AMERICA CONFRONTS GUNS, GODS, AND BORDERS
America gets better every day. Just when you thought the record for the number of folks slaughtered by gun violence in a single incident might stick forever at 32 (Virginia Tech, April 2007), up steps a true born-in-America American to take out 49 at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. And what better way to do it than with a made in America, sold to anyone in America, AR-15 assault rifle.
I know that some of you are shaking your heads, and some of you are thinking and praying, and others don’t want to hear about it anymore. If 20 dead six and seven year old kids at Sandy Hook Elementary School didn’t move the nation to do something about guns in America, then 49 dead bodies at a gay nightclub surely won’t change much of anything. (To prove that point, votes on four minimal gun control measures in the United States Senate a little over a week after the carnage failed to produce even a single step forward. http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/huppke/ct-senate-gun-control-orlando-huppke-20160621-story.html)
So, if you are worried about your right to protect yourself from armed lunatics, there will be plenty of time to purchase your firearm of choice, put it under your pillow or stroke it lovingly while waiting for your very own home invasion. Or maybe the late arrival of your neighbors lost and drunken child, or even your own child. Dangerous times call for ready armed resistance. If you live anywhere near a Muslim, some would say it is your duty to arm yourself.
As for me, I am moving on to discuss another piece of proud-to-be-an-American Americana, the US Constitution, that most American of proud-to-be-an-American documents. Anybody can have a Declaration of Independence, but nobody else has the US Constitution.
What passes for leadership in America is always reminding the nation that it is a “nation of immigrants,” particularly in response to the almost daily anti-immigrant screeds from a white male bigmouth and his acolytes. Yet, this “nation of immigrants” is today swimming in the same pool with most other “developed” nations that are turning their collective backs on outsiders in need.
However, America has a real problem with its immigrant narrative that most other nations do not. The same “sacred” Constitution touted by gun nuts to underpin the right of every American to own an assault rifle also makes a true blue American of every baby born on American soil, regardless of where their parents came from or what those babies turn out to be when they grow up. [ http://www.pbs.org/tpt/constitution-usa-peter-sagal/equality/citizenship-and-privileges-clauses/ ] To say the least, this concept has proven very difficult for the anti-immigrant crowd (and the gun nut crowd) to understand or accept.
This means that if you are born in Indiana of parents of Mexican heritage, you are a full-fledged American, just like the white big mouth and most of his acolytes. It also means that if you are a sick Muslim born in New York of Afghan parents, aged 29, and armed to the teeth who kills indiscriminately, you are a full-fledged American.
Thanks to that same Constitution, a bit of Supreme Court affirmation, and logical extension of legal principles, both the “Mexican” and the “Muslim” get this “birthright citizenship” regardless of the immigration status of their parents at the time the new citizen is pushed from the womb on sacred soil. Further, it is practically impossible to take away birthright citizenship (or any American citizenship), no matter how bad a dude one turns out to be, unless the newly-minted citizen specifically intends to relinquish American citizenship. [ Afroyim v. Rusk, 387 U.S. 253 (1967), http://www.lawnix.com/cases/afroyim-rusk.html]
As an example of how difficult this can be for the geographically challenged xenophobes, let’s take the situation that emerged when Donald Trump (the soon-to-be Republican Party nominee for President of the United States) decided that he was being treated unfairly by a “Mexican” judge in a fraud case in which Trump is being sued. Trump is concerned that his disparaging remarks about Mexicans and his promise to force the Mexican Government to build a wall that separates Mexico from the US has caused the “Mexican” judge to rule against him in a variety of preliminary matters in the case. The only problem is that the judge in question is a born-in-America American from Indiana, a US state over 1000 miles from Mexico. [ http://www.npr.org/2016/06/07/481140881/who-is-judge-gonzalo-curiel-the-man-trump-attacked-for-his-mexican-ancestry ]
This born in America makes you an American problem also keeps cropping up with respect to many of those who decide to use bombs and bullets to deliver their message to the American people. To make matters even more confusing to those seeking to defend our country from undesirable outsiders, that same Constitution that has a Second Amendment “right” to bear arms inconveniently also has a First Amendment that comes just before the Second Amendment.
That First Amendment guarantees many of the basic freedoms that the right-wingers and gun nuts say they are always fighting to protect, including the freedom to practice one’s religion without government interference. [ https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/first_amendment ]
From what I can tell, this means to many in America that all is well if you are a Christian and maybe even a Jew, but stray too far from this limited mainstream and peril awaits. In today’s intolerant America, Muslims must be wondering how it is that the government can’t stop lunatics from getting assault weapons while at the same time the white male bigmouth promises a government that will prohibit Muslim entry and restrict the free practice of their faith.
To be honest, I hope for a world completely free of assault weapons in anybody’s hands, a world without artificial borders, and a world in which each individual can believe in no god, one god, or a whole bunch of gods. To even begin to nurture these principles, each of us must strive for a world that values all human life; a world that somehow figures out that part of what makes us human is the capacity to have hope for anything.