Guns ‘n Threats

“They’re comin’ for yer guns, no doubt about it.”

“Just bury your guns for two years, and then you’ll get ‘em back when we flip the statehouse.”

“Guns don’t kill people. People do.”

“We’re gonna get to the point where you can’t even give a gun to a child.”

“We are not going to be sheep led to slaughter.”

“Don’t let liberal elites tell you what to do.”

“More guns, less crime.”

These are a few quotes from the December 8th (2019) townhall meeting held by Virginia 24th District Delegate Ronnie Campbell (*described in this post). The meeting served as regional Republican Party preparation for the Rockbridge County Board of Supervisors meeting to decide on a local Second Amendment, or “gun sanctuary” resolution.  The following night, the Board of Supervisors meeting, ostensibly scheduled to vote on the resolution, turned into a Trump rally. Here is a link to the Rockbridge County Board of Supervisors site.  As yet, neither the December 9th minutes nor the resolution itself has been posted.

As you might have seen in my previous post about the townhall meeting, Delegate Ronnie Campbell introduced the gun question by first launching three major GOP talking points—voters’ rights (“Why should everybody get to vote?”), abortion (who gets to decide?), and “you can’t trust the left-wing media” (adding, “Citizens are not well informed.” I’ll say!).  As he introduced these three points, Campbell said, “These are not Republican talking points or anything like that” (um, Ronnie, that’s exactly what these are).  He has been well-trained in Trumpism—appeal to the one-issue voters by making sure to bundle their one issue into the whole package, never distinguishing between or among issues, and never providing actual data or facts.  You can get a crowd good and riled up in this way, which is why the United States is in chaos three years into this tyrant’s so-called presidency.

I attended the December 9th Board of Supervisors meeting with about twenty people opposed to the gun sanctuary proposal and 1180 in favor. We twenty knew the fix was in, but we believed it was worthwhile to show up and have resistance heard.  With several hundred students doing evening activities and competitions at the high school and a host of heavily armed deputy sheriffs all over the school, the atmosphere was tense. I was not surprised by the numbers, nor was I surprised by how this board of our rural county ran the meeting like a Trump rally.  They told people from Lexington City that they would not be allowed to speak until everyone from Rockbridge County had spoken.  This would make sense, maybe, if Lexington City residents did not have (and vote for) the same sheriff as the Rockbridge County residents, did not send their children to the only public high school in our area (Rockbridge County High), and did not work and play in Rockbridge County.  But we do do all of these things, and therefore our voices should also matter.

In addition, the Board allowed two featured speakers before they opened the discussion: Virginia House of Delegates Ronnie Campbell and resident of Rockingham County (one hour north of us) Jennifer Brown, who serves as a regional committee chair for the Republican Party.  Campbell did his assigned part by giving a Trump stump speech, ending his remarks with a loud, cheerleader-like “Vote for Trump!”  Even though she is not a resident of Rockbridge County, Brown was able to deliver her comments as she had at the townhall the day before—as GOP talking points and with no data, no statistics, no real information.  The Board of Supervisors set the tone from the get-go, telling us Dems in the front two rows how this would go.  The set-up was a big middle finger to anyone interested in discussing common sense gun reform and to the reality of a state turned blue.

Of the seventy or so people who spoke in favor of Rockbridge County being a gun sanctuary (although, of course, the resolution itself is quite limited), only four were women.  Three of the four women acceded to the public stage by claiming themselves Christians, wives, and mothers.  This declaration seemed to give them permission to speak. The 66 men who spoke in favor of the resolution performed various combinations of the following: citing their military service; talking about their families’ longstanding ties to Virginia; creating an us/them dynamic, especially regarding northerners and migrants; disparaging lawmakers in Richmond; criticizing “liberal elites”; mentioning, sometimes in one fell swoop and always without historical or political nuance, the Holocaust, socialism, and communism; claiming what God owes them. Some of those who spoke promoted their books and websites; others promoted their shooting ranges. Of all those who spoke in favor of the resolution, one single person advocated for a real conversation between the two sides to see if some form of compromise was possible.

Board Chair Jay Lewis (whose actions from the previous weekend are described here) had told the audience that no waving of signs, heckling, or general disruptions would be allowed.  Second Amendment signs were waved throughout the almost-three-hour session.  When some of us 20 in opposition asked for the Board to follow its own established rules, we were shouted down, being called the “b” word and the “c” word and being told to shut up.  Lewis chided us, but not the others, who received a complicit half-smile and nod.  The intention was to establish a threatening atmosphere, and it worked.  These are the moments at which the Second Amendment folks try to use guns and/or the threat of guns to limit First Amendment rights (especially freedom of speech and freedom of assembly). (*See this related Gender Shrapnel post about these dynamics in Charlottesville, 2017.)  Not only did the Board of Supervisors not have our backs, but they actively made our backs a target for Second Amendment backlash.

