Historical projection

One of the things that blogging has moved me to do more often is to learn about history. I am somewhat ashamed to say that between, let’s say, grade 10 history class (which was in 2000) and the founding of this blog (in 2010), I was not exactly what you might call ‘a student of history’. Sure, I picked up things in fits and snatches from newspaper articles and what I gleaned from just generally being a person who was paying attention to the world, but it would be a rare occurrence indeed for you to catch me studying history for its own sake. I have since learned the critical role that understanding history should play in our daily lives.

I think history is kinder to liberals than it is to conservatives (although these labels break down once you reach more than 30 years back). While there have been, and technically continue to be good conservative arguments to make about things, the political ‘left’ has moved to more or less occupy what was once the centre, while the right (particularly in America) has steadily moved to the extreme. As a result, American conservatives lionize Ronald Reagan – a man who was a terrible President and a terrible influence on the world – a man whose policies they would demonize as Satanic socialism were he living today. They don’t really have many other icons to boast about, nor major policy positions they can hang their hats on. They have become the less-clever Statler and Waldorf of policy – having nothing substantive to contribute, but always lobbing criticisms.

And it is a combination of their own lack of laudable history, and the same failure to learn actual history that I have been guilty of, that leads them to accept shockingly ahistorical statements like this:

In an interview with conspiracy website WorldNetDaily, [NRA Board member and Gary Busey sanity-double Ted] Nugent falsely claimed that an executive order would confiscate guns, a popular myth in the right-wing blogosphere. He encouraged gun owners to model the 1960s civil rights movement and Rosa Parks, who became an icon after she refused to give her seat up on a segregated bus:

If it comes to the actual implementation of an actual confiscatory directive from our president, then I do believe that the heroes of the law enforcement will defy this order. I do believe that there are enough soulless sheep within our government who would act on such an illegal order but I believe the powers that be at the local, state, and regional law enforcement would halt such an illegal, anti-American order…These are top notch heroes of law enforcement and military who understand this experiment in self-government and we will not let it [gun confiscation] happen, we will do it peaceful. But there will come a time when the gun owners of America, the law-abiding gun owners of America, will be the Rosa Parks and we will sit down on the front seat of the bus, case closed.

The first and most obvious question is why on Earth would anyone give two festering shits what Ted Nugent, a man who wasn’t even particularly famous when he was famous, thinks about anything? The second question is who exactly he thought Rosa Parks was, and what it was she was protesting. And I guess the third one is what he think ‘illegal’ means, but maybe we’ll just give him that one for a minute. Rosa Parks was, in fact, a member of a long tradition of civil disobedience protesting against unjust laws (not illegal laws, a contradiction in terms) in which black people were barred from equal public participation by virtue of their skin colour. In order for Nugent’s comparison to make even a whiff of sense, gun owners would have to be born with guns inextricably attached to their bodies, and then have their rights curtailed as a result.

Or how about this one:

Larry Ward on Friday told CNN that he created the first annual Gun Appreciation Day just days before President Barack Obama’s inauguration and the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday to “honor the legacy of Dr. King” and that slavery may never have happened in the United States if African-Americans had owned guns.

(snip)

He added: “The truth is, I think Martin Luther King would agree with me if he were alive today that if African Americans had been given the right to keep and bear arms from day one of the country’s founding, perhaps slavery might not have been a chapter in our history. And I believe wholeheartedly that’s essential to liberty.”

I wonder if we can find even one example in history where people with guns have managed to capture and deprive freedom from other people with guns. Larry Ward seems to think the answer is ‘no’. He also thinks that Martin Luther King Jr. would be pro-gun if he were alive today. But he’s not alive today. Can anyone remember why?

And yet, the well runs deeper:

The American Family Association, a top conservative Christian organization, emailed members today with a dire warning that, within 50 years, Christians will be treated like African Americans during the Jim Crow era.

In an email entitled “What will religion look like in the year 2060?”, the AFA warned about the coming onslaught against Christians, who currently make up over three-quarters of Americans. The group’s predictions include that Christians will be brutally discriminated against like blacks in the Civil Rights Era, government will take children from parents at birth, and any city with “Saint” or other loosely-religious name will be forced to change.

Ah yes, once again the absurd anto-gay hate group has decided to force itself into relevance by saying the most outlandish shit it can manage to get into print. This time around, they’ve come out with a list of things that all sound amazing, but are spinning them as though they were a bad thing. To drive home their complete lack of self-awareness (or, really, awareness of anything other than how frothingly they hate gay people), they make a ham-handed analogy to Jim Crow, a comparison which would retroactively require blackness to be something that one had to proclaim loudly and in public before anyone noticed enough to pass discriminatory laws.

It’s funny, in a twisted way, to note how all of these fantasies are run through with the same vein of fear: that conservatives will start to be treated the way they’ve been treating black folks for generations. That the guns they bought in order to ‘protect themselves’ from black people have now made them a target of legislation. That the right’s history of racism and full-throated endorsement of Jim Crow policies (and modern policies that accomplish many of the same functions) might see them on the receiving end. That the power of Christianity, once used to justify slavery and the witholding of civil rights, might have dwindled to the point where they will no longer enjoy the ability to flaunt the law.

But don’t worry, paranoid and ignorant* conservatives, we liberals aren’t going to treat you the way you treated black people. Because there are many of us who have learned from history, and do not wish to repeat the mistakes you’ve made.

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*Although when the ignorance is this extreme, I have a hard time believing that this is simply a case of people not knowing better.