So, our President, Barack Obama, has signed into law a bill making it legal for citizens to bring concealed, loaded guns into any national park or national wildlife refuge in the United States, so long as they obey gun laws in that particular state.
I wish I were joking. I wish those first few lines were a cheap quip that I could follow with had you going, didn't I?
If you didn't know about this, I am sorry for you to learn it from me. You had good reason for not hearing about it. This legal suitcase-bomb was quietly tucked into the federal credit-card reform legislation recently passed with great bipartisan fanfare. It cleared both the Senate and the House by wide margins; the House vote was 279 to 147, with the support of 105 Democrats. Let me repeat that: 105 Democrats. The credit card bill made front-page headlines. I read about the concealed gun provision on page 6 of the Washington Post.
How this happened: Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn (R) buried the gun bill in the credit-card legislation as an amendment, a trick often used by both parties for pet causes that need propping up. Dems knew the credit card package was a must-pass. But rather than use their majority to revolt against this perversion of process, some Dems ducked their heads and went along. Others, including Majority Leader Harry Reid, (D-Nevada) and many Dems from Southern and Midwestern states, actively bought into this Dodge City bill on the basis, as Reid claims, that it reflects the Second Amendment (that sloppily-written, impossible-to-decode provision that needs to be coherently refashioned to reflect civilization in the 21st century). As for Repubs, the vote was a mixture of guns-are-good gospel and let's-get-the-liberal-bastards politicking. The law is due to go into effect on February 22, 2010.
So, beneath the chant of "change" in Washington, we now get the consummation of a policy that was pushed by George W. Bush, quashed by a federal judge in March, and reinvigorated by an outnumbered Republican Party in the face of hapless Democrats. Aren't you glad we have the party of progressive grit on our side?
As Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY) told the Post:
"Disappointing?" Uh, yeah.
As a result, your federal government has now given its okay -- during a recession when the nation has an abundance of hair-trigger rage cases -- for the guy next to you at the campground or on the trail or at a scenic outlook at a national park to have a concealed and loaded gun on his person. Makes you want to go out and enjoy the great American outdoors, doesn't it?
By the way, on the same day, a bill to give voting rights to the disenfranchised citizens of the District of Columbia remained stymied by a retaliatory Republican move to nullify gun control measures that District residents themselves voted into place in their crime-ravaged city.
At this point, I could launch into a tirade about the guilt-shrunken collective brain of a herd of Americans who have yet to get over their own convulsive paranoia about the aftermath of Europeans' violent theft of this continent, and who scurry in blind waves through the prairie with terror at their backs, clutching the idea of a gun and the microphoned persona of a big-mouthed white strongman as talismans against the monster of history; and the temptation one feels to let the cattle stampede themselves over the cliff as Rush and Bill and Sean and Ann prod their bovine posteriors with plastic McDonald's forks and furious cries of "Faster! They're coming!"; and the surreal cowardice of a troupe of Democrats who have forgotten so much of what they have learned about leadership and principle, their tongues melting like Dali clocks as they gurgle excuses about having no choice and facing political realities; and the sense of living in a morally mangled country that forces itself toward a higher future only by insistently bottoming out.
But I won't.