…politicians have no business – and no authority – denying us the right, the ability, or the moral imperative to protect ourselves and our loved ones from harm. (December 21, 2012)
If you limit the American public’s access to semi-automatic technology, you limit their ability to survive. (February 3, 2013)
These are all quotes by Wayne LaPierre, and at first glance it’s fairly easy to quickly come to the conclusion, which I think is generally accurate, that this man is batshit crazy. Connect the two lines of insanity together and you come away with the definite impression that he believes that gun controls, of probably any sort, are in fact immoral, transcending even the assertion that they would limit or legislatively abrogate the Second Amendment. Certainly it seems, that Paul Krugman spot on when he observed that servile parasites like LaPierre and his brand of crazy seem to operating under the delusion that we live in a dystopian “Mad Max” world. But while that seemed like an astute observation, it seemed to me that, illuminating the disturbing subtext to the NRA’s stance, it required a bit more elucidation, at least as it disseminated through LaPierre. What exactly am I talking about, you might ask? The Mad Max sort of course, a dystopic anarchism of the best kind, at least if you think that you’re an army of one. Now, I’m not talking about anarchy, but rather Anarchism as an ethos, as a guiding philosophy. Emma Goldman defined Anarchism as, “The philosophy of a new social order based on liberty unrestricted by man-made law; the theory that all forms of government rest on violence, and are therefore wrong and harmful, as well as unnecessary.” Ring a bell? Throw in “taxes are theft” and the dots all start to connect. Though it must also be observed, to be fair to legitimate Anarchists, that the right-wing interpretation is definitely a divergence.
The sort of radical libertarianism that is advocated by Mr. LaPierre and the NRA, and happens to bind groups such as the Tea Party, militia groups (potential domestic terrorists) and certain segments of mainstream Evangelicalism together, is a dedication to self-interest and an Anarchism-lite ideology; a sort of populism for the paranoid and ignorant. It’s instrumental in sowing the idea that the government is evil, out to get you and that we the people, in the pursuit of individual liberty and happiness, which trumps the prosperity and peace of the community, must reduce and maintain the size of government to a level of complete ineffectiveness lest the needs of the many compel a restriction of the wants of the individual. Keep in mind, though, that this is all promulgated by people who have no desire to take part in democracy beyond the protest. They really aren’t interested in the actual intellectual practice of governing and because representative government limits and lightens the burden of the vocational citizenship of participatory democracy, they cling to the mantra “we’re a representative, constitutionally limited republic, not a democracy…dirty hippie.”
The fundamental shortfall in the right-wing anarchism advocated by the modern NRA and their supporters, is their incapacitating failure to distinguish the difference between the moral capacity of the individual and the and the corresponding absense in the community or what Reinhold Niebhur categorized as moral man and immoral society. The essential distinction that Niebhur was highlighting is that it is one thing to encourage and produce moral and ethical behavior in individuals and quite another to accomplish it with the collective, which he asserted required coercion rather than encouragement. More specifically, he said,
Whatever increase in social intelligence and moral goodwill may be achieved in human history, may serve to mitigate the brutalities of social conflict, but they cannot abolish the conflict itself. That could be accomplished only if human groups, whether racial, national or economic, could achieve a degree of reason and sympathy which would permit them to see and to understand the interests of others as vividly as they understand their own, and a moral goodwill which would prompt them to affirm the rights of others as vigorously as they affirm their own. Given the inevitable limitations of human nature and the limits of human imagination and intelligence, this is an ideal which individuals may approximate but which is beyond the capacities of human society. (Moral Man and Immoral Society)
Where I would depart from Neibhur would be his emphasis on the ineffectiveness of education versus force of arms as the most effective means of coercion. And by effective I mean that which would produce the most longstanding and spontaneous acts and of decisions in accordance with transcendental morality. That is the sticking point though that I’m sure will produce a bit of disagreement. I am supposing here and personally believe, that morality is transcendental. In other words, what is moral is moral at all times for all people, it is trans-temporal and trans-historical. To be moral is to be human, even when we are transgressing the very law, the moral code that is in our very DNA, we are still establishing the transcendence and non-negotiable propositional nature of morality. We even label those who seem to have been born missing that innate sense of right and wrong that makes us human sociopathic, people unable by their very constitution to function as an organic member of society.
But the crux of it all is this, any expectation that we may have for ourselves to reason and act in accordance with a moral and ethical code in harmony with the rule of law, we can not maintain that expectation for society at large. In fact, we must take precautions to protect society from itself through regulatory legislation and enforcement bodies that I like to call laws and government. This simply isn’t the 1800’s anymore and the romanticized version of the Wild West that the right-wing seems to cling to as model for a free society (which in fact had very strict gun control regulations in the big cities of the American southwest). It is a kill or be killed vision of the world that displaces any understanding of the world as it really is or any conceivable worldview that we might deem to be conducive to an actually safe, civil society. This is the Anarchism of the NRA and their Second Amendment.