Mea Culpa

Hi Tom*,

I would like to apologize for coming into your blog, calling names and starting a fight. Basic decency should have held my hand. Again, I’m sorry.

Before you explode again, I beg you to perhaps give me a moment (well – several hundred words) to explain why I responded to your remark “Why, during this day and age (i.e. post 9/11) are we allowing someone who is less than a full citizen to purchase firearms? Any politician with half a lick of sense should strike while the iron is hot on this one,” with the comment “It’s just – sorry – just so racist.”

I’m afraid we’ll have to agree to disagree about the racism thing which is why I’m doing this here and not directly posting it to your comments. Perhaps I am also posting it here to show my readers that, yes, sometimes, I am scum. If you would like to delete the link in your comments (and perhaps ridicule this), that would be fine. I think it should be your choice. I shall not return.

I think our problem is largely a matter of definition and perspective.

When I say you are supporting racist positions, it most definitely does not mean that I think you think or scream racial epithets at individuals; I don’t think you, personally discriminate against anyone specifically. That is what I tried to convey by saying that you are not personally racist. I think it very likely that you treat every individual you meet fairly and equally. I suspect you are fine at a personal level.

Unfortunately, I think you harbor a much more insidious type of racism; not hate based on race and not hate directed at individuals, but irrationally based fear directed at over-generalized groups. I suspect you fear a nebulous “they,” who are a threat to America and the world. Perhaps you are right; you think it is rational – I call it racist.

I am an American and have lived abroad for the past twenty years. I have seen enough cultures and enough peoples that I can no longer see the world through a “them” filter because “they” are always just over the hill or across the border. And I have also been “them”– both abroad and in America so I understand the issue from both sides.

Your question about limiting firearm ownership to full citizens reminds me of Americans who ask “Why do people in the rest of the world hate Americans?” Well Tom, apparently the mistrust is mutual. I have also seen first hand how international opinion has turned not only again American policies but against Americans individually (see also the PEW Report from 2006). Based on your reaction, you feel your mistrust is well founded. Just as you probably think the rest of the world is wrong in being sceptical of American citizens. Perhaps they simply fear you without any real evidence but they know they are right in doing so. Just as you know you are right about “foreigners.”

To me your position bears no difference to theirs and is no different than the positions of so many before you who feared outsiders.

Think back on American history. “They” have been, at different times, the Latinos (1980s-2000s), the Russians (50’s to 80’s), the Japanese (30’s and 40’s) and the Germans (1917-1940’s). As a matter of fact, if you go back far enough, it was the Irish and the Italians. You might not know it, but the first car bomb in history, well wagon bomb, was detonated 1920 in New York by Mario Buda, an Italian anarchist. The Irish were the criminal scourge of the late 19th century – or at least many thought so. Americans no longer fear the Irish or the Italians. They no longer fear Germans, Japanese or the Russians (most of the time).

Have these people, these nationalities as individuals changed so much in such a short time? Are “they” just suddenly nice, law-abiding, America-loving peoples? Or has the focus of fear shifted? I think it is the latter.

You write of being “most concerned about Middle Eastern immigrants” – a euphemism I take to mean Arabs and Persians as you are probably not too concerned about the Israelis. Right? Interestingly the statistics you quoted me from the Small Arms Digest (pg 178) would seem to show a disproportionate threat emanating from Latin America, the Caribbean and Africa with the Middle East a distant fourth. But I’m sure you knew that, you read your sources thoroughly. So, are you concerned about the Arabs and Persians because of facts or because of a racial, political or a religious traits?

If it is racial – I rest my case. QED

If it is political, doesn’t your policy punish those who believe in democracy and flee to America because they think it is a better place; those who come to America for freedom not oppression? Doesn’t your policy give evidence to those who would claim that Americans arbitrarily discriminate against outsiders for no other reason than the fact that they are not American? Doesn’t your prejudice feed the al Quada propaganda machine as well as any terrorist success?

