BETWEEN THAT FABLED ROCK AND ….
We’ve really put ourselves in that precarious position.
Nearly ten years ago laws began showing up in states that wanted to allow their citizens to be “protected” at all times. Florida may have been the first, as I recall, to allow people in cars to carry licensed firearms with them. A lot of good laughs were had about never stopping on a highway in Florida under any circumstances, or at least carrying a tire iron. Ha-ha.
Now we have laws throughout the country that are more lenient. In some states it is permissible to carry, openly or concealed, firearms into bars, schools, courthouses, on the streets. Concurrently, we have laws that legalize the use of firearms for self-defense (which has always been the case) but now a man or woman who “feels” endangered can whip out his firearm and fire on the “encroacher.”
The tinder box on which we now sit in America is full of anger and disdain and bigotry unchecked.
That’s the rock.
Here’s the hard place.
As personal freedoms have increasingly evolved into license to do whatever the hell one wants, the ability and the availability of oral bigotry has correspondingly increased.
During these past few days I’ve seen a recurrent film clip of a Texas-style “town meeting.” Much like our own, behavior is rational and thoughtful. What isn’t is the language being used, and used without anyone within hearing saying word one about it.
In this particular replay, a clearly educated, well-spoken man with orange Donald Trump colored hair is handed a microphone. He proceeds to ask a question, the import of which is how to stop the President from doing what this fellow doesn’t like.
Some of the words he used, as I recall, are: communist, foreign-born, socialist, European, American-hating, and then a slew of others we can’t print here. Some were euphemisms, or code words; others were simply raw.
The question was asked of this man’s US Representative who at no time demurred from the criticism or the terminology. I need not add that the guy’s rant was applauded.
This is not, I believe, something that is happening only in Texas. Men and women around the nation have decided that the First Amendment actually applies to them. Better, that they can be as vitriolic as any radio talk show host and get away with it.
The matter at hand comes in the form of another question: what would have happened at that meeting had there been an armed defender of the President?
If there can be fights outside a late night bar where guns are used, why not outside that town meeting? Or why not as the man in Texas is driving home along a lonely road? Or why not as he gets off his knees in church?
One reason, I suspect, that so few people ever raise an objection to speeches like this is the desire to give the speaker no more notoriety. If we don’t scold him, his moment in the sun will quickly be cut short and die. Another clearly is the desire not to get into a shouting match. And a third is implicit in our ever-burgeoning code of laws that pertains to firearms. Suppose you did try to reason with this fellow, or even criticized him moderately for his immoderate speech. Then he pulls out his weapon and what have you got? Trouble in River City.
What is wondrous about all this is that so few incidents of the sort we imagine have occurred. (On the other hand, we don’t know what gives rise to gun-related murders. Surely a goodly portion of them seethe to the surface of life after hearing insults, slanders, gratuitous bad jokes.)
I’m not looking into any crystal ball. But should that sort of thing begin to blossom and expand, as I expect it will, we have only ourselves to blame.
We are too quick to allow people to use hate-speech. And we are too tardy and timid to try to combat it. Of course, no one wants “to get involved.”
But for our own mental health, our own pride in our nation, at some point we have to get involved. We have to “scold,” argue, try to make someone see another view of life’s conditions. We have to learn again to be brave and fearless, compassionate and welcoming, reasonable and loving.
That is no easy task, and not without its own component of danger. But what kind of country will we have if this continues? What kind of two countries will we have?