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Two Isms in America

I lift my informal blogging sabbatical (I’m writing too much to blog, if that makes sense) to note that a few weeks back someone I’m related to (I don’t even want to admit how closely) forwarded a hysterical email composed of various paranoid forwards that postulated, incorrectly, that the federal government was hell-bent on limiting the type of ammo we could buy.

As one poster speculated, “Controlling the ammo was a prerequisite for controlling Russia and China by the communists. Make ya wonder don’t it?”

There has been a run on guns and ammo ever since Obama was elected, despite no proof anywhere that the Obama administration considers limiting access to guns a priority even close to, say, propping up our failing economy or fixing health care.

The reality is that Obama is a citified intellectual who would die of exposure if left to hunt for his food, who wouldn’t know a brass casing from case law, and in any event has his focus elsewhere. He is furthermore surrounded by people like him who have no inkling of how strong folks in some parts of the country feel about their guns, and his people will occasionally judge wrong in their gun legislation, and then be quickly course-corrected.

But myths are more powerful than reality, and the central myth fueling the guns-and-ammo panic is an old and powerful story: A BLACK MAN IS TRYING TO TAKE AWAY OUR GUNS! Or perhaps that should be “guns,” since the symbolism wouldn’t be lost on a fourth-grader.

It’s funny (or not) how this ism has a parallel with marriage equality, in which, with no supporting evidence, the story is that GAY PEOPLE ARE RUINING MARRIAGE FOR EVERYONE ELSE!

Unfortunately, Obama has had far more impact in this area than he has on guns. It is Obama’s Justice Department that filed a bristlingly homophobic brief on behalf of DOMA, and it is Obama whose big gift to federal employees was to hand them a few ancillary same-sex benefits (because, we are told, DOMA prevents him from going farther).

Meanwhile, a shiny-pulpit minister on the west coast has been telling people — wink wink nudge nudge — that Obama will soon lift Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. A few months back, that would have excited me. Now I feel bored and appeased, as if the point of this rumor is to get me to stay quiet before I realize I’ve been duped again.

We have too many isms in America — isms that divide us, isms that we refuse to acknowledge.  White men aren’t emasculated if a black man becomes president. The sacred institution of marriage isn’t trampled upon if the doors open wider to let in more loving, committed couples. And these are all the same struggles, in the same direction.

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