It’s interesting to consider what the latest right wing craziness tells us about their vision of America. Judging from the recent NRA ad portraying secret service protection for the President’s children as some sort of elitist perk, their idea of a “free” country is one that’s in more or less permanent paramilitary lockdown. The children of America, they believe, should live lives as circumscribed and carefully controlled as the children of prominent figures who are the targets of frequent death threats. No more walking to school without an armed guard, no more taking off for a game of baseball in a nearby park, no more spur of the moment pizzas with friends…
The intent of all this nonsense, however, is even more worrisome, from the NRA ad, to recent right wing denunciations of President Obama having his picture taken with children (even his own) to the bizarre conspiracy theories about the Sandy Hook massacre being a “false flag” and the grieving parents actors.
All of this serves a simple, and very dangerous aim in an environment of gun proliferation and inflammatory rhetoric – the rejection of empathy. The Sandy Hook bystanders and parents seen weeping on TV? Fakes! No need to feel sympathy for them. In fact, they deserve nothing but contempt for engaging in such cynical and cold-blooded performances. In fact (some have even claimed) there’s no reason to feel any grief at all because the children in question weren’t even killed!
The protection of the President’s children isn’t rooted in genuine concern for the children of a man who receives hundreds of death threats. It’s nothing more than the trappings of power, yet another sign that this uppity so-and-so considers himself more important than the average Joe Citizen.
Even when the President is pictured sitting on a sofa with his own children, it could not possibly be because he’s a normal and affectionate father who is proud of his daughters and considers them an important part of his life. It can only be a photo-op intended to boost his agenda, and all the more reason to despise a man so devoid of human feelings he would exploit his own children for political gain.
In short, the aim is dehumanization. Any moment in which opponents or perceived opponents might inspire a sense of fellow feeling must be neutralized. All, ranging from President Obama to survivors whose emotional impact is inconvenient to the gun lobby, must be presumed to be devoid of feelings as the rest of us understand them. Their expressed suffering or concern is of no account because it isn’t real.
This is a form of moral anesthesia. And it’s valid to ask, when it becomes a trend, exactly what people who do this are trying to talk themselves into.