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On the “B” Word

Over at Common Gunsense, our host has taken unkindly to being called a “Bigot.” My American Heritage dictionary defines the word thusly, “A person who is utterly intolerant of any differing creed, belief, or opinion.” In the modern American vernacular, we’ve largely forgotten about the latter two objects and concentrate almost exclusively on the first. In terms of the literal definition, we have all certainly met gun control advocates who fit it, by displaying a wildly condescending and contemptuous view of those who exercise their rights. I will leave it to readers to decide whether the proprietor of Common Gunsense fits that definition, but it’s not my purpose in this post to weigh into that particular debate. My purpose is to point out that I think Ms. Peterson has a point about the “pot calling the kettle black” in terms of some of our folks having bigoted attitudes towards people who merely disagree with us about the role of arms in American society.

Most of the tossing around I’ve seen of the word “bigot” seems to germinate from a belief that because these individuals are advocating against an enumerated civil right, that they aren’t any different than those that advocated against civil rights for blacks and other racial or ethnic minorities. I’ve said before that I think there has to be a distinction, morally, between hatred of someone because of immutable characteristics, and hatred of someone because you abhor a behavior of theirs, even if that behavior is constitutionally protected.

You can draw First Amendment analogies here, since speech is characteristically a behavior rather than an immutable quality, and speech, like firearms ownership, is constitutionally protected. I don’t necessarily consider someone advocating for a law preventing Fred Phelps and others like him from picketing a funeral to be an intolerant bigot. Misguided, yes, but not necessarily a bigot. Reasonable people can disagree about the nature and scope of the First Amendment, especially weighted against protecting the privacy and dignity of the families of service members who have been killed in action.

Advocacy of a position only really descends into bigotry when it’s based on an intolerant contempt for the individual or individuals who are engaging in a behavior, or holding a contrary opinion. It wouldn’t, for instance, be bigotry for someone to suggest “I really believe that jury verdicts shouldn’t need to be unanimous, because it costs taxpayers a lot of money for new trials, and often lets the guilty go free.” You could express the exact same opinion in a  bigoted way, however, by saying, “I really believe that jury verdicts shouldn’t need to be unanimous, because your average working class rube, too stupid to get out of jury duty, is too ignorant in judgement to be trusted with the outcome of a verdict.” The latter expression of the same idea displays a bigoted attitude towards average, working class individuals. Both attitudes are treading into the territory of weakening a traditional civil right, but only one displays any evidence of the opinion having a bigoted origin for the opinion.

In our issue, someone saying “I believe in banning handguns, machine guns and assault weapons, because they are dangerous to society, and no one except the police and military should be allowed to have them,” is not displaying any hint of bigotry. The same person saying “I believe in banning handguns, machine guns and assault weapons because anyone who could possibly want to use one is certainly a homicidal manic out to mow down kindergartners,” is a bigoted viewpoint. It might be a surprise to many who support gun control, but when you call people of good will and character dangerous, mentally deficient, sexually dysfunctional, or insane, only because they engage in a behavior or have an interest you disapprove of or don’t understand, they tend to take that quite personally, and will lash back with insults of their own.

If there’s to be any dialog, even if that dialog only results in having to agree to disagree, both sides need to come to terms with exactly who the other side is. Gun owners who believe in a very strong, broad, and robust Second Amendment are not evil, dangerous, sexually challenged, or mentally deranged people just because the hold that opinion. They aren’t scary, wild eyed beasts out to cause mayhem. And by the same token, those that advocate for a narrow or inconsequential Second Amendment are not necessarily that either, nor are they the modern day equivalent of the KKK.

I think both sides owe the other more than that. We may end up doing nasty and underhanded things to each other as we struggle against each other in the court of public opinion, but we should be cognizant of keeping the political struggle separated from personal ones. It is fine to be dogged, unrelenting and aggressive in the political space. The personal space is something else, and from what I’ve seen I don’t think either side has a monopoly on nastiness in that arena.

23 Responses to “On the “B” Word”

  1. Skullz says:

    Much of the time, at least those times when the pros engage with the antis, there is no room to agree to disagree.

    If we are to agree to disagree, the only agreement is that: I will not tell you you must carry / own / collect / use a gun and you will not tell me that I must never own / collect / use a gun.