If it is religion, then you can’t really stop in the Middle East but must keep a close eye on those pesky Indonesians and those Muslims with European passports now spreading across the continent. You also need to be worried about the 1-2 percent of your neighbors who hold both the Islamic faith and the American citizenship. (But the last group poses a bit of a problem justifying the green card prohibition – right?) Of course, hating and mistrusting people because of their religion has deep roots. You are, perhaps, better able to understand the deep rooted mistrust of Protestants since your return from Ireland. Or was it the Catholics? Strange thing who “they” can be, huh?

I have my own fears Tom. I fear those who feel that there is an indefinable group to be dreaded. Specifically – I fear people like you.

Those who fear are almost worse than those who overtly hate; those openly doing the lynching and the killing. Those who fear but do not hate are the ones who honestly disapprove of the deeds but quietly understand the reasoning and silently applaud the results.

It is not usually those who explicitly hate that scare me; they are often easily identifiable. They are the blackshirts, the skinheads, the white-sheeted bigots. They are the Hitlers, the bin Ladens, the Ahmednejads. Even if you can’t immediately stop them, you at least know who they are.

Unfortunately, true power is not in hands of those people who hate and lead but in those who fear and follow.

It is those that fear. It is those that feared the Blacks, and the Mexicans and the Asians. It is those that feared the Jews; and the Catholics; and the Protestants. And now, it is those that fear the Muslims. And those that fear Americans. It is that fear that feeds hate.

You would prohibit those who have green cards from legally owning a weapon because you fear the consequences. I ask again, do you fear the German engineer, the Vietnamese cook, the Brazilian model or the South African ‘security expert’; the ones living next to the marginally medicated American with the .357 Magnum and a borderline disorder? Are they the problem? I’m sure permanent residents in the American military are among those you would disarm. Are they to be feared? Were these the mental images of “someone who is less than a full citizen” you conjured up when writing the post? If not, why not?

Seen in that light, was my reaction to your comment about denying gun ownership to those un-Americans with green cards that out-of-line? Using my perspective, my definition, would you consider what you proposed racist? Or is it just nationalist – excuse me – patriotic? Or would you say rational?

I feel you have yet to show me valid data supporting your hypothesis. No, a list pulled from Wikipedia is not valid data. And no, I don’t need to invalidate what you are saying because you have not shown any real evidence other than a gut reaction and the ancient idea of racial profiling. You see reams of evidence; I see media hysteria, smoke and mirrors. You urge a call to action; I see overreaction. Again, we will simply have to agree to disagree here.

I suspect we could argue statistics until we are blue in the face and never get anywhere. I would argue the statistics either don’t exist or are not openly available. I would nevertheless look to the centralized data from the FBI, collected and collated from information provided by local law enforcement agencies, for some statistical guidelines to evaluate the numbers you present. You seemed to think your idea was obvious. You fail to realise that if your idea is obvious, the data supporting it should be obvious too. It is not. In the end, neither of us would win but each would probably lose both tempers and time.

Outlawing gun-ownership to a minimal percentage of the people living in America would have zero effect on violence because there will always be enough weapons available for sale; those who want firearms will get them. That is why I found your idea so preposterous. In addition, arbitrarily determining that anyone without American citizenship (or merely “Middle Eastern”) is a public danger is preposterously unfair.

Perhaps after reading this you will understand why I labelled your idea racist.

Remember my response was based as much on fear as on distaste. You might chalk it up to my own particular brand of racism – regardless of color, creed or religion; a visceral mistrust of those that needlessly, irrationally fear.

Perhaps, in light of the fact that my definition of racism and racist thinking includes racial profiling, you might go back and reread your final comment. Was it rational or does it fit my definition of racist?

My parting shot Tom? You were spot on in calling me an SOB.

Not because we disagree. That’s fine. I suspect our definitions and perspectives vary; I suspect I have a much thinner skin on many issues. Nevertheless, I think we could find things about which to agree.

No, you were spot on calling me an SOB because I walked into your house – uninvited and unknown – and I started spouting invectives. It was inexcusable and you were right to call me on it.

Again; it was your blog; my misstep – my bad – my apologies.

