A Note on Politics and Accountability (NRA Responsible Rhetoric Remix)

Congressional candidate and Nevada Assemblyman John Oceguera (D-16).

One of the wilder variables in the American political discourse is figuring out just how inappropriate any given impropriety actually is, which in functional terms translates to just how wrong or outrageous the marektplace―citizens and voters―will deem any particular words or conduct. Alice Ollstein of ThinkProgress offers a tale that brings this seeming bit of superficiality into some reasonable degree of focus:

Just a few hours after congressional candidate John Oceguera announced he was terminating his lifetime membership with the National Rifle Association, the angry comments began flooding his inbox and Facebook page, calling him, among other slurs, a “pussy traitor,” “kool aid-drinking zombie,” and “libtard.”

“May be [sic] he can get an endorsement from the Muslim brotherhood?” mused one commentator, while another advised, “Castrate yourself.”

Sitting in his office on the western edge of Las Vegas, the former Nevada Assembly Speaker and Democratic candidate for Congress told ThinkProgress that the “vitriolic” reaction has only strengthened his resolve.

“The NRA does a lot of good things, like with hunting safety, but they’ve just become so stringent and won’t compromise on any issue,” he said. “It’s like you can’t say anything about commonsense gun reform without people screaming, ‘You’re taking our guns!’ or ‘You’re an idiot’ or a lot worse than that. When I made this announcement, I became enemy number one. But do I really want to belong to an organization where I can’t have an opinion that’s just slightly different?”

There are a number of superficial things we might say about candidates and causes, to the one, and the supporters thereof to another, but in this case we might ask a less common superficial question: President Obama has been expected, in some corners of the legitimate discourse, to account for all manner of idiotic notions; the New Black Panthers and the “Obamaphone” wannabe-scandals come to mind. There is this weird idea out there that any criticism of the president is denounced as racist. In various ways we often hold certain people or causes accountable for the words and actions of others, but this isn’t even a question of whether rock music turns children into mass-murdering Satanic maniacs versus the effects of normalized violent rhetoric on unstable elements within the culture.

Rather, this is like Obamaphone, or the New Black Panthers. Do those people represent the average Obama or Democratic voter?

Similarly: Does the abuse hurled toward Congressional candidate, Assemblyman, and former Assembly Speaker John Oceguera (D-16) represent the average responsible gun owner?

This is the point: If the answer is yes, then the United States of America are in serious trouble.

And that’s the point. If the object is to simply scandalize a target, such as the NRA, we aren’t really getting a lot out of it. But it would also help if the National Rifle Association would draw a functional line somewhere short of conspiracy theories making it to Congress. The trouble the NRA faces when Congress wants to elevate tinfoil to the legislative arena is a question of the ballot box.

Or we might think of it in terms of bedfellows. When the Sooner State duo of Sen. Jim Inhofe (R) and Rep. Frank Lucas (R-03) went so far out on a limb that the NRA and I found ourselves standing next to one another on the same side of the line, we can rest assured the organization was worried about the implications of building legislation from potsherds.

And it seems reasonable that the NRA might wish to distance itself from the abusive and even violent rhetoric hurled in its defense. And the longer they fail to do their part in separating out the wheat from the chaff, the longer everyday responsible gun owners allow this rhetoric on their behalf, is just another day our society spends digging itself deeper into its various holes.

After all, do these people really represent the outlook of an allegedly serious-minded public advocacy group like the National Rifle Association? Do these people really represent the outlook of “responsible gun owners”? What benefit do either the NRA or the responsible gun owners perceive in allowing themselves to be represented this way? What do they think it gains them?

Say what?One other thing comes to mind, as well. “Pussy traitor” sounds like it could be #MyNextBandName, except, well, it’s awfully vague. There are so many ways to betray a pussy.

Oh. Wait. I see. Never mind, my bad.

Anyway, would someone please explain to me just what about a vagina is inherently insulting?


Image note: Composite includes detail of photo by Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call; NRA logo via internet at large, circa 2015.

Benen, Steve. “From the fringe to the Hill, redux”. msnbc. 29 April 2013.

Ollstein, Alice. “How A Proud Gun Owner Running For Congress Became The ‘Enemy Number 1’ Of The NRA”. ThinkProgrress. 19 December 2015.

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