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Lament: A Short Essay

Mark Wyatt McGinnis

I have been having a terrible time coming to grips with the recent Texas school shooting. The parents of the slain children being given DNA swabs in the parking lot because their children were so ripped apart by AR-15 fire they were unidentifiable — that won’t leave me now or ever.

I see this essay as a lament and cry for help. How a country could allow this to happen to its children is baffling and crushing. But we live with this recurring carnage, and I speculate it will not change soon. In many states, including Texas, gun regulation has been stripped away to nothing during a time of nearly daily massacres. The NRA has been the focal point of wrath by many, and they deserve some of the blame, but they are not the only ones responsible. Organized groups like evangelical Christians and militias, loosely organized groups like MAGA, and many unorganized people who are angry, very angry, are united in their opposition to any gun control. Many of these people believe that other groups, Democrats, progressives, the intelligentsia, LGBTQ, minorities, immigrants, Jews, and others, have imposed their will on them. They think it is now time to impose their will on their oppressors. To do so, they are arming themselves. There are 20 million assault rifles legally owned in the US and nearly 400 million firearms in private hands (more guns than people). Body armor sales are projected to reach $3.4 billion by 2028. I am not saying that everyone who owns a firearm is an extremist planning revolution, and I am not in favor of banning all guns from private ownership. I am saying that millions of people are heavily arming themselves, and it is unacceptable to them for this to be impeded by their oppressors. Even if it means these weapons are readily available to mentally ill people who can inflict atrocities on innocent members of society. I believe many people who are arming themselves are also appalled by these mass shootings. Still, they appease themselves by blaming mental illness and not the availability of weaponry, even with worldwide evidence to the contrary. I also believe many of them are arming themselves out of the fear that their oppressors will attack them.

The creation of a private military is only one facet of how these extremists plan to overthrow their oppressors. It may be they will never have to use this arsenal. The political progress of their revolution has been stunningly rapid. For four years, we had a president who fed and nurtured the anger and fear of these people with great success. He created a Supreme Court that will support dismantling the social gains of the past 70 years. He also appointed 231 judges to lower federal courts — all are in place for the extremist judicial branch of government. The US Congress has ground to a crawl of incompetence and disorder by planning. A perfect condition for people who are not extremists but will vote to bring stability and order back by electing extremists. An alarming aspect of this movement is that not all Republicans are extremists, but nearly all Republicans fear and consent to the extremists. It is essential to understand that the extremists are not “them” but “us.” These people are drawn from all strata of our culture but have their roots in the lower-middle class, the same place as my roots and where I feel deeply connected. These people were betrayed first in the 80s by Republican “trickle-down” and then betrayed in the 90s by the Democrats abandoning the working class for the more highly educated classes. Unions were broken, minimum wage service jobs forced on them, good work sent overseas to lower costs for the corporations, exploited, inexpensive labor brought into the country, technology taking over jobs, and more created a nose-dive for working people. Their sense of oppression is not imagined; it is real. Then came 9/11, and nationalism was exploited by the unscrupulous.

The perception of not being an intellectual or even overly intelligent is a prerequisite to leading in this movement., advancing rather than hindering the chances of being elected to public office. This is the rejection of the educated elite who cast them aside in the “new” economies. But skillful manipulation has been shown on the national and state levels and is now being organized on all levels of governance and oversight. School boards, county health commissions, county government, city government, and more are being taken over or disrupted by these citizens. Their goal is top to bottom government control, and they are doing a remarkably competent job of moving in that direction. A big difference from other political upheavals this country has experienced is that this one has a powerful, authoritarian creed. Once they are in power, they plan to manipulate the system to stay in power. This is exactly what Trump tried in 2000 with “the big lie.” Today almost 50% of Republicans firmly believe Trump won the election, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. There is a nationwide attempt to put extremists into attorney general and secretary of state offices across the country so that elections can be quickly overturned if needed. This will establish a dictatorship of a party and probably a strongman. There are hundreds of examples of how this has worked and is working worldwide. I fear the downfall of our current governmental structure will be due to our “superior” dismissal of what many may see as stupid or inferior people. This is a major mistake, and this attitude has led to the crisis we find ourselves in and may lead to the victory of the extremists.

It may sound like I am describing a conspiracy, but it certainly is not a conspiracy. There is not much secrecy about this movement, and little unlawful for the most part. These people are US citizens and have the right to pursue their political ambitions. They have been twisting and reshaping laws for their use, but that has been the rule rather than the exception in American history. Throughout this essay, I have been calling these people “extremists”; you certainly could not call them conservatives. In definition, extremists seem correct, but it also seems inadequate. From my perspective, I see them as extreme. From their perspective, many would see me as extreme. Terms from the past, like “fascist”, does not seem correct either. While it may reveal the goals of some other members, I don’t think it reflects them all, and the word carries too much historical baggage. It is not a descriptive name that is important, but the goals they wish to achieve and how those goals will radically transform this nation.

I fear I have given a rather bleak picture in the above paragraphs. One encouraging point is that things rarely turn out the way I think. Another consideration is that we have a chance, and possibly one of the last opportunities, to stop this juggernaut. That chance is the 2022 mid-term elections. If Republicans gain control of the US Congress, I fear their path could be unalterable. For those of us who live in states where the outcome of the victory of Republicans is a foregone conclusion, I suggest funding close races in other states where your support may make a difference. Down-ballot races are just as important, and sometimes it takes some effort to find which candidate to support. I hope people will make that effort, as the stakes could not be higher. These thoughts are my own and must be viewed as the reflections of an old artist, but an old artist who loves his family, loves your family, and loves the 19 slain children and their two teachers.

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