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Willing to kill to ‘restore’ America

Some whites see themselves as losing to people of other demographics in what to these whites is a zero-sum game. So they’re arming to the teeth.

4 min read
Photo by Dylan Hunter / Unsplash

“America being flooded with guns isn’t an accident, and it’s not just because the gun industry wants to increase their revenues,” wrote Thom Hartmann, a best-selling New York Times author, pundit, and progressive radio talk show host.

“As is so often the case in this country, tragically, our plague of guns results from the racist fever dreams of white supremacists willing to kill to achieve a ‘restored’ America.”

Hartmann, never one to mince words in his online political column “The Hartmann Report,” meant an “America of the 1930s, when white men ran the country, Jews kept their heads down, and racial minorities ‘knew their place.’”

Murray State University historian Brian Clardy hopes Hartmann is off base, but fears he’s not. “I shudder to think that there are Americans who are stockpiling weapons because they want to take the lives of people that they don’t feel belong here,” the professor said. “But it seems that evidence is pointing in that direction. I pray to God that I am wrong.”

Seldom is heard a discouraging word from today’s GOP about AR-15 toting, white nationalist militia groups, which even have fans in the party. MAGA militias put Clardy in mind of the Ku Klux Klan, which functioned as the terrorist wing of Southern white supremacist Democrats during Jim Crow times.

The AR-15, the civilian version of the military M-16, has also been the weapon of choice in multiple mass shootings. Yet the GOP’s stock response to the slaughter is “thoughts and prayers.” White Christian nationalists, a big chunk of the Republican base, preach that salvation for the hereafter is more important than doing unto others in the here-and-now.

The AR-15, not the pachyderm, is the real symbol of the Trump cult that has taken over the GOP. Some MAGA Republican members of Congress even sport small AR-15 lapel pins.

Now, Hartmann might seem over-the-top for most Democrats – even a lot of card-carrying “progressives,” the new term for “liberal.” Some left-leaning Dems believe — or want to believe — that anti-MAGAs like Hartmann should take it easy on the MAGA rank-and-filers, claiming that deep down inside they’re really honest, hard-working souls who can be de-MAGAtized with liberal logic and reasoning.

Clardy is doubtful. So, it seems, is Hartmann, who wrote that the MAGA white folks’ gun fetishishism “is really all about race, religion, gender, and power, and a group of people willing to kill others to restore what they see as America’s right for racial and gender hierarchies.”

Cheering on the fetishists is the National Rifle Association, no longer “a benign sportsman’s organization,” wrote Hartmann, who quoted Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz from a 2021 Boston Review article: “I think what the NRA — and [1977 to 1985 NRA executive vice president Harlon] Carter specifically — did was to simply revive something that had waned, because it was for a moment no longer needed. Slave patrols were not needed. The KKK wasn’t needed because the Jim Crow state had taken on that role of racial enforcer. But as that began to break down with civil rights, Carter handed to the descendants of the white settler population this tool for their empowerment, the new NRA.”

Hartmann quoted CNN reporter Bill Weir on Carter: “You go back to, there was a guy named Harlon Carter, who was living on the border in Texas back in the 50s. There was some racial tension with Mexicans nearby, he ended up murdering a 15-year-old boy with a shotgun, was convicted of murder, but then released from jail two years early because the judge didn’t explain to the jury the proper definition of self-defense.

“At that time, Harlon Carter went on to be the head of the NRA. At the time, they pivoted from a club that was for marksmanship into a political wing that gave their first endorsement after 100 years to Ronald Reagan in 1980. Now, that’s 180 million guns ago in this country. The political force of that decision — who took the NRA in a place to fortify for a race war instead of a civic gun safety organization — was a key moment in history.”

The NRA — and the MAGA GOP — hotly deny they’re a bunch of bigots. But both groups pander, non-stop, to white grievance politics rooted in white rejection of an America that’s becoming less white, Clardy said.  “We’re moving into this diverse, multicultural, inclusive society where people from different demographics can celebrate the idea of being an American. Though we have come closer than ever before to the American dream of the beloved community, some whites see themselves as losing to people of other demographics in what to these whites is a zero-sum game. So they’re arming to the teeth.”

Clardy laments the demise of the original Republican Party of “Lincoln and Liberty,” which was founded squarely on anti-slavery principles in the 1850s and the 20th century party that included moderates like Kentucky Sen. John Sherman Cooper, who in the 1960s pleaded with the GOP to reject right-wing extremism.

“My grandfather was a Republican until [President John F.] Kennedy in 1960,” Clardy said. “I voted Republican and was a conservative when I was young.

“But when Trump said to the Proud Boys [militia] in the first debate with Joe Biden ‘stand back and stand by’ that wasn't accidental or a slip of the tongue. I’m sorry to say that the Republican Party has become a racist, radicalized band of brothers.”

Added Clardy: “We need two parties that respect the law, respect elections, respect diversity, and respect human life. But we seem to be approaching the moment when it’s possible that the worst might happen."

He meant armed civil strife and the overthrow of the republic.  

Hartmann is even more pessimistic, concluding that “white supremacist Republicans insist on leaving semiautomatic and assault weapons-of-war in the hands of America's civilians” so they will be armed and ready “to kill their fellow Americans in a real civil war. And even if there is no war, our children are now paying the price for the GOP’s embrace of [Trump’s] hate and bigotry — and the guns that go with it — every single day.”

Should Trumpism lead to civil war, Clardy warned, “the blood will be on the Republicans’ hands because they had a chance to do something about guns, and they did not.”

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Berry Craig

Berry Craig is a professor emeritus of history at West KY Community College, and an author of seven books and co-author of two more. (Read the rest on the Contributors page.)

Arlington, KY



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