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Monday, May 6, 2013

NRA’s Answer for Our Times: ARMED INSURRECTION

We begin this week’s Blog with some words from

“The NRA's leadership embraces an insurrectionist ideology that asserts that the intent of the second amendment is to permit American citizens to shoot and kill federal agents and law enforcement officers in the event that they believe those agents are attempting to facilitate or impose some form of government tyranny.  This dangerous doctrine, that flirts with committing treason, is the cornerstone of the gun lobby's opposition to any and all forms of gun control, and is explicitly expressed by many of the NRA's congressional supporters."

Testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee, the NRA's Wayne LaPierre argued that, "without any doubt" Americans need the firepower to fight back against the government if government agents come knocking at the door. LaPierre (has also) stated bluntly that “Our Founding Fathers understood that the guys with the guns make the rules.”

The most frightening part about this insurrectionist ideology is that the people who adhere to it, already believe we are living under tyranny or headed rapidly in that direction.  With this in mind, many of them already contend that the time for armed insurrection is now or at least it is coming very soon.  In March of 2012, a Republican Committee county chair in Virginia published a newsletter that… argued that America under Obama was so tyrannical that if he could not be voted out in November, armed insurrection would become necessary.”

I find this loose talk of revolutionary action to overthrow the government ludicrous in the extreme.  First, this is a small minority of the population.  Second, they are talking about a government that has already been taken over by the rich and powerful who will not hesitate to crush them in a moment’s time.  Third, they need the support of the population for a revolution to be successful.  Where do they expect that vast support to come from?  They have forgotten that there are millions who will rebel against any such armed insurrection led by wrong-headed individuals who see conspiracy, socialism, and privacy invasion wherever they look, and who will lead us to worse government, not better government.

They are a small minority:  The Southern Poverty Law Center counted 1,007 active hate groups in the United States in 2012. Only organizations and their chapters known to be active during 2012 were included.  And that only counts hate groups.  How many of those hate enough to attempt an overthrow of the government?
Surprisingly enough, a new poll by Fairleigh Dickinson University indicates that 44% of Republicans and 29% of Americans believe that an armed rebellion might soon be necessary to protect our freedom and rights.  The percent of Democratic Party members who agree drops to 18% but the percent of Independents who agree is up at 27% (this was a poll of 863 registered voters conducted nationally by telephone with both landline and cell phones from April 22 through April 28, 2013, and has a margin of error of +/-3.4 percentage points.)

One commentator, a Justin Acuff of addicting, writes:
“Unsurprisingly, those numbers are much higher among conservatives and those without much education.  This goes to show that the sensationalistic endorsement of fringe conspiracy theories that are driven forward in the name of freedom and small government by the conservative right are starting to take hold… and the Republican side of things has proven itself to be quite effective of making use of fear as a motivator, especially through their propaganda wing, Fox News.”

But before we get too upset about the fact that almost a third of our people think armed rebellion may be necessary, we have to ask how many of these are left of center revolutionaries who will be glad to overthrow the revolutionaries from the right?  Hard to say.  The point is, no one can be sure what this poll signifies except what Acuff suggests: that Fox News is having an effect on the thinking of certain people. 
What one must always keep in mind if contemplating an armed rebellion against government is what Justin also points out: it’s best to have the support of a near-unanimous  percentage of the people or the chances of succeeding are not great.

Another commentator on armed rebellion has this to say about such support:
“I think the Government Stinks too...but most people are too self -involved to even care about what is going on in the country they live in.......I mean most people were more concerned with the Death of Heath Ledger than the fact that almost 4000 soldiers have died in a useless war (on ).....It truly is sad....I mean more people vote for American Idol in a state on Wednesday night then in a primary or caucus .....people have better things to do I guess time for a revolt”

In that same vein, I find the utterances about armed rebellion from right-wing revolutionaries to be, in the main, comical and tragic; the opposite sides of the same coin.  They just don’t get it: the people are not on their side.  Even 44% of Republicans is misleading  when you consider that a heavy percentage of those are probably senior citizens, some of whom have never owned guns, may not understand what an “armed rebellion” entails, and have little capacity to support or join such an actual attack upon their sitting government.  Their main concern may become:  Who will send out the social security checks while we‘re shutting down the government?  Armed rebellion rhetoric is just another ploy by dissatisfied conservatives to frighten a larger percentage of Americans into believing the unbelievable.