    The rest of the argument from the antis is an intrusion into my personal choices. My argument is never an intrusion into their choice.

    Your equation using the KKK is inaccurate. The vehemently anti-gun are very much like the KKK in that they believe they can decide what someone else can or cannot do or where they can or cannot be.

    I’m no fan of racists, and I can tell a KKK member that I think their beleifs and actions are wrong. But until they are engaging in a behavior that is injurious to another person, then they are free to have their beliefs and the consequences that go with them. They can proudly wear their racism on their sleeve and I can proudly denounce it. What I cannot and will not do is try to prevent them from wearing it.

  2. Guav says:

    Great entry—I think you really nailed it. Bookmarking for future reference.

  3. Sebastian says:

    All law, to some degree, is an intrusion into personal choice. The question is whether the intrusion is appropriate and proper for a free society, or to use the term in our constitution “necessary and proper.” The founders wisely tried to take firearms ownership off the table in that regard, but what the scope of that right encompasses, just as with all other rights, is a matter of debate. Our opponents were prohibitionists, now they are merely neo-prohibitionists, when it comes to the right to bear arms. I think this is an untenable position, and I think most other Americans agree with that, or at least don’t disagree strongly enough to do anything about it.

    As for the KKK, follow the link to the KKK above. They were essentially a domestic terror organization. They weren’t just a group that advocated to preserve segregation. When was the last time a bunch of gun control advocates came over your house and burned a gun on your lawn? Where have they roughed up gun owners as they’ve walked down the street? Lynched a gun owner?

    I’m very wary of making such comparisons because I think it trivializes just how brutal and awful the Klan really was. While some gun control advocates may harbor bigoted and prejudicial opinions towards people who own guns and advocate for gun rights, that doesn’t make them modern day Klan members any more than others on the left who hold extreme and contemptuous views of people on the right.

  4. Skullz says:

    I can see your point about the antis not having roughed up a gun owner – they prefer to send the someone to do their dirty work. I can also see that not everyone who was in the KKK was burning crosses – they may have looked the other way or encouraged someone else. In a way, the antis (although I hope unintentionally) are encouraging criminals to have the freedom to prey on the defenseless and the weak.

    If in some awful future some of the wishes of the hardcore anti-gun crowd actually came to fruition, how would it be enforced? That’s right – at the point of a gun – the gun their willing to give to some law enforcement agency, because they wouldn’t have the spine to do it themselves.

  5. Why must there be a distinction between hatred of immutable characteristics and hatred of a person’s personal choices? I won’t play the victim and say “it’s not my fault, God made me like this.” My choices are who I am, as much as my skin color could ever be.

    Joan Peterson has repeatedly made statements that show her contempt for gun owners. In her mind we are all proto-murderers. I see no problem with highlighting that behavior and making sure it never passes unchallenged. I call her a bigot because she is one. Every time you scratch the “guns ‘R baaad, M’kay” statement you find a “you are evil” thought process underneath it.

    The lady appears to be insane. She can’t follow an argument. She cannot understand facts, logic or reason. The only thing that can be done is to keep pointing out her bigotry until no one takes her seriously. It’s time to drive the victim disarmament crowd out of the circle of polite company. Calling for gun control needs to be as socially acceptable as beating your wife.

    Her worst behavior is her continued use of the victim card. “Oh, woe is me, my sister got killed. Now all you haters have to do what I say.” She pretends that the death of a loved one grants Complete Moral Authority™. Crazy is crazy. The fact that you are related to a murder victim doesn’t change a thing.

  6. Skullz says:

    their = they’re — want to edit, avoid embarrassment…. ack!

  7. Miguel says:

    I find amusing and illustrating that she does not want to take the chance of having a firearm class and do some actual shooting. Sort of like a child saying that a food item tastes bad even though she never tried.
    So basically we are trying to rationally argue with a six year old that doesn’t wanna eat shrimp because they “look yucky”.

  8. “My choices are who I am, as much as my skin color could ever be.”

    That is why you ought to be judged according to them. Your actions and behaviors are representative of you. They are of your own choosing. Someone who wishes to accurately judge you ought to carefully look at them. Perhaps they will interpret them incorrectly, but they are still starting valid data point.

