bookmark_borderWhen it comes to rights, you don’t need to demonstrate a need

One of the most common arguments in the gun rights debate is the idea that certain types of guns (or guns in general) are “not needed.” It is frustrating to see this argument being made again and again, because it is 100% wrong and demonstrates a complete misunderstanding of the nature of rights.

These tweets are a recent example: 

What this person, and so many others, fail to grasp is the fact that a person doesn’t need to need something in order to be allowed to have it. Fundamental rights exist regardless of need. If something is a fundamental right, as owning and possessing guns is, then people have the right to do it, whether they need to or not. 

Melissa is correct in stating that carrying a gun into Target or Subway is not needed. But so what? So only activities that are needed should be allowed? That’s interesting, because getting married is not needed, yet gay rights advocates treat it as an obvious truth that people have a right to marry the person that they love. (See this post for more examples of things that are not needed, but that everyone would agree people have a right to do.)

Next, Melissa pompously demands that gun rights supporters “demonstrate a need.” Well, no. That’s not how it works. If something is a fundamental right, as gun ownership is, then no one is obligated to demonstrate any need in order to exercise it. If something is a fundamental right, then people can do it for any reason at all, or for no reason.

With regards to the question that Melissa asks, obviously it is not good to have a situation in which anyone “goes and mowes [sic] down some people.” But the way to avoid such situations is simply for people not to use their guns to mow down people. The way to avoid such situations is not to require people to prove that they are not going to mow anyone down, because such requirements invade the privacy of all people and therefore violate everyone’s rights. 

Contrary to what Melissa is implying, it actually would be a good idea for “some closeted racist POS fresh out of HS, to legally ‘qualify’ to carry just because he’s 18.” Obviously, racism is not a good thing. But you can’t require people to prove that they are not racist before allowing them to exercise fundamental rights. If something is a fundamental right, as carrying guns is, then being 18 is completely sufficient to qualify. If something is a fundamental right, then everyone has the right to do it. If something is a fundamental right, then racist people are going to have the ability to do it along with everyone else.

Just as people are not obligated to demonstrate a need in order to exercise fundamental rights, people are not obligated to demonstrate a lack of racism, either. Rights are not privileges reserved for those who have demonstrated sufficient need or moral character. Rights are rights.

bookmark_borderSkepticism of institutions is not the problem; the institutions are the problem

When I first saw this tweet, my immediate reaction was, “You consider this to be a bad thing… why?”

There is nothing inherently bad about wanting to abolish government agencies or wanting to impeach and/or imprison government officials. Whether wanting such things is good or bad depends entirely on whether the agencies or officials have done anything wrong to deserve abolition, impeachment, and/or imprisonment. Yet the author of this tweet is ridiculing Republicans for their wishes with regards to government agencies and officials. And while doing this, he is not even bothering to argue that these government agencies and officials are good, and therefore not deserving of abolition, impeachment, and/or imprisonment. He is simply presuming that wanting to abolish, impeach, and/or imprison government agencies and officials is intrinsically bad. This viewpoint is disturbingly authoritarian. According to Filipkowski, trusting and respecting the government is inherently good, and disliking or criticizing the government is inherently bad. According to Filipkowski, the government is apparently worthy of trust and respect merely by virtue of being the government.

If the FBI, CIA, IRS, and Department of Education are acting wrongly, then they deserve to be abolished. If the President, Vice President, DHS Secretary, and Attorney General are acting wrongly, then they deserve to be impeached. And if the NIH Director is acting wrongly, then he deserves to be put in prison. In my opinion, all of these agencies and officials are, indeed, acting wrongly, and therefore Republicans are correct in wanting their abolishment, impeachment, and imprisonment. Instead of criticizing Republicans in this situation, one must ask what, if anything, government agencies and officials have done to cause people to hold such negative attitudes towards them. One must at least consider the possibility that the government agencies and officials in question are actually to blame for people’s negative evaluations of them, and therefore that the negative evaluations are correct. In my opinion, this is exactly what is the case in this situation.

Below is another example of the illogical and authoritarian attitude that societal institutions are inherently good and inherently worthy of trust and respect:

As you can see, Alex Young has taken it upon himself to ridicule the completely valid and reasonable criticisms that the Firearms Policy Coalition makes of the institutions of the ballot box, jury box, and soapbox. He demonstrates the same type of disturbing authoritarianism as Filipkowski does. By ridiculing the FPC for expressing disillusionment with societal institutions, Young is presuming that societal institutions automatically ought to be treated with reverence, merely by virtue of being institutions. To Young, if someone voices criticism of societal institutions, that reflects badly on said person, and makes them deserving of dismissal and ridicule. Like Filipkowski, he fails to even consider the possibility that it is actually the institutions that are flawed, and that the person making the criticisms is therefore correct in doing so.

In this case, the FPC is indeed correct in pointing out that the ballot box, jury box, and soapbox do not serve as effective “boxes of liberty.” What Young states so flippantly and dismissively is actually true. Indeed, it is a bummer that people’s fundamental rights are subject to majority rule, that the jury box is illusory, and that large corporations have the power to decide what speech is acceptable. These things are actual problems that need to be taken seriously, and it is both despicable and bizarre that someone would react to a problematic situation not by criticizing it, but by criticizing (particularly in such a flippant and dismissive tone) the organization that is pointing out the problem. Young needs to acknowledge that what is going on in our society actually is a bummer, to put it lightly. Instead of flippantly dismissing the FPC’s observations and ridiculing the organization for making them, Young should be praising the FPC for drawing attention to real and important problems with our government and society.

bookmark_borderRebutting a bully

“Today I looked Robert E. Lee in the eye and said, ‘You have no power over me.’ Now the healing can begin.”

