Wednesday, July 18, 2007

a plague on both their houses.

I think that the culture war is lost.

By "culture war", I don't mean the tug-of-war between conservatives and liberals. Taxes, gun control, welfare, immigration, abortion, church & state issues...all of those things are smoke and mirrors in the end. No, the culture war I mean is the conflict between those who believe in the principles of freedom, and those who give mere lip service to it. There is no appreciable difference between liberals and conservatives these days--they all belong in the latter category, and the only difference between them is the kind of prohibition they want the government to enforce on the rest of us.

L. Neil Smith says that a politician's attitude towards the right to keep and bear arms is a barometer for his general attitude towards you. In other words, if he doesn't trust you with a gun, he won't trust you with anything else. I have come to the point where I must respectfully disagree with that theory.

I've moderated on several conservative-leaning gun boards for over half a decade now, and in the process I have learned a great deal about the gun rights crowd: they're people like anyone else, and they have no greater propensity towards defending civil liberties in general than the rest of the population. They like guns, plain and simple, and they tend to be thorough only in the defense of the constitutional amendment that recognizes their right to keep what they like. In general, however, gun owners have as many fans of authoritarianism among them as do the granola-munching Trotskyists on the other side of the political spectrum. Being in favor of gun rights is no guarantee of being a defender of liberty--it merely means that you like guns. There are plenty of politicians out there who wouldn't touch my right to own a firearm, but who would gladly use the power of the State to keep me from reading, watching, eating, smoking, driving, or talking about things they don't like.

Every group seems to have its own personal favorite in the Bill of Rights, and none of them seem to particularly care much about the other articles. The Left holds the First Amendment sacrosanct (especially the part about freedom of speech), but they have very little love or respect for the Second Amendment. The Right sees the Second Amendment as the linchpin of the Bill of Rights, but they're deeply uncomfortable with the protections afforded by the First Amendment, especially when the speech in question is deemed "obscene", or the religion exercised is anything but mainstream Christianity. Talk about the rest of the Bill of Rights, and you lose most gun folk altogether, who can't fathom why anyone would insist on keeping that archaic prohibition against unreasonable search and seizure or due process when it comes to drug or terrorism suspects.

In the meantime, those among us who just want to be left alone are shrinking in numbers. We are outvoted by the authoritarian wings of both the Right and the Left. Both Democrats and Republicans are in agreement about the need for further government authority and extensive social engineering; they merely fight over the proper vector. With control of the legislature seesawing between those two groups every few years, freedom is declining rapidly, and the only choice every election day seems to be a pick between a police state or a nanny state. We make our pick, sometimes as "single-issue voters" (as if you can defend the Bill of Rights by voting only for the guy who promises to leave your favorite amendment alone), and the compromise required for passing laws in D.C. guarantees that we get a mushy mix of nanny and police state, with emphasis tilting in whatever direction the majority in Congress wants it to go.

I think the root of all lousy legislation in this country is the desire of so many people to run the lives of other people. I think the vast majority of both liberals and conservatives is infected with the attitude that they themselves can run their own lives just fine, but that their neighbors just can't be trusted to run theirs if left to their own devices.

I'm not a single-issue voter. I may have been, once upon a time, but I have come to realize that the right to keep and bear arms is meaningless if you have to trade it for the rest of the Bill of Rights. With our rights disappearing at an ever-increasing rate, what exactly are we going to defend with those guns in the end? Our right to say non-obscene non-fighting words while practicing a non-controversial religion? Our right to be secure in our belongings and houses unless we're suspected of growing the wrong kind of plant in the basement? Our right to come and go as we please...unless we don't have the proper papers (and reasons for traveling)? Our right to due process and a jury trial...unless we're declared terrorism suspects or "enemy combatants"? Our right to own property...unless the city wants to give our land to a developer to increase tax revenue?

This may be pessimism, but I look at the way things are going, and I see a storm coming. Our slide into totalitarianism won't come in obvious and dramatic fashion, with some thirteenth-century holy warriors crossing the border in force with crescent armbands on their tunics and sharia law on their minds. It won't come like in a movie, with some flashy operetta dictator seizing power in a quick and photogenic coup. It's coming on quiet soles, with the help and assistance of most everyone around you, with everyone who casts a ballot for someone who promises to set their neighbors straight for them. Too many people are actively involved in making the links for the chains that bind all of us, and too many of them would rather surrender their own pet freedom than let their neighbor have his.

(Exaggeration? Ask some garden-variety conservatives if they'd vote to let anyone take any drug they wanted in return for the right to keep and bear arms without restrictions.)

It's pretty sad that we've reached the point where someone quoting the Founding Fathers is regarded as an "anti-government extremist", and that the only candidate on the national ballot who gives more than lip service to the Bill of Rights is derided by conservatives near and far as an unelectable looney.

If you vote for more of the same, you'll get more of the same, whether your pet vote whore has a (R) or a (D) after their name. As for me, I'm done voting for the lesser of two evils, and I won't help them wipe their asses with the Bill of Rights just because they promise to not use the part with my favorite amendment.

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