“Guns Are a Right”: Yet, The Idea That A Citizenry Free To Bear Arms May Impose More Of A Threat To Freedom Than It Guarantees
We are at a point in the debate over gun control where these are dueling headlines: “At Least 71 Kids Have Been Killed With Guns Since Newtown” versus “A march on Washington with loaded rifles.” Given the status of gun control legislation in Congress, they’re equally infuriating, but one gives insight into why this debate is stalled.
Libertarian radio host Adam Kokesh is planning a gathering of gun owners and gun rights activist where they will…maybe it’s best to read him in his words. From the Facebook page:
On the morning of July 4, 2013, Independence Day, we will muster at the National Cemetery & at noon we will step off to march across the Memorial Bridge, down Independence Avenue, around the Capitol, the Supreme Court, & the White House, then peacefully return to Virginia across the Memorial Bridge. This is an act of civil disobedience, not a permitted event. We will march with rifles loaded & slung across our backs to put the government on notice that we will not be intimidated & cower in submission to tyranny. We are marching to mark the high water mark of government & to turn the tide. This will be a non-violent event, unless the government chooses to make it violent. Should we meet physical resistance, we will peacefully turn back, having shown that free people are not welcome in Washington, & returning with the resolve that the politicians, bureaucrats, & enforcers of the federal government will not be welcome in the land of the free.
Currently, 3400+ people on Facebook have stated their intention of participating (an admittedly shoddy means by which to gauge likely attendance), but it makes me wonder if anyone involved is reading the same news that I am.
What’s telling is the language used to promote this action. On May 3, Kokesh tweeted: “When the government comes to take your guns, you can shoot government agents, or submit to slavery.”
It’s not that he doesn’t know the horrors of guns, but that he views his right to own guns as integral to his freedom as an American. That’s the strain of thinking among pro-gun folks that’s difficult to defeat.
It’s why Glenn Beck doesn’t flinch when co-opting the message and symbolism of Martin Luther King Jr., to promote a pro-gun rights agenda. King’s nonviolent philosophy isn’t as important to Beck as the fact that his life represents a fight for freedom and Beck sees his crusade in the same light.
Here’s a thought this group may want to consider: the rights we have can, and do, have and will continue to change.
Slavery was once a right. Now-outdated notions of privacy and property allowed marital rape as a right. But the costs of those rights were the violation of others’ rights, and we reached a point as a society (through much debate, struggle, blood, sweat, tears and more) where we decided that protecting rights like slavery and marital rape was no longer worth the damage they inflicted. Alcohol was a right, then it wasn’t, and then it was again because prohibiting drinking caused more trouble than we were able to tolerate. However, when the right returned it did not go unchecked. This is how we negotiate rights in a democracy.
But on guns, we seem unwilling to even consider the idea that a citizenry free to bear arms may impose more of a threat to freedom than it guarantees. I understand why that is, as guns are tied into our national identity, our sense of masculinity, our desire for power, and it frightens some of us to think who we would be without that. And then more headlines read “13-year-old Florida boy shoots 6-year-old with handgun at home” and I just want us to pause to consider: Is the right to bear arms worth the deaths of our children?
We may well decide that it is, but a debate about guns that is afraid of that core question isn’t one worth having.
By: Mychal Denzel Smith, The Nation, May 10, 2013
Syndicated talk radio host Rush Limbaugh got so upset over the able articulation of an opposing view by Sandra Fluke, a Georgetown University Law School student who testified before members of Congress in order to highlight concerns about limits on access to contraception, that he attacked her as a “slut” and a “prostitute.”
This was no slip of the conservative commentator’s tongue. This was an elite media personality with a national media platform seeking to silence a citizen.
When concerns were raised about his vile language, Limbaugh doubled down and restated his attacks on Fluke.
Fluke has ably defended herself in interviews on national news programs. She’s a strong young woman who has proven herself more than equal to the task of responding to a shocking assault on her as an individual—and on her right to speak as an American citizen.
It is the second assault that should concern everyone—no matter what their partisanship, no matter what their ideological bent.
While Limbaugh certainly owes Fluke an apology, the fact is that the radio host owes a broader apology.
Limbaugh attacked fluke for speaking up before Congress on an issue of national concern.
Fluke stepped into the limelight not as an entertainer or a political player. She did not seek fame or fortune. She spoke up as a citizen.