This is what someone wrote in a social media post after Richmond, Virginia’s statue of Robert E. Lee was wrongly and disgracefully removed.

These words could not be more wrong. In this person’s warped version of reality, the losing side of a war that took place over 150 years ago is somehow the side that has always held power, and rubbing salt in the wounds of those who are already suffering somehow constitutes healing.

What I would say to the person who wrote this is, Robert E. Lee has never had any power over you. The Confederacy lost the Civil War in 1865. The Confederacy is the losing side of the war, while the Union is the winning side. Why are you so eager to inflict a new level of defeat upon people who were brutally and mercilessly defeated more than 100 years before you were born? You, and people like you, are the ones who hold power in our society, while the people who share the ideals of the Confederacy (liberty, individual rights, and resistance to authority) are the ones who hold no power.

Dear person who wrote this: Robert E. Lee and the Confederacy were rebels who fought back against authority, while you represent authority and the establishment. Robert E. Lee represents thinking for oneself and daring to be different, while you represent mindless conformity. Robert E. Lee represents the oppressed, while you are the oppressor. Robert E. Lee and the Confederacy were the underdogs, while you are a bully. 

In other words, people like you are the powerful. People like Robert E. Lee are the powerless. It really is that simple. Monuments to Robert E. Lee and the Confederacy by their very nature represent rebellion and resistance to authority. For reasons that I will never fully comprehend, it is these ideals that you and so many other people demonstrate such a vicious, sadistic, and mindless eagerness to tear down and stomp on, both literally and figuratively.

In no way, shape, or form does it make sense for a bully to gloat that their victim – a person who has never hurt them in any way and who died over 150 years ago – does not hold power over them.

Dear person who wrote this: You, not Robert E. Lee, are the one who holds power and who always has. 

How dare you – a person who has always been part of the winning side, the majority, the mainstream, the establishment – gloat about inflicting further pain on an unpopular and powerless minority? You have no right to paint yourself as the victim. That distinction belongs to Robert E. Lee and the Confederacy.

Dear person who wrote this: You write about healing being able to begin, when you have nothing to heal from, because you are the one inflicting the pain, not the one enduring it. What has taken place over the past few years with regards to Confederate statues is an example of the winning side rubbing salt in the wounds of the losing side, of the advantaged stomping on the already disadvantaged. What you characterize as “healing” is actually the infliction of horrific pain on innocent people who have done nothing to deserve it and who have already suffered unimaginable losses. How dare you use the word “healing” to describe something that is its polar opposite?

Dear person who wrote this: You have things completely backwards. You are the authority, you are the majority, you are the mainstream, you are the establishment, you are the winning side of the Civil War, and you are the bully. It is disgraceful that you would gloat about inflicting further pain on those who are already suffering, and then call it healing.

bookmark_borderThere is nothing deplorable about calling out wrongdoing

In the latest example of our society treating protests against injustice as the problem as opposed to the injustice itself, FBI Director Christopher Wray recently called criticism of his agency “deplorable and dangerous” after FBI agents ransacked the home of former president Trump. “Violence against law enforcement is not the answer, no matter who you’re upset with,” Wray added.

Actually, Wray has things completely backward with these comments. The actions of the FBI – which involved a group of approximately 30 agents ransacking Trump’s private residence because of concerns that he took home documents that should have been given to the National Archives – were truly deplorable. Therefore, it is 100% correct for people to be angry about these actions and call them out as wrong. Yet Wray opts to completely ignore the wrongness of his own agency’s actions and instead to condemn the people who are (correctly) objecting to these actions! Contrary to what Wray seems to believe, pointing out that someone has done something wrong is not deplorable; doing something wrong is. If someone has done something wrong, as the FBI has in this case, they deserve to be criticized and called out. Neither criticizing, nor calling out, not being angry about wrongdoing is a problem. The wrongdoing itself is the problem, and that is what needs to be condemned, not the people voicing their opposition and anger.

And while I agree that committing and/or threatening violence against anyone is not an ideal way to express one’s anger, Wray in his comment about violence similarly ignores the wrongdoing of his own agency in his haste to condemn his agency’s critics. Instead of scrutinizing and condemning the ways in which people voice their upset, Wray should be scrutinizing and condemning what his agency did to cause people to be upset in the first place. But as usual in our society, the people who actually did something wrong are given a free pass. The FBI is painted as the victim instead of being held accountable for its role in causing the angry and hostile situation.

Making matters worse, the LA Times’s coverage of the FBI raid and the reaction to it demonstrates the same mindless and morally bankrupt belief that expressing anger in response to an injustice is the problem, as opposed to the injustice itself. The article focuses, using a blatantly critical and condescending tone, on the people who have expressed criticism of, and anger with, the FBI raid, while letting the perpetrators of the raid completely off the hook. The article bemoans the “threats and calls to arms in those corners of the internet favored by right-wing extremists” and quotes several alleged examples found on the social media app Gab, which the article describes as “popular with white supremacists and antisemites.” As is the norm among the media establishment, 100% of the scrutiny and criticism falls upon those protesting against injustice, angered by mistreatment, and speaking out against wrongdoing, as opposed to the actual perpetrators of the injustice, mistreatment, and wrongdoing.

Shame on the political and media establishment for treating protesting against wrongdoing as the problem, as opposed to the wrongdoing itself.