Ashcroft May Teach Lefties to Love Guns

I have never understood why the left in this country has decided to unilaterally disarm. Why is it that liberal civil libertarians are always gung ho on the constitution, until it gets to the Second Amendment which was what, written in invisible ink?

In trying to stake out some kind of moral high ground, the left has abandoned not a only a basic right, but a potent symbol. Face it, in America, you only get respect if you're packing.

The right has known this for a long time: guns are as American as John Wayne, as righteous as Charleton Heston, as cool as the latest, hipster noir revival film (Snatch comes to mind). But more importantly, the militias, patriots, NRA-nuts, and neo-Confederates comprise an important -- and much pandered-to -- Republican constituency. Their guns, and the money that goes with them, have gained them the attention of the media and the powerful. Unlike Barry Goldwater, their extremism in the defense of liberty has been good politics.

Now one of the big panderers is Attorney General, John Ashcroft, a man who loves to toss around right-wing code words that mean something to the far political fringe. He defends gun rights as a bulwark against the "tyranny" of government and judicial activism, and he extols the virtues of "southern patriots." As the left faces the possible -- even likely -- tyranny of a far-right Republican regime, isn't it time to lock and load?

The left has been reluctant to ally itself with the right on many issues, even when they agree. Notice that few activists have embraced Pat Buchanan for his stance against the World Trade Organization. Partly it's principle, not wanting to associate with racists, anti-Semites, or religious fanatics. It's also partly snobbery, avoiding the trailer trash side of the cultural divide. The result is that many liberals looked the other way at the outrages at Ruby Ridge and Waco, or at the depradations against privacy and police restraint under Attorney General Janet Reno and Bill Clinton. They scoffed when the NRA fundraisers called federal cops "stormtroopers." Well, now that the government is in new hands, is the left having any second thoughts? Does anyone really believe that Ashcroft's ATF will be any more compassionate than Janet Reno's?

It's not like lefty activists have abandoned violence entirely. The Earth Liberation Front and other so-called eco-terrorists are torching trophy homes that sprawl into the last lots of wilderness (or Long Island). The Black Bloc anarchists of Eugene and elsewhere are ever-eager to make a statement by smashing glass at the nearest Starbucks or Niketown. Of course, they don't like to call such acts violence because, they rationalize, acts against property aren't violence, because private property itself is violence. Whatever. The fact remains that some elements of the left are resorting to actions that make simple gun ownership for self-defense, or any other legal reason, seem downright lame. After all, target shooting, it seem to me, is much less violent than burning down a ski resort.

If the mainstream left was honest with itself, it would end its pious moralizing about guns and recognize that violence is sometimes an effective political tool. An even greater tool is the threat of violence.

In Seattle, a group of pro-gun progressives, Democrats for the Second Amendment, got together with a group called Cease Fear to offer NRA handgun training to gay and lesbians. The training was also sponsored by a variety of organizations, including the Microsoft Gun Club, the local Libertarian Party, and the Jewish Defense League. While Cease Fear focuses on basic gun safety training, it was also designed to help people get over the idea that guns are for rednecks only. Jonathan Rauch, in a Salon article called "Pink Pistols," argues that guns can not only protect gays, but empower them the way self-defense has empowered Jews. "Guns can do the same thing for homosexuals: emancipate them from their image -- often internalized -- of cringing weakness. Pink pistols, I'll warrant, would do far more for the self-esteem of the next generation of gay men and women than any number of hate crime laws or antidiscrimination statutes." Rauch wants to make gay-bashing dangerous. To that end, Cease Fear unveiled new T-shirts for last spring's Gay Pride parade: and delta symbol with a fist holding a handgun and the words "Bash this!"

In that spirit, the time is ripe for liberals to overcome their Second-Amendment reluctance, embrace gun rights, praise Gaia and pass the ammunition. It's time to test the tolerance of the Bush administration's new chief law enforcement officer by seeing how far he'll go to protect those who also abhor tyranny, but from the opposite end of the political spectrum.

It's time to say, "Hey Ashcroft, bash this!"

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