Today I did something conventional wisdom says you should never do. I read the comments.
What I found was the usual – the right-wing’s desire to deflect and obfuscate the conversation to suit their aims. Aims that are in many ways antithetical to what this country is founded on, and dangerous in their violent ideology.
I read about the dangers of gun free zones, and how students are just tugging on people’s heartstrings. Some were proud to make slightly tangential arguments about the value of public schooling, and used all kinds of other tangents and diversions to suggest that those who are enthusiastic about student rallies and protests don’t understand what’s happening – that the elites in the mainstream media and the Hollywood liberals are just ginning people up to fight the system in an illogical way.
Then I came to one particular comment and it threw me for a second – it made me think.
A gentleman who had previously aligned himself with all of these other facetious kinds of arguments made a comment to the irony of the situation – that liberals and others are arguing for restricting the Second Amendment, precisely at the time when there’s a president in place that makes the right wing’s guardianship of armed revolt to the federal government the most important of all.
To be honest, part of the reason that it stuck out to me is that the gentleman was willing to conclude that this current administration is thoroughly off the rails. You don’t often get that from the right, because they are wedded to this corrupt and infantile administration because it supports many of their policy positions. But this guy was using that argument, the argument of – “if your government is so bad, (as we agree it is,) why don’t you want to protect the right to fight it?”
It threw me for a few seconds, until I really thought about it again and realized I had the answer. The reason why these liberals and college students and Hollywood elites and mainstream media people don’t want to enshrine armed revolt against the government, even under this administration, is that they are fundamentally opposed to this kind of violence.
Now, as all kinds of people point out, restricting assault weapons doesn’t mean you take away someone’s right to defend themselves. If you’re a big man and you think you can fight the feds with an AR 15, then you should be able to be a big man and fight them with a shotgun instead. But at the core of it, people toward the center or further away from the right wing don’t have a desire to compose militias to fight the government. They see that is inherently destabilizing and dangerous – and you don’t have to look any further than the American Civil War to buttress this argument. However, again to be clear, those on the center-to-left are not taking away the right of people in the right wing to defend themselves against the government or anyone else. Common sense gun law would not take away a person’s core arsenal of firearms. It would, however, seek to remedy the situations where people are massacring each other in broad daylight.
To get back to the main point, though, let’s talk about resistance to the federal government. When you cut through the layers of the onion – kind of like I did when I was trying to parse this gentleman’s argument – you can see that there is a simplistic way to view this. There are two sides, left and right. The right-wing side wants to preserve armed revolt against the federal government but, ironically, does not want to regulate or monitor or oversee that government to make sure they’re not, for example, trashing the Interior Department, hollowing out the State Department, running the EPA as a business lobby, or running amok and destroying all sorts of other institutions or picking a fight with the judiciary. None of that interests these people, who want to instead arm citizens to go to war with the government if they don’t like it.
On the other side, you have people who do not want to have any kind of armed conflict with federal government, state government, individual law enforcement officers or anyone else. Instead, they’re trying to engage with the democracy and make laws that keep government honest and responsive to the people.
Now – if I’m on the other side of this argument, does this sound like propaganda? Probably. But as I’ve been saying for a while now, it all comes down to values. Either you want to reform a government by participating and putting in place checks and balances and reforms that put a check on civil servants (or in the words of the right wing you’re a hippie with no job) or, you don’t care about any of that and you want to stockpile weapons to at some future point to engage some corrupt government militarily (in which case you’re a real patriot and one of the good guys with a gun?)
I for one think that a reasonable person can see the flaws and contradictions in the latter idea, but if not, you have to do is look at the Clinton years when we had a kind of laboratory test case for the stuff that the Second Amendment protectors like to talk about – you had a government that right-wingers really didn’t like. As a result, they led several small armed revolts (think Waco and Ruby Ridge) and were quickly contained and incarcerated by law enforcement officers operating on behalf of federal, state and local government.
Let me say this another way – to the thorough disappointment and chagrin of these right-wing warriors, we are actually all in this together. We are one country of people and we have one law enforcement and public safety infrastructure. We can argue about how it’s run from the top – we can argue about how it’s run at a local level – but aside from a few really nutty people, nobody really wants to engage with each other with guns instead of words. But that’s what you’re getting from a right-wing married to the gun lobby – that’s their perspective. They want this theoretical capability and they’re lobbying for it strongly and they’re suggesting that this other side is restricting their ability to do so. That’s why they feel the need to discredit students who have seen their young colleagues gunned down. Am I tearing at your heartstrings yet?
They’re wrong on all counts. Nobody’s going to take their guns. They’re not going to war with any government. The students aren’t controlled by Hollywood elites or mainstream media or anybody else. They represent the people, and that’s not just a liberal opinion.