Don’t Shoot — Organize!

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A gun-rights activist carries his rifle during a "National Day of Resistance" rally in Salt Lake City, Utah on Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

We were struck this week by one response to our broadcast last week on gun violence and the Newtown school killings. A visitor to the website wrote, “It is interesting to me that Bill Moyers, who every week describes the massive levels of corruption in our government… [and] the advocates for gun control don’t understand that we who own guns in part own them to be sure that when our government becomes so corrupt we have guns to do something about it.”

About the same time that man’s post showed up on the web, we saw the startling survey from Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind polling organization, the one finding that nearly three in ten registered voters agree with the statement: “In the next few years, an armed revolution might be necessary in order to protect our liberties.” Three out of ten! That includes 44 percent of Republicans, 27 percent of independents and 18 percent of Democrats.

That poll also noted that a quarter of Americans think that facts about the Newtown shootings “are being hidden,” and an additional 11 percent “are unsure.” As Sahil Kapur wrote at Talking Points Memo:

“The eye-opening findings serve as a reminder that Americans’ deeply held beliefs about gun rights have a tendency to cross over into outright conspiracy theories about a nefarious government seeking to trample their constitutional rights — paranoia that pro-gun groups like the National Rifle Association have at times helped stoke.”

Paranoia and just plain meanness. On May 8, Christina Wilkie reported in The Huffington Post that Connecticut Carry, a pro-gun lobbying group, had issued a press release detailing the arrest record and financial difficulties of Neil Heslin, father of one of the children murdered at Newtown’s Sandy Hook Elementary School. Connecticut Carry accused him of “profiting off of the tragedy.” Their release read, in part, “Mr. Heslin has found the employment he has needed for so long lobbying against the rights of the citizens of Connecticut and the rest of the country,” and the group implied that Heslin had received payment from Mike Bloomberg’s Mayors Against Illegal Guns, which adamantly denies anything of the sort. Similar smears have been attempted against other Newtown parents.

There is an alternative to force, blood, and suffering. It’s called democracy.

This hate in our country — egged on by fervid ideologues and profiteering fearmongers — is palpable, stirred by years of irresponsible invective against public officials and agencies. Gun sales are going through the roof. In a sense, so much anger and so much disillusionment are understandable in a country where the gap between rich and poor is so vast that an environment is created in which brooding resentment is easily hatched. Sure, there is corruption in government and business — crony capitalism is the offspring of it — and when the public sees plutocrats who regard politicians as the hired help, and Washington as the feeding trough, it’s natural to fear that we are becoming vassals; subjects rather than citizens.

But a violent uprising, with all the bloodshed and chaos that would follow? Armed revolt is when people are so desperate they kill and are killed. Who would wash the blood from the streets, restore order after the chaos and bury the dead? Have we lost our minds?

There is an alternative to force, blood, and suffering. It’s called democracy. Yes, there is plenty of injustice, greed and sheer wickedness. But don’t mourn the fact — organize. Stop wringing your hands and berating real and imaginary foes. Join up with others, stand up to the exploiters, throw the rascals out. If Congress and the White House are crooked and out of touch, come Election Day, you make sure they lose. And on all the other days, when you can, you work for change and demand a say.

It’s not easy, but slow, hard and demanding – it takes long and patient activism to make democracy work. But with committed people organized and united toward common goals of social justice and accountability, victories are possible. Drop your weapons and celebrate that we live in a country where peaceful change is still possible. Make democracy work.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Whitney-Peckman/1091123177 Whitney Peckman

    I don’t think this addresses the basic problem of the severe divide between ideologues, and the intense commitment they already have to destroying the other side. They seem to have lost the understanding of democracy, and to have, perhaps, never known the meaning of “compromise”.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001079276427 Easkey Stewart

    +
    I question the “Peaceful Change”
    How is it the Opposition are dedicated to the Majority failing?
    +

  • http://www.facebook.com/stewart.darrah Stewart Darrah

    I have said since the Oklahoma City bombing, that if you really want to terrorize the politicians of the country, vote. Just imagine what a turn out of 95% or more of all eligible voters would do to our national politics.

  • JB

    The first thing we need to do is reduce the big money of politics. Our gov. is bought and paid for. There needs to be true limits on how much a candidate can spend, and it needs to be a lot lower than it is right now. A candidate can only spend X amount and no more. The same on both sides. Any money donated over and above that limit will be given to charity, or some kind of research, finding the cure for cancer, or ending poverty in this country, instead of making some rich bastard richer and getting his way about everything. It’s all about the all mighty dollar! If they can’t spend it paying someone off, maybe it would do some good. Put limits in place and enforce them with jail time for violators
    .

  • Anonymous

    ‘Yeah but Bill, the Democratic process means years of diligence, organizing, education and hard work with occasional setbacks, when you know, just having this gun is easy’. The lottery mentality applied to preserving our freedoms. Wonderful.

