Sunday, January 09, 2011

Wheaton's Law

In which several pleas for a saner New Year are put forward, unified by the concept of Wheaton's Law and made necessary by the attempted assassination of Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
  1. Dial it Back: To illustrate the premise that the sort of incendiary remarks made regularly on Fox "News", on the radio (e.g. Messrs. Rush Limbaugh, Glen Beck, et al.) and by an increasing number of politicians, let me quote the news piece linked above:
    At a news conference Saturday night, a clearly emotional Dupnik, who has been close to both Giffords and Roll, repeatedly cited what he characterized as the "vitriol" that has infected political discourse. He said that his own state has become "the mecca for prejudice and bigotry."

    There is reason to believe, he said, that the shooting suspect "may have a mental issue," adding that people like that "are especially susceptible to vitriol."
    And here's a treasure trove of absurdity from The Huffington Post:

    • A statement by Giffords herself, earlier last year and eerily prescient:
      Giffords expressed similar concern, even before the shooting. In an interview after her office was vandalized, she referred to the animosity against her by conservatives, including Sarah Palin's decision to list Giffords' seat as one of the top "targets" in the midterm elections.

      "For example, we're on Sarah Palin's targeted list, but the thing is, that the way that she has it depicted has the crosshairs of a gun sight over our district. When people do that, they have to realize that there are consequences to that action," Giffords said in an interview with MSNBC.

    • It just gets worse:
      During his campaign effort to unseat Giffords in November, Republican challenger Jesse Kelly held fundraisers where he urged supporters to help remove Giffords from office by joining him to shoot a fully loaded M-16 rifle. Kelly is a former Marine who served in Iraq and was pictured on his website in military gear holding his automatic weapon and promoting the event.

      "I don't see the connection," between the fundraisers featuring weapons and Saturday's shooting, said John Ellinwood, Kelly's spokesman. "I don't know this person, we cannot find any records that he was associated with the campaign in any way. I just don't see the connection.

      "Arizona is a state where people are firearms owners - this was just a deranged individual."

    • And finally:
      Law enforcement officials said members of Congress reported 42 cases of threats or violence in the first three months of 2010, nearly three times the 15 cases reported during the same period a year earlier. Nearly all dealt with the health care bill, and Giffords was among the targets.

    So next time you are tempted to say something extreme, nasty, or just mean, stop and make sure your statement is proportional. Words to steer clear of include, but are not limited to: Hitler, Nazi, Stalin, socialist / communist / liberal (which seem to be synonyms in right-wing political discourse in America), devil, terrorist, enemy of the state, un-American, Satan (Prince of Lies), evil, etc.

  2. Guns. What are they good for? (Absolutely nothing?) Though the weapon allegedly used by Jared Lee Loughner (is it an unspoken rule that all political assassins must be known by all three names?) was only a handgun (and not a fully automatic assault rifle, which are also bizarrely legal to buy in the US), he still managed to kill six people and wound 13 others. If we must own guns, is it too much to ask that they be limited to hunting rifles, shotguns, and semi-automatic handguns with six-round clips, the last of which must be locked in a gun safe at a shooting range? Full disclosure: I used to be a stiff opponent of gun control, in any way, shape or form, but for the sole reason that I considered weapons as the last resort of citizens against an illegimate government. Thinking at some length on the last point, it finally dawned on me that even a fully automatic assault rifle would not do much against tanks, planes, and missiles (see: Ruby Ridge, Waco, etc.), thus removing my only point of contention with the idea of gun control. If you think it is wrong for the government to tell you that you cannot own a deadly weapon, would you be OK for it to be legal to purchase a tank? An anti-aircraft gun? An anti-personnel mines? A bomb? Need I go on?

OK, so really only two points. In the spirit of the above, I've made only two New Year's resolutions for 2011, and they're ones that, if I cannot keep, say something about my character:
  1. Make an earnest attempt to abide by Wheaton's Law, and in the instances where I fail,
  2. Make a sincere apology to the victim.

Happy New Year, and let's work together to make 2011 a less ridiculous year.