Colonel Despard wrote recently about the relation between tea-partiers and the extreme gun-loving right. The Colonel argued that there is an ideological connection between them which exists in the notion that individual freedom allows unrestrained action without concern for the consequences. It turns out that — despite its overblown media attention — the tea party is not representative of the general populist mood in the country.
Today it seems there is to be a a gun rally at Fort Hunt in northern Virginia, deliberately held as close to the Capitol and the White House as is legally possible, in which weapons will be openly carried. The organizers are taking advantage of new gun laws signed by Obama allowing the carrying of firearms in national parks, and so they will be protected by the same federal state that they are challenging. This is not the same response the state had to others who have tried to exercise the right to openly carry guns – for example, the Black Panthers.
Daniel Almond, an Iraq war veteran and real estate agent, “organized the rally because he is upset about health-care reform, climate control, bank bailouts, drug laws and what he sees as … Congress’s capitulation to a ‘totalitarian socialism’ that tramples individual rights.” Almond appears to be conflating advocacy of the right of the individual to carry guns with an opposition to any kind of legal restraint. Let’s drive on whichever side of the road we feel like!
The permit issued by the national park service states: “participants will be asked by the permittee to have any pistols holstered and any long guns empty of any bullets and bullet magazines.” However, it seems that other gun enthusiasts are not confident that these rules will be followed.
“Oath Keepers, which in a year has grown to 20,000 online members, signed on early as an event sponsor but abruptly pulled out on April 12. ‘It had gotten to the point that it would be dangerous to attend,’ said board member Rex McTyeire, citing an escalation of threatening rhetoric online from some participants. ‘There are people out there willing to do anything to create chaos in an uncontrolled situation, and [the event] is wide open for disaster.’ ”
At another rally in Greenfield, S. Carolina, “Pastor Stan Craig said he ‘was trained to defend the liberties of this nation.’ He declared that he was prepared to ‘suit up, get my gun, go to Washington, and do what they trained me to do.’ ” At the same rally, former Rep. Tancredo (R-CO), who ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008, called for Obama to be sent back to Kenya.
Paul Broun (R-GA), is the only member of Congress who has announced plans to attend the pro-gun rallies. “The Georgia Republican is guilty of numerous hair-raising exaggerations in his rhetoric, including a claim that Democratic leadership intends to declare martial law in the United States and establish a totalitarian state under their sole authority, which would be ushered in by a pandemic or natural disaster.”
Are they serious? I think it unlikely these groups are ready to take on the Army, Navy and National Guard at the present time. They are merely a disturbing reminder of the instability of elements on the political fringe. Clearly the heated rhetoric is being stoked up by Republican Party figures and by the Republican Party’s abdication of any governmental responsibility. But it’s not just Republican politicians: Frank Rich catalogues a whole list of public figures who deny responsibility, from Alan Greenspan to Tiger Woods. Among them is Clinton Treasury secretary and Citigroup guru Robert Rubin, who claimed he “regretted” the financial meltdown, but “his invocation of collective guilt — ‘we all bear responsibility’ — deflected any accounting for his own individual actions.”
There is a social pathology at work here that extols individual freedom to act without accountability. But freedom without responsibility is simply licence. Chief among the licentious are the bankers who blackmailed government to bail them out and who are now fighting new regulation tooth and nail. They, not the gun nuts, are the real danger to society. The question is, will the Obama administration be able to constrain them?