Thursday, April 27, 2006


I have great respect for Morris Dees.

Although he doesn't know me from Adam, a (late) relative of mine (by marriage) is commemorated on the sundial/waterfall memorial outside his office in Montgomery (which is more moving than most memorials manage to be).

No matter where I am on the political spectrum from year to year, I'm always mindful that civil rights, whatever constructions are sometimes put on it these days, used to have very concrete meanings in this country, that people were tortured and/or killed over. (My relative died in the north, by the way. No part of our country is entirely free from this sour legacy).

The SPLC does the Lord's work, which is why I was chaffed to see Ace use them as the butt of a "liberal whiners" joke recently.

Still, Dees' "Gathering Storm: America's Militia Threat" (pub. 1996) seems sort of quaint now. Haven't heard much out of these kooks lately. Maybe they've re-joined the fold of normality now that we're Letting the Eagle Soar. Or maybe (despite Oklahoma City, as callous as that sounds) the threat was exaggerated.

It's an interesting book, though, and it works the different events (Ruby Ridge, Waco*, Freemen) into a narrative well. Creepy stuff ... if, as I said, sort of quaint. (Watch the next attack be from some yahoo in Sagebrush, instead of Al-Qaidal. It'd serve me right for shooting my mouth off like this).

Anyway, the quibble is this (p. 75):

"[The NRA] called Waco the opening salvo in the war ... [to] strip Americans of their God-given right under the Second Amendment to bear arms."

I don't own a gun. Closest I've come to them is a pistol shooting class for gym credit - haven't touched one since. So, don't worry, I'm not going to start shouting about my cold, dead hands.

My quibble is this: I don't think anyone suggests that the *content* of the constitution is divinely inspired or protected.

What is held to be divinely mandated is that a people has the right to choose its own form of government.
The Constitution is what we've come up with through exercising this right.

(By syllogism, anyway: the rights to life liberty pursuit come from god; to protect these rights, we use governments; in order to be just [which god presumably would like us to do], these governments must be based on consent; ergo, consensual, non-arbitrary government is god's true plan. This doesn't mean that our *particular* system of government is based on god's own private rulebook).

In theory, the Second (or, for that matter, the First) Amendment could be repealed.
Should that day come to pass, some people might say this was ungodly - that self-protection is in fact one of those creatorally (not a word) endowed rights. There's a particular NT verse they coul
d use, in fact, for those to whom such evidence is dispositive ... but that is beside the point.
This is a distinction that seems to elude people. Their opponents could respond by reading recipies for apple crumble, if they want. You don't have to believe in Jeebus if you don't want to. You can find it creepy if others base political arguments on WWJD? (I'm normally not a fan of this type of speechifying myself).

But they wouldn't magically get to put the amendment back in by quoting scripture; they'd have to get the votes. They could solicit those votes BY quoting scripture.

The Second Amendment's only relationship to God, even in the eyes of hairy-knuckled believers who love them some rifles, is that it was ratified under this process which we established exercising our yadda. That we have the right to write these amendments does not guarantee we won't write stupid ones. It just means you should repeal them the same way you done made them. When supermajority consensus nationwide decides they don't like 'em, they can yank those bad puppies right out again. God's invoked for the process, not necessarily the content.

Okay, I'm making insanely much of this. Dees is just poking mild fun at the NRA, not engaging their philosophico-constitutional is. But it still gave me pause.

* I felt a twinge including Waco in this list. While the Branch Davidians had waaay too many guns for my comfort, they still got the rawest of raw deals.


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