You shouldn't play with guns, unless you do it the way "Jim" apparently did.
His gun play -- a (seemingly) satirical petition at change.org -- has enveloped the looming Republican National Convention in Cleveland this summer in awkward surrealism and forced the three Republican presidential candidates to duck for cover from their own words.
The petition, posted by Hyperationalist, who later identified himself to certain curious reporters as a proponent of gun sanity named Jim, demanded that the Quicken Loans Arena, where the convention will be held, lift its ban on guns in the building and that the Republican National Committee explain "how a venue so unfriendly to Second Amendment rights" was chosen for the convention.
"We are all too familiar with the mass carnage that can occur when citizens are denied their basic God-given rights to carry handguns or assault weapons in public," the petition reads. "EVERY AMERICAN HAS THE RIGHT TO PROTECT AND DEFEND THEIR FAMILY. With this irresponsible and hypocritical act of selecting a 'gun-free zone' for the convention, the RNC has placed its members, delegates, candidates and all US citizens in grave danger.
"We must take a stand. We cannot allow the national nominating convention of the party of Lincoln and Reagan to be hijacked by weakness and political correctness. The policies of the Quicken Loans Arena do not supersede the rights given to us by our Creator in the U.S. Constitution."
The petition has garnered over 50,000 signatures and forced responses from the Secret Service and the three candidates, all of whom had stood four-square against gun-free zones as dangerous invitations for terrorists and psychos to have a little fun. Donald Trump, the king of nuanced restraint, described such zones as "target practice for the sickos and for the mentally ill."
Oh bluster! In the World's Greatest Pseudo-Democracy that is America, presidential candidates can say anything they want because it's all a show, it's all a game. Our quadrennial presidential election has essentially nothing to do with reality because the country is run by a military-industrial corporatocracy which has, over the last seven decades, constructed a parallel infrastructure that can't be touched by "the people." This has given the Republicans, in particular, plenty of leeway to pander for votes with policy positions and vacuous blather that appeal at the level of junior high consciousness. But the blather is only supposed to travel in one direction.
So when it bounced back, in the form of a satirical but real-seeming petition demanding that guns and "Second Amendment rights" be allowed inside the Quicken Loans Arena, the Secret Service had to step parentally into the controversy and declare: uh, no way. Guns not allowed. And the glorious three, Trump, Cruz and Kasich, all quietly repressed their guns-R-us bombast and acceded to the Secret Service ruling. In the real world, that's what made sense.
"I'm 100 percent genuine in my belief that they should be able to have guns at their convention," the mysterious Jim told Rolling Stone. "It's consistent with state law, and if people who go to movie theaters and malls and shopping places and restaurants have the quote-unquote 'protection' of the open-carrying citizens around them, well, I think the GOP should have the same. . . .
"I'm fighting for their rights by taking them at face value."
He also brought up the awkward possibility that gun-saturated societies are on a dangerous hair-trigger -- that open carry actually increases the possibility of violence -- in which case, why is safety a greater concern at the Republican convention than elsewhere in Ohio? "Is there some variation," he wondered, "in the value of life between presidential candidates, like Donald Trump, and the 7-year-old girl at McDonalds? I'm not sure I understand how they account for that distinction."
So we have yet another layer of surrealism contextualizing the 2016 presidential race. This isn't what's supposed to be happening. It's supposed to be Hillary vs. Jeb and business as usual continues unchallenged, with a wall still separating real America from pseudo-democratic, reality-TV America. We the voters are supposed to remain safely ensconced in our role not as participants in the country's future but as consumers of our favorite brand of election-year bullshit.
We're not supposed to notice that our leaders (and our secret leaders) have no interest in transitioning to a globally cooperative, environmentally sustainable way of being on this planet. We're not supposed to notice that the U.S. military budget remains unchallenged or that our world grows increasingly dangerous as our wars against terror and evil continue unabated.
And even if we do notice, we're supposed to surrender to cynicism and shrug that nothing can be done about it.
And then, I guess, we're supposed to arm ourselves. But I say there's a difference between being armed and being empowered. Just ask Jim.
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Robert Koehler is an award-winning, Chicago-based journalist and nationally syndicated writer. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his website at commonwonders.com.
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