This morning I got up, got some coffee, and start reading the news. I can't say I was the least bit prepared for the site of a man openly carrying an AR15 at a rally at which the President of the United States was scheduled to speak. And it wasn't just one man. According to the AP there were at least a dozen people carrying open weapons, and CNN reports that there were two men carrying AR15s.
I understand that it is legal in Arizona to openly carry weapons. But we're not talking hunting rifles here. We're talking assault rifles and hand guns. The local paper The Arizona Republic reported:
A man, who decided not to give his name, was walking around the pro-health care reform rally at 3rd and Washington streets, with a pistol on his hip, and an AR-15 (a semi-automatic assault rifle) on a strap over his shoulder.
"Because I can do it," he said when asked why he was armed. "In Arizona, I still have some freedoms."
Two police officers were staying very close to the man. (Just to protect his freedoms one hopes.)
I do not remember ever hearing any report of any person openly carrying a gun around any other president. Arizona represents the third time this week that open guns have been reported at events in which President Obama is scheduled to speak. There was one arrest in New Hampshire, but no arrests in Arizona.
What is happening in this country? Since when have we reached the point that we need to bring guns to town hall meetings and other political events. What message is being sent?-- or maybe more pertinent, what message is being heard that people feel the need to do so?
I'm beginning to really wonder if the message being sent isn't the one that says if we don't have a Republican in the White House the streets aren't safe from our fellow fear filled Americans. We need a Republican president just to keep the paranoid wing nuts in check. And until we do have a Republican in the White House they'll just let Rush and Sarah and company keep the fear level red lined and all those folks all stirred up. They don't want a debate. They want to stop all debate, and threaten everybody that doesn't agree with them until we come to our senses and allow them to save us from them. Great political strategy--- if we let them get away with it.
Then there is Senator Chuck Grassley who is single handedly stopping the senate from coming up with any kind of health reform bill. (Actually, I guess now it's called a health insurance reform bill.) He too is doing this because he can, since Senator Max Baucus is letting him. Max would have us believe it has nothing to do with the millions in pact money both of them have received from the health industry. He wants us to believe it's because of their long friendship and the respect he has for Chuck. Chuck deserves his input even if it consists of one word---NO. Maybe Chuck just wants to save us from his good friend Max. Great friendship this is--if we let them get away with it.
This all reminds me of the strategy of the hierarchy with in Catholicism, especially some of our US bishops. If one really looks at what came out of the USCCB regarding the sexual abuse crisis, we laity are expected to trust our bishops to save our children from them. This is especially cool for them since they exempted themselves from any of their own mandates. What a great system, and we kind of sort of let them get away with it.
Then there are traditional Catholics whose concept of debate is to tell progressives to leave the Church. At least that takes a few more words than Senator Grassley has in his vocabulary. This less than friendly advice is to save us from us, or save Jesus from us, or just plain save something, since Jesus is about saving. I don't think I've ever heard this particular talking point used much in the other direction. Is it because progressives choose not to, or is it their low intensity commitment, as John Allen postulates in his current piece in the NCR.
I think when high tension commitments foster toting guns to presidential addresses, one needs to look at either the tension, the commitment or both. Exactly the way I feel about Senators with one word vocabularies, and senators with way too intense a 'friendship', or bishops whose authority is unchecked, nontransparent, and accountable only to themselves, and Catholics who play the 'leave' card.
All this one sided high tension is leading to undesirable outcomes. It might be time for progressives to raise their own tension, because we can. So let's all have another cup of coffee.