  • Gail Lehmann

    Our model is MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving). They have been advocating for 20 years and have cut drunk driving deaths in HALF. If we can do the same, it will be worth the long road ahead. The tipping point is behind us and we see the future ahead that our children will be safer.

  • Anonymous

    There are no rights without responsibilities, and democracies demand only one thing of their citizens: VOTE!

    Almost half of all citizens in most of the Western democracies don’t bother to vote. You think that doesn’t send a message to politicians that we aren’t interested in how they govern?

    The joke used to be: “Don’t vote, it only encourages them.” But what not voting encourages is political corruption — which we have in spades.

  • lightingonads

    Thank-you Mr. Moyers for another optimistic yet sobering post about the democratic process in America. One has to wonder though just when does a democracy evolve into something completely different? Does there ever come a time when an activist becomes a co-dependent an enabler of the status quo? Some would suggest that the corporate National Security State has destroyed or purchased the democratic process all ready. I tend to be negative at times. Thank-you once again for the good work you do.

  • http://www.facebook.com/richard.zdeb Richard Zdeb

    Excuse me Gail, But I worked effortlessly back before MADD existed to increase the Alcohol & Tobacco Tax producing the taxable 3 system you see on your cash register receipt. The separate tax increased the cost of a beer in the bar. Part of the NEW Tax went to fund signage all over the country stating in my state of Illinois. I even designed some of my alcohol awareness signs with the red circle slash with swerve lines of a car and a bottle on its side with the statement, “THIS TOWN ARRESTS DRUNK DRIVERS”. This was funded from the sale of alcohol to the department of transportation to install the signs on highways and roads & at the entrance of any town that had one Bar in it. 1981, I received a Letter of Commendation from the Illinois House of Representatives. A year after the signs were put up alcohol related car accidents dropped 30% & Georgia adopted the plan ton add signs every 10 miles on highways stating “YOU DRINK, YOU GO TO JAIL” 10 states followed my plan to do the same.
    These signs have advanced to the electric signs above highways to aware drivers of road conditions ahead, but still flash, “Stay Alive Don’t Drink & Drive!”
    Now all I have seen MADD do is take money from people and promote a breath test ignition system on cars that someone else invented. So what did they do with all the money except promote themselves by sending out mailings to everyone for more money for WHAT? I did a hell of a lot more for the LOVE of my brother who died in a car accident in 1976 form a Drunk driver then what MADD has done, and for FREE out of love to bring reason to my brothers senseless death. But the title “MADD” is a promotion to a cause that I respect as anything else that serves to bring awareness to drunk driving even in the form of a piece of mail from Irving Texas asking for money.

  • Henry B Murphy Jr

    I am a HUGE fan of Bill’s. I write my town, county, state and federal representatives about once a quarter or so. I attend and speak at town and county meetings a few times a year. I appear in the local letter to the editor page a few times a year. If we would all vote and all speak up, as I do with little effort, which is what Bill encourages, our problems would be absolutely minimized. Getting the vote is generally the politician’s goal. We can, thank goodness, skip the armed rebellion.

    I do disagree, though, with Bill’s anti-gun obsession and his desire to prevent us all from armed rebellion and self-defense. It seems to me as false a path as all the anti-drug legislation. You will not be able to get rid of guns. What’s needed, irrespective of the number of guns around, is a whole cultural shift, especially in television, movies, and video games but also in schools and our militarized police and our campaigns of terror abroad. And also in basic dignity for all young men, whereby any man who shows up at the town job site in the morning gets a hard day’s work and a fair day’s pay. A cultural shift, unlike gun control, is achievable and desirable and would have the result we all want: a safe, secure, civilized society. I lived in Switzerland, where the men are all armed but the country has a culture of civilization and nonviolence and the murder and suicide rates are less than 1/400th of those in the US. It’s the culture. And we can change it.

    I know the First Amendment fanatics will excoriate me for this. Being a Second Amendment fanatic, I can empathize to some degree. But I still stick with the wise Thomas Jefferson who said, “When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty.”

  • http://twitter.com/citizenbfk citizenbfk

    Yea…I heard this before; in fact, use to say it myself: “Let all work hard at democracy.” — But believing that now would be like a sucker sitting at a poker table thinking he can win against a stacked deck and card-shark cheats. The rules of the game need to be changed, I now think: Winner take all shares some of the blame in eliminating alternative opinions and less well-financed campaigns. Some methods of Alternative Voting need to be tried allowing a proportionate share of votes — Although don’t expect miracles to result; the most greedy, ruthless and power-hunger will still seek to dominate…in fact we might be most better off with a lottery system or how folks are called up for jury duty. Meanwhile, btw, once every two years I take a couple of hours off and vote; a couple of hours every two years is not too much to do and at least it keeps the idea alive.

  • Yankee Flyer

    Thank you, Messrs. Moyers & Winship. Very well-stated!

