Posts Tagged ‘gun control’

The Children’s Crusade

March 30, 2018

The recent student marches about guns spotlight how America’s civic culture has gone off the rails. It’s not the marches — it’s the reaction to them.

There’s long been a tendency to demonize and delegitimize those we disagree with. It was pioneered by the left. But today’s Republican right outdoes them.

Typical was a radio commentary by Herb London, the once-weekly “conservative” pundit on our local NPR station (a slot I once filled myself). London has intellectual chops and used to be a responsible, articulate conservative voice. But like so many on the right, he’s drunk the Trump Kool-Aid, been blinded by it, and has lost all objectivity and decency. His diatribe against the students was nasty, brutish, and ridiculous. He called them symptoms of an “ideological crack-up;” decried educators and politicians “who should know better” encouraging and supposedly manipulating them. They’re too ignorant and naive to know what’s what. “Guns can kill,” he said, but “so can knives. A gun in the hands of St. Francis is not a weapon.” And he spoke of “hardening ideological positions” undermining “civil discourse.”

Look in the mirror, Herb!

Others have accused the students of being paid shills, or even actors. Anything to deny the reality of what they represent and the plain reasonableness of their pleas. They want to outlaw mass killing weapons. Nikolas Cruz could not have killed 17 people with a knife. The Las Vegas shooter could not have killed 58 and injured 851 with a knife. Nor even with ordinary guns.

This Republican denialism about assault weapons is of a piece with all the other right-wing Trumpian assaults on reality — from evolution to climate science to imaginary voter fraud to every idiotic conspiracy theory, condemning the Mueller investigation as a partisan witch-hunt, and believing the most stupendous liar in political history while calling the truth “fake news.”

And like so much else in today’s Republican discourse, their gun-rights absolutism is marked by disingenuousness. Saying anything to cloud the waters. After every mass shooting they splutter about mental health (which they never act upon either). Other recent diversionary nostrums include redesigning schools to eliminate winding corridors; installing metal detectors (with armies of operators, making schools like airports — great idea); even equipping classrooms with buckets of rocks for kids to hurl at shooters.

And of course arming teachers. This crackbrained idea is so obviously problem-fraught that nobody (except perhaps the fool in the White House) takes it seriously. It’s a sham, cooked up to distract us from the real issue: the insanity of allowing anyone to obtain military-style assault weapons whose only raison d’etre is killing a lot of people fast.

Yet this insanity has actually become part of the GOP’s own raison d’etre. Partly it’s because of the NRA, once a responsible gun hobbyist group, now transmogrified into a fire breathing fetishizer of The Gun as holy object. But why so many Americans buy into this extremist craziness is hard to understand. There is the notion of guns defending against government tyranny. (Good luck, the government controls vastly more firepower.) And fear of government “taking guns away.” Oddly enough, it was Trump — not Obama or Hillary — who actually said, “I like taking guns away early. Take the guns first, go through the process second.” Why didn’t this make his gun-loving supporters’ brains explode? (Because they have none?)

The students were not proposing to take away anyone’s guns; yet still they were declared the enemy. Here we have high-schoolers, for a change, stepping up to the plate and making their voices heard on a momentous public issue, of great personal concern to them. To quote what has become a ubiquitous chant, “This is what democracy looks like.” Such civic engagement by young people is a wonderful thing. And most Americans agree with them; after all, they’re marching against a policy that is literally insane.

Nevertheless the Trumpian NRA Republican right insults, demonizes, and delegitimizes them. What a disgrace that is. By smearing the students’ honest nobility, Republicans cover themselves with shame. Yet again.

My criticism of Republicans may sound partisan. I would remind readers that I was a committed Republican, a conservative Republican, for 53 years until 2017 — when I could no longer bear to be associated with what the party has become. It breaks my heart.