Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Americans: An Armed Rabble

A couple-three items bumped together in the vast and aching void I like to think of as my mind:

Point: the changes in occupancy rules at the Statehouse. The state government has decided -- for safety reasons -- to (sort of) limit occupancy of the lovely 19th-Century State Capitol building (not including the pseudo-Brutalist Albert-Speeresque horrors stuck to its back side) to 3000 persons, which includes everyone working there, but not pro lobbyists* and a few other special sorts.

(Update: Our Governor, love-him-or-hate-him Mitch Daniels, decided the timing was lousy same as I did, but he was in a position to change the rules and he did: no occupancy limit. The same low railings and 19th-Century stairways, though, so kids? Play nice.

It's funny how many union folks were able to get the day off to attend today, especially the ones who were explaining how the union made sure they had plenty of work. H'mmm. /Update)

Limiting attendance? It's actually not that bad an idea -- it's a multi-story building, with railed openings at every level -- very low railings, very high ceilings, a long drop to a hard floor. It's also a bit of a jewel, restored to much of its original glory, with a lot of detail that would be easy to scruff up. --And though I've been in the place many times, I couldn't find a stairway on short notice. Stuff it chock-full of people and have one little thing go wrong, and you've got a shortcut to disaster.

But the timing stinks: Right To Work legislation is planned for this legislative session and feelings are running high. The unions want to fill the place up with sign-waving supporters, which would be rather more than the 1500 or so the new rules would allow once you leave out the legislators and the people who work in the building. There's a lot of whining about "But it's the People's house!" Yes, sir, yes it is, and I'd appreciate your keeping my .01 of 1% of it clear and clean, with the gold pinstripes intact and unbloodied.

So my proposed fix is to slap up a nice two-ring circus, maybe a big ugly one-story cinderblock structure, with wide halls too big to jam up, easy-care paint and flooring, simple viewing galleries overlooking both House and Senate with the same kind of barriers used around hockey rinks, and let 'em duke it out, both on the floor and in the halls. Heck, sell controlled-tack masking tape and let folks plaster the walls with posters, first come, first served, clean walls every morning.

They can open and close sessions in the grand old rooms of the Statehouse, but let's do the real work someplace less fragile and dangerous.

Second point: "Americans are fundamentally ungovernable," remember the musings on that wafting out from the current Administration and their boosters awhile back? It struck me as a bit off; we're self-governing. We're un-ruleable. Tell any random American or group of Americans, Left, Right or Sideways, "Hey! You can't do that!" and they'll give you lip. You're not the boss of them! It's The People's House! I can too turn right on red here! Occupier or TEA-Partier, union stalwart or the company that can't keep a factory open 'cos they can't afford to pay union wages, not a one of them will accept being bossed around. You can sometimes convince Americans to do something -- or convince us that so many of our fellow-citizens are on board with that something that we'll go along, at least for a while, grumbling -- but we don't take kindly to being ruled.

Which gets to the third point: anti-gun types are very fond of pointing out that small arms don't mean much against the might and power of Government. In the individual case, it's certainly true; roll up a SWAT team to my door and that SKS over the mantle (the one George Orwell said ought to stay there) isn't going to amount to much.

In the aggregate, though -- I note that among the first acts of the incoming and newly-empowered Iraqi government was to ban civilian gun ownership. The U.S. never did; but the new guys mean to rule. See, if a sufficiently-large fraction of population is claiming you're not the boss of them, and they're armed, they may or may not win in the end, but it'll be a long, ugly time finding out -- a longer time than many people will put up with, which has its own snowballing effect.

So where do I end up? Simple. We're an armed rabble. We can persuaded, but we can't be ruled. And we need to take a long, serious look at the physical institutions of government: they've become too grand. From the jewel-box of a Statehouse to the let's-all-feel-like-bugs Brobdingnagian structures built for State offices behind it, there's too much time and attention spent on the monuments of government (and the exploitation of their weaknesses) -- and too little on facilitating the interpersonal interaction of American-type government.

If right-to-work or any other legislative issue is indeed so contentious (and perhaps they all should be: we've got a surplus of laws on the books already and the lawmakers never use the kind of pencil with an eraser on the other end), let's have the public argument in a suitable venue; and let's not have a legislature that sneaks behind a curtain to pull levers and make impressive-sounding pronouncements, isolated from the hubbub.

Let's keep George's rifle over the mantle; let's keep people from falling over railings, and let's figure out some way to let signwavers and chanters do their thing without filling up the Statehouse halls so solid that dissenting opinions are choked out. I don't think you really manage that last bit by locking nearly everyone out.

(Personally, I kind of like Right To Work; unions that have the support of their member workers are not actually threatened by it and employers are still bound by the same Federal laws and regs that prevent union-busting. Looked at from the American tradition of anti-authoritarianism, unions exist in a kind of tension about who gets to boss whom, and to what extent. I dislike the shoddy tactics both sides of the issue have used, here and elsewhere.)
* An exception that has prompted much huffy outrage. Me, I think it's a snarky way of defining lobbyists as not human. Tsk. A popular notion but we mustn't do that, even to those we personally loathe.


Sigman said...

If the crowd gets too big for the statehouse, they could always move a couple of blocks south to the football stadium (the Colts won't be using it for a few months).

Fuzzy Curmudgeon said...

Sigman -- doesn't the session start before (and overlap) the Stupor Bowl festivities?

Might make that a little difficult. Maybe Bankers Life Fieldhouse instead.

Jeffro said...

Needs elephants for the circus flavor. I suppose, in the interests of non favoritism, donkeys as well.

John A said...

Well done. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

That SKS over out mantles, plus our determination to use it to the best effect possible should some extreme government unconstitutional push come to citizen shove, WILL "...amount to much." All we need to do is make it so expensive, in terms of dead and/or wounded stormtroopers, that whatever insane project that initiated the need gets called off.

On an individual basis, if I can take out at just one JBS attempting to kill or injure me and my family (I'd hope to get a much better honor guard, though), and if everyone else attempts the same, it would end before it could really get going. I may be naive but I honestly believe that a one-to-one ratio of dead gun confiscators to dead gun owners would be an effective deterrent. Even though they can concentrate their forces on a single individual or group when they wish, there's LOTS more of us than there are of them.

Let's keep hoping that it never, ever comes to that (although personally I'm starting to despair that it might).