Every once in a while I find myself with something to write about, but no real way to work myself into it.
What started me off this morning was a report about an appearance made by Chris Murphy–the junior senator from my very own state–on Rachel Maddow’s MSNBC show.
Now, a couple of things I should note before starting.
First, I tend to like Rachel Maddow, who is one of the more reasonable voices in political television. She’s very personable, which I think went a long way to make her the only name in the line up of that ill-fated attempt to create a left-wing talk radio network with a serious career. She’s also academically very, very impressive.
There is also a story in our house about how my younger son, first watching Maddow’s show at a very young age, and having no idea what a “lesbian” was, decided that lesbians were “very, very happy people” and hoped that one day he could become one.
Now THAT’S a story he doesn’t like me to tell. On the other hand, I think he was six.
The second thing is to note that I DON’T much like Chris Murphy. I didn’t mind him when he was my Representative. I even voted for him at least once.
But the campaign he ran for Senate against Linda McMahon was just so objectionable, and so dishonest, that I ended up voting for her out of sheer reaction. There is a limit to how much complete crap I’m willing to put up with.
On top of that, during that campaign and since, Murphy has just looked–I don’t know how to put it. Pasty white and slack, as if he’s ill in some way.
I have no use for the modern mania for having politicians disclose their “health status,” and I would certainly vote for a man who shared my principles even if he had cancer or was HIV positive.
Still, Murphy looks so bad that I can’t help myself from wondering if he’s about to fall over every time I see him on screen.
I do understand that this is not relevant to what I want to discuss here. It’s just been on my mind lately, and the effect when I’m watching him has been very strong and very odd.
Anyway, I was not watching him on the night he said this on Rachel Maddow’s show, but it’s been widely reported, so I’m going to go on the assumption that the reports are accurate.
What is he reported to have said?
He’s reported to have said that the idea that the second amendment exists in order to make sure that people can take up arms against their own government is “insane.”
“Insane” was the specific word he used.
And Rachel Maddow agreed with him.
Now, Rachel Maddow has no obligation to know what the hell she’s doing when it comes to the history of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, but Chris Murphy has on several occasions–as a Congressman and a Senator–taken an oath of office to uphold the Constitution of the United States.
It might be a good idea if, before he took that oath, he bothered to inform himself of the history as well as the plain text of the Constitution he’s swearing to uphold.
Murphy and Maddow are, of course, both graduates of top-twenty universities (Willams and Stanford, respectively), but t his is not something we can blame on the Ivy League or its sister schools.
American history and government is supposed to be the province of the high schools.
When I was growing up in Connecticut, it was the one thing every single school in the state was required to teach, public or parochial or private.
These days, the state wouldn’t be able to enforce the requirement on private schools that took no state money, but from what I can tell, Murphy went to a public school.
He should have been required to sit through one full year of American history (including, yes, a history of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights) and one full year of what we used to call Civics.
Now, to understand that the Second Amendment exists because men at the time of the framing were scared to death of a strong federal government and wanted to make sure they could defend themselves against it is not the same thing as saying that you agree with the policy.
In fact, given the Civil War, I’d say that the status of that particular issue is more ambiguous than it might have been in 1789.
But that that was in fact what the amendment was for is not in doubt and is not ambiguous in the least.
You can go look it up. There’s plenty of documentation remaining–newspaper editorials, private letters, transcripts of the deliberations of the Constitutional Convention, and on and on and on and on and on–
All testifying to the fear of centralized government and demands that the states and the people retain a right to self-defense against it.
What the framers imagined, of course, was not that individual people would take up arms against the federal government, but that states would.
What they were imagining was what came to be the Civil War, except that the Second Amendment was set up to protect the rights of the states who wanted to secede.
I was taught in school that the Civil War had changed this forever, and settled it by force. The states did not have the right to secede.
Given the present state of the country, I’m not sure that “once and for all” is going to hold, but whether it does or not, it’s surely the job of a United States Senator, or Congressman, or President, or anybody else in this government who takes the oath to preserve and defend the Constitution to know what the Constitution says and enough about its history to know what it means.
Hell, I think it would be a good idea for you to know that much if you’re going to vote.
What’s happened to high schools in this state is even more appalling than I usded to think.
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