The Second Amendment is an unalienable right; plus, even assuming for the sake of argument that Trump has racist thoughts, his principles are not racist.
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In today’s podcast, I’m still chewing over the shootings this past weekend. I leave it to others to tackle the shooters’ motives (other than just being evil people) and the media’s haste to emphasize the allegedly conservative El Paso shooter (even though he seems terribly affected by the Leftist’s climate Armageddon rhetoric) while ignoring entirely the passions driving the Leftists shooter in Dayton. Instead, I want to discuss the Second Amendment and why it matters in the context of our relationship to the government. Long-time readers will recognize this discussion, but it may be new to others.
The right to bear arms is one of our premier constitutional rights. Too many Americans take our Constitution for granted without considering its centrality, not to government, but to the individuals being governed. Unlike the various federal statutes that impose laws on the people of this land, the Constitution imposes its restrictions on the federal government itself. The predicate to these individual rights is the Declaration of Independence:
We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
Without this acknowledgement of our unalienable status and dignity, the explicitly listed Rights in the Bill of Rights are meaningless. These unalienable rights – Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness — are the abstract foundational concepts that justify a citizen’s more concrete “right” to have spheres of activity (or inactivity) upon which the government cannot impinge.
Which gets us to the Bill of Rights. What exactly is it? I mean, we all know what’s in it, but I don’t think most people stop and really think about how important it is to them, as individuals.
The Constitution is a contract between the People (acting through their state-elected representatives) and the government. The main body of the Constitution, however, has nothing to do with the People, and everything to do with defining a functioning government. Thus, while it seeks to make sure that the executive can’t overwhelm the legislature or that the courts can’t overwhelm the executive, there’s nothing in the Constitution about whether the government as a whole, or any of its individual parts, can overwhelm the citizens under its rule.
The Founders realized in the wake of the Constitution’s ratification that creating a government is not the same as protecting the People’s unalienable under that government. If the government can “giveth” something and then “taketh it away” again, that something is not a right, it is, instead, a mere privilege.
Rights, on the other hand, belong to the People independent of government. Rights have nothing to do with government control over people, and everything to do with the People’s right to control government.
That rights are independent of government does not mean that the government cannot use its aggregated military, police, and taxing power to destroy those rights. Our rights’ fragility is what drove the Founding generation to create the Bill of Rights.
The first ten amendments to the Constitution describe rights that are fundamental to the individual and, therefore, transcend government. The Founders stated them explicitly, however, because they refused to assume that a beneficent government would automatically protect these rights. It was therefore necessary to err on the side of caution and warn the federal government away from touching the People’s core liberties.
The net result of adding a single extraordinary sentence in the Declaration of Independence and the first ten amendments to the Constitution is pure magic: For the first time in history, a government exists that respects the bright line of human inviolability into which government cannot intrude.
On the People’s side of that bright line are the freedoms to speak, worship, and assemble. And of course, the right to be armed, for whatever the heck reason you want, is also one of those unalienable right.
Contrary to what gun control advocates would have us believe, the Founders did not toss the right to bear arms into the Bill of Rights just because people were marching around with slow-to-load, hard-to-aim muskets or because people liked to hunt. Instead, they included this right because they viewed it as an important bulwark defending individual liberties:
False is the idea of utility. . . that would take fire from men because it burns, and water because one may drown in it; that has no remedy for evils, except destruction (of liberty). The laws that forbid the carrying of arms are laws o’f such nature. They disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes. . . such laws serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man. (Thomas Jefferson ‘Commonplace Book’ 1775, quoting 18th Century criminologist Cesare Beccaria in on Crimes and Punishment (1764))
No man shall ever be debarred the use of arms. The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against the tyranny in government. (Thomas Jefferson, June 1776, Thomas Jefferson Papers, (C. J. Boyd, Ed., 1950))
Although our rights are inviolable in principle, in fact the government can impose restrictions upon them – but if it does so, the government must prove that these restrictions are absolutely necessary. The opposite is not true. That is, the People do not bear the burden of proving that the government cannot impinge upon these unalienable rights.
Those who favor strict gun control argue that, by showing that guns kill innocent people, they have satisfied their burden of proving that gun control is as much a necessity as speech limitations on falsely shouting “fire.” This argument is wrong for two reasons.
The first reason is that, unlike freedom of speech, which is a generalized right, the right to bear arms is specifically and absolutely articulated: it “shall not be infringed.” Although we’ve long recognized that government can, in fact, infringe on this right, the standard to do so is incredibly high.