And that’s what is so unsettling about Limbaugh’s crude language and cruder stance as this controversial incident has exploded.
Prominent political players and media personalities can get pretty rough with one another. No one is objecting to the give and take that characterizes electioneering and governing. This is not about constraining the discourse, nor even about promoting civility.
What is at stake here is something that does far deeper, and matters far more.
When political and media figures with national prominence use their positions to attack individual citizens who dare to speak up about controversial concerns, they do not just attack the citizens.
They attack the basic premises of a representative democracy in which citizens do not just have a right to freedom of speech. If the American experiment is to work, citizens have a responsibility to speak truth to power. It is not easy to do that. But it is necessary if we are to keep alive the founding principle, as articulated by Thomas Jefferson: “Whenever our affairs go obviously wrong, the good sense of the people will interpose and set them to rights.”
At a point when political players, most of them men, were going obviously wrong with regard to policies affecting women, Sandra Fluke spoke up.
She performed a necessary duty of citizenship.
Citizens need to challenge their political leaders—and the media echo chamber that amplifies the self-serving messages of those leaders. We have enough of a problem in this country with the media’s casual dismissal of the voices of the poor, of working people, of people of color, of trade unionists, of rural Americans and of the young. When the dismissals turn aggressive and unforgiving, as was the case with Limbaugh’s attack of Fluke, the promise of citizenship is assaulted.
And when elitists so powerful as Rush Limbaugh seeks to silence citizens so sincere and appropriately engaged as Sandra Fluke, with personal attacks, crude language and constant criticism, those elitists attack democracy itself.
By: John Nichols, The Nation, March 2, 2011
Mitt Romney continues to face all kinds of heat over his support for a health care mandate, in large part because he continues to defend it. But Sam Stein notes this week that disgraced former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a Romney rival for the Republican presidential nomination, was just as ardent an advocate of the idea.
In his post-congressional life, Gingrich has been a vocal champion for mandated insurance coverage — the very provision of President Obama’s health care legislation that the Republican Party now decries as fundamentally unconstitutional.
This mandate was hardly some little-discussed aspect of Gingrich’s plan for health care reform. In the mid-2000s, he partnered with then-Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) to promote a centrist solution to fixing the nation’s health care system. A July 22, 2005, Hotline article on one of the duo’s events described the former speaker as endorsing not just state-based mandates (the linchpin of Romney’s Massachusetts law) but “some federal mandates” as well. A New York Sun writeup of what appears to be the same event noted that “both politicians appeared to endorse proposals to require all individuals to have some form of health coverage.”
Neera Tanden, an aide to Clinton at the time who went on to help craft President Obama’s law, said she couldn’t recall exact speeches, but “strongly” believed that the both Clinton and Gingrich backed the individual mandate. Either way, she added, “Gingrich has been known as a supporter” of the idea for some time.
A simple newspaper archive search bears this out.
Gingrich endorsed the individual health care mandate over and over again, in public remarks, in media interviews, and in policy proposals. Ironically, he even explained the importance of the mandate in a book entitled, “Winning the Future.” Gingrich didn’t just grudgingly go along with the measure as part of some kind of compromise; he actively touted it as a good idea.
And he was right.
But that was before President Obama decided he also agreed with the idea, at which point the mandate became poisonous in Republican circles.
The point to keep in mind, though, is that Gingrich’s support for the idea isn’t at all surprising. Indeed, it would have been odd if Gingrich didn’t endorse the mandate.
For those who’ve forgotten, this was a Republican idea in the first place. Nixon embraced it in the 1970s, and George H.W. Bush supported the idea in the 1980s. When Dole endorsed the mandate in 1994, it was in keeping with the party’s prevailing attitudes at the time. Romney embraced the mandate as governor and it was largely ignored during the ‘08 campaign, since it was in keeping with the GOP mainstream.
In recent years, the mandate has also been embraced by the likes of John McCain, Chuck Grassley, Orrin Hatch, Bob Bennett, Tommy Thompson, Lamar Alexander, Lindsey Graham, John Thune, Scott Brown, and Judd Gregg, among many others. Indeed, several of them not only endorsed the policy, they literally co-sponsored legislation that included a mandate.
During the fight over Obama’s reform proposal, Grassley told Fox News, of all outlets, “I believe that there is a bipartisan consensus to have an individual mandate” — and there was no pushback from party leaders. This isn’t ancient history; it was a year and a half ago.
