Anyone who saw Glenn Beck’s performance at the NRA convention last week will struggle to describe it in words. On the one hand, the former Fox-contributor was ridiculous, over-emotive, faux-Shakespearean and tended to ramble on from one point to the next rather than focus on the issue he was invited to speak about. On the other hand, he was eminently convincing in his case that firearms and the right of the common man to own them was something above the merely political. It involved, he suggested, one of the naked, pre-political liberties of mankind – the right to defend one’s family, and given that this right precedes politics, he argued, nobody should dare threaten it but that they rightly be called a tyrant.
And with this, I wholeheartedly agree. Beck, however, is a difficult man to agree with. He can embarrass an argument as well as he can express one. And at the NRA convention, Beck provided a lot of unnecessary amateur dramatics. His voice occasionally trembled for decorum and then, just as easily (and artificially) rose with a preacher’s emphasis for applause and confirmation. It’s difficult to keep Beck on track at a live event, but look at his speech in transcript form, and you’ll find much more to engage with.
Beck didn’t mention it explicitly, but the language of ‘civil war’ ran implicitly through his entire speech. His rhetoric about being ready to ‘stand and fight’ hardly needs elaborating upon. Nor does his use of the iconography of soldiers and historic battles. The audience knew what he meant. They whooped and cheered on cue and off, intimating that they understood him, tone and undertone.
It is the undertones which concern me most.
A political tendency is developing in America which, unless some concerted effort is made to arrest it, will bring the prospect of a very damaging civil conflict into view. This tendency is based on a growing doubt that the elected Obama administration is the rightful government of the United States. There are Americans, many of them decent and rational to their bone-marrow, who do not believe that ‘America’ elected Barack Obama, either in 2008 or 2012. They believe that an alien coalition of Mexicans, Africans and Cubans elected him, after he bribed them with their money.
The fact that they’re not entirely wrong doesn’t help us here. Of course the Democrats have engineered immigration policy with the electoral college in mind. Nobody disputes this. But if this belief is followed through to its logical end, we may end up with a catastrophe.
America is not an ordinary country. It is the greatest nation in the Western World. American innovation created and secured the mechanics of democratic capitalism, which itself defeated both Communism and Fascism to ensure that mankind remained free, and that the democratic idea became a global standard. A modern history without America would have seen politics reduced to a question of allegiance between Berlin or Moscow. A choice (if it is one) from hell.
Given this indispensability, everyone the world over has a right to be concerned about America’s internal affairs. With Islamism lapping at European shores and autocratic Russian and Chinese states rising to ever greater economic might, the need for a stable, united, and confident America is increasing.
And yet it is at this point in history that America risks falling to pieces. One cannot now bet safely against a major civil implosion in certain American states. The most likely catalyst for the beginning of a Second American Civil War would (let’s not say ‘will’ just yet), probably be the next election. If the republicans fail to win in 2016, then that really is it for the party of Reagan. After this, people may start looking for primordial, pre-political solutions.
And in case you don’t know what that entails, I refer you back to Mr Beck’s speech.