A government that has already been taken over:  Our present government is under the control of the richest 1-2% of this country.  More than 40% of our current Congress are themselves millionaires and are representing constituencies other than their own back home because they are financially supported by fellow-millionaires and billionaires who donate to their campaigns.  They are also supported by special interests to whom they cow-tow when it comes to their votes.
Take the recent example of 45 senators who voted against expanded background checks on those purchasing guns.  Although a huge percentage of people in this country, in poll after poll, favored such legislation, this bi-partisan amendment was defeated because a certain group led by the NRA threatened to withdraw their support in the next primary election for anyone who voted in favor.  Enough caved in so that a 60-vote result was not attained, although a simple majority was actually acquired.  So this is the government against which you want to rebel.  First of all, they just voted with you and against their own constituents and second, if they don’t want to be overthrown by you they will stop you with their power and their money if you ever try an armed rebellion against them.
More broadly:  what “government” are you talking about?  Your answer to this question is not well-defined; agents do not a government make.  After all, blaming troubles on government is not new.  We all need a scapegoat at times, and this is a perennial one.  What is this amorphous something called “government” that is completely interfering with our everyday existence and messing with our lives? Just what are we talking about?
Is this “government” the Congress that makes all of our federal laws and appropriates all federal monies?  Is this “government” the one administered by an Executive branch of offices and departments that carries out those laws and those appropriations?  Or, is it the “government” of a Judicial system that judges the constitutionality of the laws, decides on guilt or innocence of alleged individual and corporate law-breakers, and metes out punishments according to its verdicts?

Actual armed rebellion against the federal government is another thing entirely  when one looks at reality!
“Government” is legislators, teachers, first responders (police, fire, emergency personnel), clerks and secretaries, administrators and supervisors, scientists and border guards, and of course it‘s agents who carry out the laws in person; it’s judges and attorneys and some doctors, and millions in the military forces.  Government, above all, is people.  It is not amorphous.  It is people doing jobs that make government work, every day.  There is not some inner circle planning to takeover anything.  They don’t have time for such nonsense. 
Oh sure, people in government get carried away sometimes.  They propose things that are unconstitutional, they do things without careful consideration, they mess-up badly when they propose something that has exceptional but unintended outcomes, they do sometimes use power, and taxpayer money, poorly.  Government is people -- they make mistakes. 
But, there are many more people who are also part of our particular form of “government“; they are called citizens or “we, the people”.  They are the ones who have the responsibility of being one of those checks on what other members of government sometimes do poorly.  They must organize, they must speak out, they must vote, they must work for change when it is needed, and yes, they must take action by non-violent protest and citizen action in an attempt to reverse mistakes made by the governing bodies.  This branch of “government” -- the people -- is not to be ignored.  It can itself rise up and rebel against any right-wing armed rebellion; and probably would.
Destroying our “government” by armed rebellion is not acceptable.  It is in itself, the destroyer of democracy because no vote to foment rebellion will ever be taken, and therefore cannot become a law of the land.  In other words, armed rebellion is an illegitimate action that does not preserve our representative democracy; it is, in and of itself, the end of democracy because it is rule by a few; it is dictatorship.  No armed rebellion (except ironically, the American revolution), can claim to promote democracy, for the armed group that carries out rebellion is rarely, if ever, intent upon returning power to the people. 
The American Revolution is somewhat different in that it was established upon the core principal of representative democracy (“no taxation without representation” was one slogan).  It intended, and expressed in document(s), including numerous petitions to the Crown, that it wished to establish a representative and open government instead of the closed monarchial system.  And amazingly, the armed rebellion carried out that intention.
But armed rebellion against our current democracy has little chance of producing more democracy, especially if the rebels are themselves seeking power to carry out their own agenda and not that of the vast majority of the citizens.  One armed rebellion, called the Civil War, failed in its goal of destroying the federal government because it neglected the will of the people.  The Confederacy did not prevail partly because, in contrast to the Revolution, their underlying motive was to maintain slavery and thus to diminish the people, not to enhance their suffrage or their democratic ideals and liberties.  It failed because it intended to weaken democracy not strengthen it.

