When I write about the problems that America has in relation to certain socio-political policies, the words of Bill Maher reflect my own thoughts: I love America…its Americans I can’t stand!
As such, I’d like to address just the white American males—particularly those who consider themselves political conservatives—for a few moments. I will pause now to give those who don’t fit that particular demographic time to navigate away from this page, or power-down your computers.
Now that it’s just you and I, please allow me to ask you a question…what’s the deal with the fear that your civil liberties are under assault by the government?
Last Thursday, the Washington Post published an opinion by columnist E.J. Dionne Jr. entitled, “Leave The Guns At Home” (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/08/19/AR2009081902961.html) . The piece was a response to the growing occurrence of guns being brought to and displayed by certain protesters at health reform-related town hall meetings and rallies around the country, even one attended by the president himself. Gun enthusiasts and other supporters of gun-owners’ rights defend these actions as protected by the Second Amendment’s Right To Bear Arms…a right as an American citizen that I fully support. The White House, as its response, has seemingly gone out of its way to assure these conservative gun owners that their rights are fully respected with regard to their right to own and/or carry their weapons.
The Obama White House purports to be open to the idea of guns outside the president's appearances. “There are laws that govern firearms that are done state or locally,’ Robert Gibbs, the White House spokesman, said on Tuesday. “Those laws don't change when the president comes to your state or locality." (Dionne Jr., Washington Post, 08/20/09)
Surely then, there is a double-standard as it relates to this desire not to cater to the baseless fears of conservative gun owners and scare them even more.
In 2006, a New York state official (who was a Democrat) joked stupidly that one of his colleague should "put a bullet between the president's eyes," referring to President Bush. Within hours, he profusely apologized, and not long after that, Republicans were calling for his resignation. It was a reasonable reaction to the suggestion that a sitting president be fatally removed from office. (Stone, “Guns at Obama Rallies: Where’s the Outrage?” Newsweek, 08/18/09. http://blog.newsweek.com/blogs/thegaggle/archive/2009/08/18/guns-at-obama-rallies-where-s-the-outrage.aspx)
Strangely, these “thinking” conservative white males should have more of an allegiance to common sense than their own political ideologies; after all, the last time a gun was brought to a meeting where a sitting president was attending was when John Hinkley was trying to impress actress Jodie Foster. And one has to wonder what the response would be if leftist activists exercised the same right to carry and bear arms at an event staged by conservative politicians; would their rights to carry be as respected? History says no. We saw this in California back in 1967 when former president and arch-conservative Ronald Reagan was the state’s law-and-order governor. Reagan, seeking to stop the militant Black Panthers from exercising their legal right at the time to carry weapons in the open, signed the Mulford Act, which then prohibited “the carrying of firearms on one’s person or in a vehicle, in any public place or any public street” (keeping in mind that the Panthers adopted the policy of openly carrying weapons as a perceived defense against the Oakland, California Police Department, a government arm with many documented complaints of unprovoked brutality, excessive force, civil rights violations against them). That particular instance was just another in a long history of instances where local, state, or federal government engaged in the interference or suppression of civil liberties of non-WASP males. Shall I mention the post-Civil War and Reconstruction era-enacted Black Codes of the South, which in many instances forbade black ownership of guns? How about the many illegal lynchings of blacks and other hyphenated-Americans at the hands of “good Christians” as local government turned a blind eye? The decimation of entire black towns such as Rosewood, Florida and Tulsa’s Greenwood District (sometimes called the “Black Wall Street” due to the existence of many black-owned businesses that were the basis for the district's economic success) in 1921? How about the internment of thousands of Americans of Japanese heritage during the Second World War?
Need a more contemporary example? With respect to the good people of both Chicago and Washington D.C., the high rates of homicides among their large minority populations defies the logic of the tight controls each that cities’ government has on handgun ownership. The local laws, which prohibit purchasing and/or owning a handgun within their city limits limit any chance that the law-abiding citizens of these cities have to defend themselves in the face of gun-toting criminals who don’t allow themselves to be bound by such hindrances as these laws. And it's obvious these tight controls haven’t done anything to stem the tide of the record numbers of handgun-related murders in each city in recent years, controls that impede the desire and right of self-protection. I could go on ad nauseum.
Listing these historical occurrences are not by any means an attempt to elicit or impose feelings of racial guilt in white males, nor are they meant to make you look bad from a historical perspective. But they are meant to put the issue in perspective. Each instance had/has the willing assistance of some level of government, and I (or the rest of America for that matter) have yet to see any such policies enacted or enforced in areas populated by largely non-minority (i.e., white) citizens. There have been no such similar instances (at least to my knowledge) where the wholesale hindering or ignoring the civil liberties (not to mention affecting the very lives) of white male citizens occurred to any similarly measurable level...including instances of forbidding the ownership or use of guns for self-defense. The bottom line is that the white male fear of having one’s weapons taken away, or of having their rights limited by government is not fully understood in light of the lack of any similar or discernible instances where laws and/or local ordinances were passed to curtail their rights. So how is it that you fear gun-control or civil liberty violations when government has a tradition of working—for better or worse—in your interests?
I will again now pause, this time to allow you to either try to formulate a justification for this apparent irrational dissonance (something I’m sure will be predictably along the lines of, “Yeah, but those instances were different…") or to try to search your memory banks for similar instances where white males’ gun ownership rights or civil liberties were so imposed upon by any level of government on a level of scale.
To Be Concluded...