    Your race, sex, etc. are not of your own choosing. Therefore they are not necessarily accurate indicators of anything. Any data they provide is inference from general trends. Someone who judges you because you are white or black or male or female is more than likely just being prejudiced. They’re essentially gambling with their judgment. That is foolishness.

  9. Sebastian says:

    Pretty much what Jeff the Baptist said. We routine judge people for their behavior. The whole basis of law is really this. I should also note I am not speaking specifically here about the application of the word bigot to Joan Peterson specifically… this is a general observation.

  10. Harry Schell says:

    Great post, Sebastian, and bigotry is more than racism.

    The initial denunciations of Tea Partiers as racists and knuckledraggers came out of the bigotry of leftist elites. Ignorant slurs by people too self-approving to do their homework and know what they were talking about. This is only one step away from being convinced black people live purely on fried chicken and watermelon. Only when the Tea Partiers grew in numbers and volume, clearly uncaring what the “liberal” smarties thought of them, did the smarties start really having to deal with reality.

    The ignorance and incuriousity of elites continues, and for some is a natural state of things. People can be pretty dumb and not understand that they are. Then you get into whether they are evil or misguided….

  11. Sebastian says:

    Yes… and I should note that I’m not against the use of the word… I just think one has to be careful about how it’s applied, and make sure the context works. It can be a useful tool, because it’ll introduce a shocking word into the debate and put your opponent off balance. But in order for it to really work, they have to actually be displaying a bigoted viewpoint, and not just expressing a contrary one.

  12. Sebastian says:

    I should make clear that I am not, in this post, defending Joan Peterson against the charge of bigoted viewpoints about gun owners. But nor am I leveling that charge myself. I opted out of that debate because I didn’t want this to be a topic about Joan Peterson.

  13. “”My choices are who I am, as much as my skin color could ever be.”

    That is why you ought to be judged according to them. ”

    The problem is that I am not being judged by my actions (owning a gun) but by the implied faults of character that owning a gun illustrates (proto-murderer and spouse abuser). The fact that I chose to be a gun owner doesn’t immunize the person who hates me for it from being called a bigot. It is a bit rich to hear the Left pretending that everything they have ever said about prejudice doesn’t apply to your choices.

    “I just think one has to be careful about how it’s applied, and make sure the context works.”

    To a certain extent, you are right. Carelessly throwing it around will make it valueless. The core group of gun grabbers doesn’t care what we call them. The mass of the uneducated (in matters gun) and the credulous are who they count on for the votes needed to pass laws. There is a two track process to defeat this.

    1. Education. We teach the truth over and over again.
    2. Driving the gun grabbers out of polite society.

    You have to learn who you are dealing with. If they are just misinformed and not particularly active in trying to get your rights restricted, you educate. If you’ve tried education and they refuse to listen while simultaneously actively push the gun control agenda politically, you marginalize them. You make them and their beliefs toxic. You make sure that everyone knows that holding their beliefs is to leave polite society and become an enemy of all that is decent. In short, you treat them exactly the way they have treated us for so many years. A decades long slow motion hate crime. It’s time for some Rules for Radicals payback. Make them live up to their own rules. Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it. There’s no way to do this politely.

    The thing is, you (Sebastian) are just saying don’t use Option B on the people who should get Option A. Yep. That’s exactly correct. There is no sense beating someone over the head with a hammer when handing them a good book will do. I will reserve my hammer for the Joan Petersons of the world who obstinately refuse to face facts, ignore reality, can’t find logic or reason with both hands and a map, and who are actively engaged in attacking my rights in the political arena. She’s dangerous. She’s probably certifiable, but that doesn’t prevent her from being dangerous.

  14. “The problem is that I am not being judged by my actions (owning a gun) but by the implied faults of character that owning a gun illustrates (proto-murderer and spouse abuser).”

    Correct. But being judged on valid criteria like your actions still doesn’t mean that person is correct in their judgment. In this case Joan Peterson is demonstrably not correct in her judgment.

  15. Guav says:

    “The initial denunciations of Tea Partiers as racists and knuckledraggers came out of the bigotry of leftist elites … This is only one step away from being convinced black people live purely on fried chicken and watermelon.”

