to run the country, and what it says about those plans is damned frightening. We can add his penchant for promoting violence to Trump’s sustained and very deliberate courtship of white nationalists throughout his campaign. This man has already done irreparable harm to the nation, and it’s hard to imagine what good things he could possibly do as President to overcome the harm he is clearly willing to do in the service of becoming President. More likely, he will just go on hurting people and encouraging his supporters to do the same.
Today’s message is distinctive insofar as it’s a clear and definitive marriage of two trends within the current GOP. On the one hand, we have Trump’s general efforts to wind up the nation to state of hysteria, to create the sense that America rests on the brink of social breakdown. On the other we have the long-standing right-wing message of violent opposition to government authority, one rooted in a myopic devotion to a single civil right. It’s marriage made in Hell, or at least a cheesy overpriced hotel equivalent thereof. Donald Trump is a huckster. That much should be clear to pretty much anyone this side of a mental ward. But he’s a huckster with a heart full of bile.
One of the most beautiful gifts of the internet is the ability to learn at a glance the wisdom of America’s founding fathers. In fact, one can often find these pearls of wisdom beautifully packaged in nice visuals. They are perfect for a tweet or a quick illustration, and so very informative. Most of all, they are ever so conveniently one quick google away.
Take for instance the warning these men left for us regarding the evils of big government! Thomas Jefferson is particularly valuable in this regard. Why you could almost imagine him to be commenting directly on current affairs couldn’t you? Isn’t Tom just swell?
(You may as usual click to embiggen any of these quotations)
Thomas Jefferson was particularly keen on the importance of political dissent.
Thinking along similar lines, our founding fathers spoke directly to the issue of gun control. I mean, these comments are just so perfect. You’d almost think some of these quotes had been written by folks working for the NRA. Check it out!
More than that! Our great founders were no friends of the nanny state. They were quite clear that people shouldn’t expect too much from government. It’s there to give everyone a chance, but folks really shouldn’t expect any more than that. You read some of these things, and you can’t help thinking it’s almost as if they were actually thinking about the New Deal. I guess these guys were just prescient or something.
James Madison wouldn’t have any truck with this notion of a living constitution. He’d school the modern liberals right quick about that nonsense!
On religion, let me tell you, the founders of our great nation were clear about the importance of the Christian faith!
Oddly, the founders were also pretty damned clear about the evils of Christianity. Apparently, they had strong views on that too.
…It’s just a little strange.
I know this is getting to be a tiresome theme in this post, but the wisdom of Thomas Jefferson is not to be outdone. At times, he could almost seem to be a contemporary motivational speaker. Watch out Tony Robbins!
Not to be outdone, even George Washington carved his legacy into this little gem about taking responsibility for one’s personal mistakes.
Honestly, the wisdom of the founding fathers would seem to be amazing at times. Sometimes their prescience is uncanny. It’s an amazing thing to see just how well-suited their statements can be to present-day matters. Luckily, that wisdom was not limited to the original founders. It was around in the civil war era too. Could anyone possibly be more on the mark than Abraham Lincoln?
Listen to Abe folks.
Okay, so this hashtag, #LiberalTips2AvoidRape, stood as the top trend on Twitter for much of today. Last I checked, the twitter page for this one contains a mixed bag of comments intended to illustrate the absurdity of Colorado Congressman, Joe, Salazar’s comments on the prospect of allowing guns on college campuses. Net dust-ups being what they are, quite a few folks are happy to fold any manner of insulting reference to liberals in there, and quite a few more folks have revealed (perhaps unintentionally) a trace of a tendency to blame the victim of rape in their approach to the subject. It’s an ugly chapter in a full book of ugly twitterage; y’all can see for yourself if you like:
Yes, those of us on the left have weighed in on the subject as well, not just at Twitter, but also in the mainstream media. The Huffington Post produced a piece on this, and MSNBC couldn’t help noting the irony that a Democrat had just put his foot in his mouth over the topic of rape.
What fascinates me about this issue isn’t the repugnant nature of the humor, or even the views expressed in some of the worst jokes; it’s the degree to which outrage over Salazar’s comments facilitates an interesting shift in the politics of common sense.
