Sunday, July 24, 2022

Sunday Reading

White Fright — Paul Waldman in The Washington Post on the most dangerous threat to America.

As witness after witness testified to the Jan. 6 House select committee Thursday about Donald Trump’s deranged and possibly illegal plot to cling to power, it was impossible to ignore his sense of entitlement. What was this system for, if not to give him whatever he wanted? And if it wouldn’t, he would tear it down.

That’s not just his story; it’s also the story of those who stormed the Capitol on his behalf. And it’s increasingly the story of the Republican Party. In our ongoing debate about what the Constitution means and whether we should have a genuine democracy, it is the people who have been given the most advantages who are most willing, even eager, to destroy the American system.

This is about much more than Jan. 6, 2021. Consider a revealing exchange at a recent House Judiciary Committee hearing on gun reform legislation. Rep. Chip Roy (R-Tex.) made what has become a familiar argument, that enabling citizens to rise up against the government when necessary is “the reality of the purpose of the Second Amendment.”

In response, Rep. Jamie B. Raskin (D-Md.) — a former constitutional law professor — called Roy’s perspective “the insurrectionist view of the Second Amendment,” saying it “flies in the face of the plain text of the Constitution, which in at least five different places clearly forbids armed violent resistance to the government.”

Raskin’s response went viral among liberals. But this is about more than the hypocrisy of conservatives who bray about their love for the Constitution yet have no idea what it says and regularly fantasize about overthrowing the government it created.

It raises a more important question: Why are these people so eager to justify violent attacks against our system — either a hypothetical future attack or the one on Jan. 6, 2021 — when they have the least to complain about?

The most vulgar insurrectionist reading of the Second Amendment is the “Come and take it!” proclamation. It essentially says that should a law ever pass requiring its advocates to give up some of their guns, they could kill any law-enforcement officers attempting to enforce it.

So for instance, Rep. Ronny Jackson (R-Tex.) recently tweeted a video of himself holding two AR-15-style rifles — one aimed rather unsafely at his foot — writing, “If Democrats want to push an insane gun-grab, they can COME AND TAKE IT!”

Alongside that kind of grunt of rage is the slightly more thoughtful version. In an ad from Arizona GOP Senate candidate Blake Masters, he proudly displays a rifle and says, “The Second Amendment is not about duck hunting.” His gun “is designed to kill people,” he says, explaining how the Taliban took away people’s guns. “Without gun rights, before long, you have no rights,” he concludes.

Look at who is making this argument, not just Chip Roy and Ronny Jackson and Blake Masters, but the ordinary citizens who echo them. It’s largely White men, especially from Republican states.

In other words, the people who have throughout the United States’ history been most advantaged by the Constitution, especially its antidemocratic features, are the most obsessed with the idea that sometime soon they may have to start killing people.

They are the ones who enjoyed the full panoply of rights and privileges from the start. They didn’t labor in chains. They didn’t have to fight to be able to vote, or to own property, or to see themselves represented in the halls of power.

Not only that, to this day, they are granted special status within our political system. The Senate and the electoral college give overwhelmingly disproportionate power to small, rural, overwhelmingly White states. And within states they control, Republicans have gerrymandered districts so that rural White residents’ votes have even more weight.

Just look at Jan. 6, 2021. What was it that enraged those people? In 2016, they had the privilege of seeing their candidate become president despite winning fewer votes than his opponent. In 2020 his margin of defeat in the popular vote was large enough that it didn’t happen again (though it almost did), and they were so aggrieved by the supposed injustice of losing that they attempted to reverse the election with violence.

But you know who you almost never see fantasizing in public about the violent overthrow of the American system of government? Black people whose ancestors were enslaved, whose parents suffered under Jim Crow, and who today are the targets of enduring racism and a relentless campaign of voter suppression.

Women watching their reproductive rights taken away do not protest with AR-15s in their hands. Nor do the gay teachers being run out of their jobs or the loving families of trans kids being slandered as child abusers.

None of those groups are saying they may need to overthrow the government with violence. The political system has not been kind to them — indeed, at times it has actively brutalized them — but they maintain their belief in it. When confronted with oppression, they redoubled their commitment to democracy.

Not so for the Jan. 6 rioter, the gun enthusiast with a “Don’t Tread On Me” flag in his yard, and even, at times, the Republican congressman. They have the least claim to being a victim of the American system, yet they are the most eager to react to a momentary political setback — or even a hypothetical one — with the threat of violence.

We don’t have to wonder about whether they have any loyalty to the democratic values we’re all supposed to hold in common. They’re making their position more than clear.

Running alongside these aggrieved whiners and threats to democracy are the white evangelical Christians who get their collective tits in an uproar over “Happy Holidays” and gay pride flags in PetSmart.  It’s like they don’t get the presumed birthday of the leader of their church off as a federal holiday, laws enacted to bar the sale of liquor on their sabbath, books thrown out of libraries because they are offended by their treatment of gays and lesbians, and win cases in the Supreme Court about refusing to bake a cake.  No, those ignorant haters want it all.  The only difference between the Christian dominionists and the Taliban and Sharia law is that they’re flaming hypocrites, child abusers, sexual deviants, and grifters. At least the Taliban are cruelly true to the bastardized interpretation of their faith.

Doonesbury — Gunning it.

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