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One of the
many subtexts in our current national debate on guns is the notion, embraced by
conservatives and gun nuts, that Americans need to keep their guns, to prevent
the federal government from imposing “tyranny”. Apparently “tyranny” includes
Democrats who have the gall to nominate a black guy with a funny name for
There are many
problems with this argument. The main problem is that the founding fathers who
wrote the constitution feared the tyranny of armed mobs of private citizens
almost as much as they feared the tyranny of a new king: they said so many
times in the Federal Papers. That’s why the Constitution includes language in
Article 2 Section 2, specifying that a “militia” consists of the troops who
take orders from the president, not any armed loon who’s pissed off about his
taxes. And that’s a good thing: without that restriction, any armed loon could
indeed declare “Obama’s a tyrant” and starting shooting people. The founders
never intended for any old man on the street to proclaim that there was a
tyrant who needs to be brought to heel. And as we established in the Civil War,
even if an entire state or region starts screaming “tyranny”, they can’t just
make up their own rules and go off and start a new country. We already fought
problem is that, particularly in the current climate, it is much more likely
that a state government could impose “tyranny” and take away the people’s
rights, than the federal government. Look at the laws which Republican
governors are signing, to block abortion rights, voting rights, union
rights….And Posse Comitatus doesn’t do a thing to prevent that form of tyranny,
which is not only more likely – it’s actually happening now.
if these fat old white boys ever pried themselves out of their La-Z-Boys and
decided to march, wheezing, into the hills to proclaim Teh Revolution, our
military would kick their fat little butts in short order.
issue, in turn, will cause the semi-literate knuckle-dragging gun nuts to do
something you wouldn’t expect: scream in Latin.
words, the legal doctrine that the President can’t use the military for
domestic law enforcement. That is, the U.S. Army can’t be used to shut down the
next Waco or Ruby Ridge or whatever.
say, the wingnuts have their law wrong on this, as on everything else.
First, a quick
In 1876, not
long after the Civil War, there was an incredibly close presidential election,
which was settled by a back-room deal. According to the agreement, the
Republican candidate for president would win the White House; in return, the
new president would withdraw federal troops who were still occupying the south
after the Civil War. When southern politicians began streaming back into
Washington to take their seats in Congress, that wanted to make damn sure that
those occupying forces never came back to the south. So they pushed for passage
of the Posse Comitatus Act, which prevents the military from undertaking such
operations inside the United States without an act of Congress.
with the “Posse Comitatus” argument of the wingnuts, is that Congress has, in
fact, written laws which allow the President to take action.
Enforcement Act of 1870 was passed to stop groups like the Klan from using
terror to suppress the black vote. Two more Enforcement Acts the following year
allow the federal government to supervise southern elections, go after
officials involved in vote suppression, use troops to suppress groups like the
Klan and stop interference with federal operations, and suspend habeas corpus
if necessary to stop groups like the Klan. As Eisenhower demonstrated in Little
Rock, the President can use the Enforcement Acts to call up the military if
state authorities can’t or won’t stop a violent attack on constitutional
rights. Ike used it for school desegregation.
Insurrection Act, as reinterpreted in 2008, says that the President can use the
military to suppress any insurrection, unlawful combination or conspiracy, if
the violation of the law is so egregious that it deprives people of their
rights, and the local authorities can’t or won’t fix the problem. And if the
people causing the trouble are actively obstructing federal law, it doesn’t
even matter what the local authorities are doing.
Third, in 2011
the National Defense Authorization Act authorized the President to impose
martial law upon any person who engages in hostilities against the United
States, including anyone who commits a belligerent act or supports such
hostilities. “Martial law” includes blowing your damn fool head off if you
screw with the U.S. Army.
So if these
“tyrant killers” deprive their neighbors of their rights, or violate federal
law, or proclaim their independence from the United States, or whatever, the
President can send in the same guys who conquered Iraq and plugged bin Laden.
Army! Navy! Air Force! Marines!
…and the Coast
Guard, which isn’t even restricted by the Posse Comitatus Act.
Also, if the
wingnuts don’t have the local governor on their side in their little rebellion
– which is very likely – the governor can send in the National Guard.
So there you go. If the gun nuts launch a rebellion
and the President orders it crushed, that crushing process will be entirely
successful, and entirely legal.
went to the Golden Globes Sunday night and told America, again, that she has no
intention of opening her private life to the public. GLBT activists fumed. My
view is….grow up, kids.
