Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Absolutes

As you might have heard, Obama won the election. He's president now which means he gets to write this thing called an inaugural speech. Obama's speech adhered to a few basic American values, enshrined in several famous documents, and wrapped up everything in a nice, 'looking out for the less fortunate,' sentiment. Pretty standard stuff for a Democrat recently reelected by a significant margin.

At no point in the speech does Obama lay out a vision for the arrest of all Republicans. It doesn't call for war crime tribunal for Cheney. It doesn't even call for the repeal of the second amendment. Okay, so let's keep this in perspective when we look at what the Republican reaction was:

"Bereft of outreach to the other side," intones Brit Hume.

"The words were code for a progressive agenda," scolds Darrel Issa. "I'm hoping the president will recognize compromise should have been the words for today..."

"...Shadowbox(ing) a strawman," offers Paul Ryan.

That last comment is a frequent conservative criticism of the President, the charge that Obama ascribes views to his opponents they do not actually have, a charge nearly as frequent as the carping over his use of the teleprompter. According to Ryan, no Republican actually resorts to name-calling, spectacle, and absolutism, the President is inventing fictional opponents with no relation to reality.

Hmm. Ryan, it's not too hard to find these 'straw-men':


I'll save you the trouble of watching the whole thing and go right to the part you've no doubt heard about already, Lapierre's embrace of the term absolutist, and anger that the term should be declared synonymous with extremism. Goldwater once famously said that 'extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice,' so I guess this is a step forward in that respect. At least Lapierre seems to recognize social cost of being called extreme.

But his defense of absolutes in a democracy is interesting to me. At one point he states that absolutes, and here I guess we're supposed to understand absolutes as an absolute right to bear arms, are all that prevents a situation where two wolves and a lamb vote on what to have for dinner. Dressed up rhetorically it's easy to miss what Lapierre is admitting to. "We're the lambs," he suggests, "You all are the wolves. If we didn't have our guns, you would gobble us up." This is further evidence of the kind of thinking John Stewart lampooned earlier this month, the idea that the real purpose of guns is not sporting, or home defense, but the last refuge of the over-regulated, over-taxed regular American from the tyrannical 'other' that has somehow seized America. That's the right they are seeking to protect, right more important than children's lives, their right to veto democracy.

And just so we're clear about what types of weapons an absolutist considers fair game, check out this quote from Representative Ted Yoho: "On guns, (my constituents) were saying that the sentiment, when you read the Second Amendment, is that the militia had the same equipment as the military to protect them against the tyrannical government. I think it's more important today than ever, that we uphold our second amendment."

Our military is equipped with all manner of weapons: rifles, artillery, tanks, airplanes, and missiles. Just how well-armed does Lapierre's lamb need to be?


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