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Our Worst Instincts

gun.gifSome people say the tobacco lobby is the most evil group in Washington.

Others disagree, and point to the insurance-industry lobby (Sicko makes a good case therefor). Still others point to the oil industry.

But there’s one group of lobbyists that may be the most evil of them all.

You see, while the other lobbyists are trying to use feel-good methods to sell you on their expensive, addictive polluting or otherwise-deadly, and/or actively lobbying to keep viable alternatives from being put into common use, there is one industry lobby that, more than just about any other I can think of, does two evil things at once. It preys on people on the lower rungs of the economic ladder and, instead of helping them to fight their real enemies, plays to their worst instincts — fear and paranoid insecurity in general, and racism in particular — in order to set them against each other for fun and profit.

I speak, of course, of the gun lobby.

As we all know, the financial condition for most Americans really hasn’t improved that much, if at all, over the past few decades; real wages peaked in the early 1970s and have, aside from the respite of the Clinton years, been going down ever since. Our parents may not have had laptops, but they had savings accounts, and they didn’t generally have much in the way of personal debt — and they were able to send us to college on one or two incomes. That’s led to a disconnect between the shiny happy lifestyles the TV shows us and the not-so-shiny reality. It’s also led to people asking “Who screwed us and why?”

The NRA and its friends in the “militia movement” are into the same stock-in-trade: Fear. Their target audience: Those people, generally disenfranchised white males with at most a high-school education and middling to piddling income, who suspect they’re being screwed but either have no clue who’s screwing them — or who know but don’t have the guts to fight the real enemy. The NRA and its allies push fear in general, and fear of non-whites in particular, to these white males, telling them that blacks/liberals/Jews/women/unions/etc. (but never ever ever corrupt corporations or businesses) are the cause of the white guys’ problem (and that the problem is crime, not the hyper-rich bleeding everyone below them) — then promptly sell themselves as the solution.

But even the two-pronged sales pitch of evil can’t always win out. A growing majority of Americans is now on the opposite side of the NRA on every important issue. It’s getting harder and harder for the gun lobby to pretend that they speak for all Americans. About time, too.

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