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The Bull in the China Shop
Many Republicans see Trump as "our bull in their china shop" but act surprised at angry responses from those who, you know, are invested in what's being demolished. Also, Another Stabbing in the UK.
Welcome to the ninth issue of Self-Evident, the revamped Liberty Hawk Newsletter now migrated to Substack.
This issue is a re-printing of the December 16, 2019 newsletter first published at The Liberty Hawk.
The Bull in the China Shop
I remember some of the earliest defenses of Donald Trump’s rash behavior and bombastic rhetoric from Republicans was that “We need a bull in the china shop. He’s our bull in their china shop.” He has definitely lived up to this mantra. In almost every way, Donald Trump has shattered norms.
Now, I don’t think that’s necessarily a good thing, but I get that there are many who do. The only problem I have with the shattering norms/bull in the china shop argument is that its inconsistent with another major Trump narrative: that he has been treated unfairly by the press and by the opposition political party like no president has ever been treated before.
Setting aside the obvious argument against such an idea (Lincoln’s political opposition started a shooting war, for instance), it’s an inconsistent complaint with what appears to be the stated goal of Trump’s presidency. I mean, anyone who owns or is invested in a china shop is going to raise holy hell about you putting a bull in there.
You see, shattering norms is a messy affair. There are always going to be those who are invested in those norms, and usually for good reason. Change usually either comes very slowly or very suddenly and the latter path is usually accompanied by upheaval, social anxiety, and even violence. And this even when there is a good reason for the change.
I tend to see the Trump phenomenon as a rise of “burn it down” syndrome in America’s political Right. From that perspective, it’s a counter-revolution built upon anxiety and agitation with no real sense of direction. It’s a scorched earth campaign predicated upon continuous assault on “the enemy.” If “the enemy” builds something, burn it down. If “the enemy” values something, burn it down. If “the enemy” says anything, burn it down.
Now, I get that this is pretty typical populist behavior (and we definitely see it at play on the Left just as much, if not more), but what I find interesting is the disconnect many Trump supporters have between the actions and rhetoric of their leader and the response of the media and the Democrats.
Not only is America’s political Left responding in a way that wholly makes sense with the assault by Trump on the norms and values that they hold, but it’s in a way wholly consistent with how Right-wing media and the Republican Party would respond if the situation were reversed. Indeed, we had eight years of extreme opposition against the Obama administration from all quarters of the Right (including myself).
Quite frankly, it disturbs me that we have a President who kicks the hornet’s nest and then cries how unfair it all is that he gets stung. It’s a pretty snowflake way to act and its unseemly to watch so many Republicans and conservatives defend it.
Another Stabbing in the UK
There was another heartbreaking stabbing in London. As always, I’m forced to point out that mass killings are a product of fallen human nature, which is why we see such horrible tragedies perpetrated through such various means. It’s why I always push back so vigorously against the gun control narrative we keep seeing pushed after mass killing tragedies in America.
In recent modern history, we’ve seen pressure cookers, fertilizer, trucks, knives, guns, and hijacked airplanes used by depraved individuals to kill people. It should appear beyond dispute that these crimes are not merely a consequence of access to weapons or would-be weapons.
Mass killings are some of the most premeditated crimes. Those who plan and perpetrate such crimes are acting upon far deeper and concerning realities than just ease of access to the means to carry out their designs.
The fact is that when someone gets it in their heart that they want to kill, they are going to find a way to do it. As we can, unfortunately, see in the many stabbings that have occurred in the UK and elsewhere in Europe, an inability to obtain a firearm doesn’t magically turn a would-be murderer back into a peaceful, law-abiding citizen. Nor does an inability to obtain a firearm necessarily mitigate the death that can ensue.
The two worst mass shootings in modern American history are the Las Vegas Shooting (58 dead, 413 wounded) and the Orlando Nightclub Shooting (49 dead, 53 wounded). In terms of police officer deaths, the worst instances were the Dallas Shooting (5 officers killed) and the Seattle Ambush (4 officers killed).
Both of the mass shootings above are rivaled by the Nice Truck Attack in France (86 dead, 458 wounded), the Madrid Train Bombings (193 dead, 2,000 wounded), and the 2015 Paris Attacks (131 dead, 413 wounded). As for officers killed, just this last October a Paris police station was attacked and four officers killed, with a knife.
All of these are rivaled by 9/11, which resulted in nearly 3,000 deaths and over 25,000 wounded (many of them first responders). This was accomplished by terrorists who hijacked airplanes armed only with box cutters.
Beyond the above high-profile attacks, those of us in the West rarely connect the circumstances of mass shootings in our countries with the continued violence and mass killings constantly perpetrated in developing countries. The reality is, mass killings are something we see all throughout history, in every generation and in every corner of the world.
As I recently tweeted, “The psychological conditions that lead to mass murder are uniquely HUMAN realities. History documents them in the earliest written records, they’ve existed in every century, and they presently exist in every country of the world. This is not uniquely American.”
And, if we can be frank for a moment, despite these heart-rending attacks, things are largely much better today than they have ever been throughout history. It was only a few centuries ago when government had a monopoly on violence and the tools to commit violence. Before human rights, including the right of self-defense and the right to bear arms, became enshrined ideas of liberal government, mass killings were not only shockingly prevalent but were often state policy.
Even in American history, where such rights were ostensibly valued, there has been mass murder and campaigns of violence perpetrated as a direct result of disarmament.
Wounded Knee remains the largest mass shooting in American history with over 250 killed and 51 wounded, and began as an order to disarm the Lakota Indians camped there.
In the aftermath of the civil war, Southern states enacted Black Codes that effectively made carrying firearms illegal for African Americans. This enabled a literal reign of terror as the Ku Klux Klan killed and assaulted thousands of African Americans who were barred from owning the means to protect themselves. (Even today, the 2nd Amendment rights of African Americans are largely non-existent, which likely plays a role in African Americans facing the most government-directed violence of any other segment of the American population)
Again, I can’t state it more clearly: this is typical government behavior for most of human history. Most wars and conquests concluded with pillaging, raping, and murder. Most regimes kept their populations in check with brutal and indiscriminate violence. For most of human history, the ownership of weapons was reserved for ruling classes.
As I mentioned earlier, this constitutes a government monopoly on violence and history is rife with examples of such a monopoly being utilized to perpetrate crimes far more devastating than what we generally see today perpetrated by individuals.
Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not one of those “this is the cost of liberty” types. I don’t throw up my hands and assert that “nothing can be done.” I am only pointing out that far too many people are looking at the issue of mass shootings from an extremely narrow understanding of history and of the crimes themselves.
If we want to truly craft ways to combat the occurrence of mass shootings, we have to recognize and understand certain realities. First, mass shootings are only a narrow subsection of the broader category of mass murder and such crimes occur everywhere. Second, this isn’t a uniquely American phenomenon that only exists as a pernicious consequence of a toxic gun culture. Third, the idea that re-establishing the government’s monopoly on violence and the control of weaponry will end mass murder is verifiably false, given the examples of history.
I am willing to concede that there are some modest measures that can be enacted in an attempt to keep firearms out of the hands of criminals and would-be criminals. But such measures should only be a very small part of a larger vision to ensure effective security of likely targets, better proactive enforcement of existing laws, and swift responses to actual attacks.
The constant and consistent focus on legal gun ownership is the biggest thing standing in the way of true solutions capable of mitigating what is, unfortunately, a constant reality of the human condition.
Now, What Have You Got?
Stay Free My Friends,