Have a nice day.
Ben (the bad one)

[* I’m posting this here because I did the inexcusable – the internet equivalent of a drive by shooting, I think I overstepped the line at a strange blog, commenting and throwing invectives. I feel it is my duty to air my dirty laundry on my time, my bandwidth. His blog has seen enough.

I hope the person I have offended chooses to read this and not to delete the link to it. If not, I have complete understanding. I will not link to his blog because this disagreement is so totally different from the issues he discusses; I suspect the traffic drawn would be unwarranted and largely uninterested in his normal issues.

This is merely an open, personal mea culpa.]

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13 comments so far

  1. Teresa on

    Ben,

    Well done and well said.

  2. Stephanie on

    not to belabor this, but I think you’ve missed the point, Bad Ben. He mentioned PRs when dealing with gun ownership as a right. They can’t vote. They can’t run for office. why on earth do they have the right to bear arms? The correct answer is that they generally have the protections of the other constitutional amendments as well. The wrong answer is to call the question racist.

    The right to bear arms was conceived by the founders to enable us to revolt when oppressed.
    One could argue that in the age of nuclear warfare, it is essentially defunct anyway. However, if you take the intent into account, it suddenly becomes clear why you wouldn’t want a loophole in it that allows immigrants to flood the country in order to bear arms and participate in (or instigate) revolution.

  3. Mike on

    So… tell us again… why do you want non-citizens in the U.S. to be able to have guns? Just so that they (and their compatriots in their home countries) don’t feel “oppressed”? How many of those home countries, if I travel there, will grant me the full rights of a citizen without having to actually earn citizenship?

    The biggest problem with your argument is that you’re trying to analyze someone that you don’t even know, deciding that he (or his arguments) are racist or fearful, saying that he is almost worse than a skinhead, klansman or nazi — rather than addressing his arguments on the merits alone. And you’re still doing it. Ad hominem is the name of that fallacy.

  4. Teresa on

    Mike,

    “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

    You either believe it, or you don’t.

    If you want to deny those rights to someone based on their race, then you are a racist, and no better than a klansmen.

    If you want to deny them based on non-citizenship, then you are a NATIVTIST, and no better than a skinhead, a John Bircher, or those freaks over at Little Green Footballs. There is quite a list, actually.

    As Ben said, his mistake was sa matter of form.

  5. Stephanie on

    good job name-calling to end an argument.

  6. Teresa on

    Stephanie,

    It’s not name calling, it’s definitions.

    Perhaps you disagree with my definitions?

    What word would you use for someone who wants to deny someone fundimental, natural rights to someone based on race?

    What word would you use for someone who wants to deny someone fundimental, natural rights based on non-citizenship?

    What about religion?

    Perhaps there are better words out there. I invite you to provide them.

  7. Mike on

    A.) That was from the Declaration of Independence, not the Constitution or the Bill of Rights.

    B.) Anyone who thinks that owning semi-automatic firearms is a fundamental, natural right has a lot more in common with the LGF folks than I do.

    C.) It’s spelled “fundamental” not “fundimental.”

    D.) When you keep calling people racists and comparing them with skinheads, you don’t convince anyone of anything.

    E.) I think there are more productive discussions to be had elsewhere. Bye.

  8. Teresa on

    So, Mike doesn’t believe in the Declaration of Independance.

    Interesting.

    Point of fact, Mike, I didn’t claim it was in the constitution, I said you either believe that or you don’t.

    The constitution gurantees the right to keep and bear arms. It does not reserve it to only citizens, but to “the people”. Where a right is reserved only to Citizens (voting, holding office) it is quite specific in it’s reservation to citizens alone.

    Congratulations on having unimpeachably perfect typeing all the time. Not all of us are so lucky.