College campuses have traditionally been gun-free zones. (I remember this from my old freshman informative speech, which was on gun safety. I was allowed to bring a gun-stalk into class for a prop, just so long as I left the barrel at home.) It does appear that the law in question is a new development in Colorado, but access to guns on campus is definitely not the norm. Much of the American public and much more of us on the left (including a rather large number of folks in academia) see this as a basic common sense policy. Whatever the (de-)merits of gun ownership in the rest of the public, the conventional wisdom has been to keep guns off our campuses. Hell, we don’t even allow them at my college, polar bear alerts notwithstanding.
Okay, so conservatives want to see these policies changed, and many on the right side of the political spectrum have come to see gun-free zones as a terrible sort of policy. It is for them common sense that taking guns away from students, staff, and faculty makes college a more dangerous place. This is for folks on the right simply a common sense issue.
The gun lobby has even produced some reasonable arguments on the topic of safe-zones, in effect showing that a pocket of unarmed citizens in the context of a larger community full of weapons creates unfortunate unintended consequences. But of course much of this argument has focused on K-12 schools, which are smaller, and in many cases lack armed security. Colleges on the other hand typically employ security forces of their own along with a variety of measures such as call-boxes, whistles, etc. So, with or without a personal weapon, a college is not normally the kind of soft target one sees in a public school. Add to this genuine fears about the sorts of dangers armed students may themselves pose to a campus population (just think about well-armed frat brothers!) and you have a range of variables to look at. There is a genuine empirical question as to how all of these considerations stack up.
Are we safer with guns on campus or without them?
That is a fair question, and I can actually see reasonable and honest people coming down on either side of the answer to it. That is also the question Salazar was trying to answer in his speech, trying anyway. Frankly, it looks like he lost his train of thought and kept talking anyway, which was a bad idea. So, he ends up suggesting that safe zones were created to protect women (which is from the standpoint of a woman who wants to protect herself with a gun, …well, getting the problem backwards). Salazar’s argument that a woman might accidentally kill someone who isn’t attacking her is misplaced at best. Concerns over accidental gunfire, mistaken shootings, or crimes of passion, etc. require a much larger scope of considerations. Putting them all on the shoulders of a single woman (hypothetical or otherwise), particularly one in fear of genuine harm is foolishness taken to 11. And to hear Salazar making this entire case while using a universal ‘you’ throughout the speech (as if he spoke from experience) lends the whole thing a real fingernails-on-chalkboard experience.
All in all, it’s a thoroughly mockable performance. Apparently, the University of Colorado didn’t help matters by publishing some truly awful advice to rape victims on its website. And of course the point of the #LiberalTips2AvoidRape hashtag is to mock Salazar’s performance (and that of the University). …and of course to cash in on the mockery so as to finesse a number of tough questions.
Many of the tweets mocking Salazar seem to miss the basic context of the debate itself, suggesting that he thinks whistles will work most anyplace. He wasn’t. He was talking about whistles on and around a college campus. Others suggest that Salazar wants to disarm women in general, which is just a blatant misrepresentation of Salazar’s actual comments. Salazar’s suggestion that women might not know if they are about to be attacked has been taken as a suggestion that they will not know when they are actually being raped. It would seem that Salazar’s own foolishness makes a good license to add to it with a range of subtle (and not-so-subtle) misrepresentations.
The hashtag serves as an excellent vehicle for abstracting the larger question, and enabling right wing net-warriors to present their own values as the default judgement. Instead of making a case that women would be safer on campus with a gun than simply relying on all the other devices available on campus, one can simply mock Salazar (and liberals in general) for believing that a whistle could stop a rapist. And if folks would prefer to think of this in terms of an imaginary scenario where no-one else is around, well then, how many folks would check them on the fact. (It doesn’t help that Twitter tends t suspend accounts that engage in direct debate, so mistakes or distortions of this kind typically go unchallenged.) Perhaps this is one of the means by which social media seem to facilitate polarization of the issues. What can you say in a hundred and forty characters that won’t be some variety of ‘y’all suck!’
No, I’m not concerned about about netiquette here. Some people do suck, and I have no problem when folks want to call them out for it. What does concern me is the degree to which this new whipping boy for the right seems to be serving as a short-cut right through an interesting discussion about whether or not we (as a nation) want to open up a variety of safe zones to gun owners. I’m also fascinated by the degree to which the status quo for college campuses has, at least in the minds of the right wing, become a form of lunacy. Why make the case for your own policy preferences when you can simply point at Joe Salazar and watch the left squirm? And through all of this, the bulk of the public will never hear a solid case for the net-effect of changing gun-laws on college campuses.
The prospects for a reasonable discussion of gun-control have never been very good.
Today, they just got a little worse.