Where do you expect your support to come from?  Gun owners?  People who hate other than white folks?  Urban gangs?  The Tea Party?  Can you actually muster the armed help of more than 1-5% of the population?  It is very hard to say.  But let us be clear about one thing:  you do not have broad-based support.  You never will. 
In truth, there are, in this country, those who are vehemently opposed to your talk of armed rebellion against the government.  If our national government, as a result of your rebellion, was to become a radical right-wing, national socialist, hatred-filled cabal that destroys freedom and takes away the civil rights so long fought for and won, YOU would be surprised and overwhelmed by the reaction waiting for you from people not known to favor unbridled ownership of guns.  Although it will make for some strange bedfellows, they will join the 1% plutocrats now in charge to oppose your rebellion and to annihilate your movement.  Your mantra that everyone should own a gun in order to protect themselves shall surely come back to haunt you.  Beware your own rhetoric for you shall surely reap what you have sown!
Although our colonial government was built on the foundation of armed rebellion against a government, we are wedded to representative democracy as the best form of government ever constructed.  To date, we have not heard from your side as how you would improve upon that model.
Maybe that is your greatest failure.  You have not said how you will govern.  In fact, that is the major difficulty with most rebellions, revolutions and civil wars.  The opposition rarely thinks ahead and plans for the transition from status quo to a new form of governance.  And so, chaos and anarchy are most likely to reign until, inevitably, a form of dictatorship emerges, which is much easier to manage than a messy democracy.  And there lies the rub.

For all your talk about government interference, government injustices, government bureaucracy, government over-spending, government destruction of freedoms, we can’t tell for sure if your form of government, yet to be announced, would correct any of the problems that have arisen in our form of government.  So, unless you are anarchists, whatever you propose to substitute for the brand of government we have now, will probably increase all of our current problems and spawn many more, instead of reducing them and producing a more democratic, free, people-centered structure.

I have said it before, and I’ll say it again:  government is not the enemy.  It is sometimes the target of our frustration and even our anger, but it is not the enemy.  Government is much broader than we generally proclaim for it, because it includes the citizenry as one very important branch or component.  We are endowed with unalienable rights, we are also the source of voter power; we are mentioned in the Constitution as possessing unspecified powers not reserved to the federal government or to the states.  We are part of the government and it is our responsibility to see that it operates as it should.  We are protected in our speech and our religious practices,  we have the right to a redress of grievances, search and seizure is not permitted on an arbitrary basis and privacy and property are even protected. 

The real enemy consists of those forces that want to diminish the power of the people, and the rights and privileges that we enjoy.  The enemy are those who want to capture the levers of government through under-handed, illegal, and even legal means (through donating obscene amounts of cash to campaigns).  The enemy are those who seek power over others; who want others to conform to their ideologies, their religion, their way of life; their values.  The enemy are those who want to restrict voting rights and the social contract that we have for the well-being of all our citizens, particularly of our most vulnerable. 

The enemy is not the government.  It may need reforming; it may need non-violent and organized opposition; it may need reproving; it may need picketing; it may need lots of forms of redress of grievances, but it is not the enemy.  It does too much that is right to replace it with what is wrong.  It performs too many services that protect and enhance people‘s lives, to be replaced by entities that cannot adequately address the peoples’  needs. We cannot simply overthrow that which exists and expect that flaws and inadequacies will be addressed.  Our form of governance demands that we be ever vigilant and ever-active in seeing that our government functions as it was designed to function, but to change it peacefully when we are aggrieved by its performance.  Insurrectionist talk, philosophy and ideology will not enhance our system for it is intrinsically contrary to a democratic system of government.  It’s past time to tell the NRA leadership to change their ridiculous tune.