Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Handguns and Bad Intentions

[Fair Warning: this is a rambling rant of the first degree.]

I want to teach the American people a lesson. I want to pull a Matthew 6:1-8 switch-a-roo on the public and show them that wolves cross-dress more often than we’d like to imagine.

Assume an issue, X. This issue is near and dear to Americans, but vulnerable to core Christian values and right-wing-speak. In other words, Americans would be loath to give up X, but through the use of the Christ-club scribed with rightish rhetoric, you may be able to batter them into a corner and admit X is bad. Of course this has been done before with Prohibition, but it never hurts to repeat history when it’s for your own benefit.

Say X equals handguns. What is the first defense for anyone looking to hang on to the unfettered right to tote a highly efficient machine designed to kill other people? That blasted second amendment to the Constitution of these United States...

“Amendment II: A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

To me, the fact that “the Constitution says so” is a flimsy argument. For eighty years the Constitution said slavery was legal. The Constitution at one time banned alcohol, denied a woman’s right to vote, and provided no term limits for the office of President. That brown bit of paper can be amended, so why shouldn’t it be amended to clarify or outright remove the second amendment? So the first challenge is to set the stage for debating handguns such that “the Constitution says so” is no longer a viable defense.

The typical NASCAR dad may shoot back that they need them guns to protect themselves ‘gainst the government. Well, you elected it, why would you need protection from it? What’s the matter, don’t trust the man you put in the office of President? And do you really think that handgun is going to protect you from M-16 assault rifles, M-60 machine guns, or Apache helicopters with Hellfire missiles? Don’t you trust the Pentagon? Why do you hate the armed forces and all those fine young men and women who are risking their lives everyday to protect your liberties!? Lather, rinse, and repeat.

With that pesky Constitutional shield out of the way, we come to my favorite part: You get to wrap your arguments in the banner of Christ. You get to use all those moral values you cursed the Right for whoring out during the last decade. I bet that if I read the Bible, I could find hundreds of passages where the Big J urges peace and tolerance and all that jazz. Why would a follower of Christ need a handgun? What right-wing Bible-thumper can argue against that stuff? Better yet, think of all the ministers, preachers, priests, and other religious leaders you could shame into signing on to this cause. Jackpot!

Of course you have to deal with the usual bullshit as well. “If you outlaw guns only outlaws will have guns.” I hate that weak-ass argument. You don’t see anyone throwing it around for drugs, ivory, or jarts (lawn darts). Which itself is a weak rebuttal. But think about it, they outlawed jarts, but fucking handguns are a mere 3-day wait? How does that make sense? What if I consider a jart my most trusty weapon, my “arms” so to speak? Shouldn’t it be legal then?

There’s another good angle we can take, in regards to military weaponry. I can buy a handgun, but not a machine gun. Why? Something to do with a machine gun being classified as military hardware. Sounds like my right to bear arms has just been infringed! No? OK, so classify handguns as military hardware. Again, this is sort of a weak argument. But not all arguments have to be cruise missiles. You need a couple flares and decoys to keep the enemy guessing and reacting, which forces them off their game plan and into playing yours.

Flippant accusations are always nice to throw people off too. If a legislator defends handguns, accuse him or her as being beholden to gun lobbyists or NRA stooges. It doesn’t matter if they really are or not. Make them switch to defending their reputation. Man, I love using my enemies’ own tactics against them!

Notice we don’t need any statistics. That’s key. We don’t want to argue numbers. Numbers are mercenaries who work for whoever is mouthing them. They might bring up that annoying statistic that crime has dropped in states where carrying concealed weapons is legal. When someone brings up numbers, we just say, “this isn’t about numbers, it’s about saving lives, saving our children’s future, and rainbows, and Jesus Christ, who is my personal savior and would certainly wish to see these violent weapons out of the hands of our kids. Amen.” Then we bring up the statistic that handguns end up killing the people closest to the owner more often than home invaders. Hit and run, hit and run. And besides, if they want to argue numbers, ask them which numbers prove abortion should be outlawed. Tell them it’s a subductive argument. That’ll shut ‘em up... at least as long as it takes them to figure out subductive isn’t a word.

One nice thing about this issue is that we can give on so many fronts and still make the other side squirm. Don’t want to ban handguns altogether? OK, how about if every gun manufactured is fired once and its ballistic fingerprint kept in a database, along with information about the retailer and end buyer of the weapon. Then, if the gun were to be used for a nefarious deed, we could trace it back to its owner. Seems fair. We do it with cars. Why not guns? It would burn the gun-nuts that we could track them. They might feel the need to not compromise, while we innocently claim, “we tried to compromise, but they won’t budge.”

Or ban the ammunition. If you’re going to use constructionist arguments to protect the right to own the tool of a killer, then show me where the Constitution says buying ammo must be not be infringed. Bullets have gunpowder in them. That’s an explosive. Ban them! Bullets have lead in them. Lead? That’s bad for our children. What if some poor child were to swallow some bullets and get all retarded? Ban them! You want ammunition? Go ahead and make it yourself. I don’t see how that infringes on your right to bear arms.

Finally, we could go so far as to say, “we give up, as long as every handgun is colored blaze orange with fluorescent green stripes.” No more sexy nickel-plated revolvers or glossy black nines. All handguns newly manufactured, resold, or transported out of one’s residence must be blaze orange and have fluorescent green stripes. Think they’d cave? I’d love to see their reaction to that compromise. Meanwhile, we claim to have bargained in good faith. Why would they say no to that? It isn’t about how the gun looks, right? It’s just a tool, why not color it as such? (Because they’d look like fucking fruitcakes with those things; who’s gonna take a guy seriously with something as goofy-looking as that in his hand?)

