Why insist on carrying guns publicly, as so many are?
Does wielding a pistol in a safe public place (far from rattlesnakes and other wild animals) gives its owner a feeling of extra security? Perhaps there’s a feeling that it’s needed in case of a physical threat. On the other hand, absent any real threat it brands the carrier a coward and a weakling. It displays, for all to see, an unreasonable fear of others: the paranoid’s fear of the crowd and of ordinary people.
Or maybe someone carries a gun to show off his country roots. He keeps a tool of the country, or the woods, close at hand or on display—maybe he thinks he looks like a cowboy from the movies. Instead, he looks out of place, like he doesn’t understand the proper place for tools and insists on carting around an unnecessary one. He may as well use a pitchfork as a walking stick, carry an axe over his shoulder, or keep his fencing tools jangling on his belt. (In fact the axe might be more effective.)
But the bearer usually knows this. The point of private citizens carrying an offensive weapon in a public place is most often simply to appear threatening, to offend people, and to make a statement. The point, frankly, is often to anger anyone that might want to limit gun use. Reading bulletin boards about open-carry laws reinforce this impression— most posters sound like they simply want to “exercise their right” and to display their political allegiances in the most threatening way possible.
It’s fairly easy to understand how instilling fear in strangers would make someone feel powerful. We men tend to subconsciously rise up straight, puff out our chests and set our jaw straight when other men size us up or get too close. Or we look away, moving on, when it’s clear we can be overpowered. The gun on display lets us be the one who doesn’t look away, the one who would win that fight, and it does so without us needing to move— we just need to show off our piece. It feels like a quiet strength, like respect, but it isn’t.
Because the price of that power, socially, is that we have to show our paranoia and our deep-seated fear to have it. Carrying the gun creates the equivalent of the insane talker on the subway: others look away, slink on by, no one wants a confrontation, because this person is obviously unpredictable and has no need or understanding of the natural equations of power and risk.
Nancy Pearcey, “Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity”
This quote, found in Ryan Lizza’s fascinating and frightening New Yorker profile of Michele Bachmann, is one of the most succinct explanations I’ve ever seen of why, despite all evidence to the contrary, many fundamentalists refuse to believe in evolution: it is based upon the wrong principle.
Perhaps an explanation that Darwin was a devout Catholic could help? Somehow I doubt it; it’s hard to see how anyone could penetrate such circular logic.
The left came to trust the judiciary as an impartial body that would eventually rule in their favor, after decades of it being true. But it’s not anymore, and it’s past time we accepted that fact. Lawsuits only harden public opinion—we have to elevate our political actions, and our politicians need to raise their game even more so. Wisconsonites did this before Walker’s bill passed (and after), but lawsuits are no longer going to work in favor of the people. This is a new era, and we have to adjust to it.
Back in 2006, Illinois’s junior senator told my sister that he thought the strong conservative lean of the Supreme Court would convince liberals that they could no longer rely on the courts, and that this would be good in one sense, because the left would finally adjust their political tactics accordingly, in order to compete with the right.
I think we still need more convincing, despite Obama’s belief that we’ll understand this is new territory.
Old habits die hard.
Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens, in Savannah, Georgia on March 21, 1861
First, he makes it fairly clear that the Civil War was fought over slavery, even though there were no promising federal proposals to abolish it at the time.
The entire “cornerstone speech” is here, and well worth reading in full, because there are other points he raises that are still being debated, beyond the issue of slavery.
One of the things most fascinating to me about the speech is the rejection of the idea of national common wealth and federal rules or regulations, which dovetails in many ways with today’s conservatism. The idea of subjecting all commerce and improvements to local municipalities is, in my mind, counter to the idea of the United States being an actual cohesive nation (which was likely intentional, as the CSA was to be a confederation of states), and seems to me the basis for claims that the Civil War was about states’ rights.
States’ rights, however, were not the foundation of the revolt, but rather a conservative cause that was written into the new constitution, on par with presidential term limits, unrestricted corporatism (under a different name at the time, of course), and allowing cabinet officials to debate in the new congress. It is fascinating that most of those issues are still key conservative causes today.
Destroying the federal government’s power has risen and fallen in importance as a conservative goal for decades and decades, but has always been debated. Grover Norquist has been the most outspoken recent proponent, and his Club for Growth has succeeded in making it an integral part of the GOP’s mainstream base concerns today.
To me, this is nothing other than an “anti-patriotism,” and an idea that holds our entire country back from being as great as it really can be. It cripples our capability and willingness to respond to national crises, alienates whole communities from each other, undermines our health policies, and exacerbates our fiscal problems.
This is why I am opposed to nuclear power in the US. It’s not because I’m opposed to nuclear power per se, but because Congress and the GOP continue to undermine the federal government’s power to regulate. Comparing our regulatory abilities to those of Japan, I simply do not believe nuclear facilities in the US will be properly maintained over the long term.
This approach to government needs to be finally called what it is: destructive, anarchic, and frankly anti-American.