The National Rifle Association’s executive vice president, Wayne LaPierre, apparently has a guilty conscience.
In a speech on Tuesday night, LaPierre singled out six words of a larger sentence from President Obama’s second inaugural address — “We cannot mistake absolutism for principle…” LaPierre repeated that excerpt to make sure everyone in the room heard it. Then he said, “Obama wants to turn the idea of absolutism into a dirty word — just another word for extremism. He [Obama] wants you, all of you, and Americans throughout all of this country to accept the idea of principles as he [Obama] sees fit…”
Well I got news for you Wayne, absolutism is already a dirty word. But I think the bigger issue that needs to be addressed here is why you felt the need to isolate that particular line. I’m sensing a guilty conscience. Although, that would require some faculty and judgement that can discern right from wrong. Something I’m not sure you possess.
Let’s look at the entire context of that section of Obama’s second inaugural speech:
That is our generation’s task – to make these words, these rights, these values – of Life, and Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness – real for every American. Being true to our founding documents does not require us to agree on every contour of life; it does not mean we will all define liberty in exactly the same way, or follow the same precise path to happiness. Progress does not compel us to settle centuries-long debates about the role of government for all time – but it does require us to act in our time.
For now decisions are upon us, and we cannot afford delay. We cannot mistake absolutism for principle, or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate. We must act, knowing that our work will be imperfect. We must act, knowing that today’s victories will be only partial, and that it will be up to those who stand here in four years, and forty years, and four hundred years hence to advance the timeless spirit once conferred to us in a spare Philadelphia hall.
It doesn’t sound like Obama is giving us any specific prescription in the area of principles. In fact, he says “being true to our founding documents does not require us to agree on every contour of life.” He also says that “our work will be imperfect.” This is hardly the words of a president trying to push his narrow principles onto the rest of America. No, instead, that is something Wayne LaPierre should know all to well.
So let’s check out the philosophical definitions of absolutism, because, well, you don’t want to know the political definitions.
2. (Philosophy) Philosophy
a. any theory which holds that truth or moral or aesthetic value is absolute and universal and not relative to individual or social differences Compare relativism
b. the doctrine that reality is unitary and unchanging and that change and diversity are mere illusion See also monism
Maybe it might be a stretch to call ‘absolutism’ a dirty word, but it’s definitely not a good word. Absolutism is not a creed for how to live your life unless building a better future for you and for future generations is not on the agenda.
But I still keep coming back to LaPierre’s guilty conscience. Out of all the lines in Obama’s speech that he could have critiqued, he chose to defend absolutism? And for what?
I’ve got news for the president: absolutes do exist, words do have specific meaning, in language and in law. It’s the basis of all civilization. It’s why our laws are written down — so the letter of the law, carries the force of the law. That’s why our Bill of Rights was written into law, to ensure that fundamental freedoms of a minority could never be denied by a majority. Those are the principles we call unalienable rights. Without those absolutes, without those protections, democracy decays into nothing more than two wolves and one lamb voting on who to eat for lunch.
- Wayne LaPierre
Except there’s a problem.
LaPierre says that “words do have specific meaning,” and then later mentions the Bill of Rights. He does not specifically mention the Second Amendment, but this is the executive vice president of the NRA, so you know which right in the Bill of Rights he wants you to think about. So what does the Second Amendment say again?
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
If those words have a specific meaning, well then, kiss my ass and call me spanky!
Yes Wayne, our laws are written down. And then later on, courts interpret these laws, because, well, words many times do not have a specific meaning. Most Americans live and breathe freedom and liberty and would never tolerate tyranny. So your guns are safe. In fact, if anything is in jeopardy of being infringed by our government, it would be our privacy and our civil liberties. Your material rights to own a firearm? Not in jeopardy. So please take it down a notch.