Picking up the Reagan


When Wisconsin February brings unexpected south winds, and the grass is exposed mid-winter, it affords dog owners the rare opportunity to see what horrors have been buried and invisible for months.  It also gives us a chance to wander the yard, listening to podcasts, picking up the mess so that our “beloved” animal is not tracking its own mess back into the house.  This picture, within bounds of good taste, depicts 40 lbs of dog mess collected from front and back yards, distributed efficiently – like a mine field – by our 13 year old Golden Doodle.

But as I said, the task is made less onerous by the chance to listen to podcasts like, “Radio Lab’s More Perfect:  The Gun Show.”  I can’t say enough about this episode, which tackles the current state of the NRA and Gun Control in three “chapters.” Much like my back yard, with snow melting, I found that the program revealed a lot of buried shit to me — shit I wish weren’t there, but which must be picked up if we’re ever going to play in our yard again.   The history of the NRA’s current fundamentalist resistance to even the slightest discussion of gun restrictions is surprising. The origins of gun control are half surprising, half “duh,” as you hear how the original Black Panther Party catalyzed Ronald Reagan’s signing of gun control legislation.

I’ve made the not-so-joking observation that Malcolm X was assassinated for plagiarizing the white establishment’s motto, “By Any Means Necessary.”  Now I see, that in response to the fear of armed black men, it is true.

It’s a twisted tale, but would you be shocked to know that black men in Oakland, tired of being murdered indiscriminately by cops, decided to form the Black Panther Party to “police the police,” and voila gun control desires were born? That’s right… in 1967 the Republicans were IN FAVOR of gun control, and no carrying of loaded arms in public.  What happened?

The final chapter deals with the Heller opinion at the Supreme Court.  You know, that 2008 opinion by the beloved Antonin Scalia, defender of all that is right and decent, without a hint of religious or racial bias. (Excuse me, I have to administer a self-heimlich, to stop the choking.) Listening to the justices parse the meaning of the Second Amendment’s convoluted, over comma-stuffed clauses confirms that (unfortunately) the Constitution has reached a stage of civil religion that I had long wanted to deny.   Like Rabbi’s poring over the jots and tittles of Torah and Talmudic interpretations thereof,  trying to discern God’s true will in writing a book 4,000 years ago, so the Justices debate the relevance of “militia” or the second comma in the most confused and least contested Amendments of the entire U.S. Constitution.

This concerns me mostly because I left the Catholic faith, and religion in general, in part because of such backward looking, selective interpretations of  “the experts,” all clearly pushing an agenda aligned with their own.  Now, the Constitution and all the SCOTUS rulings seem like nothing more than a Talmud/Torah, or Koran/Hadith, bag of tea leaves for learned men to debate over.  At least the Constitution still retains the advantage of being amenable (and amendable) to change.  Truly religious texts do not offer that feature.

The scary part of this realization is that, as a country, we are extraordinarily close to a schism between two sects.  If you have an interest in the future of America, and want to base your arguments on some degree of “true” knowledge (supported by contemporaneous audio recordings of all the players involved) then I suggest you put down your Wayne LaPierre fanzine and listen to this podcast.

Take notes.  I dare you:  What did I hear that was new and surprising to me? What did I hear that I feel was slanted in presentation, and why?  But do not deny what you hear and learn.   And please, don’t come back to discuss this unless you can do so based on this set of notes only.  No NRA Talking Points.

Maybe we can get out of this mess without dividing into our own version of a “Sunni/Shiah” split, like that plaguing the Muslim world.

Or is it too late? The smell of civil war has never been so pungent in my years.




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