Newt Gingrich touted the same idea? Well, sure, of course he did.
By: Steve Benen, Contributing Writer, The Washington Monthly, May 13, 2011
The senator gives a stunning rant against energy efficiency — and reproductive choice
Ladies and gentlemen, this is what we are up against. In a diatribe as bizarre and petulant as anything out of Charlie Sheen’s or any recent star of “The Bachelor’s” mouth, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul went on a tear Thursday about how abortion is somehow interfering with his God-given right to incandescent light bulbs. Clearly, there wasn’t one illuminating over his head when he started down the crazy path.
On Friday, Irin Carmon at Jezebel beautifully drilled down the essence of the rant — that “Rand Paul Thinks His Toilet Is More Important Than Your Abortion Rights.” In a mind-boggling display of foot stamping during an energy hearing, Paul asked deputy assistant energy secretary for efficiency Kathleen Hogan if she was “pro-choice,” leading the visibly puzzled Hogan to reply she’s pro-choice on light bulbs. Rand then launched into full cri de coeur mode, comparing the choice of abortion to being “anti-choice on every other consumer item, including light bulbs, refrigerators, toilets. You can’t go around your house without being told what to buy. You restrict my purchases. You don’t care about my choices.” Boo hoo hoooooo!
Who knew that reproductive choice was a consumer purchase? Who knew you could run out to Best Buy and pick up one of them late-term abortion thingies with an Energy Star rating? Paul then went on to overshare that “My toilets don’t work in my house. And I blame you and people like you.” We get it — Rand Paul has a fiber diet and a low flush toilet. “I can’t find a toilet that works!” he blurted angrily again later. So if you’re a pregnant teenage rape victim, maybe you should start thinking about how Rand Paul is suffering to get a little perspective.
Much of Paul’s speech doesn’t even make sense: If he’s so ticked about some perceived limitation of his “choice,” why does his Web page insist “I believe in a Human Life Amendment and a Life at Conception Act as federal solutions to the abortion issue.” You don’t like government regulation? The government regulates abortion. Where’s your free market now, Paul?
The whole piece is a truly remarkable piece of irony-rich rantitude, sure to be included in the next volume of Now That’s What I Call False Equivalencies and White Male Solipism! Paul said he finds it “troubling, this busybody nature that you want to come into my house — my bedroom, my bathroom …” But a woman’s womb, hey, that’s up for grabs.
Yet when he kvetched to Hogan that “I find it insulting … appalling and hypocritical,” it was clear the parallels to how he feels and the sentiments of many of us on the side of reproductive freedom are stunningly similar. Just because Rand Paul has problems with his plumbing, it’s astonishing that he believes he has the right to meddle in ours. But when he declared, “You busybodies are always trying to tell us how we can live our lives better — keep it to yourselves,” I had to admit, Rand Paul, you dismissive, whiny jerk, that I could not agree more.
By: Mary Elizabeth Williams, Salon, March 11, 2011
By now you’ve heard the cookie joke. You know: a CEO, a tea party member, and a union worker are all sitting at a table when a plate with a dozen cookies arrives. Before anyone else can make a move, the CEO reaches out to rake in eleven of the cookies. When the other two look at him in surprise, the CEO locks eyes with the tea party member. “You better watch him,” the executive says with a nod toward the union worker. “He wants a piece of your cookie.”
It’s funny for the same reason most good jokes are funny, because it contains a strong element of truth. This little game, pitting one group of working class voters against another, isn’t just a trick, it’s the trick. It’s what enables bankers to rob the nation blind and walk away. It’s what lets executives take an ever larger share of corporate income when they’re doing well, a larger share when they’re doing poorly, a larger share when they’re staying, and a larger share when they’re leaving. It’s what allows corporations to sit on the greatest stacks of money the world has ever seen, turn profits that dwarf those of even a few years ago, and still demand that their workers surrender a little more. A little more. A little more, please. Thanks, now get out.
Not only that, they get their workers to fight for them. Fight for surrendering their own rights, and fight to take those rights from others.
