Clutching at Pearls (tight around your neck)
Lindsey Graham, who is either a brave American patriot or a weak-kneed traitor to the republic, depending on whether the Trumpanzees think he is agreeing with Trump this week or not, is currently back in the traitor category again — though in fact he is once again agreeing with Trump. Remember, his status is determined by whether the Trump cult thinks he is agreeing with Trump, which in turn depends on what they think Trump believes; and what they think Trump believes is, as a matter of fact, almost never what Trump actually believes.
Confused? Well, that’s the nature of the hall of mirrors that is Trump cultism. To cut to the chase, Lindsey Graham has broken ranks with most of his Republican colleagues in the Senate, in order to side with the Democrats in advocating a federal push for so-called “red flag” laws, which grant state governments broad powers for confiscating legally-owned guns from people deemed by a court to be unfit to possess firearms.
Graham’s defense of this federal push is so revealing, but will be so generally overlooked in today’s political haze, that it deserves a moment’s notice here in the clear-eyed realm of Limbo:
“We’re trying to drive states to create these laws with certain guidelines to make sure they actually work but to let the states deal with this issue but to incentivize them to do so.”
Thank you, Senator Graham. You have just outlined the precise strategy that Washington progressives have been turning to more and more often in recent years: circumvent constitutional hurdles to despotism by effectively nationalizing the mechanisms of state government, thereby subverting the spirit and republican principles of “local control.”
Last week, a few New Hampshire state legislators got into hot water with the mainstream media, phony progressive sentimentalists, and even some self-described conservatives of an anti-Trump persuasion, for staging a minor silent protest during hearings on gun control. Specifically, they wore strings of pearls during the testimony of victims of gun violence who were being exploited as living propaganda posters by anti-gun activists promoting a state bill that would create ill-defined powers of gun confiscation based on reports — by family members “or others” — regarding the alleged mental or emotional fitness of a gun owner.
The explanation offered in the legislators’ defense is that they were given these necklaces by a conservative women’s organization, which uses them as their group’s symbol. Nevertheless, the gesture was inevitably seen as a reference to “clutching at pearls,” and therefore, in a classic example of clutching at pearls, judged by many to be in bad taste and offensive, in light of the appearance of “mocking” people who had suffered terribly due to gun crimes. Furthermore, critics slammed this little bit of visual sarcasm as evidence of the depths to which “Trumpism” has taken public discourse in America, and a new low in callous disregard for victims.
But this sort of “mockery” (the pearl necklaces) seems to me like a very mild bit of political grandstanding, hardly a major offense to anyone who is not being (deliberately) hypersensitive. Furthermore, comparing this bit of playful “mockery” to Trump’s sociopathic vulgarity, or blaming it on the Trump era, is a little like calling someone with whom you disagree a Nazi. It’s essentially an ad hominem argument. Trump is a vulgar moron. It is an extreme injustice to accuse everyone who makes a sarcastic remark in a political context of being like Trump. If Trump’s grotesquery becomes a catch-all argument against humor or sarcasm in debate, this will mean the death of irony and philosophical detachment in modern politics, and usher in the terminal phase of exactly the disease that has all but killed modern political discourse as it is: humorless activism, i.e., dead-seriousness or true-believerism.
Benjamin Disraeli used biting wit very effectively in the 19th century British parliament, such as by describing an opponent as a “conjuror who advances to the edge of the platform, and for hours draws yards of red tape from his mouth” (Sichel, Disraeli, 1904, p. 170); so did Winston Churchill in the 20th, even going so low as to respond to a female MP who accosted him — “Winston, you are drunk, and what’s more, you are disgustingly drunk” — with this topper: “Bessie, my dear, you are ugly, and what’s more, you are disgustingly ugly. But tomorrow I shall be sober and you will still be disgustingly ugly.” Did Disraeli and Churchill debase political discussion with their “insensitive” language and derisive posturing? (Okay, maybe the drunken Churchill did in that particular case, but heck, it’s still worth quoting.)
Feisty debate, especially where basic principles and fundamental rights are concerned, has always been a normal and accepted element of democracy. This is all the more true when those using the sarcasm feel that they and their position are being steamrollered by sophists or demagogues, such that they have little recourse but to express their disapproval as forcefully as possible.
