Guns and poses
"Conservative" BS about the Second Amendment is just for show. It's too stupid to be real.
Poor education abets “conservative” BS about the Second Amendment
As I’ve been saying for years, there is no stupidity too ignorant and arrogant for Republicans. They will say and do anything to get what they want and then try to justify it later. It’s hard to see why the term “Scum America” does not apply to the vast majority of those who consider themselves Republicans.
No stupidity is more deadly than the Second Amendment stupidity Republicans and their allies in the gun industry have promulgated to ignorant and mean-spirited Republicans for decades. They just love the tough-guy poses of slack-jawed idiots toting AR-15s.
They only get away with it because of the pathetic state of education in America—and the pride that Republicans take in not being educated.
In the case of the Second Amendment, the ignorance comes from the twin facts (1) that almost no one in this country—including Supreme Court Justices—has the education to read Latin anymore or know English grammar and (2) almost no one in this country has the education to understand basic logical principles.
None of the “conservative” BS surrounding the Second Amendment could survive for one minute if Americans learned grammar and logic in school. For that matter, “conservatism” itself would have long ago sunk into the La Brea tar pits of history if we had decent liberal education in America.
Let me explain how Latin and logic demolish “conservative” BS.
Ignorance of grammar
Let’s start with the grammar. Here is the Second Amendment for reference:
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
Anyone who knows Latin, as all the Framers did, recognizes this grammatical construction instantly. It is total BS to claim that the prefatory subordinate clause is somehow confusing, difficult to construe, or badly formed. It is simply an imitation of the Latin ablative absolute construction—something very common in the colonial period, and indeed in any period in which educated people read Latin.
(Greek has absolute constructions as well, but it was not so universally taught as Latin in colonial times.)
What is more important than the Latin origins is that absolute clauses used to be recognized in English grammar as well. They were called nominative absolutes because English uses the subjective case to express them instead of a more oblique case.
So the subordinate clause is not a dangling participle or a malformed modifier or any other poor excuse for the ignorance of experts concerning Latin and English grammar.
Absolute clauses are used in a number of different ways, but I won’t go down that rabbit hole now. What’s important here is that the absolute clause in the Second Amendment is a purpose clause, which itself is a kind of causal clause, since a purpose is a cause arising from the intention of a sentient being.
Even the Supreme Court in the monumentally stupid “conservative” majority opinion of District of Columbia et. al. v. Heller (written by Antonin Scalia in order to create the individual right to gun possession that “conservatives” demanded) had to admit that it was a purpose clause. Here is what Heller says about the text:
The Second Amendment is naturally divided into two parts: its prefatory clause and its operative clause (p. 3).
The grammatical terms for these two clauses are not “prefatory clause” and “operative clause.” They are “subordinate clause” and “main clause.”
Now comes the admission that the opening subordinate clause is a purpose clause:
The former [clause] does not limit the latter grammatically, but rather announces a purpose (p. 3).
This is utterly nonsensical. The entire function of a subordinate clause, whether it is a purpose clause or some other kind of clause, is to “limit”—or, again, to use the grammatical term, “modify”—the main clause to which it is attached.
The pages that follow this moronic denial of grammatical reality are devoted to trying to prove that purpose clauses do not necessarily have a significant effect on the main clauses they modify.
This self-contradiction—that we are dealing with a modifying clause that does not actually modify—is the key piece of illogical BS on which Scalia builds the rest of his argument. He could not have gotten away with this if he had used the grammatical term “modify” instead of the weasel term “limit.”
Grammatically, it is simply indubitable that the purpose clause modifies the main clause. In this case, it modifies it by adding the reason for stating the main clause in the first place.
Let me show how this works with two simpler examples.
Take this sentence: “The flowers cannot grow.” It is a well formed, if not very explanatory, sentence.
Now let’s add an absolute subordinate clause expressing cause: “Rain being sparse during this season, the flowers cannot grow.”
Quite obviously, the subordinate clause here modifies the main clause significantly. By itself, the main clause provides only a fact. The absolute clause adds the cause of the statement in the main clause. Thus, the subordinate clause adds important information that is not available in the main clause.
That was an example of an absolute clause that is causal in nature. Now let’s look at an example of an absolute clause expressing purpose, which, as I said, is a subcategory of causal clauses.
Take this sentence: “Drivers must obey traffic signals.” Again, this is a well formed sentence. It imposes a duty. That is all.