So now the question becomes, what the hell is wrong with the anti-gun lobby that they haven’t thought of this shit yet? Or if they have, what arguments have the pro-gunners been using to shoot them down?


Blogger Praveen said...

This was real funny. I dont know if you meant this Mike, but one thing I found really cool about your article is the general idea, of how to convince (or just talk to) the other side. In some sense, this goes back to the debate posts by Jason and me, where we were unhappy about the state of debate. Well there will be no debate if the tactics are so different. If you havent yet, check out George Lakoff's "Dont think of an Elephant", a sub-100 page little book that talks about similar strategies that you mentioned here. Since I already abhor handguns, guns, explosives and all such things, its hard for me to tell if these strategies really work. I think they will, if any of the cognitive science I have learnt is any use. So, Mike, are you ready to right down a treatise on how to argue with the other side? Logic and numbers are out (although in some very few cases, they could be used effectively as intimidation strategies).

[* Outside the scope of this, but there is something that troubles me about this enterprise, though. Arent we doing what they are doing? Can we do it right and ethically? Is it totally impossible? Of course, I'd rather be part of a useful change than ethical. So I dont lose much sleep about this. But something to think of, when you have had a Guinness too many.]

6:35 PM  
Blogger $mike said...

Yes, you have brought up a question that eternally gnaws at the back of my mind. Is it ok to do evil for a greater good? Is doing evil to evil, good?

I love to ride my little French ten-speed. She’s light, sleek, and almost effortless to glide so far so fast with. When I bike, I think. By the time I return home, I’ve usually exercised a thought through about as much as my body. One day while biking, I started thinking about the movies “American History X” and “Mother Night”. If you haven’t seen these flicks, run out and rent them. They’re marvelous looks at Nazism and how hate is transmitted.

I started thinking, “could I do that?” [body: pedal pedal pedal] Could I hate like that? [body: pedal pedal pedal] Could I *pretend* to hate like that? [mind: pedal pedal pedal]

Because let’s face it, sometimes what we show outwardly is an act for others. So could I act like them, while retaining a good soul? Could I infiltrate a group, go undercover? Seems to me if I spouted a bunch of bullshit about hating this guy or that guy, I’d fit right in. Nazis don’t appear terribly smart to me. Their logic is straightforward enough. And what’s there to figure out? If I talk like a Nazi, I must be a Nazi, right? Who argues with the guy agreeing with them?

What good could I do once I was one of them? Being a Nazi isn’t a crime (nor should it). Maybe I could become treasurer of the local chapter of Nazis-R-Us and transfer all their hard earn money into the Jewish Defense League’s coffers. Maybe I could set them up to do a crime and then warn the police so they’re all caught red-handed. I could become their webmaster and put peaceful subliminal messages on their site.

But, is doing evil to evil, good? [What about the invasion of Iraq? Did we do evil to evil to do good?]

Last fall I took the idea to different dark corner of my mind, the Republican Party. If you can’t beat them, join them... right? I can agree with many right-of-center ideas. I would love to take a machete to the federal government. It’s a big blotted monstrosity that has grown far beyond what it was intended to be by the Framers.

More and more I have become a proponent of states’ rights, mostly because I don’t want red-states to dictate social policy to me anymore. I realize it was the federal government that brought Jim Crow to his knees, that the states south of the Mason-Dixon Line certainly wouldn’t have ended segregation themselves. But now the shoe is on the other foot and red-state conservatives are exercising the same kind of control over us Yankees in the opposite direction, with issues like gay-marriage and abortion. And that ain’t cool.

Another states’ rights attraction to me is forcing big business into a labyrinth of state-by-state bureaucracy. Just think about the tizzy you’d throw Big Media into if the states gained control over their own electromagnetic spectrum. How would large mining operations like dealing with a dozen vigilant local authorities over digging rights, rather than one uncaring federal organization? If states were more nation-like, big business would be forced to expend more resources just dealing with their own size. Some might argue this would depress business (why is that bad again?) but I say it would be a good thing for all the knowledge workers they’d have to hire.

Sorry, got off track there... My point is, by joining the Republican Party and working up through the ranks and getting elected using their rhetoric, I could then exert influence on them. Could I act like them, while retaining a good soul? Could I infiltrate them, go undercover? Seems to me if I spouted a bunch of bullshit about this issue or that issue, I’d fit right in. Republicans don’t appear terribly smart to me. Their logic is straightforward enough. And what’s there to figure out? If I talk like a Republican, I must be a Republican, right? Who argues with the guy agreeing with them?

What good could I do once I was one of them? Being a Republican isn’t a crime (nor should it). Maybe I could become treasurer of the local chapter of Republicans-R-Us and transfer all their hard earn money into the DNC’s coffers. Maybe I could set them up to commit corruption and then rat them out to the proper authorities. I could become their webmaster and put liberal subliminal messages on their site.

I see moderate Republicans getting kicked around like redheaded stepchildren. I’ve noticed Democrats losing ground since Clinton poked Monica with a cigar. Maybe the way to turn things around is to infiltrate the GOP and work from the inside to bust it wide open. Personally, I think this two-party system is a travesty. In my humble opinion, we need at least two more parties. No one can take a central position if both sides keep drifting further and further away from the middle. Force politicians to do something they haven’t done in a years... negotiate. If the President didn’t have half the Congress in the palm of this hand, he’d have to compromise more. Make the politicians form coalitions and alliances like in every other fucking country on this God-forsaken planet. Let’s be more like Canada! That’s not something you hear often from an American...

But, is that evil? Is doing what I see as evil, to an organization that I consider evil, good?

10:16 AM  

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