This note was originally prepared for The Fourth Turning web site.
John Milens - I've always wanted somebody to answer me about this, and I'm hoping some of the more left-leaning people on this board can help. Exactly _why_ do liberals support gun control?
Not a silly question. On many threads, I generally favor the liberal position. On gun control, I'm with the conservatives. While I can't speak for the liberals who favor gun control, let me confirm your historical perspective. Let me also suggest that the modern liberals aren't truly progressive.
There is a T4T thread dedicated to comparing John Brown with Timothy McVeigh. Both might be called terrorists raging against the main line US culture. However, prior to the Civil War, each act of violence brought forth heated rhetoric from the other side, and a violent act in revenge. The consensus was that Bleeding Kansas and the Harper's Ferry raids reflected important issues over which violence was properly used. Slavery was considered an issue worth fighting for.
There is not at all a similar consensus towards Waco, Ruby Ridge and Oklahoma City. McVeigh, the Militias, and perhaps the activists killing abortion doctors represent mind sets similar to John Brown's. In the early 1990s, I was concerned with the beginnings of a spiral of violence, comparable to Bleeding Kansas, that could result in open conflict between liberal and conservative forces within the United States. I am far less worried now, though I watch the headlines closely. Clinton and Reno wrote new rules of engagement for the BATF and FBI that have prevented repeats of Waco and Ruby Ridge. The militias have not been embracing McVeigh as a hero, but have repudiated him as a criminal. Both factions have backed off. The spiral of violence seems to have been broken. I am far less concerned about an internal violent conflict during the upcoming crisis than I once was.
During the crises that created the western democracies, it was the urban, progressive, industrialized, low church, pro democracy faction pushing for change. The royalist, high church, agricultural, class based faction resisted change, fought to maintain privilege. Generally, the urban progressives "won" the crisis, but over did it, went further than the people were ready to go. In the middle of the following high, the conservatives would make a come back, and reverse some of the gains made in the crisis. A few decades after the English Civil War created the one and only British Republic, the monarchy was restored. After the Civil War and Reconstruction, state sponsored segregation and white supremacy was established. After WW II was fought to establish the Four Freedoms and the principles of the Atlantic Charter, we reverted to the Cold War, fighting over zones of influence and balance of power without respect to the human rights records of our allies. Only as a new crisis has approached have the human rights issues at the core of the previous crisis returned.
What has changed? Why might a hypothetical upcoming crisis be very different from prior crises? The atom bomb and democratic alliances have made war of aggression a less viable option. Gandhi and Martin Luther King have shown how one can advance a democratic culture without violence. The United States has become the dominant power, the most powerful nation, the power that benefits most from the status quo being maintained. Thus, in the upcoming crisis, we are apt to become the conservative force resisting change, rather than the liberal force moving the world forward. We are apt to be the bad guys next time around.
Come a crisis, the most serious issues of the time will be attacked and resolved. People will act in their own self interest. Given self interest, it is always possible to create a value system that makes self interest seem moral. For the bulk of the United States - fat, dumb and happy - there is no need for change. We are kings of the hill. Why change? Thus, for the so called 'liberals' the use of violence is wrong. Those using violence to force change are perceived terrorists and criminals, just like John Brown, Sam Adams, George Washington, Tom Jefferson, Abe Lincoln and other slimy dastardly folks of that ilk. Thus, we have the Fourth Turning authors warning that a dangerous time is coming, when the people might tend to use force to advance ideals. The establishment powers during a crisis see ideals as dangerous. They are jealous of any threat to their wealth and privilege. Their values will justify use of force to maintain wealth and privilege. Our armed forces could continue to maintain the vital interests of the United States, crushing those evil terrorists and religious fanatics abroad.
So long as there is a reasonable path provided out of poverty for the have nots, I'll buy into the modern rejection of violence. If Gandhi's and Kings methods work - and let's all get together to make sure they work - let us all renounce violence. However, should the Robber Barons monopolizing political power in the western democracies attempt to continue the European - American monopoly of wealth and power, it is possible - make that likely - that somebody, somewhere, will get really mad and want to use force. With modern weapons of mass destruction, this could get messy. Numbers and industrial superiority won prior wars for the urban progressives, but might have nothing to do with the next war. Yes, we can produce more bombs and germs and nerve gas than the impoverished masses yearning to breath free, but will we have more will to use them? When a fourth turning comes, I want to be on the side of the progressives seeking equality, not the conservatives maintaining privilege. Over the other three turnings, the smart money might be on stagnation and status quo.
That is on the international side. Internally, it is the way out conservatives pushing the violence, generally over ideals rather than wealth. Waco, Ruby Ridge and OKC have, from the way out conservative perspective, overtones of religious freedom and the right to bear arms. The liberal government, from this way right perspective, is ignoring the Constitution, seeking to force their way of life on all with blatant disregard for the Bill of Rights. The government is acting illegally enough that resistance using force to protect constitutional rights is deemed proper. The liberal concept of a 'living constitution' - which basically calls for rule of men not rule of law - is considered a real threat to their continuing the traditional US way of life. This thread had taught me how ignorant many liberals are on the Constitution, putting warm fuzzy feelings first, emotionally proclaiming what the law ought to be without researching or understanding what it is, why it is. They don't seem to understand their intellectual opponents are fighting for.
The bulk of the violence with regard to the abortion question is also coming from the conservative side. Most liberals perceive democracy and non violence as sufficient to achieve their ends. Thus violence, always a last resort, is not yet on the table. Most liberals cannot see an issue worth fighting for, or a fight that cannot be won without use of force. It is only the far right conservatives that are getting truly desperate, that see their central values as embodied in the Constitution in danger of extinction.
To avoid internal conflict, acknowledge the right to keep and bear arms. Respect the religious views of the conservatives on abortion, but insist that religious freedom means they cannot force their religious beliefs on those who disagree. To avoid external conflict, I don't know. My Magic Eight Ball keeps saying "Answer hazy, try again later."
Meanwhile, so long as "It's the economy stupid" holds, while comfort is more important than ideals, things are still unraveling.
This likely belongs on some other thread, but the question was asked here.
And what's really stupid: here in Illinois, I can't even go to a shooting range with a pistol until I'm 21 w/o an adult over 21 present, yet I'm draft bait when I'm 18.
I visited the Battleship USS Massachusetts yesterday, doing Fall River's Marine Heritage Trail. It was the Saturday leading up to Memorial Day. They had all their flags flying. Many boy scout and cub scout troops were coming aboard with backpacks and sleeping bags for an overnight stay. A group of recreationists dressed in WW II army uniforms were set up behind the aft 16 inch gun turret, with a display of period army equipment. Not a live round, nor even the blanks used by recreationists in their mock battles, was in the display. There were several cartridge belts, but all were limp and empty. I overheard a conversation.
"Can I pick up the rifle?"
"I could last year."
"The gun laws in Massachusetts are different this year. You have to be 18 to handle a rifle."
On a prior visit to the Massachusetts, a tour guide claimed that the average age of the crew when Massachusetts was at war was 16. This sounds like an exaggeration, but from the photographs, under 20, certainly. Behind the recreationists there were a couple of rounds of ammunition, 2,700 pound armor piercing rounds, sixteen inches in diameter. There are hundreds of them laying about the Massachusetts, mostly in the magazines inside number two turret. The youngster could try to handle these all he liked.
Maybe we should switch back to the "civic generation" label, rather than "hero generation." We don't trust them enough for them to become heroes.
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