Who has more
reasons than Foster, to protect her privacy? Foster has been under the media
microscope for four decades, before she was even in school. She faced
extraordinary scrutiny for playing a teenage prostitute in “Taxi Driver”, and
even more when a psychotic used her as an excuse for trying to kill the
President, an incident which caused such an avalanche of attention that her
only way out was to refuse all comment on the case, permanently. She’s been
dealing with stalkers for thirty years, including one maniac who seriously
intended to shoot her dead. "It was very clear to me
at a young age that I had to fight for my life and that if I didn't, my life
would get gobbled up and taken away from me.”
Also, coming out of the closet in 1980s America, raddled
with fear of AIDS and massive waves of hate from religious conservatives, would
be dangerous, and potentially a career-killer. Being an actress in Hollywood
isn’t like being an actor: a huge proportion of an actress’s roles, still,
involve being a man’s love interest, which would have been problematic for one
of the few open lesbians at the time. And by the way, the jihad against gays
hasn’t stopped – the wave of homophobia in 2004 was so powerful it helped turn
the presidential election.
The GLBT movement has been hollering for decades –
“society should get out of our bedrooms, let us live our lives, respect our
privacy!” But some of the same people refuse to respect the privacy of other
gays and lesbians, which in less generous times would be called hypocrisy. Some
GLBT activists, while also demanding respect for their own privacy, have been
aggressive in exposing people still in the closet, either to “win one for the
cause” or for the gossip value (some rightwing extremists indulge in it too,
out of sadism). Barney Frank argued that it’s okay to out someone whose work
hurts the GLBT movement, but I don’t buy that, either: invading the privacy of
people just because they want to invade your privacy is childish, and
undermines the entire argument. And the trick here is that they only seem to
target famous gay people, so they can glom onto their fame like parasites,
which is one step above the paparazzi. It’s almost as though a request for
privacy is a challenge.
also complain that Foster should be using her prominence to lead the GLBT
cause. Blacks aimed the same complaints against Sidney Poitier and Sammy Davis,
and anti-apartheid activists took the same shot at track star Zola Budd – they
had the notion that people can be drafted into leading great political causes
whether they like it or not. Actors do regularly choose social causes to
support, but this is always voluntary, as it should be. Foster is a woman who is not only acting, directing and
producing, but also raising two children by herself; she also has a parent with
dementia. It should be up to her, not frustrated gay bloggers, to decide
whether she’s going to be the Frederick Douglass of the GLBT movement. If you
want someone to lead your revolution, lead it yourself. Sure, it’s harder to do
without Foster’s gigantic megaphone, but revolution is never easy. And Foster’s
megaphone is hers, not yours.
And for those who are still
waiting for Foster to apologize for Silence of the Lambs….Buffalo Bill wasn’t
gay. He was a psychopathic killer with a poodle, someone who thought he was a
transsexual but wasn’t. He was a non-trans trans. Sounds like some movie goers
are succumbing to, you know, stereotypes. And Foster didn’t write or direct the
Ed Kilgore at
the Washington Monthly raised a valid point. He wondered about all these
right-wing white-power psychos who insist on asserting their Second Amendment
rights to stockpile mountains of guns and ammunition, so they can resist
tyranny – whenever they decide that government has crossed some line which
exists only in their fevered brains, they have a constitutional right to start
shooting up our policemen and soldiers.
But what if
other people took the same stance? People that the right-wing yahoos don’t
mentioned a few examples – activists protecting animals, Native Americans
demanding their land back…
What if women
bought guns and started defending abortion clinics?
blacks bought guns and asserted their constitutional right to roam our white
What if gays
began arming, looking for “tyrannical” Republicans depriving them of their
Mexicans began arming so they could assist illegals in crossing the border?
Muslim Pakistanis were roaming the streets with AKs, looking for “tyrannical”
churches to attack?
What if poor
people bought guns and decided that the owners of the local bank were
“Occupy Wall Street” turned into “Get a Gun and Occupy Wall Street”?
fine line separating “armed resistance to tyranny” from “armed robbery”, or
“mass murder”. And right-wing yahoos are not so good at seeing fine lines. Or,
indeed, any line that lies between them and what they demand as their right.
So let me
point out two things. First, even with all of the fear and chaos in our country
right now, the huge majority of Americans who are not crazy right-wing loons
are not buying guns. There has been a spike in gun purchases, but it is
overwhelmingly by the right-wing loons who are already stockpiling guns.
Because we, the sane majority, believe in this country and we believe in
democracy, unlike the whackaloons. We believe that eventually everything will
work out, and whenever we lose an election we can just roll out our maps and
get ready for the next one, rather than screaming “Voter fraud! Tyranny! They’re
coming to get us! Revolution!”
if the right-wing whackaloons try to force an armed clash with the rest of us,
they would lose. Because there are a lot more of us, and we’re smarter than
they are. Even setting aside the fact that the U.S. military would mow them