We need to talk about Barack

by Lobby Lud

512px-United_States_ConstitutionI love the United States. I love the food, I love the country and I love the American confidence. There are plenty of things that we could learn from them. But they have one big problem. Their democracy is broken. The US likes to hold itself up as the paragon of democracy – the model for the rest of the world to follow. They’re not. Far from it. And the primary problem: The Constitution.

Constitutions seem like a good idea. They provide certainty, they entrench vital protections and they shield us from the tyranny of the majority. But sadly, in the United States, the reality falls short of the ideal.

There are two parts to the problem: The first is intentional, the second, not so much…

The first is both a strength and weakness of the Constitution: it’s a really hard document to alter. An amendment requires a two-thirds vote in both Congress and the Senate, followed by a three quarters majority from the states ratifying the treaty.

Let’s put that in context. Just recently, the US Senate failed to even proceed to a vote on a gun control measure that was supported by approximately 85% of Americans. And what was this contentious proposal? That people undergo a background check before they’re allowed to buy a gun. This completely sensible measure only got 54 votes of the 100 in the Senate – one dares not think what the Tea-Party studded Congress would have done.

If you can’t pass the most obviously sensible law, you’re never going to be able pass anything more contentious. Generally, this is a benefit, but it also leaves you with an anachronism like the second amendment.

Which leads us to the second problem. This is perhaps the more disturbing of the two: A lot of Americans treat the Constitution as though it’s holy writ. It’s impossible to have a sensible conversation about something as fundamental as gun control with these intensely dogmatic folk.

In any conversation about guns, the first thing you’ll hear from someone on either side of the debate is “I respect the second amendment”.  The second amendment cannot be questioned. It states “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed”. Putting aside what appears to be a bizarre interpretation of the wording of the amendment it’s effectively impossible to have a discussion of whether the second amendment has a place in 2013.

I hate to ruin a serious point, but IT'S A BEAR'S ARMS!

I hate to ruin a serious point, but IT’S A BEAR’S ARMS!

The second amendment was adopted in 1791. For me, it’s a right created for a different world, one without effective law enforcement. But you can’t have that public conversation in the US. Not agreeing with the amendment signposts you as a radical, simply for advocating a position that would be (rightly) mainstream in most other places. Politically speaking, it’s like questioning the validity of a holy book in a theocracy, the only difference being that you’re ending your political life, as opposed to your actual one.

And why aren’t you allowed to have a conversation about gun control? Why is questioning the second amendment akin to blasphemy?

From where I sit, it’s because the people who argue against gun control know that when you actually get to the crux of why guns are so important to them, you’ll be appalled. I can see two primary reasons held by two fundamentally different groups. The first: Greed. Gun manufacturers make a lot of money selling guns. That’s why they fund the NRA to provide a “reasonable opposition” to gun control. And the second: there’s a sizeable chunk of the pro-gun lobby who think they need the guns to rise up against a tyrannical government. These loons live in a constant state of paranoia. Every national tragedy (Sandy Hook Elementary, Boston Marathon) is a “False Flag” operation, designed to take more freedoms from the populace, with the end goal of imprisoning all the patriots in FEMA concentration camps. Once you go down this rabbit hole, there’s no coming back. On the bright side, at least they can find love while they cower in their survival bunkers, howling at the moon…

So why do I care (you ask, or don’t)? Because sadly, the world looks to the US for guidance. The further US politics veers to the crazy, the easier the rest of the world might be convinced that wingnut is the new normal. But perhaps more importantly the US has intercontinental missiles… With nuclear warheads.

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8 comments

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Gwynn Compton May 9, 2013 - 10:59 am

Like you, I love the United States and pretty much everything about it while still being left scratching my head at their inability to enact reasonable gun control laws.

As for the ratio of crazy to non-crazy people in the US, I suspect it’s not actually that different to anywhere else in the world. I think the reason why we think there’s more loonies in the US comes down, in part, to the way the United States holds free speech so dear.

While the rest of the world does still value free speech, we’re usually far more prepared to put what we consider to be reasonable responsibilities or limits on it. For instance, laws against inciting hatred, outlawing racist organisations and so forth. Whereas in the US, belonging and expressing the views of organisations such as the Ku Klux Klan is perfectly legal and, oddly enough, somewhat celebrated. That’s not to say that most Americans agree with those views, but they agree that anyone should be able to hold and express those views freely and without restriction.

The net result is that loonies get more airtime, and thus more international exposure, than the same groups would get elsewhere.

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a welcome breath of fresh air | walls of the city May 10, 2013 - 8:57 am

[…] and so forth. Why is that? Because I recently stumbled across this tweet linking back to this article at the Ruminator. Giving the article a quick skim at the time, I fired off a response tweet indicating that America […]

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dave w May 11, 2013 - 3:48 pm

NRA gets 4% of its donations from the shooting industry.
People don’t think they need guns to rise up against a tyrannical government. They know as long as they have them a tyrannical government wont rise up.

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JMark May 12, 2013 - 6:53 am

Currently 90% or more of gun sales are subject to a background check. Every single one sold by a dealer is subject to this requirement. The only ones not subject to that check are between individuals. Probably in the single digits of percentage of sales. The congressional bills to increase these checks to individual sales also include the creation of a gun registry ( a necessary precursor to confiscation), a refusal of a sale to a person deemed “unfit” as determined by nearly any medical professional, and a host of other unseemly amendments.
The purpose of our constitution is to serve as the rule book for government. All of the gov’t’s duties are include as well as it’s proscriptions. Ours is written to primarily protect citizen’s rights and freedoms. The First amendment being freedom of speech. The right of a person to criticize the government without fear of reprisal. The Second, the very next one, is the right to keep and bear arms, to protect ourselves, the citizens, from the government’s desire to restrict the first one. It is absolutely in the government’s interest to dampen dissent. If they wish to ban you from xxxxx, you can protest the overreach of their constitutional restrictions. They can attempt to silence you, as they do, but in the final analysis, it comes down to who has the force to exert their will.
The constitution. granted, is a 200 year old document, it does get amended from time to time. Abolishing slavery, acknowledging every one’s right to vote regardless of color or sex, abolishing alcohol, then reversing that… It IS hard to change and with good reason. It is a system of government, a rule book that establishes checks and balances. It’s arrangement is very simple. Laws originate in one of three branches, the legislative. They are voted on and passed then sent to the executive (president). He can refuse to sign it into law, if he does sign it, it becomes the law of the land . If he doesn’t agree and sign it, then the legislative (congress) can try again and generate enough majority to override the president’s veto. If a citizen or group decides it is not in keeping with the constitution (the rule book) then they can challenge that law through the judicial branch (supreme court). That branch is the final arbiter of that particular law’s adherence to the constitution.
The three branches of government share a burden to respect the constitution, to follow the rule book. If enough people became to clamor for a change to that constitution, then an amendment to the constitution can be proposed and then go through as described in the above article.
I would encourage you to read the Declaration of Independence, and the Preamble to the constitution along with the first ten amendments. If you want to start talking about “common sense” constitutional issues, start with reading it. It won’t take but a few minutes. And it’s a good few minutes.

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Lobby Lud
Lobby Lud May 14, 2013 - 2:58 am

I’m perfectly comfortable with the constitutional structure of the US. I’m perfectly aware that it’s a model of separation of powers. I also recognise that it creates real problems in practice.

So I’ve read it, more than once. I’m perfectly comfortable talking about both the constitution, and constitutional approaches from other countries. I’m also comfortable speaking about countries that don’t have gun massacres by virtue of their gun control legislation. Are you?

Once again, I understand that there are processes for changing the constitution – I simply think your democracy is too broken to take advantage of them. Perhaps if your founding fathers had thought of how to ensure fair and transparent elections, your democracy might be more healthy.

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J. May 15, 2013 - 11:42 am

The conservatives are pushing hard for fair and transparent elections. It is the liberal left democratic party that is refusing to consider voter identification for elections.
And how could gun control measures promote gun massacres? They happen in any country. The murder rate, as a rule is higher in areas with greater gun restrictions. Look at a map of the u.s. highlighting areas of higher murder rates, and it is always coincidental with areas of greater gun control, which is also coincidental with democratic party rule.
Every incident of mass shootings ended when a good guy showed up with a gun. Every time. These gun rampages also always occur in areas designated “gun-free” zones.
The health of our government IS in serious jeopardy. There is an ongoing move to restrict our personal liberties, redistribute our personal property, and erode our civil liberties. A move toward tyranny. Slowly and steadily. A some point we are going to be sick of it and stand up and push back. Probably sooner is better.

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JMark May 12, 2013 - 6:56 am

Oh, and that 85% support number, it’s not particularly true.

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J. May 15, 2013 - 11:42 am

The conservatives are pushing hard for fair and transparent elections. It is the liberal left democratic party that is refusing to consider voter identification for elections.
And how could gun control measures promote gun massacres? They happen in any country. The murder rate, as a rule is higher in areas with greater gun restrictions. Look at a map of the u.s. highlighting areas of higher murder rates, and it is always coincidental with areas of greater gun control, which is also coincidental with democratic party rule.
Every incident of mass shootings ended when a good guy showed up with a gun. Every time. These gun rampages also always occur in areas designated “gun-free” zones.
The health of our government IS in serious jeopardy. There is an ongoing move to restrict our personal liberties, redistribute our personal property, and erode our civil liberties. A move toward tyranny. Slowly and steadily. A some point we are going to be sick of it and stand up and push back. Probably sooner is better.

Reply

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