A Guy's View - Crossing the line
Sun, 08/14/2016 - 12:00am
R.E. Guyson Mayers
“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.”
– Second Amendment of the Bill of Rights of the American Constitution
Last week Donald Trump raised eyebrows when he suggested that Hillary Clinton may have to be shot in order to prevent her from compromising Americans’ Second Amendment rights.
In addressing one of his rallies, he told the crowd that if Clinton were elected, she would appoint judges who would make decisions that would take away the right of Americans to bear arms. According to him, once Clinton appoints her judges, there would be nothing that could be done about protecting this cherished right.
But, maybe the Second Amendment people could do something about it, he said.
The Second Amendment of the United States Constitution was adopted on December 15, 1791 and it is as closely guarded now as it was in the 18th century. Common sense might suggest that the right of ordinary citizens to bear arms may have been necessary to the security of a free state in America’s circumstances in 1791, but 2016 conditions bear no relationship whatsoever to the America that thought the bearing of arms was indispensable to the maintenance of the state.
An interpretation of this provision which would reflect current realities seems to be both feasible and reasonable, but such a discussion would be entirely academic since the American courts have already determined that such a progressive interpretation is not in their contemplation.
Any reference to Second Amendment people in the context used by Trump could only be in relation to those people’s use of guns. Saying that they are the last resort in stopping Clinton leaves little room for the alternative interpretations which Trump’s defenders have sought to adopt.
Trump has been given to excesses in his speeches from the moment he entered the campaign for the Presidency. Some people put this down to his political incorrectness. Others thought that he was just not a serious politician. Other reasons have also been presented. Whatever the reason for his discoloured mouthings, it is not the done thing to suggest that the leader of another party should be shot.
This latest statement by Donald Trump must not be taken in isolation. In fact, it may be seen as an elevation of the kind of message that he has been sending from day one. It was Trump who suggested that people who attended his rallies and expressed contrary views should be cuffed in the face or stretchered out. His earlier language was bad enough, but he just keeps going.
At its purest, politics is intended to be a competition of ideas as to how best to serve the people of a country. It should never be so rancorous that a candidate should be willing to encourage supporters to harm an opponent. This is foreign to Western democratic politics. Strong positions and fiercely defended policies are natural conditions of partisan politics. It has even become the norm for personal attacks to be made on reputations. As unfortunate as this is, it does not approach the realm of inciting violence and murder.
Politics can be a rough business. It is no different in America. One saw the leaders of the Republican Party meeting on the very day that President Obama was sworn in and vowing to ensure that he never gets anything done. They did their best to give effect to their vow by trying to block every initiative he promoted. The interest of the country and its citizens mattered little to them.
In Barbados, we saw the members of the Opposition refusing to vote to allow the retirement age of the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Auditor General to be changed so as to be brought in line with other public officers. Based on what was reported, none of them had the conviction to vote against the Bill. This suggests that there was none among them who held a genuine view that there was something wrong with the Bill. Refusing to vote was simply politically expedient. The interest of the two public officers mattered little to them.
The Republican Party’s action in America had all to do with race. Where a group of people have an inherent sense of superiority, they cannot afford to allow anything to succeed which puts the lie to what they promote. Other than religious zeal, there is nothing more strongly held than race hatred. But neither race not religion was relevant to what happened in our Parliament.
Contending parties tell all who would listen why they should receive your vote and why the other party should not. However, dropping suggestions that an opponent should suffer violence is another thing. This is of great concern, especially when there are potential supporters with the mindset to act in this way.
America has a history of persons shooting Presidents and others vying for high office. Many of Trump’s supporters seem to be cut from the kind of cloth that would see nothing wrong with taking this kind of action. For him to drop such a hint was irresponsible and lawless.
Of importance, the American Secret Service said that they were aware of his comment. They may also be aware that Donald Trump endangered their lives by his dangerous speech. Hillary Clinton has Secret Service protection, and any attempt on her life exposes those who protect her to danger.
As the American campaign progressed, it became clear to many that Donald Trump may not have entered the race for the White House as a serious candidate. He seemed under-prepared. He came into the race with no previous experience in public service. He knew nothing about foreign policy. Interestingly, some thought that his ignorance was an asset, so disillusioned are many with their country’s governance.
Information can correct ignorance, but nothing can correct “igrance”, the Barbadian variety of ignorance. Donald Trump seems to be bent on promoting himself as an “igrant” man. For the non-Barbadians who read this column, a Bajan “igrant” man is a person with more brawn than brain and manifests this through his loud mouth and willingness to bully those who he succeeds in intimidating. Thinking and deliberation is not part of his forte.
Trump is willing to bomb the stool out of Isis, but demonstrates no understanding of the real challenge presented by this group. He is willing to build a wall to keep out Mexicans, without measuring how that would affect the important labour Mexicans provide for many wealthy people like him and the agricultural sector.
Donald Trump is clearly ignorant, but he is not stupid. In putting the idea in the atmosphere that a gun may have to be used to stop Hillary Clinton, he crossed the line.