This will be my newspaper op/ed for the coming week in my very red congressional district (VA-06).
The NRA and its CEO Wayne LaPierre have been in the news lately for things other than guns: legal troubles concerning financial improprieties. It turns out that Wayne LaPierre, with the complicity of the NRA organization, has been funneling funds given to the organization by its members and donors to support his own amazingly excessive lavish lifestyle.
Like spending $200,000 on suits at a Beverly Hills fashion boutique.
They used money sent to the organization by people reasonably believing they were patriotically supporting American liberty for extravagant personal indulgence.
It’s not like a starving man stealing bread to save his starving family. This was money for fancy suits, for a mansion in Texas, for flying stylists around the country to assure that Mrs. LaPierre was stylishly coiffed, and the like.
It is said that when the clock strikes 13, one questions not only the 13th ring but all those that went before as well.
This news demonstrates that LaPierre – and those throughout the organization who are his accomplices in this – is willing to use and exploit the people he leads.
He tells those people what great danger they’re in, and that he and the NRA provide the way to protect themselves from having their liberties stolen. And then he uses their support to gratify himself in ways that have absolutely nothing to do with dealing with the supposedly urgent needs he’s trumpeted.
Which raises the question: If LaPierre will exploit his followers to gratify his greed, in what other ways might he be using them? In particular: Is there any reason to believe that the guy who’d buy himself extravagant luxury with the money from patriots he’s inspired to follow him wouldn’t also be willing to lie to them to get himself power?
Here’s the scary message LaPierre and the NRA have been putting out for years:
• “They’re coming to take your guns,”
• “Without powerful guns in your hands you cannot remain free.”
It’s a frightening combination. And it’s beautifully suited to making LaPierre and the NRA major power-players in the American political world. Fear is a great motivator, and a great way to hinder the ability of people to think or act rationally. (That’s just how fear works.) Persuading those mobilized by fear that supporting HIM is the way to protect themselves has been LaPierre’s ticket to great power in the American political system.
By selling this message LaPierre and the NRA have gathered a large army of single-issue voters to give them their power. And by wielding the power of this army, and persuading their followers that every measure to protect the public safety will put them on the slippery slope to enslavement, they’ve been able immobilize the nation on the gun issue.
By keeping that issue unresolvable — and thus permanent — they also perpetuate their power.
Which means they have every selfish reason to put out that frightening message. But we’ve already seen – in LaPierre’s betraying the people he leads in order to indulge himself in excess – that a selfish reason is reason enough for LaPierre to exploit his followers. That he would lie to them to get what he wants for himself.
And indeed, we should know that their message is false, because we can see that other decent societies – which have maintained their freedom – have only one-tenth of our rate of gun deaths.
Those examples should indicate that we Americans – negotiating rationally – could arrive at some balanced solution where gun rights and the public safety are both given their due weight, and the American landscape would no longer be the slaughterhouse it has increasingly become.
The clock has struck 13. LaPierre’s betrayal of his followers for his own self-indulgence has shown his sociopathy.
And when we look further into that sociopathic exploitation of the people they lead, we can see how the NRA and its leader have been damaging America:
1) Degrading the life experience of millions of Americans by leading them to live in more fear and rage because of the lies they’ve been sold;
2) Distracting the members of that army of one-issue voters into not noticing that when they vote to support the NRA on guns they are really fortifying the very plutocratic/corporatist force that has been keeping their wages stagnant and that has flooded our politics with money, taking power from the people and turning American democracy into a plutocracy.
3) Assuring that the American bloodbath continues.
4) And deepening the divisions among the American people — part of the “Divide and Conquer” at the heart of the strategy of the plutocracy and its allies in the Republican Party and the NRA.
For the sociopath, it’s “So what?” about what happens to others. “So long as I satisfy my greed and lust for power.”
The clock has struck 13. Throw out that clock.