Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Constructively Worrying About the Right Things

There have been several very interesting articles written recently concerning the various problems we face today in America. Of course, it's easy to write articles (and blog posts!), but much harder to actually solve the problems; nevertheless, it's not always a bad thing to step back and take a look at ourselves and the country we're making ... or throwing away, depending on your point of view.

Here is a wonderful quote from an Economist article about the foolish idea of the trillion-dollar coin* as a deus ex machina solution to our economic woes:

"The American habit of making a fetish of their written constitution tends to blind them to the fact that power is constrained at last by conscience, convention, and credible threats of social, institutional, and physical reprisal, not paper law."

Hard-core conservatives thunder endlessly about the all-but-Koranic sanctity of the Constitution and the near-Mohammedan wisdom and perfection of the Founders, but I'm not at all sure they understand what it really means in terms of running a country in the 21st century.

At the moment, the Second Amendment is getting most of the attention on the Far Right - a screaming passion that often goes beyond reason and good sense and is based on the perceived need for possession of firearms as protection against the power of a tyrannical government. Consider just two of the things that have happened recently:

A former Marine sent a letter to Senator Diane Feinstein, strongly defending his right to own any type of weapon without restriction.

Ultraconservative talk show host Alex Jones engaged in a lengthy rant on the Piers Morgan Tonight show, excoriating Mr Morgan over his advocacy of gun control. Among other things, Mr Jones said**,

"1776 will commence again if you try to take our firearms! It doesn't matter how many lemmings you get out on the street begging for them to have their guns taken! We will not relinquish them! Do you understand?"

There's no question that there is tremendous passion on the part of many Americans for the right to own as many weapons as they wish, of whatever type they choose, and to carry them even in the most inappropriate places. But the argument that the ownership of weapons is necessary for protection against an Evil Government hell-bent on depriving Good Americans of their freedoms is more than a little simplistic. 

Consider this article by Conor Friedersdorf from the Atlantic Monthly: The Strangest Conservative Priority: Prepping a '2nd Amendment Solution.' This excerpt explains Mr Friedersdorf's thesis:

"...we're going to proceed [in this article] as if the arguments above are correct -- that there is a real danger of the U.S. government growing tyrannical; that the people must preserve checks on its power; and that the Framers best understood how to do so. I respect that general reasoning. What I can't respect are the conservatives who invoke it during political battles over gun control, even as they ignore or actively oppose so many other important attempts to safeguard liberty."

What Mr Friedersdorf goes on to consider is the laser focus of the Right on the importance of preserving gun rights, while attempting to impose its own social agenda and ignoring all the other ongoing, more subtle ways in which the government limits their freedoms:

"... the conservative movement is only reliable when it defends the 2nd Amendment. Otherwise, it is an inconsistent advocate for safeguarding liberty. Conservatives pay occasional lip service to federalism, but are generally hypocrites on the subject, voting for bills like No Child Left Behind, supporting a federally administered War on Drugs, and advocating for federal legislation on marriage.***"

He goes on ...

"It's one thing to argue that gun control legislation is a nonstarter, despite tens of thousands of deaths by gunshot per year [Mr Friedersdorf's emphasis], because the safeguards articulated in the Bill of Rights are sacrosanct. I can respect that... but not from people who simultaneously insist that 3,000 dead in a terrorist attack justifies departing from the plain text of the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth and Eighth amendments****, and giving the president de-facto power to declare war without Congressional approval.

"The conservative movement has a broad, textualist reading of the 2nd Amendment... and nothing else."

And my final quote from the article sort of sums it up:

"... if you're a conservative gun owner who worries that gun control today could make tyranny easier to impose tomorrow, and you support warrantless spying, indefinite detention, and secret drone strikes on Americans accused of terrorism, what explains your seeming schizophrenia?"

What indeed?

I have written often enough in this space that I support all of our freedoms, including the right to "keep and bear arms" enshrined in the Second Amendment. But if you think all that matters is the right to pack heat, ignoring all the other ways a government driven by hyperconservative passions would like to limit your other freedoms, you need your head examined.

Read Mr Friedersdorf's article and think about it very carefully.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


* You may recall that I wrote about this idea last month ... here's the post.

** Shouted, actually.

*** You may remember the attempt last year by conservative Republican legislators in Virginia to require mandatory invasive ultrasound tests for women seeking abortions, since abandoned in the face of strong opposition.

**** Much less the First.


eViL pOp TaRt said...

An excellent article, well worth reading.

Elvis Wearing a Bra on His Head said...

The thrust of the article may be that we're not worried to enough possible threats to our liberty. Very true!

Mike said...

Where did I read recently (here?) that Jefferson said the constitution needed to be throw out and rewritten every generation (approx 33 years).