The second reason the gun control argument cannot reach the high constitutional standard for imposing strict limitations on gun rights is because it forgets that guns don’t just take lives, they also save lives. According to a 2013 study that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ordered, “Defensive use of guns by crime victims is a common occurrence”:
Almost all national survey estimates indicate that defensive gun uses by victims are at least as common as offensive uses by criminals, with estimates of annual uses ranging from about 500,000 to more than 3 million, in the context of about 300,000 violent crimes involving firearms in 2008.
Progressives have an intellectual limitation that allows them to see only dead bodies, without any regard for those who do not die thanks to guns. This myopia creates the giant intellectual chasm that exists between those who oppose the Second Amendment and those who support it. The former see only the people who died in the past, while the latter count the ones who will live on into the future.
Logically, we know that people are going to die under any circumstances. Even those who argue most strenuously in favor of total gun-control concede that gun control will not actually do away with guns. They’re just pretty sure it will decrease the number of guns overall.
At this point, I always like to bring up French economist Frédéric Bastiat’s 1850 Parable of the Broken Window (emphasis mine):
Have you ever witnessed the anger of the good shopkeeper, James Goodfellow, when his careless son has happened to break a pane of glass? If you have been present at such a scene, you will most assuredly bear witness to the fact that every one of the spectators, were there even thirty of them, by common consent apparently, offered the unfortunate owner this invariable consolation—”It is an ill wind that blows nobody good. Everybody must live, and what would become of the glaziers if panes of glass were never broken?”
Now, this form of condolence contains an entire theory, which it will be well to show up in this simple case, seeing that it is precisely the same as that which, unhappily, regulates the greater part of our economical institutions.
Suppose it cost six francs to repair the damage, and you say that the accident brings six francs to the glazier’s trade—that it encourages that trade to the amount of six francs—I grant it; I have not a word to say against it; you reason justly. The glazier comes, performs his task, receives his six francs, rubs his hands, and, in his heart, blesses the careless child. All this is that which is seen.
But if, on the other hand, you come to the conclusion, as is too often the case, that it is a good thing to break windows, that it causes money to circulate, and that the encouragement of industry in general will be the result of it, you will oblige me to call out, “Stop there! Your theory is confined to that which is seen; it takes no account of that which is not seen.”
It is not seen that as our shopkeeper has spent six francs upon one thing, he cannot spend them upon another. It is not seen that if he had not had a window to replace, he would, perhaps, have replaced his old shoes, or added another book to his library. In short, he would have employed his six francs in some way, which this accident has prevented.
Just as is the case with the economic illiterate who cannot imagine that money might be spent on something more useful than fixing a broken window, a gun control advocate’s world view “is confined to that which is seen; it takes no account of that which is not seen.” He counts those who have died, but cannot even begin to imagine those whose lives were saved or never threatened.
In this way, the gun grabber is much like the anti-vaxxer who is terrified by the 1/10,000 risk of a vaccination and utterly blind to the much greater risk of an epidemic or even pandemic disease. And when I speak of such a disease, I’m not talking about Ebola, which does scare him because he sees dead bodies on TV. I’m talking about forgotten diseases such as scarlet fever, polio, even small pox, all of which have vanished from his frame of reference because he has never seen them.
So, that’s what I have to say about the Second Amendment and its centrality to individual liberty.
What I also want to talk about is the utterly spurious claim that Trump is a White Supremacist. I want to examine that calumny through the prism of “thoughts versus acts.” Before I start, though, let me say that I do not believe for a single minute that Trump is a racist, let alone a White Supremacist. This is as disgusting a canard as any yet leveled at him by those who are Leftists or in the grip of TDS. Still, solely for the sake of argument, I will assume that Trump harbors racism deep inside.
Back in the day, we kids used to chant “sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Of late, Proggies/SJWS/Dems have done away with that schoolyard chant. They justify physical violence on the grounds that words are in fact identical to physical violence.
This is bad enough, but with Trump, we’re seeing them go to the next level, which is that thought crimes must be policed and can justify extreme punishment. This is entirely Orwellian. After all, it was Orwell to who defined “crimethink” as “the criminal act of holding politically unorthodox thoughts that contradict the tenets of Ingsoc (English Socialism).”
This is not the first time, of course, that the West has seen thought crimes. Back in Tudor England, thanks to the battle between Catholics and Protestants from Henry VIII through Elizabeth I, thought crimes got people burned, hanged, drawn, quartered, or, if they were lucky, merely exiled. That all came to an end in 1558 when Elizabeth, after signing off on the Act of Uniformity, refused to allow religious police to hunt up criminal religious activity. If someone was deemed a threat to throne and kingdom, their Catholic or dissenting faith could be used against them, but she was averse to using religion itself as a crime.
