I don’t know what’s more upsetting about the NRA’s latest Web video: the reckless content, or unoriginal execution.
Barley two month’s after putting the genre to bed following the November elections– for what I’d hoped would be a three-year nap– our airwaves are being contaminated with yet another divisive political attack ad. And while the message is new, the style is anything but.
Allow me to count the ways…
1. Second-rate horror-flick soundtrack?
2. Ominous male voice over?
3. Waving American flag-as-prop?
4. Coded language engineered to establish an us or them paradigm?
5. Polarizing opening question?
Well… if you consider a humdinger like: “ARE THE PRESIDENT’S KIDS MORE IMPORTANT THAN YOURS?” provocative… Hellz yeah!
A week after the mass shooting in Newton, Connecticut that left gun-control advocates demanding stiffer regulations of firearms, the NRA’s chief executive and vice president, Wayne LaPierre, held a press conference to call for the end of “gun-free zones” around school buildings as a means of enhancing security; arguing that “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” But when asked for his response to LaPierre’s statement during an appearance on “Meet the Press” last weekend, President Obama expressed reservations about putting more guns in schools nationwide, saying “I think the vast majority of the American people are skeptical that that somehow is going to solve our problem.“
And this, apparently, is what triggered the NRA’s rapid response.
Within days, a Web site called N.R.A. Stand and Fight released a video calling the President an “elitist” and a “snob” for his opposition to posting armed guards at schools, while Malia, 14, and Sasha, 11, (whose faces were not shown in the video) benefit from Secret Service protection at their school.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney swiftly denounced the ad as “repugnant” and “cowardly,” adding “Most Americans agree that the president’s children should not be used as pawns in a political fight.”
As I watch the battle over gun rights escalate, I can’t help wondering what those on the far right and far left hope to accomplish. After all, reconciliation cannot possibly be the goal when mud-slinging, stereotyping and a staunch refusal to acknowledge any opposing points of view, no matter how reasonable, takes the place of listening and rational dialogue.
When gun control advocates, for example, refute the logic that the abuse of alcohol, automobiles and artery-clogging foods contribute to more deaths in this country than random school shootings– why would a responsible gun holder engage them in a serious discussion? Likewise, when the premier firearms education organization publishes a video that suggests parity between the average American child attending their local public school with that of two little girls whose father is a head of state, questions whether Barack Obama believes his children are “more important than yours” and mixes imagery of young children, school buildings and weaponry in a 30 second ad– as the wounds of Newton are still wide open– it’s counter-productive, and only serves to reinforce stereotypes of NRA members being big dummies clinging to their little guns.
Though the NRA claims an uptick in membership in the last month, I’d be curious to know how many members have withdrawn their support in that same time frame. One would think LaPierre might have learned a thing or two about temperance after his broadside against Federal agents in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing caused former president George H. W. Bush to resign his lifetime membership in 1995– stating that his “sense of decency and honor” were deeply offended– but one would be wrong.
To be clear, while I have never owned a firearm and possess enough self-knowledge to freely admit that my Cowardly Lion temperament coupled with gun ownership could only end in disaster– I am in the middle of the road on the gun debate. Having grown up in a leafy suburb of Manhattan under the vigilance of two highly protective parents, I never feared for my safety or witnessed violence first-hand. For the most part, my wide circle friends and family share this outlook on life and remain gun-free today. But it would be naive and arrogant for any of us to judge a gun owner when their decision to bear arms might, in fact, be a mark of intelligence based upon their life experience.
Perhaps if I lived in a little house on an isolated prairie– instead of proximate to 50 well-meaning neighbors within shouting distance– I’d be packing heat too. If I’d ever been mugged, or raped or physically abused in any way, I’d more likely than not have a very different viewpoint on how to best to safeguard my life. And if I had children who needed protection that I felt could only come from me, I might not be inclined to rely on the benevolence of the universe as a back-up plan.
That said, I think I speak for a lot of people like me when I say that what scares us more than a firearm, is a firearm in the hands of someone who is emotionally unstable. Someone who is quick to anger. Someone who is aggressive. Someone who has poor judgement. Someone who regards the world as a hostile environment populated by us and them. We fear people who feel desperate, marginalized and weak. And we fear anyone who has concluded that owning a gun can cure any of these ills.
To put it mildly, ads like the one released by the NRA only serve spark an already charged atmosphere– dooming us all to even more heated rhetoric from all sides.
But I’d like to believe that the vast majority of NRA members feel the same way. In which case, can we talk?
…because I am all ears.