The discussion on gun control lacks even the basic civilities now. The major chord we hear in these discussions was sounded by Senator Mitch McConnell who declared over three years ago on October 23, 2010 that "the single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term President."
And so the phraseology of no retreat, no compromise—phrases you find everywhere in the gun lobby's lexicon—reappeared as part of the GOP's national rhetoric, and it wasn't directed at a policy nor was it aimed at a bill. President Obama was the target. If our President sponsored it, if he endorsed, if he even nodded his head in agreement, no matter what the issue on the table, the Republicans and members of the Tea Party united in opposition.
This, of course, isn't productive government, and when this kind of partisanship controls Congress, nothing gets done. When nothing gets done, the American people suffer. The GOP has become, for the moment, the party of political dogmatism, and nothing is getting done.
Now this dogmatism has surfaced in the gun debate, and while we wait for common sense to gain the upper hand—as it will: 90% of the American public support universal background checks—innocent people are dying. That's the problem. And the culture of violence that we have created and nourished in this country continues to claim its victims.
But the violence we associate with the misuse of guns also shows up in the language used by the radical gun activists. It's like gun-violence has somehow given them a word-hoard, a way of describing reality that is tied to vengeance, anger, blood, and paranoia.
Paradoxically, these extreme groups ultimately become tied to their dystopian rhetoric—as opposed to a set of comphrehensible ideas—and their rhetoric then directs their thinking. When this happens, they leave themselves no choice but to depict the major gun-control groups in false and deceptive ways. They have no choice but to concoct targets that might seem deserving of their bizarrely enraged language. But they've written themselves into a box, and it's a crazy box, and they don't know how to get out.
Take one of their favorite targets, for example, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, an organization started by Shannon Watts in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting. The organization supports six basic reforms, none of which involve confiscating weapons or repealing the Second Amendment, or denying the right to protect your home, and all of which would work toward securing the American public from the gun violence that currently plagues our country. Still, organizations like—I'll choose one—1 Million Moms against Gun Control are obsessed not only by Ms. Watts's work, but by Ms. Watts herself. And to justify their extreme rhetoric, they must create an equally extreme set of positions that Ms. Watts extremely holds.
Except, of course, Ms. Watts doesn't occupy the positions that many gun-radicals ascribe to her.
And so we saw the image recently of Ms. Watts with a knife plunged into her blood-covered head, a simple and repulsing case of visual terrorism. Her family and her life and her health are regularly threatened in words that seem distinctly sub-human both in intelligence and standard language usage.
Taking hard, uncompromising stands against fictional enemies that stalk the fictional environments they have created for themselves—this is what the gun-radicals have left. It's an old proverb, but it's apropos here: the dreamer creates castles in the sky, but the severely deluded create those castles in the sky, and then move in.
The gun radicals have moved into those castles, and they're generating the rhetoric to justify their move. That's why it sounds unstable and enraged. Their language is attempting to justify the unjustifiable. And standard English doesn't want to do that. Hence, this bizarre mutation of violence and illiteracy.
And please note: these so-called "patriots" often call on the likes of Madison and Jefferson to justify their extreme positions.
But Madison and Jefferson weren't as challenged by the English language as the gun radicals are, and Madison and Jefferson's prose reflects the deliberation and reason handed down to them by the classical rhetoric and syntax that characterized the eighteenth century.
So as a result, even when Jefferson takes radical positions, he does so with reason and logic. That's partly intellectual, but it's partly grammatical too because certain syntactical structures—and those that dominated their century were of this sort—encourage us to use reason and logic as we put our sentences together.
But a reasonable mind attracts a reasonable sentence—whatever the century—even if our reason leads us to be forceful and aggressive. So have a look at the random acts of sentence-violence I've cited above. And after you've recognized it for what it is, it's best simply to ignore it.
They don't know what they're doing, these gun-radicals, because they can't monitor what they're saying. And vice versa, which is the really troubling part.