By Dave Oedel
President Barack Obama undoubtedly won’t be listening to god-loving, gun-gripping, border-conscious, bee-keeping Middle Georgians for advice on what to do about Iranian nukes. After all, the president hasn’t bothered to visit us clingers in Middle Georgia, whether as a candidate or as president. Too bad for him, and our nation.
You may recall seven years ago this month when candidate Obama said that people in job-hungry small towns in middle America “get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”
Although President Obama was condescending in his comments, he wasn’t too far off the mark in some ways. Unfortunately, the president after seven years still doesn’t seem to understand the perspectives that he sensed are out here beyond the Beltway.
Let’s start with God. When Americans “cling” to God in the political context, it means that, however any one American understands God, Americans in general understand their rights not to come from government, but from a more profound authority.
It’s not a new concept. This basic point was recognized in the Declaration of Independence, which asserts that Americans are “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,” among them being “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” And it comes from the Constitution, which in the Bill of Rights declares that unenumerated rights are “reserved” to the people and their states. Such rights must logically have been viewed as preceding the Constitution, and emanating from another source than the Constitution itself. That same instinct still holds sway in Middle Georgia and Middle America.
One of our specifically enumerated constitutional rights is the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. That helps clarify why Barack Obama was right as a candidate to observe that small-town Americans (and he might have added many big-city Americans too) grip tightly to guns. Their intensity is less about sport shooting protocol than a collective expression of personal integrity — of liberty to protect ourselves from criminals, and join together in mutual service to the overarching causes of the militias that led the battles against tyrannous government during the Revolutionary War.
If you will take a leap of analogy with me, consider how Iran’s claim to be armed with nuclear capabilities has some affinities with many average Americans’ insistence on the right to be armed. Iran’s desire for nuclear capabilities is hardly an issue of energy, as Iran has plenty of oil. Rather, it’s a statement of national integrity on a world stage where Iran feels marginalized through sanctions and suspicions.
Iran wants to be counted and respected. To that extent, Iran’s interest in having nuclear capabilities, and garnering international credibility, is understandable. However, the analogy to the roots of the Second Amendment doesn’t end there.
Consider another feature of how the Second Amendment has unanimously been interpreted in the United States. Even the National Rifle Association agrees that there’s a limit to the right to keep and bear arms. Only individuals who mean no arbitrary malevolence to others should be permitted to have guns. If an individual seeking to obtain a weapon indicates that he wishes to cause willful and wanton mayhem with it, we all agree that such an individual lacks sufficient appreciation for the fact that liberty does not mean the liberty to play God, and kill at will.
From this perspective, Iran’s bid to enhance its nuclear capability is disturbing. Iranian Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Naqdi recently stated that “erasing Israel off the map” is “nonnegotiable.” Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei declared, in synch with a crowd’s chant, “[O]f course yes, death to America.” Those statements were made precisely when U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was finalizing the framework for a deal with Iran.
Then, after a sort of framework was agreed upon, in the context of more Iranian crowd chants of “Death to America,” Ayatollah Khamenei on April 9 called American intentions “devilish,” and otherwise taunted President Obama and the United States. Meanwhile, an Iranian official said that blanket restrictions on possible military uses of Iran’s nuclear capabilities were not acceptable.
You simply don’t deliver weaponry to anyone who expressly intends to use that weaponry to kill you because they see you as the devil incarnate. That would be as crazy as Gabby Giffords handing Jared Loughner a loaded semi-automatic Glock.
President Obama appears too willing to overlook the prospects of being stung. On April 6, 2015, while President Obama read Maurice Sendak’s “Where the Wild Things Are” to schoolchildren at the White House, bees began to attack the children. The president pooh-poohed the threatening bees, but the children were having none of it, and ran away wailing. As a middle Georgia beekeeper myself, I can attest that bee stings are no fairy tale.
When wild things like Iran and North Korea demand nukes, the time has come to send those wild things to their rooms until they’re ready to play in civilized company. Short of a miraculous transformation in the Iranian situation by June 30, the Senate should step in as the grown-ups to scuttle any deal that would enable and endorse the leading Iranians on their nihilistic, hate-laden quest for greater nuclear capabilities in the service of their brand of Islamic dominion.