Sunday, August 23, 2009

You're Not "Wrong"...

(From the movie “The Big Lebowski”, after Walter has threatened a fellow bowler regarding a possible foul during a lead-up to a tournament):

Walter: …and we DO enter the next round-robin, am I wrong?
The Dude: No, you’re not WRONG…
Walter: Am I WRONG?
The Dude: No, you’re not WRONG, Walter, you’re just an asshole.


Over the last couple of weeks, there have been a plethora of skirmishes at town hall meetings and speeches, mostly between our elected officials and (often conservative) constituents. Not surprisingly, this has monopolized news coverage, talk shows, and talk radio. Once again, it seems, America has proven that it’s not what you know, but how loudly you can scream it in front of cameras. But even more recently another phenomenon has become increasingly more prevalent at these events. I’m speaking of the spotlight now placed on certain individuals who (legally) tote firearms to these events, strapped to their belts, thighs, shoulders, or across their backs.

I’m most certainly going to catch flak for some of this piece by certain individuals, so let me go ahead and try to defuse some of the hatred: I am a huge believer in the Constitution. I consider it one of my lifelong goals to understand its true purpose and what it means to us as a people. Therefore, I am also a flag-waving Statesie when it comes to the Bill of Rights, which includes the overly quoted First and Second Amendments. In addition, I am a promoter of common sense (the idea, not the Paine tome…although please read that as well), knowing that just because you “can” do something or it is “legal” to do something…doesn’t necessarily mean it is a “good idea” or “appropriate” to do said thing.

It is also not at ALL my purpose to argue intent here. Meaning, I’m not here to interpret the Framers’ intentions concerning the Constitution or the Amendments. If it were my purpose, I would proceed to state that I thought the intentions of the many Amendments (given time, place, social and political climate) were radically different from how we interpret them today. But already I’ve said too much.

I like guns. I’m a Libertarian, so go ahead and put that in your pipe and smoke it. Handled properly guns serve many uses: Recreation, hunting, self-defense, and so on. I enjoy going to the range or to a field with my brother or with my friends for sport. I respect and trust a person who has taken time to learn the proper way to maintain and carry firearms. My father used to hunt. My relatives have been (and still are) in the military. And, as many presume Evelyn Beatrice Hall (Stephen G. Tallentyre) to have said, “I may not believe in the things you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”. Or some such interpretation.

Unless you are being a DICK.

Now let’s be honest. You can be well within your rights, and the law, and still come off as a pompous jackass. Which isn’t exactly HELPED if you are slinging an AR-15 across your back at a Presidential Veterans speech. What are you then? Yep. That’s right. A gun-toting pompous jackass.

What is the ultimate point of this display? Obviously some sort of intended reaction or attention or statement can be directly associated with these peoples’ behavior. Let’s be like Dora and explore:

Most (if not all) of the most recent Town Halls and speeches have been driven primarily by one of two things: Healthcare and/or the economy. Last I checked, Second Amendment rights were nowhere on the “Top Issues” list. At least, not that I am aware of. So why show up with a .45 lashed to your thigh, like Bill Kostric did in New Hampshire? “Because he CAN!” Is the deafening response from the uber-right. And…this is actually factual, and indisputable. He CAN. New Hampshire law states that open carry is 100% permissible in this situation.

Obviously the media ran like Carl Lewis when they saw this. I don’t have to tell you. Educated and literate, you understand what they have been capable of in the past, and even if this is the first you have heard of these occurrences, you have already formulated the lead story in your brilliant mind. “MAN TOTING FIREARM PROTESTS AT RALLY!” “MAN WITH AUTOMATIC WEAPON SHOWS AT PRESIDENTIAL SPEECH!” “MAN CHALLENGES O’REILLY TO A BATTLE OF LOGIC AND RUNS AWAY CONFUSED AND SCARED!” I made that last one up. But it’s probably true.

Let’s do something a bit different. Let’s look less sharply at the media (sigh of relief) and peer more closely at the actual statements from the persons involved, the supposed gun-loving, Second Amendment-defending, common, “salt-of-the-earth” Americans that were the subject of the story here. Disregard what the Left, Right, and undecided have to say about it. Let’s delve into the quotes given to us by Mr. William Kostric (who had a handgun strapped to his thigh outside of a Town Hall) of New Hampshire, and Mr. “I Want To Carry My AR-15 Around But Don’t Want Anyone To Know My Name” (who slung an AR-15 across his back during one of Obama’s Town Halls) from Arizona. And to be fair, I don’t actually know if he resides in Arizona. He was just THERE. Hangin’ out.


William Kostric: “A right not exercised is a right lost.”

Mr. AR-15: “I’m exercising my rights as an American in Arizona.”


I constantly wonder why the “exercising of rights” is the de facto stance of so many nutjob gun enthusiasts. Seriously fellas, you guys are like the Glenn Becks of firearm owners. You are really making everyone else look bad. And by the way, exercising your rights? For fear of loss? Rarely have I met someone as passionate about not having soldiers quartered in their home. Or fervently waving banners proclaiming their right to start a newspaper at the drop of a hat. Or toting placards reading “DOWN WITH DOUBLE JEOPARDY!” Man, they really should. They could totally bring that back. Who’s defending us here? Get up off your asses! These rights must not also be lost!

