The Watcher Cat

The Watcher Cat

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Choice

In the wake of the mass-murder at Newtown, there are some signs that all may not be as before. Conservative talk show host Joe Scarborough reversed his own long-held belief in the sanctity of a maximalist reading of the Second Amendment, calling now for common sense regulation of guns, and for a change to our culture:
"You know me. I am a conservative Republican who received the NRA's highest ratings over four terms in Congress. I saw this debate over guns as a powerful symbolic struggle between individual rights and government control. And you know what? In the years after Waco and Ruby Ridge, the symbolism of that debate seemed even more powerful to me. But the symbols of that ideological struggle — they've been shattered by the harvest zone from violent, mind-numbing video games and gruesome Hollywood movies that dangerously desensitize those who struggle with mental-health challenges. And then add in military-styled weapons and high-capacity magazines to that equation, and tragedy can never be too far behind. I've always taken a libertarian's approach to Hollywood's First Amendment rights and gun collectors' Second Amendment rights. I stood by those libertarian beliefs [...]
"But last Friday, a chilling thought crossed my mind as I saw the Times Square ticker over ABC spit out news of yet another tragic shooting in yet another tortured town by yet another twisted son of that community. How could I know that within seconds of reading that scrolling headline that the shooter would be an isolated, middle-class white male who spent his days on his computer playing violent video games? How did I know that it was far more likely that he had a mental condition than a rational motive? And how did I know the end of the story before the real reporting even began? I knew the ending of this story because we've all seen it too often. I knew that day that the ideologies of my past career were no longer relevant to the future that I want — that I demand for my children. Friday changed everything. It must change everything. It's time for Washington to stop trying to win endless wars overseas while we're losing the war at home.
Now, as I previously wrote, I am not advocating for a repeal of the Second Amendment. I am advocating for a constitutional amendment that overrides the Supreme Court's extension of the Second Amendment to limit the states' power to regulate guns, an extension that effectively deleted the opening line of the Amendment itself, to create an individual right untethered to the Constitution's clear language.

As to Scarborough's call to in some unspecified way curtail the First Amendment, I don't believe that is necessary or proper, to borrow a phrase. What is needed is counter-speech. Not everything that is legally permissible should be socially acceptable. Criminal law merely sets the bounds at what acts deprive you of your standing as a good citizen; civil liability sets the limit at which you have to pay for your acts in cash. But the Framers and their children (and, especially, their grandchildren and great-grandchildren, the Victorians) knew the value of a good shunning, and of social disapproval.

Add to that the power of the purse. Eliot Spitzer has a fine article out proposing that the bulk buyers of guns (police, the military) institutional investors in the holders of gun manufacturers should use their financial leverage to pressure the manufacturers to act responsibly:
Cerberus’ investors are indirect owners of Bushmaster, the company that made the weapon that brought evil to Newtown, Conn. It is time to determine pension fund by pension fund who has invested in Cerberus and bring pressure on those investors either to get out of Cerberus or have Cerberus change the way it runs the gun industry. If a major union pension fund or university endowment has an investment with Cerberus, it surely doesn’t want to be tarred as a passive owner of the company that sells semi-automatic weapons with no background checks or concern for the use of the weapons. Those investors have enormous leverage over the Cerberus. And all those investors collectively, if they spoke with one voice to the management team at Cerberus, could wield vast power. Ownership has both responsibility and power. It is time for every comptroller and pension fund manager with an investment in Cerberus to use that power.
You may ask, is all this really necessary. Well, check out the marketing of the semi-automatic rifle used in the Newtown murder spree; the "landing page" of the website has a series of "man-card" revocations, including one for "avoid[ing] eye contact with tough-looking Fifth graders", and one for "Adam L," and allows you to revoke someone's man card, or take a test to earn your own. And what could be more manly than buying a gun, after all?

Well, treating and consoling the wounded, advocating for a cessation to violence, and countering this toxic testosterone stereotype by a life of humanity all seem more manly to me, but what do I know.

This is precisely the sort of hyper-macho lunacy that infects our culture, and must be firmly rejected, scorned and shamed. Not banned; the power of the purse and of social isolation are the tools at hand, and they should be used.

No comments: