As many of you already know, there has been much talk from the right since the Newtown massacre about the "original intent" for the 2nd amendment. For decades, only the right-wing fringe would openly claim that they have the right to take up arms and shoot their fellow Americans -- if they deem the government has become "tyrannical" -- and that the 2nd amendment gives them this right. Up until recently, it was extremely rare that such a vision was openly promoted in the mainstream. But it seemed to breach those walls with the advent of the tea party and its cousins, who sometimes also used the term "2nd amendment remedies."
There is, of course, nothing new about the idea that the 2nd amendment was put in place to guarantee the possibility of "popular" revolts. It has always been there, lurking in the dark, ugly underbelly of right-wing psychoses. Such a wild misreading of actual history and context has long been a staple on the right. But what does appear new is the seemingly easy acceptance by the mainstream media that such a misreading deserves its own day in court. Rather than being soundly blasted to the furthest edges of the fringe, this false reading of history is all too often given something approaching equal time in our national discourse.
Now, I'm not saying it shouldn't be addressed and exposed for the truly odious, dangerous, malevolent false history it is. It should be. It must be. But it seems to have gained a perch as a "legitimate" point of departure, and that must change.
One possible way to change that is to always ask the purveyor of such nonsense how they define tyranny. What is tyrannical to the person who holds such views? Remember, many of those who spoke of "2nd amendment remedies" thought that the election of Obama itself was proof of "tyranny". Soon after, many on the right thought that the idea of helping out mortgage holders who were underwater was a form of tyranny. This is what sparked Santelli's disgusting rant at CNBC, which set the table for the tea party. That group saw health care reform as tyrannical. Of course, for many a decade, much of the right has said that taxes are a form of tyranny -- ignoring the fact that we have the lowest effective taxes on individuals and businesses in the developed world. And now, for many of these same people, any gun regulation, no matter how slight, would be grounds for an armed uprising.
What gives them the right to define it for all of us? Most of America would disagree with them about Obama, Obamacare, taxes, mortgage programs or gun legislation. Most of America would not agree that sensible, rational, logical gun safety legislation is grounds for open revolt. But a small fringe of gun fetishists believes that their view of "tyranny" is self-evident, which is why they don't even bother to explain their rationale, much as they never bother to detail what constitutes "liberty and freedom" when they toss those words around with unthinking abandon.
Make them define it all. Make them elaborate. Make them put all their cards on the table. Don't let them get away with tossing off empty platitudes and bad history. Make them explain why they believe taxes and gun legislation are grounds for open revolt, but the despicable and unconscionable invasion of Iraq was fine with them. Make them explain why even the idea of helping out individual mortgage holders sent them into a rage, but trillions in corporate welfare caused not a whimper.
America is the most unequal society in the developed world. We have the highest percentage in poverty of any developed nation. We start wars with far, far weaker nations at the drop of a hat, and have been continuously fighting these indefensible wars since WWII. Millions have died, millions have been maimed, millions exiled by these corporate ventures disguised as essential wars. But, for the American right, it is their own taxes and their own guns that concern and obsess them. Tens of thousands of Americans die each year due to lack of health care access, but it is the idea that some of the needy might be covered under new laws that drives the right into a frenzy.
Of course, we can also counter their ignorant misreading of history with the real thing. We can demonstrate that no new government tries to make its own ouster easy. We can remind them that if the "founders" really wanted to empower all citizens to overthrow their government, they wouldn't have limited the vote to white male property holders. And, we can remind them that this is 2012, not the 1780s, and that even if they're correct about the founders -- they aren't -- times have changed radically since then. Times have changed so radically that only an insane person would want to base current policy on 18th century thought.
But, mostly, we just need to push back the fringe to where it belongs.
9:42 PM PT: As I mentioned in the comments, I want to make this clear. I am not saying that our government has not been tyrannical. It has. It has a very dark history, going back to the very beginning, and the founders themselves did not escape that.
We started out wiping out Native Americans, imposed slavery on people based upon race, crushed legitimate dissent decade after decade -- especially if that dissent came from the left. If workers wanted to form unions to better their lot, for example, our government often aided and abetted business owners in crushing those organizations, either through outright murder, the cracking of heads, or new laws.
Our government fights war after war, primarily to benefit capitalists and expand or protect their markets. Our wars have resulted in tens of millions of innocent civilians dying (3.8 million in Vietnam alone). Our capitalists have spread pollution throughout the world, spread toxic products, spread cigarettes and other deadly commodities. We have a truly odious history of destroying local cultures, ripping them off for their natural resources, and leaving them high and dry.
Of course, we aren't the only imperialist power to do this. Europe was guilty of much of this, especially from the so-called Age of Discovery onward. But we are among the first to normalize and naturalize empire through the means of capitalist indoctrination and marketing. We are among the first empires to pretend we don't have one, and that everything we do is simply about "freedom and prosperity".
But armed revolutions coming from the right will do nothing to stop anything that is truly "tyrannical" about this nation. Armed revolutions from the right will, in fact, just increase the power of private tyrannies and expand the gap between rich and poor. Their vision of "freedom" is freedom for the rich. Their vision of liberty is the ability of business to do as it pleases, regardless of the harm it inflicts.
No one should be fooled by their attempts to enlist Madison and Jefferson and talk of patriotism and liberty. A coup from the right will mean another kind of slavery for the masses. They will shoot their fellow Americans, claim the 2nd Amendment gives them this right, and bring about civil war. All too many have never gotten over the last one.