After all, the very reason “victims” are trotted out by the progressives in these situations is to silence opponents through moral intimidation, by exposing them to accusations of “not caring about the victims” (or “the children” or “minorities” or whatever). This is both a cause and an effect of what we may call the politics of sensitivity.
One anti-Trump blogger falls into the “politics of sensitivity” trap when she writes:
If one is an advocate of the Second Amendment, for Constitutional reasons, it would seem that the last thing one would want to do is mock people who have actually suffered the loss of a loved one by gun violence.
But these representatives were not mocking victims of gun violence. They were mocking people who were very obviously trying to use victimhood as an ideological weapon to promote laws which, those representatives believed, would violate constitutionally-protected rights. As for the accusation that their protest shows a lack of empathy, that’s exactly the way victims are always used in these debates — as guilt-imposers. “How dare you insult the poor victims!” You lose the debate simply by not expressing sympathy with the victims, which, in progressive terms, means meekly accepting the restrictive laws for which the victims are being used as pawns and poster children. “Do you want to see more people killed like this woman’s husband was killed?”
In short, in the progressive mind those pearl-wearing representatives are guilty of callousness and lacking empathy simply for not accepting gun control laws, period. Given that context, why should they worry about the optics of allegedly offending someone? The optics war is lost no matter what they do.
I’m not saying I would wear the pearls in the same situation. I’d look stupid in pearls. I’m just saying I don’t see any genuine cause for outrage here at all; just indoctrinated hypersensitivity of the sort that has played a major role in destroying modern political discourse, forcing everyone behind barricades of tentativeness and euphemism.
And as for the attempt by some self-described conservatives to claim that this “red flag” legislation in New Hampshire is a classic example of states’ rights, i.e., federalism, which conservatives are supposed to like, I return to the point with which I began, the one so openly declared by Senator Graham. The federal progressives in Washington are actively incentivizing the passage of these gun control laws at the state level, which in effect makes these laws federal government policy, though without the overt unconstitutionality. It is not coincidental that the New Hampshire gun control law is similar to those passed in other states recently. Although technically being pitched in state legislatures, in reality these laws are all part of a national scheme to dilute gun rights one state at a time, in this case by creating, for all intents and purposes, a national regulatory network of laws allowing “mental health” or “emotional stability” exceptions to the Second Amendment, i.e., granting governments and government-appointed experts broad authority to determine who is fit to own a gun.
To imagine that such authority, once granted, will not be exploited in abusive and politically interested ways, is frankly to live in willful ignorance as to why these laws are so strongly advocated by Democrats, which is to say by the party that we all know would, if the Constitution were not in the way, simply ban private gun ownership outright for most of the American population tomorrow.
Hence the strategy, as Graham helpfully explains, is to use federal carrots to “drive states to create these laws” which comply with Washington’s preferred conditions for targeted gun confiscations, an important threshold in the march toward inuring the American public to the following down-bound staircase of premises:
- People who get angry or express frustration (such as with hyper-regulatory government or a perceived lack of self-determination) are undeserving of gun ownership;
- The full implication of (1), namely that gun ownership is a privilege, not a right; and finally,
- The gradual acceptance that a mere privilege which “causes” the unnecessary deaths of hundreds of people every year might reasonably be revoked.
This method of concealing a national strategy behind a mask of “local control” is exactly what the progressives (in both parties) have done with Common Core — pretending to abandon it but actually parceling it out to the state level under different language.
It is what they are doing right now on abortion, legalizing infanticide one state at a time, until any future overturning of Roe v. Wade would be ineffectual in practice.
The New Hampshire representatives with their pearls may have seemed callous, looked at in a certain way, out of context; but for my money, seen in context, they (like all resisters to progressive authoritarianism today) are the ones being treated callously in the long run. And as for blaming this “behavior” on Trump, I still don’t see what any of this has to do with him. Trump is the furthest thing from a defender of the Constitution, let alone gun rights — although I grant that his cult followers think he is such a defender (which is why they hate Graham today), because they are lost in a cloud of orange pixie dust.