civil Rights, Gun COntrol, Internment Camps, Japanese Internment, Justice, Memes, Politics, Second Amendment, The National Rifle Association
I suppose it is too much to ask that folks distinguish the varieties of gun control from an outright ban. The way the gun rights crowd raises the specter of a completely disarmed populace when speaking about any variety lesser measures smacks of dishonesty.
It would hardly give away the farm to distinguish such things from one another. There are plenty of legitimate questions about the efficacy of lesser gun control measures, especially when applied to a population already so well armed as we are here in the U.S. But that is an interesting and well focused discussion some folks don’t seem to want to risk.
But what is really fascinating about memes like this is the slippage between a right to bear arms and a prescription for doing so. The second Amendment was alive and well when the internment of Japanese occurred in the first place. So, that right and that right alone simply is not a cure for the evil that this pic wants us to think about. The meme only works if we are to imagine a population which is not merely in possession of the right to bear arms, but which actively uses that right even to the point of preparing for war against its own government.
And can anyone really imagine Japanese immigrant population of the west coast doing this in the years leading up to World War II? Can anyone imagine the response from their neighbors?
This is not merely a defense of the Second Amendment, it is an argument for the expansion of private gun ownership well beyond anything previously imagined in American history. To make this argument work, we need more than just the right to bear arms, we all need to have the arms, the training to use them, and enough firepower to make them an effective counter to the powers of the United States Government.
Is the author suggesting that gun owners could stop such a thing as internment? Perhaps, but would they?
It’s a pretty common claim from the gun rights crowd, the notion that the Second Amendment puts the teeth in the rest of our civil rights. It is through gun ownership, so the argument goes, that people are protected from abuse by government officials. It is the most important means by which our rights are protected.
Pardon me, …from ‘thuh government.’
But gun owners did not stop the internment of Japanese.
Or of Aleuts during the same war.
Neither did they stop lynching of blacks.
Nor did gun owners secure the right to vote for African Americans.
…or for women.
…or Native Americans.
Gun owners did not stop the Federal Government from kidnapping Native American children to be taken to schools far from their families.
They didn’t stop police harassment of homosexuals.
They didn’t improve treatment of the mentally ill.
They didn’t stop the Zoot Suit Riots.
…or legacy provisions precluding Jews from owning homes in some neighborhoods.
Gun Ownership didn’t stop Jim Crow laws.
It was not gun owners that secured for any number of minorities the right to an education or any other protections by states or the federal government.
In each of these instances, the rights in question were won by protestors, and lawyers, and people who talked a hell of a lot, even if their main opponents didn’t. In many of these instances gun owners were actively involved in the very repression suffered by those in question. Since the founding of the country, Gun violence has played a far greater role in the repression of civil rights than it has in protecting them. There are exceptions to be sure, but this narrative is not built on the exceptions. It is built on a fantasy that skips any active consideration of how these things actually work.
Herein lies the biggest problem with this fantasy scenario; it presents us with the image of a government acting on its own, independent of the public will. That could happen, I suppose, but is far less likely than the countless times in which government policies actually have facilitated repressive measures popular with the American people, or at least a large segment of it. And in such moments, the victims of repression have rarely been sufficiently well armed to make an effective stand against those who wanted a piece of their liberty.
In real world history, those who have suffered the greatest deprivations did not merely face the threat of Federal Authority; they also have had to contend with the prejudice of an American population content to have them suffer.
…one that sometimes even demanded it.
We can imagine the victims of repression better armed, yes, but only if we also imagine the majority better armed as well. This is hardly a story which leads to a successful defense of liberty. I would call the scenario anarchy, but I don’t wish to sully the term ‘anarchy’ with such a vision of violence and destruction.
It’s damned hard to read these self-indulgent fantsies when considering the actual history of people struggling for their rights. It’s hard to give credence to this juvenile narrative, knowing what it took for the people in these camps to survive, what it took the Freedom Riders to earn rights enjoyed by gun-toting whites in the South. And it is especially hard to hear such arguments from those with so little to say about such things as Guantanamo Bay or the countless encroachments on Fourth Amendment Rights we’ve seen over the last few decades.
What pisses me off about this argument isn’t the defense of gun ownership, or even opposition to gun control. Frankly I don’t think this kind of crap even touches either one of those issues. It sheds no light on those issues whatsoever, and leave us with a whole different discussion to have if we can ever get clear of noise like this. What bothers me about this stuff is the scorched-earth tactics; the vision of politics as warfare and questions about rights as an invitation to shoot at one another. It’s a vision of government as a faceless evil empire in opposition to private citizens, and begging for opposition from heroic gun-owners everywhere. Folks telling this yarn have no sense of how such things actually happen. But they are happy to tell stories of gun-toting heroes squaring off against a government turned inexplicably on its own population. How that will work is a Hell we can only hope we will never see.
And it’s a Hell as likely to be brought about by gun-owners defending their own rights (as they define them) as anything done by a corrupt and tyrannical government.
While others have struggled and died for some of the most basic human rights imaginable, so many in the gun crowd openly fantasize about acts of violence over basic policy disagreements and the possibility of restricted access to a commodity. The pretense that this commodity is the key to civil rights plays a big role in these fantasies. The end result is a tantrum born of paranoia and privilege and a gun culture increasingly dangerous to the rest of us.
No. I’m not talking about the weapons. I am talking about the mindset of people who produce memes like the one above. People who make such arguments are not interested in protecting anyone under serious threat of government repression. The gun rights crowd did not protect the Japanese during World War II, and I for one don’t believe they will be there the next time someone decides to create camps like this.
…unless of course it is to close and lock the gates.