The engine of this schism is always powered by the same forces: fear and envy. There’s always someone out there to be the “other,” someone whose cultural values don’t line up with yours. Someone who is getting a better deal than you. Robber barons and corporations have always been good at promoting factionalism, and of course it helps when you have the media and politicians under your thumb. No doubt nobles played the same game to keep their comfy seats throughout history. Heck, there was probably a nice “Intro for New Pharaohs” scroll that explained how to keep the stonecutters jealous of the hieroglyph carvers, just so neither group ever got around to wondering if carving Rootintootin III’s face on blocks the size of houses was really the best use of their time.
For America, the tea party movement is just an update of a very old script.
You could see the same forces at work in 1843, as factionalism split the Whig Party and produced a third party movement. The American Republican Party first appeared on local election ballots in New York. This wasn’t the Republican Party that would emerge over a decade later, but it was one of several movements and parties that boiled up out of the Whig’s weakness. Supported by business organizations and trade unions , the party scored shocking victories in its first elections first in New York then in Philadelphia. Almost overnight, the party spread and within a year it had become a national movement challenging the established parties in almost every state. Both major parties quickly adjusted their policies to try and accommodate this new entity, but the new party had a focus and energy that delivered surprising wins in Boston, in Chicago, and in several other cities.
What powered the movement? Most of the energy came from a source that’s still highly potent today: demonization of immigrants. The leaders of the movement (which soon changed its name to the American Nativist Party and then just the American Party) warned that the uncontrolled wave of immigration was destroying what made America great. The new immigrants lacked both education and culture. They were insular, odd, and dangerous; unwilling to adopt American customs and values. They were shiftless, without the productive and creative spark of Americans, but at the same time they were willing to work so cheaply that they threatened to steal jobs from American workers.
These immigrants were other. This invading army had their own language, their own music, and most threatening of all they brought with them a corrosive philosophy, one that was the enemy of both democracy and capitalism. This philosophy was out to cripple trade and destroy companies. It encouraged laziness, diminished respect for personal property, and threatened established institutions. Despite these un-American tendencies, traitorous and corrupt politicians had been elected who were beholding to these immigrants. These America-hating politicians refused to pass tough federal laws to clamp down on immigration. They even argued that state and local laws limiting immigrant’s rights were unconstitutional. They tolerated or encouraged their new philosophy. Some even embraced it. In response, the American Party platform mandated English as the official language and restricted the government from printing documents in other languages, it sharply limited immigration and raised the requirements for citizenship, and it limited all political offices (including school teachers) to native born Americans.
The wave of dangerous immigrants came from Ireland and Germany. The anti-American philosophy they propagated was Roman Catholicism.
The nativism that spurred the appearance of the American Republican Party mirrors exactly the feelings and ideas that now power anti-immigrant movements in Arizona and across the nation. If the hatred for union workers, government workers, and really anyone not part of their own small group may not be precisely the same, but it’s a close cousin. It’s not racism, but it fills that racism-shaped hole in society’s soul. For tea partiers, the lazy, fat-cat teacher taking home a big pension on the government dime has replaced the Cadillac driving welfare queen. It doesn’t matter that both are myths. Both of them are just placeholders for the other, a symbol of that person you just know is out there taking advantage of you – a focus for unfocused anger. A focus provided by people who are so, so relieved that you’re willing to keep looking enviously at other workers and never glance up to see what your betters are doing.
At America’s founding, there were dire predictions that the nation would not last out one election cycle. Then, as now, there were far more poor than rich. What was to prevent the have-nots from passing legislation that stripped wealth from the hands of the haves? Democracy was seen as utterly incompatible with capitalism. Traders and businessmen viewed it with horror, certain that they would be overrun by the mob. But it never worked that way.
Instead, those at the top have always found it easy to get people to champion their cause. There’s always a group that feels wounded, angry and neglected. This group is susceptible to being told that they’re better than some other group, that some other group is getting a better deal, that some other group deserves to be put in its place. It doesn’t matter if that group is called Irish or Italian, Black or Hispanic, Union members or government workers. Anyone can be painted as a threat with enough hot air and yellow journalism. Anyone.
In the heyday of the American Republican Party, members developed a not-so-secret phrase. Asked what they knew about party activities, they were taught to respond “I know nothing.” Because of this, members of the group soon carried the name “Know-Nothings.” Over a century and a half later, there may not be anyone eager to embrace the title of Know-Nothing. But as long as some working class voters are willing to carry the billionaire’s water by attacking other workers, there are certainly plenty of Learned Nothings around.
By: Mark Sumner, Daily Kos, March 6, 2011