Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Dumb Control Debate (Part 2)

I’ve already wrapped up my critique of how Democrats, Liberals, and Progressives tend to act dumb when it comes to discussing firearms regulations in the USA. Now it is time to talk about the braying, willful ignorance and historical revisionism right-wingers engage when speaking about gun control. Unlike talking about the dumb on the left, talking about the dumb on the right might take some time. There's a lot of it. I'm not even done with it, and this is a long post.

I’m not writing today to suggest some sort of “both sides do it too” false equivalence. When liberals are dumb when talking about firearms, they might as well not be participating in the conversation at all. Folks on “that side” of the national conversation would probably win on policy and politics, if they simply recognized what the Constitution allows as far as regulation is concerned, and focused on that. Instead, their general behavior seems to be based more on a need to call other Americans violent rednecks than to achieve anything realistic or helpful when it comes to policy. For example, while Antonin Scalia’s majority opinion in District of Columbia vs. Heller should be the first thing they cite when proposing firearms regulations based on Constitutional prescriptions, they would rather ignore that decision wholesale because they find Scalia distasteful.

In doing so, they concede almost all of their ideological ground to the violent imagery, hyperbolic conspiracy theories, suggestions of violent revolution, staggering historical revisionism, and unconscionable Constitutional ignorance evident among the right-wing of American politics. Concession on such matters of ideology and law are one of the reasons our political culture is so toxic these days and why so much of that toxicity comes from the right. That’s because when you do not challenge someone when they are wrong on the facts, the assumption is they are correct on the facts. That dynamic sets the entire tone of the policy discussion.

Let’s start with Hitler. Because when it comes to firearms regulations, this is where the staggering historical revisionism begins and ends. You may see mentions of Stalin, and Pol Pot, and other widely considered historical monsters lumped into the chain email, but the Nazis are always “exhibit A.”

To sum up the mythology entertained by most right wingers, Hitler (and other assembled monsters) seized “the guns” and therefore ensured their nations’ descent into dictatorship, tyranny, and horror. Once they had “the guns,” they were able to terrorize their newly hapless and defenseless populations. According to the fairy tale, if the Jewish people had more guns, they would have been able to stand up to the Third Reich and prevent the Holocaust!

But, the historical make-believe continues, America wasn’t like all those other places. It was only in the United States where “freedom” was able to flourish, because our liberty birthing, patriotic founding fathers enshrined gun ownership in the national DNA through the 2nd Amendment. Part of the reason Washington, Jefferson, and the fellas did this was to make sure the US of A would never, ever succumb to the rise of someone like Hitler, because an armed and ready population would leave their suburban cul-de-sacs, rise up and put the brakes on any creeping government tyranny.

Horseshit.

Hitler didn't take guns away from people, he handed them out like candy. He violated international treaties in order to develop bigger, better, and badder guns. The more fanatical support you gave him, the cooler weapons you got. He even started arming children so they'd be ahead of the curve when they got older. And you know how he consigned his nation into dictatorship, tyranny, and horror? Well, he got a vast majority of Germans to sign up for his political movement, vote for him, and cheer him along the way as the savior of "real Germans," not the "German elites" who read books, questioned stuff, and probably drank lattes. He helped sell this majority on his patriotic German platform by demonizing people whose politics and minority religions didn't agree with his. Once he controlled the government and his millions of followers had the best guns, he upped the ante from harassing those who disagreed with him to straight up enslaving and killing people he found distasteful.

And make no mistake about this - there were literally tens of millions of Germans who were armed to the teeth with the best weapons available at the time, and it didn't do one bit of good in stopping Hitler because most of them were on his side. Let's not play pretend that pre-Hitler Germany was some idyllic Octoberfest with massive beersteins, pretty serving girls, and a libertarian ideal. Before the failure of the Weimar Republic, Germany was an series of aristocratic autocracies where the government controlled the guns, preceded by aristocratic autocracies where the government controlled the swords, spears, and catapults. To make his plan work and shore up political support, Hitler had to get more guns into German hands than at any time in German history. He even had to give guns to less armed nations, so they could catch up to where he had Germany at the time.

There's a Facebook chain post going around with some sweet little old lady talking about pre-Hitler Austria, and how everything changed when "they" took God out of the schools and guns out of the hands of the Austrians.  Listen, folks, pre-Hitler Austria is to the Sound of Music the same way the South is like Gone With the Wind. Those shows are famous works of fiction for a reason. I sure hope her next Facebook expose explains how every historian ever has simply missed the thousand plus years of liberty loving religious freedom and gun ownership culture that was nurtured by the Hapsburg and Holy Roman imperialists in Vienna. In the history I read, from multiple credible sources, pre-Hitler Austria couldn't sign up fast enough to become post-Hitler Austria.

Because this is where actual history that actually happened comes in and wrecks the fairy tale. People did try to stop Hitler with guns. An awful lot of people with an awful lot of guns. The Polish threw everything they had at him and got stomped. The Netherlands, Belgium, and Denmark had some guns; that didn't work. The Norwegians had guns and glaciers, and were descended from Vikings - that didn't work either. France had one of the biggest, best trained, and ready to rock and roll armies in the world at that time, and Hitler beat them so badly that ignorant Americans still make fun of them for it. The United Kingdom had twenty miles of ocean separating them from Hitler, and he had them on the ropes in Europe before trying to fight them in Africa - a completely different continent. Hell, the only reason he didn't kick all the Russians out of Russia was because he got so caught up going after the Yugoslavians, he ended up giving the order several months late.

Hitler didn't bring Europe to the brink by taking guns out of the hands of his own people. He armed his own people to the teeth and then went out of his way to pick fights. At first it was just street fights against political rivals who also had guns, but eventually it became fights against nations just as well armed. In the end, if Hitler disarmed or confiscated any actual weapons it usually was from your cold, dead hands. Western civilization barely survived it, the Russians had it worse, and both were easy street compared to what the Jewish people had to deal with.

That's usually how the monsters of history do it. They aren't going to use republican forms of constitutional government to legislate regulations on firearms ownership where stakeholders have a say in the decision. No, they buy as many weapons as they can and come for you in the middle of the night. They know that even if you have a gun, if they can outnumber you at the moment of conflict, it doesn't matter.

There's another group of folks used tactics like that a lot closer to home, and it is another part of history we don't like talking about as Americans. I'm going to get to that one soon.

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