Now let’s add an absolute subordinate clause expressing purpose: “Safety on the road being of primary concern, drivers must obey traffic signals.” Again the subordinate clause significantly modifies the main clause. We now understand that the command is enjoined on drivers for a legitimate purpose, namely, so that we can all get where we are going safely.
Note here that the subordinate clause is more important than the main clause—so much so, in fact, that the injunction of the main clause doesn't even make any sense unless the purpose of the subordinate clause exists. If traffic safety were not a primary concern, if we didn't care whether people killed others by driving recklessly, than it would make no sense to say "Drivers must obey traffic signals." Indeed, it's hard to see why traffic signals would even exist. The subordinate clause supplies the reason for stating the main clause in the first place.
How does it happen that a subordinate clause can modify a main clause so much that it becomes more important to the statement as a whole than the main clause?
That brings us to the ignorance of logic as an element in “conservative” BS about the Second Amendment.
Ignorance of logic
It is fundamental principle of logic that a cause is prior to its effect. The sense of the word “prior” here is not just temporal. It also means “responsible for.”
Examples: The lack of rain is prior to the plants’ inability to grow. The concern for safety is prior to the need to obey traffic signals. The possession of an assault weapon is prior to the killing of nineteen children and two teachers in a few minutes.
In each case, the effect depends on the cause. Take away the cause and the effect will disappear. That is what “prior” means in logic.
So let’s return to the question of how a subordinate clause can become more important than a main clause.
The answer is simple. When a grammatically subordinate clause expresses a cause or a purpose (which is, as I said, a cause arising from the intent of a sentient being), it becomes more important than its main clause because the cause is always prior to the effect.
It’s that simple. It’s so simple that everyone agrees with it. So a dishonest rhetorician has to do everything possible to conceal the facts about cause and effect if they go against him.
The Truths told by the Second Amendment
And that’s just what Scalia did with his majority opinion in Heller.
First, he makes the illogical notion of a modifier that does not modify seem plausible by substituting the weasel word “limit” for the technical term “modify.”
Then he throws up historical and legal smokescreens to confuse the issues further and make it seem like grammatical facts do not apply to the case at hand. (John Paul Stevens, by the way, did a masterful job of debunking all that nonsense in his dissent to Heller, but he did not go into the grammatical and logical roots of this particular product of the “conservative” BS-machine.)
But none of this matters to the fundamental inconsistencies that invalidate Scalia’s argument—errors which Scalia concealed with a wave of the pen.
So if we remove the errors, what does the Second Amendment really say?
Spoiler alert: It’s not what “conservatives” want.
First, it says that the purpose of not infringing the right to keep and bear arms is that a free state needs a well-regulated militia. The subordinate clause is a purpose clause, as even Scalia had to admit.
Second, it says that the purpose (a free state’s need for a well-regulated militia) is more important than the effect (not infringing the right to keep and bear arms). Indeed, the logic of cause and effect means that if a free state did not need a well-regulated militia, no one would even think about infringing or not infringing the right to keep and bear arms (any more than people would think about obeying or not obeying traffic signals if they didn't care about safety first and foremost).
Third, it tells us that the non-infringement of the right to keep and bear arms is the effect of the people’s will, as expressed in the Constitution, to have a free state—and not an effect of any other purpose, say, for personal protection. There may indeed be a right to have weapons for self-protection. But if there is, it is not guaranteed by the Second Amendment. It would have to be among the rights “reserved to the States respectively, or to the people” in the Tenth Amendment. And that would be a whole different argument.
Fourth, it tells us that rights do not come from God, or out of the ether, or from “conservative” fever-dreams, or from anywhere else other than the logical circumstances of cause and effect. It is because a free state needs a militia that the right to keep and bear arms exists at all—at least as expressed by the clear grammar and logic of the Second Amendment. If a free state did not need a militia—let's say because we developed a world government in which states no longer tried to use force against one another—then not infringing the right to keep and bear arms would be utterly unnecessary. The right, together with the non-infringement of it, is dependent on the cause. If the cause disappears, so does the effect.
All of this goes against “conservatives,” whose vested interest in the Second Amendment is rooted in their deep, insatiable fear of the world and everyone in it.
When will the American people finally understand that our entire society has been twisted into pretzels by “conservative” venality, stupidity, ruthlessness, and fearfulness? Everything they want is deeply, perversely wrong.
And unless the people reject their tough-guy poses and stop them by taking their power away soon, there won’t be any America left—only the the twisted Trumpian nightmare of white supremacy and authoritarianism that Republicans love so much.