“An armed society is a polite society. Manners are good when one may have to back up his acts with his life.” (Robert A. Heinlein, Beyond This Horizon)
And now African-Americans with guns have created a presence in the suburban Atlanta neighborhood where Aumaud Arbery was shot and killed while jogging in broad daylight by a retired cop and his son. And armed African-Americans needed to escort Democratic lawmakers to the Capitol building in Lansing, Michigan, after armed predominantly-white protesters against the state’s stay-home pandemic response policy had occupied the gallery of the chamber while the Republican majority voted to sue the governor.
Meanwhile, countries that are ahead of the United States in testing, tracking and dealing with the novel coronavirus pandemic are reportedly considering banning American travelers from entering their borders.
The United States of America is divided, not along geographical lines this time, but rather by abilities to distinguish fantasy from reality; to distinguish rigorous journalistic discipline from cynical propaganda. Somewhere a Syrian refugee might even smile, if their life hasn’t already been ruined to the point of inability to feel any kind of satisfaction.
What is Robert Heinlein, and the gun-hugging teabaggers that exploit his quote, talking about? There are plenty of heavily armed societies in this world. So, what is a “polite society” supposed to be, anyway? As Heinlein’s quote continues, “polite” means good manners. As revealed over the course of our pandemic quarantine, our valuable public policy discourse presumes that manners are good when the society’s dominant faction’s interests and desires are the national priority.
As the social mainstream of our society likes burgers, hot dogs, steaks and other meat products, the goodness of BACON! must be asserted at every mention of vegetarian food options in order to keep such marginal tastes in their proper marginal place. Try it yourself as a harmless little exercise on your favorite social media platform.
Likewise, when civil law is applied to religious communities, the religious plurality must be indulged, which is why abortion rights are hanging by a thread even though a fetus is not even considered human life in the Bible. When women’s health clinics are bombed and OB/Gyn surgeons are murdered, we must not call it terrorism lest compromise with so-called “pro-life” lawmakers smells too much like appeasement in the style of Nevil Chamberlain. Thus, we politely roll back the rights of women for trying to make their own reproductive decisions.
The social mainstream of our society likes to talk a good game when it comes to expressions of religious faith. So, of course, every good real American is obligated to express their resentment over some states’ classifications under pandemic response guidelines as essential services. “Plaintiffs believe that, in these dark times, Illinoisans need the Spirit of Almighty God, but Pritzker’s orders have left them to settle for the lesser spirits dispensed out of the state’s liquor stores,” proclaimed one lawsuit against Illinois Governor JB Pritzker’s stay-home policy. Never mind that these churches and their flocks rejected the very same social distancing guidelines required of any essential service, contrary to the nature of their worship; especially when there is holy hell to stir up in an election year.
Armed protests are legal in the state capitol of Lansing, Michigan. Because only well-mannered lawmakers deliberate public health policy with camouflaged militants looking down upon your state senate chambers from the capitol gallery.
Roughly half a million people filled the streets of downtown Chicago for the Women’s March on January 21, the day after Trump’s inauguration and on the verge of an impending Supreme Court Justice confirmation for a seat that remained open after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland for nearly a year. The Women’s March crowd was so big that the organizers had to cancel the planned march because the crowd filled up the entire route before the march was scheduled to start. But there was not a single gun in sight. And President Trump and his Republican Senate majority has confirmed two Supreme Court Justices, so far, and currently remain hard at work stacking the federal bench. In the midst of a deadly pandemic.
Michigan State Capitol authorities have not always been so cavalier about so much as even an unlikely potential for armed protesters inside their chambers. Back in 1999, as state lawmakers debated the takeover of Detroit Public Schools, usurping home rule and dissolving the elected school board, hundreds of Detroit residents traveled 90 miles to Lansing to protest the effort. Those protesters, including parents, administrators and civil rights activists, were greeted at the capitol entrance by metal detectors, according to Michigan Advance reporter and former legislative assistant for a Michigan House member at that time Ken Coleman.
Nearly half of American gun owners say they own guns for personal protection, while crime data show that less than one percent of American gun owners between the years 2007–2011, had actually defended themselves with their firearms. Bullies are never really popular. But they often get their way because it’s easier than fighting them; especially when they’re waving their guns around.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the world since the summer of 2011, the Syrian civil war has played host to a myriad of militias and foreign actors in a mind-numbing array of alliances and competing interests, producing a wealth of mass graves and waves of unwelcome refugees throughout the world. There remains no real functional government in Syria, though President Bashar al-Assad still holds his grip on power with a certain amount of help from Russia and at the expense of the Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army and the insurgent Kurdish Peoples Protection Units who, only until recently, received the support of the United States.
Americans would do well to quickly educate ourselves of our own bloody history of public policy breakdowns. In the runup to our own Civil War, factional violence ruled the new states and territories established under the feeble compromise of the Kansas-Nebraska act of 1854 until total war followed the secession of most of the slave-states in 1861.
So, fuck Robert Heinlein and his good manners. The “armed society is a polite society” cliché deserves all the mockery and ridicule that our culture has left in it for the profoundly cynical bullshit that it clearly is and always was.