Elizabeth justified her forbearance by stating, “I would not open windows into men’s souls.” It was, so far as I know, the first time in the West anyone ever articulated this idea, or even thought it, and it’s a terribly important one. It forces us to ask whether we will judge people by their thoughts, either expressed or perceived, or by their actions.
In this regard, I always think of Harry Truman, one of the Democrats’ most admired presidents. He was a Missouri native and a terrible racist. Back in 1991, the AP reported on some Harry Truman quotations. (By the way, because the article predated the OJ Simpson trial, you’ll see spelled out what is now called “the N word.” I’ll leave it that way in this post because I’m quoting the AP article verbatim, but in the podcast, I say “the N word.” I don’t like the way the word in its entirety feels in my mouth and therefore don’t like to say it.)
In 1911, the year he turned 27, Truman wrote to his future wife, Bess: “I think one man is just as good as another so long as he’s honest and decent and not a nigger or a Chinaman. Uncle Will says that the Lord made a white man from dust, a nigger from mud, then He threw up what was left and it came down a Chinaman.”
“(Uncle Will) does hate Chinese and Japs,” Truman continued. “So do I. It is race prejudice, I guess. But I am strongly of the opinion Negroes ought to be in Africa, yellow men in Asia and white men in Europe and America.”
More than 25 years later, Truman, then a U.S. senator from Missouri, wrote a letter to his daughter describing waiters at The White House as “an army of coons.” In a letter to his wife in 1939 he referred to “nigger picnic day.”
Nevertheless, on July 26, 1948, it was this racist man who issued Executive Order 9981 abolishing discrimination “on the basis of race, color, religion or national origin” in the United States Armed Forces. I doubt anyone will deny that our Armed Forces are the best integrated, most color-blind institutions in American society. Truman rose above his prejudices to effectuate principles that he knew were greater than his own biases.
Harry Truman didn’t like Jews either. In 1947, after the Holocaust that specifically targeted Europe’s Jews and succeeded in killing most of them, he confided thoughts on Jews to his diary:
Jews I find are very very selfish. They care not how many Latvians, Finns, Poles, Estonians and Greeks get murdered or mistreated as DPs [displaced persons] as long as Jews get special treatment. Yet when they have power, physical, financial or political, neither Hitler or Stalin has anything on them for cruelty or mistreatment for the underdog.
Naturally, I disagree strongly with his take. Still, it’s important to note that, despite this antipathy, in 1948 Truman had the U.S. vote in the UN for the creation of Israel and he never went back on that.
My own father, a Jewish man raised in Germany in the 1920s and early 1930s did not like blacks in the abstract. That never affected either his conduct or his principles. He fully supported the Civil Rights movement in both word and deed, and thought Willie Brown was the smarter person he’d ever met, and always treated the blacks with whom he dealt with the same level of respect he accorded whites or any other race. Whatever his thoughts, my father’s behavior was impeccable and his principles were always morally righteous.
The reality is that Trump never said anything racist. As the latest Prager U video shows, the “fine people hoax” was just that — a vile hoax that the media refuses to let go:
Incidentally, according to Dennis Prager,
I just learned that within hours of PragerU posting “The Charlottesville Lie,” Google placed it on YouTube’s restricted list — just two weeks after a Senate hearing at which a Google representative swore under oath that Google doesn’t censor on the basis of political views. The ease with which the left lies is breathtaking.
The restricted list means, among other things, that most schools’ software, meant to protect children from porn or violence, blocks this video too.
As for Trump’s alleged “Muslim ban,” it was (a) not racially based because Islam is an ideology, not a race; and (b) it was predicated upon a list Obama’s State Department made identifying the top terror exporting nations. Again, no racism there; just a desire to protect Americans from a risk the previous administration had already spelled out.
But again, even if we assume solely for the sake of argument that Trump is a racist, he’s still presided over a booming economy that has especially benefited non-Caucasians; enacted criminal justice reform that, while it can be viewed as getting violent criminals back on the streets, can also be viewed as getting black men out of prison and back into the community to serve as fathers and mentors to boys and girls desperately in need of such figures; spoken out about the horrific conditions in Democrat-run black-inhabited inner cities; and supported gun rights for law abiding black citizens who are currently at the mercy of illegally armed predatory people in those same inner cities.
In other words, even if Trump is a racist (and I deny that he is), his principles are such that there is nothing prejudicial about his acts. I’d rather put my money on acts than on thought crimes any time.