More Second Amendment martyrs to Republican greed…

There is no sugar-coating for the horrors visited on America by Americans. The school shooting in Uvalde, Texas is another example of the rot within our nation’s soul that has been festering for decades. When Ronald Reagan spoke of Russia as an evil empire in a wide-ranging speech that included much of the Republican rhetoric on issues such as the arms race, abortion, the role of religion in politics, and American freedoms, he quoted C.S. Lewis’ observation about the purveyors of evil in the world:

“The greatest evil is not done now in those sordid ‘dens of crime’ that Dickens loved to paint. It is not even done in concentration camps and labor camps. In those we see its final result. But it is conceived and ordered (moved, seconded, carried and minuted) in clear, carpeted, warmed, and well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voice.

— C.S. Lewis, Preface to The Screwtape Letters (1942)

Lewis was writing satirically, and the Reagan speechwriter (Anthony Dolan is credited with composing the speech) took this quote from the novel’s preface. Ostensibly, the novel is a satiric screed about corruption and the diabolical efforts of those who would undermine good in the pursuit of evil. Dolan chose his words carefully but left out Lewis’ following line:

“Hence, naturally enough, my symbol for Hell is something like the bureaucracy of a police state or the offices of a thoroughly nasty business con­cern.”

— a hell that was at the core of Republican thought during those times and continues unabated today. Reagan was referring to the cold, dissociative calculations made by Kremlin leadership under Mikhail Gorbachev and his predecessors — the quiet men with white collars. The American president was claiming the moral high ground as he labeled the Soviets an “evil empire.”

Forty years later, the Republican party has assumed the role of the enemy within, whose policies and agenda have undermined and corrupted the guiding principles of democracy in ways that the Soviet-era bureaucracies had never dreamed. Reagan’s wide ranging speech was delivered before the National Association of Evangelicals and is heavily larded with gratuitous religious references that suggested a theocratic basis for our political differences with the Soviets. When he demanded “Mr. Gorbachev tear down this wall” near the end of his tenure in office, Reagan laid claim to ending the cold war when the former Soviet satellites were freed from the dissolution of the empire.

Fair-minded readers can agree to disagree about how long the Republican Party has waged a low-grade war on our freedoms. It certainly gained prominence under Reagan and his Director of Communications, Pat Buchanan. The messaging was clear and persistent — government was not the solution, but the problem. Buchanan was an oldline conservative and isolationist — whose brand included opposition to most of the social gains made under Democratic governance from the New Deal era to LBJ. Reagan, a former New Dealer, found religion in the power of white nationalism and red-baiting, tapping into the greed and fearmongering that has become the main element in the Republican political canon. He was a racist with a smile, a fascist with a clever quip.

So, it is no wonder that in his inaugural address in January 2017, Donald Trump made the theme of his address American carnage. Too dumb to realize that the words were actually written for him by the two “Stephens”, Bannon and Miller — one a practicing fascist, the other a pronounced white nationalist, Trump implied that he alone was its author. In truth, the address was written long ago with the pens of slavemasters, lynch mobs and white supremacists who stoked fear and violence to protect their interests since the beginning of our nation. The carnage Trump noted was real but misappropriated. The carnage has been perpetrated on the poor, blacks, and immigrants. The carnage that Republicans today use as foils to hone their message and hide their intent, is of their own creation, to further their own purposes, at the expense of the very “American values” they have kicked to the curb.

Uvalde, like Sandy Hook and so many of the school massacres we tolerate, is a victim of Republican greed and sick obsession with guns. The NRA is complicit, but Republican officeholders are the architects of the grief suffered in the towns and villages across our nation. It is sadly understandable that so many of the sites for gun violence are public schools. After all, the conservative agenda had declared war on schools ever since the Supreme Court ordered them integrated. Education is a great leveler and free public education for the “underclasses” as well as elites has been a font of opportunity. The availability of advantages that schools afford our young is what racists fear most. In public schools, children have equal access to the rights of citizenship and the social and economic opportunities a good education provides. And so, schools are often the soft targets for conservative bile. They demand control of the curriculum, ban books, and withhold funding because an educated and literate populace scares them.

The fear is real, but its source is bogus. Republicans need only look into the mirror to see the source of pain and grief in Uvalde and Buffalo. The targets of the hate have long been in their sites as they protect the weapons of devastation from common sense oversight. The black community who shopped at Tops Friendly Market and the fourth-grade innocents whose right to life was deemed collateral damage to gun owners’ right to own AR 15’s are victims of an evil empire of our own making — carnage as predictable as Senate Republicans’ veto. They are the quiet men without conscience, with white collars, cut fingernails, and bloodied hands.

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