    I know you said goodbye and made a big storm of stomping off in a huff and all, but if you were really not interested in the point, you would simply have said nothing. I know you’ll come back to have another look. 😉

  9. blc303 on

    Sure, I go off and enjoy a socialist holiday and my blog devolves into a fight. *sigh*

    Stephanie. Perhaps to your first point. Where you belabor the point I miss, you assume I think gun ownership should be a right granted to PR’s. Wrong Stephanie. I am trying to say that the racist part is singling out the PR’s as the biggest threat, the place to ‘finally start,’ perhaps part of a ‘final solution’ to the issue. That is the racist part. I am arguing not that they should have the right I asking why they shouldn’t have it and why they need to be singled out.

    Tom explicitly gives voice to this kind of thinking. He put it quite well.

    I don’t give a damn if some crazy S.O.B. decides to shoot up his family. It’s only the random shooting I’m concerned about.

    Please Stephanie. Explain to me the difference between a 5 year old girl laying on the sidewalk in a puddle of her own blood shot during a random shooting by a PR and a 5 year old girl lying in her living room in a puddle of her own blood shot after pleading ‘No daddy. No’ I foolishly feel all should be protected and handled equally by the law; even those with the wrong parent, even those just living in or visiting America. Foolish me.

    Mike, many countries, like the US, do offer most rights. As an American in Germany, I lack the right to vote (although there are offical foreigners councils in most cities), run for office and (interestingly) serve in the military. That’s it. No other limitations. France has similar rules. I can’t speak to England, but I think it is comparable.

    Mike, you want to make American law more restrictive against those who live among you. I question the reasoning behind those restrictions. You lack specific reason for saying why. Tom argued that I need to prove that foreigners are a threat, I still beg to differ.

    I repeat. I hold the position to be racist, or perhaps as Teresa has better identified Nativist. I don’t think Tom is specifically racist. Mike, how exactly have the Germans changed from 1945? Did anti-Semitism just stop on a spring day 62 years ago? I don’t think so. I think that people were filled with a nebulous fear that was directed by the government and the media at a specific group. When that propaganda stopped, so did the wide spread hate and fear.

    I stand to my point. The position, the idea that foreign residents are a major threat is wrong and racist. If I am so obviously off base, the data should be easy to find. It should be easy to show. Aren’t PR’s almost safer than ‘some crazy SOB?’ The crazy SOB will probably already have had run-ins with the police. Were he a PR and had crossed any legal line, he could be deported. You can’t do that to a citizen.

    Finally, since a part of this discussion devolved into a fight about constitutional rights might I ask why the government should stop at limiting merely the ‘right to bear arms.’ Why not toss out the First Amendment and require them not to worship false Gods, speak, write or peacefully assemble. Perhaps we could lower military spending and keep an eye on them by quartering solders with them. Perhaps we should allow them to be unreasonably searched or seized. Oh – wait. There is that pesky little Habeas Corpus thing. Got rid of that so the rest is probably not very important anyway.

    Like I said. What I did wrong was to start the fight in Tom’s house.

  10. Teresa on

    Ben,

    so…how was your May Day?

  11. blc303 on

    Trees,

    Just fine. Weather’s nice. [Not enough (any actually) April showers this year so the May flower part is starting to look like a major crop failure. If we don’t get some rain soon, farmers will be looking at a world of hurt.]

    But you had to go and unsharpen my verbal barb? I mean I was all set to pounce with a “but you have Labor Day” argument after getting attacked for communist leanings.

    I know. I am just the anti-American, anarchist, atheist, anti-Christ scum.

    The problem is that I really understand why Mike and Stephanie don’t see what I am saying. They have framed the issue to be completely different. I could type until I’m blue in the face and not make any difference. Perhaps they are right. I am the problem.

  12. Teresa on

    Ben,

    Sorry, but I think they both broke their toys and went home.

    I didn’t mean to screw anything up. I was just being contrite for starting a fight on your blog.

    So uncivilized.

  13. blc303 on

    Trees,

    Don’t worry about it. Like I said, they see the world through a completely different prism.

    Had I been thinking fast enough, I would have used nativist from the beginning. It would have put a completely different spin on the discussion. Even though from our side there isn’t any difference, there is a world of variation from the other side. It’s all in the initial comments.

    And I have no problems with their coming here to fight, I started one over there.


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