  • http://www.facebook.com/david.rittenour.543 David Rittenour

    Very good article. To be perfectly honest however, I’m almost torn on this.

    On the one hand, most of these people are paranoid gun nuts who’d be better off properly educating themselves on the issues (i.e. stop watching FOX) and actually write their members of congress etc. etc. That’s what petitions used to be for you know.

    At the same time, I can’t help but feel on some level that maybe they’re right. It’s not the kind of tyranny you’d see in a 3rd world nation, but the corruption and the widening gap between the Rich & the rest of us, as well as the constant misdirection by the media and politicians (let’s not kid ourselves, it’s absolutely a concerted effort on their part to keep the public scared, poor and stupid) is enough to make a person want to revolt.

    Ultimately, it likely would be futile given the resources of the U.S. Govt. (Tanks and whatnot) but I think just the symbolism of such a revolt might be enough to scare the SOBs into proper action. Trump, The Koch Brothers, Glenn Beck… all these jack offs should be in jail or have their heads on pikes as far as I’m concerned.

    Every last member of congress ought to be dragged out onto the street and shot for treason – I can think of no description more fitting for the selfish indulgence these pricks have engaged in over the last few decades.

    Now again, I want make to clear these are just my own personal feelings on the matter – I’m not actually calling for any sort of real violence. But damned if isn’t entirely warranted. Even Obama, whom I’ve supported from the beginning, has managed to utterly disgust me with his recent caving in on the STOCK Act. Didn’t even try to veto it after Congress gutted the bill. I’m sorry Mr. President, but you sir truly are a spineless tool, and with some of the horror stories that are starting to leak out from the military and other sources, dare say even worse than Bush in some ways.

    SOMETHING needs to change, and soon. A good start would be for more people to actually tune in to shows like this one, stop listening to the garbage that the big media corporations try to distract or mislead with, and take real honest political action. It’s a travesty that in a country of over 300 million people less than half vote every 4 years in the Federal Elections.

  • Anonymous

    But the whiskey rebellion and Shay’s rebellion were revolts against economic royalists. Shay’s Rebellion was against foreclosures brought on by corrupt financial conspiracies that resulted in a credit squeeze. Sound familiar?
    Shay’s rebellion was ruthlessly suppressed by a mercenary army put hired by Boston bankers.
    Using the suppression of these rebellions as an argument for gun control rather boggles my mind.

  • wh314

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    It saddens me to hear once again that
    many people seem not to know of any other way to change our
    Government than armed revolt. I hope a way can be found to convince
    people being proactive by preventing Politicians from creating a
    disaster is better than dealing with the aftermath, convincing them
    there’s truth in the old saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a
    pound of cure”. Convincing people they need to take action now to
    avoid an upcoming disaster that has not yet happened has proven to be
    difficult at best. My last attempt at proactive activism which ended
    in failure, is now the largest Municipal bankruptcy in U.S. History,
    Jefferson county Alabama. As hard as we tried we could not convince
    the people to vote some of the most corrupt Politicians in history
    out of office. Now the rest is history, the county is bankrupt, the
    Politicians are in prison, and the ones of us who opposed them are
    out of prison with our lives destroyed thanks to the Federal
    Government, most people here still do not seem to understand how it
    happened. If someone could only find a way…

  • Scott Tramposch

    If it were not for you, Bill, and just a few others, I would have given up hope long ago that it is possible for people to hear any significant truth in the media. As long as there are those like you who are brave enough to roar at the ocean, we will only need arms to defend your right to roar.

  • Roger Swain

    One of your episodes some months ago was about the demise of The Glass-Steagall Act. Which as I remember, was signed into law in 1998 or 1999 along with the greed of congress and the president, lead to the boom and bust of 2008=/-. Where can I turn to to recover the $35,000 I lost when I sold the house? None of the culprits went to jail. None lost their pensions. None in fact got any punishment for the pain and suffering they perpetrated. Can I trust politicians? Can I trust you? No I can’t.

  • NotARedneck

    I agree. MADD is a self serving group that mainly promotes the welfare of its insiders. It is one of the prime examples of what is wrong with charities today.

  • Fireboss

    Had I been born in 1920, I would not have been willing to accept a compromise that resulted in a “Final Solution” to the “Jewish Problem” that resulted in the deaths of “only” three million, instead of the twelve million who actually died in the Holocaust.
    That which is wrong must be opposed until those who embrace wrong cease and desist.

    My right to defend myself and my family is absolute, unlimited, and incontrovertible. This right naturally inheres in me (and in every human being) and is not a function of any aspect or action of any government.
    It happens that there is a government, called the “Federal Government of the United States of America,” which government has issued documents that recognize certain of my rights—including the aforementioned right of defense.
    The notion that the Federal Government of the United States of America can cancel my right of defense, or any other right that I possess, is as ludicrous as suggesting that it can cancel arbitrarily my right to possess ten fingers, or my right to chew and swallow my food, or my right to breath.