Intimidation is intimidation

TRAVERSE CITY — COVID-19 has the floor right now. But it is not the only virus galloping across America.

Guns are a virus.

Hatred is a virus.

Intolerance is a virus.

Racism is a virus.

Sexism and sexual abuse is a virus.

White nationalism is a virus.

“Me first” is a virus.

“I got mine” and “we got ours” is a big, nasty virus.

America is awash in viruses — contagions that seem to spread on the wind — more than I’ve ever seen at once in my lifetime.

A good “for instance” are the men who several times now have stalked the halls of the state Capital in Lansing brandishing heavy weaponry. They will tell you, very loudly, that they are striking a blow for freedom. But they aren’t.

They’re striking a blow for their twisted version of freedom where might is right. That’s not democracy, that’s hooliganism. Ask these men what they would think if armed Democrats stood in the balcony of the Capital and demanded, say, health care for all from Republicans.

Would that be democracy? What if African-Americans took up arms and surrounded the Capital? Or Hispanic Americans? Or LGBTQ citizens? Or women? Or environmentalists?

Conservatives, I’ve noticed, are quick to dissemble when asked questions like that, saying “OK, maybe the protesters were a little over the top, but they were making a point.”

Oh, really? And what would that point be — that if I don’t agree with a rule or law that elected officials enact I can change it at the point of a gun? That it’s perfectly all right to create Facebook pages where people declare all the colorful ways they’d like to assassinate the governor? (How that’s even legal is beyond me. Thank you, Facebook, for giving these people a nice, colorful online home. With emoticons!)

They also like to say that other people doing what they’re doing would be, you know, ahem, harrumph, well, that would be, y’know, different.

Yeah? How? Intimidation is intimidation, and that’s the sole purpose of bringing guns into the Capital or, for that matter, carrying them in public. Are we to believe that the Founding Fathers intended the Second Amendment to mean power goes to he who carries the biggest weapons? I don’t think so.

If responsible gun owners and organizations rose up along with the rest of us and said, “Enough is enough, using guns to scare, bully and intimidate public officials or anyone else is wrong,” this would end.

But they haven’t and aren’t likely to.

Another good “for instance” is Ahmaud Arbery, the young man in Georgia who was allegedly stalked and murdered for jogging while black.

His killers weren’t arrested for two months after the attack. Two months. Imagine how betrayed you would feel if that happened to someone you love and the authorities just shrugged and said, “Well, gosh, his killers said he might have broken into homes, and that’s good enough for us.”

There’s nothing right about that. No way to explain it away. These men hunted and killed Arbery because he was black and he dared to fight back.

It’s a clear sign that the virus of hatred is spreading through society, with no vaccine or wonder drug in sight.

Welcome to modern America.

— — —

Andrew Heller, an award-winning newspaper columnist, appears weekly in the Daily Press. He graduated from Escanaba Area High School in 1979. Follow him at andrewheller.com and on Facebook and Twitter. Write to him at andrewhellercolumn@gmail.com.


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