It's a classic show trial. First, consider the wrapper of Pious Outrage enveloping the story. The title:
Gun rights advocates heckle father of 6-year-old Newtown victim at Connecticut hearing
The opening line:
Parents of children killed in the Newtown school shooting called for better enforcement of gun laws and tougher penalties for violators Monday at a hearing that revealed the divide in the gun-control debate, with advocates for gun rights shouting at the father of one 6-year-old victim.
And the money image:
A handful of people at the packed legislative hearing then shouted about their Second Amendment rights when Heslin asked if anyone could provide a reason for a civilian to own an assault-style weapon.
Well, that's certainly enough to make the propaganda point, creating visions of a heckling mob willfully violating the privacy and personal space of a grieving father, inserting their personal politics into tragedy. Those unconscionably brutish and insensitive gun freaks!
And the point was effectively made. I've started to see it in my Facebook stream, often with comments such as this one:
Is there no respect any more? The gun advocates could have kept their mouths shut for just a little bit.
Thing is, buried down at the bottom of the story is the video of the exchange. (I originally tried to embed it directly, but the auto-start for the advertising was just too annoying. Click and beware.) Would you believe that this might tell just a slightly different story?
But no matter, when what you're pimping is a show trial! There are minds to mold here, people, and the message to take away from the story is simple: if someone who lost a child wants to use his tragic celebrity to soapbox for the further "legal" violation of the people who didn't do it, you should just shut the fuck up and let him do it.
I almost posted this entire response back out on Facebook, to one of the approving shares; in the end, I shortened it and just used the first part. It seemed worth documenting here, especially in the event that the video gets later disappeared for being insufficiently supportive of the meme.
Did you actually watch the video? He asked his rhetorical question, and then there was an obvious, pregnant pause as everyone in the room politely let the question remain rhetorical. NOT A SOUND. Then, he said "Not one person can answer that question," indicating that the question had not been rhetorical at all, and that he had somehow taken the silence to be unanimous agreement. At this point you hear a hardly-animated response from several people in the room, upon realizing that the question had actually been an open one, followed up by an immediate (and false) judgment.
Please, understand the difference between deserved outrage and theater. The actual video, itself, taken entirely on its own without the wrapper of sanctimonious outrage provided by the "news" article, shows a grieving father overstepping his moral authority considerably, calling openly for the forcible subjugation of people who did not harm anyone, using his tragic celebrity to advance that cause against the voices of those to be violated.
This is not someone who was accosted in his home, or heckled on the street, or, say, droned at his son's funeral. He has let himself (I will give him the benefit of the doubt here; the man did lose a son) be used by others who have already decided what the "solution" should be, and agreed to appear in a show trial to justify it. Given the sneering sanctimony in his question and followup jab, he appears to have done so willingly.
The article attributes to Heslin the following statement: "We're all entitled to our own opinions and I respect their opinions and their thoughts. But I wish they'd respect min[e] and give it a little bit of thought."
It's rather hard to see Heslin's "respect" of others' opinions and thoughts, truly. Peaceable people wanting nothing more than to be left unviolated, and he pushing to legally sanction their prior restraint violation not only without their consent, but against their vocal opposition. This is moral authority?
And the "give it a little bit of thought" condescension is rather insulting to a whole lot of people who have quite carefully considered this sort of scenario, in advance, for years, even generations, and come to a very different conclusion than he has in his own six weeks of examination after the fact.
I take nothing--nothing--away from a grieving parent who has lost a child. It's even unsurprising that in response to a tragedy of that magnitude, such a parent might be persuaded of things that they would not otherwise be persuaded of. If that person's desire is to grieve privately and in peace, I would be among those who would show up to provide a living wall against hecklers, activists and demonstrators, even if I were 100% against his private beliefs.
Or, if he instead was genuinely curious about how others could look at the same history and arrive at a completely different conclusion than he does, in the interest of understanding the problem more completely and wanting to make double-sure that he does not lend his voice to something that sounds good and markets well but which may simply guarantee another horrible result in the future, he would find in me a willing, patient voice. This would be what I always understood to be a "conversation".
But simply to use one's own tragic celebrity as a weapon of aggression against peaceable others, using "law" and the legislative-enforcement apparatus of the state as one's own personal heavy to do it...sorry, there's nothing that cancels out moral authority faster than that.
Law is not absolution, Mr. Heslin. It did not protect your son from the person who took his life, it cannot bring your son back, and that will never change by adding more of it.
We should never confuse grief with vengeance, lest we confer a very dangerous moral authority upon the latter.
Gawd. I have probably just got to leave Facebook, for my own health.