Columns » John Brummett

Shame the right wing? Think again



There's this odd, ironic and surely futile political dynamic arising out there. The angry left wing has decided to out right-wingers, to bring them from the closet, as it were, as if to embarrass or shame them.

First Max Brantley of the Arkansas Times blog published, for a short time before taking it down, the State Police's list of the names and addresses of all Arkansawyers with licenses to carry concealed weapons.

His purposes were never altogether clear, beyond imparting public information for public information's sake. But we know this much: He is an unabashed liberal of a certain disregard for our gun-obsessed culture. He wasn't publishing anything he considered an honor roll, in other words.

If the purpose was embarrassment or shame, then the purpose was surely unachieved. The main effect was to heighten the very thing, the often irrational thing, that had compelled licensees to buy guns and get permits to carry them around in the first place. That would be fear.

Persons with concealed-carry licenses were outraged that, merely for following the law and its prescribed procedure, their addresses were publicly disseminated. The bad guys tend not to get licenses or sit for a day's study on safe and responsible use of a firearm, these licensees cried.

They thought that some bad guy, knowing their address, might come for them. They were particularly concerned about women whose names were on the list, specifically the prospect that these women might be overpowered for the weapons that the bad guys now knew they were carrying.

Now comes, a gay advocacy group from Massachusetts. It has published the names and addresses of all Arkansawyers who signed that petition last year to get on the ballot that initiated act, which passed overwhelmingly, to bar gays and lesbians from becoming foster or adoptive parents.

This is public information at the secretary of state's office. Be aware that, while your actual ballot remains secret, it is a matter of public record if you sign a petition to try to qualify something for the ballot.

You can go to this Web site and behold a list encompassing 2,779 pages of names and addresses of signers. For convenience, the site allows you to narrow your search to zip code, county and last name.

You can search for your neighbors. You can search for your cousins. You can search for yourself in the event you can't remember whether you signed the thing or not.

I searched for kinfolks residing in and around the logging woods of Southwest Arkansas. I found a slew, most likely affixed straight out of the Baptist Churches and Churches of Christ. There were so many signatures of these kinfolks and their neighbors, in fact, that I concluded that any stigma or conspicuousness arising in their areas and cultures from the publication of this list would be borne by those whose names are not on it.

In remote rural Arkansas, there will be nothing approximating embarrassment or shame in appearing on this list. Instead there will be the comfort of wide and deep association, if not actual pride.

They'll gather in the pews on Sunday, secure in the like-mindedness of those around them, perhaps even carrying concealed weapons.

Gay rights will advance in rural Arkansas not by Massachusetts-concocted efforts to stigmatize those who are culturally and religiously opposed. Gay rights will advance slowly, generationally, and through incrementally advancing associations with people openly known to be gay.

That's how it has worked in the more urban and liberal-minded areas. It's how everything works. You fear, or even hate, the things you don't know or understand.

As our recent election made clear, for now it's all right in much of Arkansas to be a carrier of a concealed handgun who thinks homosexuality is a perverse sin and that poor innocent orphaned children shouldn't be exposed to it.

All the lists in the world won't change that, except maybe strengthen it.

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