To the American Right, There is No Such Thing as Society
This is disheartening, but not surprising in the least:
Americans Buy Record Numbers of Guns for Christmas
According to the FBI, over 1.5 million background checks on customers were requested by gun dealers to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System in December. Nearly 500,000 of those were in the six days before Christmas.
It was the highest number ever in a single month, surpassing the previous record set in November.
On Dec 23 alone there were 102,222 background checks, making it the second busiest single day for buying guns in history.
The actual number of guns bought may have been even higher if individual customers took home more than one each.
Explanations for America's surge in gun buying include that it is a response to the stalled economy with people fearing crime waves. Another theory is that buyers are rushing to gun shops because they believe tighter firearms laws will be introduced in the future....
The National Rifle Association said people were concerned about self defence because police officer numbers were declining.
A spokesman said: "I think there's an increased realisation that when something bad occurs it's going to be between them and the criminal." ...
Now, you might imagine the NRA would want to downplay that last point -- after all, the Republican Party that acts in lockstep with the NRA, and for which a large number of NRA members regularly vote, is the same party that forces cutbacks in the ranks of police departments because the alternative -- higher taxes -- is utterly unacceptable.
But, of course, no one on the right is in any way embarrassed that cops are losing their jobs, because every wingnut knows that all government departments, agencies, and programs have a failure rate of 100%, so it doesn't matter that we don't have enough cops. (How that jibes with our nation's extraordinarily high rate of incarceration I can't explain, but no wingnut would ever take the time to examine the clear contradiction.)
American right-wingers don't care, because they don't really believe in society. Their favorite foreign politician, Margaret Thatcher, has been quoted this way:
They're casting their problem on society. And, you know, there is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women, and there are families. And no government can do anything except through people, and people must look to themselves first. It's our duty to look after ourselves and then, also to look after our neighbour.
To the average American wingnut, there are individuals and families -- and also affinity groups. There are fellow believers in "gun freedom." There are fellow "regular Americans" who aren't repulsive cosmopolitan liberal elitists. There are fellow Christians. There are fellow white people. These groups are worth defending. Society isn't. Any old SOB can become part of society -- Muslims, gays, people on welfare, you name it.
I suppose this harks back to Tom's point about the links connecting Ron Paul's present-day libertarianism and the racist states' rights movement. I agree that it's about race to some extent, but I don't think it's just about race. It's more flexible than that. It's about reserving the unilateral right, or the affinity-group right, to decide who belongs here and who doesn't. It's about deciding, if you choose, that "society" is just you and your guns, and everyone else can just stay the hell off your land.
And even though Ron Paul isn't going to be elected president this year, the libertarianism-by-inches of the mainstream GOP makes us less and less of a society. Thatcher may not have been right when she spoke -- not right about her own country, not right about humanity as a whole -- but, increasingly, her words describe America, or at least what we're becoming.