I said I wouldn’t break down the intent of the Second Amendment vs. “what it has become today”. And I won’t. But certainly we can all agree that combined with additional federal laws, state laws, etc., the Second Amendment isn’t necessarily “at risk”, nor is it as uncomplicated as these people make it out to be. I mean, REALLY. Not only that, but as I stated before, I don’t recall any of these events being “Gun Rights” rallies…


William Kostric: “New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island are just horrible places to live if you care about the Second Amendment at all.”


(long Napoleon Dynamite-like sigh)

I don’t even know where to start with this one. Certain STATES are bad to live in if you care about the FEDERALLY-based Second Amendment? Is this a poorly-drawn attempt at saying certain states’ laws are stupid compared to others in his opinion? Is it not, by very definition of being politically conservative, or even a strict Constitutionalist, important for the STATE to exercise more specific powers than those of the federal government? This begins my frustration with peoples’ (mis)understanding of these issues. Rights and laws CAN be held by the Feds, but those of specific nature (not kept and/or outlined by the Feds) are granted to the states. His supposed argument makes my brain hurt. And if his point is that some states won’t let you walk around during a Town Hall with a .45 strapped to your thigh, then, uh…MOVE, Captain Glock. Or maybe only visits states that are okay with that.


William Kostric: “People expected me to get my face planted.”


“People” expected? Or YOU expected? How many people did you poll? This sets the tone and stage for our next discussion. Forget the intent of the Framers, what’s the intent of Mr. Kostric? As with any action-reaction based scenario, there will always be expectations of behavior for all parties involved, mostly based on mores, morals, past experience, values, common social acceptance of situations, etc. And each person’s particular “reality tunnel” (the learned norms in their daily lives through which they see the world), though somewhat similar, will ultimately be the gauge which they use to appropriate their actions. I venture to say that in most of these situations, it is not an “expression of rights” that is the goal by the individual, but a stirring up. They want a reaction. They want to be noticed. They desire attention. And to me, this reveals two problems: 1) Vanity is at play, and when vanity is in question, there can be no noble goal, and 2) This is a severe perversion of the very right they claim to want to promote.


William Kostric: “When someone’s wearing a gun, they’re not automatically a criminal…” ”…the only way to do that is make it an average everyday thing.”

Mr. AR-15: “I think that people need to get out and do it more, so that they get kind of conditioned to it.”


Do it more? Where? Come on. Maybe it sounds good in your head, in theory, like socialism, or Arena Football, or Audioslave. I mean, you get together four talented guys who have rocked your face off over and over again for YEARS, and how could it go wrong, right? But it DOES. It’s just not a good idea. Agendas and expectations get in the way. Wouldn’t this concept also make things more cumbersome? Even in Mr. Kostric’s situation…he was asked to move to private property during the protest in order for him to retain his firearm. Incidentally, it was a church. Don’t get me started. (Oh, and did I forget to mention? Mr. Kostric was holding a sign reading “It Is Time To Water The Tree Of Liberty”…one of the most misunderstood, abused, and misappropriated Jefferson quotes EVER. So he’s not really helping his case, and he’s certainly not doing Jefferson any favors. ) But wouldn’t it be more difficult from state to state? When should you leave it in your car? Can you bring it into work? Why would you? Aren’t there more important things to worry about in your day-to-day? Please say “yes”.

Let’s not even get into the safety concerns, child access, elderly, accidental discharge, etc etc etc. Yawn. Those are played out and we are all aware. But I do want to finish this thing off with a full clip and one in the chamber:

I have a license to drive a car. It’s official. Hologram and everything. I can still be a wackjob and drive a car. There’s no “wackjob” test. In fact, in America it takes wayyyy less to become a PARENT than it does to drive a car. And I think we can agree that plenty of wackjobs have kids and drive cars. So by extrapolation, it’s fair to say that plenty of wackjobs own guns. And don’t tire me with the age-old neo-con NRA argument about legal acquisition of guns vs. illegal acquisition having anything to do with heinous crime. Take a close look at several of the last major horror stories involving firearms. School Shootings? DC Museum? Gym Shooting? Let’s be realistic friends. But I digress. I’m not trying to go on a rampage here. No pun intended. Wackjobs own guns.

I started this with Walter and The Dude because it’s incredibly appropriate. What I didn’t tell those of you beforehand that aren’t familiar with “The Big Lebowski” is that prior to the above quotes, Walter threatens said rival bowling team member with a firearm. Does it matter for the story? Not really. In fact, not at all. What I really wanted you to focus on was very relevant regardless of that: Don’t be the guy at the party with the Ferrari. Don’t come back from London with a crap accent. Don’t flash your Platinum Card at the bar. Don’t “accidentally” let your sleeve ride up so I can see your Rolex. Don’t make me check the tag on your sweater to see that it is Imported Silk. Don’t wave your Drivers License around for no good reason.

And don’t wear a firearm strapped to your leg or back during an unrelated political event. Are you within your rights? Yes. Are you making a statement? Certainly. Are you wrong? No. You’re just an asshole.


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