You don’t have to be Freud to understand why some people, men in particular, feel inadequate unless they are packing. On the other hand, I suspect that people who bring loaded firearms to a presidential appearance are doing so to display aggression and hostility, not to commit a violent act. I assume that someone openly carrying a firearm is not planning to assassinate the President, but rather is using the firearm to make a symbolic statement.
This is legal in New Hampshire apparently – the gun was registered and not concealed, and the man was on private property – and as the New York Times has noted, the two incidents in Portsmouth are not the only ones where firearms have turned up, legally or otherwise, in the hands of anti-health care reform protesters. All of which underscores a fact about the American right which bears repeating for a foreign observer: These people are armed.
Letâ€™s be clear: No one is predicting the assassination of President Obama, or anyone else.
In the much-maligned and now withdrawn DHS intelligence assessment that warned earlier this year of the potential threat posed by resurgent right-wing extremists, there was no mention of assassination, and indeed the authors state that though â€œRightwing extremists have capitalized on the election of the first African American president […] they have not yet turned to attack planningâ€ of any kind.
And yet, when one considers the availability of firearms to protesters with an angry narrative of victimization, and the growing influence of a movement which glorifies violence against African-Americans, one can hardly avoid a sense of foreboding.
Of course, the “pro life” movement didn’t plan the assassination of George Tiller, either. They incited it, but they didn’t plan it. That makes them innocent, see.
Here are a couple of dueling headlines, both published August 13:
“Extremist militias see resurgence under President Obama’s tenure” (New York Daily News)
They aren’t militias. They are concerned patriots with guns preparing to take the government into their own hands through force because they don’t respect the results of an election. Oh, and they love the Constitution.
Welcome to the disturbing new face of the radical right in America. Across the country, extremism is surging, inflamed by conservative talkshow hosts, encouraged by Republican leaders and propagating a series of wild conspiracy theories. Many fear it might end in tragedy.
Obama has been labelled as a threat to democracy and an anti-white racist by senior presenters on the TV channel Fox News. Republicans, seizing on the fierce debate over Obama’s plans to reform healthcare, have called him a socialist who plans “death panels” for the elderly. Rumours have circulated that Obama was not born in America and that he plans to ban firearms. Despite having no basis in fact, they have become widely believed. A recent poll in Virginia showed only 53% of voters believed Obama was born in the US. In neighbouring North Carolina, 54% of voters shared that opinion.
Such extremism is becoming a major security issue, prompting fears of an attack on Obama’s life or some other incident of domestic terrorism. “This is a very dangerous situation that can spin off ‘lone wolf’ individuals who decide now is the time to act against people they see as an enemy,” said Chip Berlet, author of a book on rightwing extremists.
I could go on and on. The syndrome is a racial-religious nationalism combined with a persecution complex, which you can find represented in various ways in many cultures. This syndrome is the cause of most, if not all, of the mass violence in the world today. You see it all over the Middle East. You see it in Sri Lanka. You see it wherever people have persuaded themselves that they are entitled to enforce their will through violence, because they have Right on their side, and the other side is Evil.
This is the most dangerous force in the world today, and the leadership of the Right is stoking it for all they’re worth.
The forces of civility already are bowing to the pressure of the mob. We might remember that people wearing anti-Bush T-shirts were not allowed to be within view of Dear Leader, whereas law enforcement can do very little about visibly angry people carrying loaded firearms in the streets.
Number of U.S. Presidents killed by firearms: 4
Number of U.S. Presidents killed by t-shirts: 0 (so far!)
But you know that if the Obama Administration tried to enforce the same rules against gun-toting righties that the Bushies enforced against T-shirt wearing lefties, it would give more fuel to those stoking the fire, and the “aggression” would get worse. So, yes, the situation is already out of control. People are either going to calm down on their own, or the aggression/hostility will escalate until somebody gets killed.