    Oh bullshit—the initial denunciations of the Tea Partiers as racists was because of the racial and racist signs they frequently carried—some involving fried chicken and watermelon in regards to Obama.

  16. Brad says:

    Guav said, “…the initial denunciations of the Tea Partiers as racists was because of the racial and racist signs they frequently carried—some involving fried chicken and watermelon in regards to Obama.”

    Oh really? The truth is you believe the B.S. racist accusations against the T.E.A. movement only because of frequent media accusations, not because of signs “frequently carried”.

    There is NO evidence such signs are frequently carried. Sucker.

    A new analysis of political signs displayed at a tea party rally in Washington last month reveals that the vast majority of activists expressed narrow concerns about the government’s economic and spending policies and steered clear of the racially charged anti-Obama messages that have helped define some media coverage of such events.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/10/13/AR2010101303634.html?wprss=rss_nation&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+wp-dyn/rss/nation/index_xml+(washingtonpost.com+-+Nation)

  17. mikee says:

    I read Joan Peterson’ blog posts and comments about wondering why anyone would own a gun that can shoot a bullet 400 yards, accurately enough to penetrate a policeman’s bulletproof vest. That is, why anyone would own almost any centerfire rifle with a scope and a good shooter on the trigger.

    She presumed the writer wanted to shoot police.

    That is a demonstration of ignorance about her selected subject, firearms, and bigotry about the owners of firearms.

    Nothing anyone posted to her about that made any difference to her ignorant bigoted opinion, even after it was pointed out that she had fallen for a simple debating trap.

    Isolate, ridicule, demonize, marginalize is a valid and apparently needful approach to take against at least this member of the anti-gun-rights movement. Anything else is met with inability to think.

  18. “Nothing anyone posted to her about that made any difference to her ignorant bigoted opinion, even after it was pointed out that she had fallen for a simple debating trap.”

    That’s why I did it to her. I can only imagine that she was really upset when she received the followup comment from me. She never posted it. I posted about it here.

    http://ncguns.blogspot.com/2010/10/why-ignorant-people-should-never-make.html

    The only thing missing at the end of my post was Admiral Akbar, “It’s a Trap!!!”

  19. Guav says:

    Yeah Brad, I have no doubt that NOW there are not nearly as many racist signs at Tea Party events—as the “new analysis” from signs carried “last month” shows—because after they got so much attention for the insane signs they were carrying for the last two years, they’re making an effort to tone down the insanity.

    Furthermore, many Tea Party organizers (and Glen Beck, for example) have taken to asking attendees not to carry signs anymore—because they were embarrassing themselves. Attendees and organizers are much more careful now.

  20. Brad says:

    I find it hugely ironic that Guav is fine with condemning an entire political movement based upon less than a dozen total signs out of tens of thousands of demonstrators, since the gun-control movement also condemns the entire gun owning populace as potential murderers based upon the misuse of less than 1% of all the guns in America.

  21. Guav says:

    I’m not condemning the entire movement—there are plenty of Tea Partiers who are not motivated by racism at all—I just don’t buy your narrative that there is hardly any racism at all. I also am curious where you got your “less than a dozen” signs number from—did you personally attend every rally and count them?

    The signs have absolutely toned down now, but they certainly were common at first. Like I said, that’s why organizers have taken to asking attendees not to carry signs at all.

    But it’s not just about signs, polling about racial attitudes has shown the same thing.

  22. Brad says:

    “…[the signs] certainly were common at first.”

    “But it’s not just about signs, polling about racial attitudes has shown the same thing.”

    Utter fantasy.

  23. Guav says:

    Well, I guess that settles that: Your irrefutable declaration that there were only 11 racist signs combined at every single Tea Party rally over the last two years—based on extensive personal analysis, I’m sure—coupled with your unimpeachable and ironclad assurance that Tea Party activists have absolutely zero difference in opinions about race than non-Tea Partiers and the population at large clearly dashes my entire argument on the rocks.

    After all, no amount of photographs, video, polling of actual Tea Party activists or what I’ve seen with my own eyes and ears can match up with …. you just sayin’ stuff.

    You win.

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