While I sat in the school auditorium, I received a text from a friend containing a Facebook post from the regional GOP chair.  The regional chair (who at that point was seated five seats away from me) had posted this:

“FB page: Jennifer M Brown
8 hrs ·
Fellow Rockbridge Patriots! There is a woman who is a member of 50 Ways Rockbridge, which is a progressive group of rabid agitators. She has personally threatened a fellow brother of our cause, and I take personal exception to anyone who threatens one of our own. She also is a professor who teaches our youth, which is especially concerning.
She attended last night’s 2A info meeting and made sure to record and take notes what was said. She has reported back to her group and they are planning to be present at tonight’s Board meeting with an agenda.
Please be respectful in your comments and do not engage in any communication with this group. They want us to respond so the media narrative can make our cause look fringe.
We are NOT gun activists. We ARE Constitutional Patriots! #2AStrong”

This spokesperson for the Republican Party said the following that was true: I am a woman. I am a member of 50 Ways Rockbridge. I am a professor. I take notes.  The rest of her statement seems to come from a second-rate Russian bot-farm, but, of course, it is designed only to spread lies and shut people down.  If I wanted, I could establish a case for libel here, especially since this person is impugning my professional reputation. I invite her and anyone to talk to me about my teaching and scholarly accomplishments and about the careful and constructive ways in which 50 Ways Rockbridge has worked in this community.  Bring it. But do not threaten me or silence me.  (*See this NPR report and this Washington Post piece about Virginia delegates receiving death threats.)

It bears mentioning that I reported this libelous post that very night to our newly elected sheriff, telling him that I felt unsafe (1180 to 20; violent name-calling; targeted trolling).  He tried to reassure me by pointing to all the officers with guns.  “Q….E…..D,” I thought.  Armed officers do not make me feel safer. Guns do not make me feel safer.

As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, my field of expertise is cultural studies.  For cultural studies, you learn as much as you can about the history, demographics, legacies, languages, cultural production, and cultural practices of a specific region and apply that knowledge to an analysis of the audio, visual, and written texts produced by people from the area.  I have lived in Lexington, Virginia, for 23 years and have lived in the state of Virginia for 27—half my life, more years than I lived in my hometown of Philadelphia.  The lilt and twang of the local accent no longer strike my ears as different or odd.  The use of “sucker” for “lollipop” or “buggy” for “shopping cart” sounds completely normal.  I know the range of typical last names in the area, from the Clarks to the Zollmans and the Mutispaughs to the Nicelys.  I have ridden my bicycle through many miles of this large county and have seen the mansions and the no longer mobilized trailers with old sweaters stuffed into windows to keep out the rain.  I have been to many of the churches, despite my atheism. This is home to me, even if others see me as a Yankee, a damned Yankee (the kind that doesn’t leave), or a carpetbagger.  I have watched this community grow and change over these years, and I have tried to do so as both participant and observer, understanding my outsider status but also learning how you become a part of a community over time.

Cultural studies practices tell you to understand your own baggage before analyzing that of others.  In a way, I think this practice is the greatest strength and weakness of the Democratic Party.  The party’s hallmarks should be (and sometimes have been): recognition, celebration, and amplification of a diversity of peoples and voices; sincere and well-versed people advocating for competing ideas and duking them out; adherence to executive, judicial, and legislative norms as laid out in founding documents; examination of depth and nuance.  While the Democratic Party falls far short of these ideals, it at least still seems in dialogue with them. Over these past three years, I have asked repeated times in the Gender Shrapnel Blog: To what extent must we politicize kindness and humanity?  If calm, careful, thoughtful, and generous approaches to problem-solving are now old-fashioned, passé, done, as I fear they are, then how do you advocate for what is right in a measured way without always losing to an entrenched, mendacious, narcissistic, racist, sexist, homophobic—an unjust—other side?  Does civility mean that the powerful control the process and ask others to accept it quietly, with no fuss?

Local friends have often talked about hunting—when the season starts; when it ends; what you can hunt; how you hunt it; when you use a bow or a gun; how you train the kids to hunt; how you prepare the meat you’ve hunted; what it means to be in nature in this way.  I have been curious about these issues, which, of all the cultural elements of our region, are the most distant from my own upbringing.  As someone who for years cycled through the hills, mills, hollows, and valleys of this beautiful county, I have seen hunters and signs for hunting.  I have laughed at the image of the yuppy cyclist commingling with the camouflaged hunter, thinking there has to be some kind of cosmic cultural fusion joining us in nature.

I hope I am a careful thinker, and I definitely am an ardent talker.  Don’t let the impassioned expression of my ideas trick you.  I earn my opinions, and I want others to do the same.  If I thought the Second Amendment extremists (which I would define as those who believe the Second Amendment to be more important than all other amendments) were also careful thinkers and also invited reasoned debate, I would want to engage in real conversation with them.  I want to see Republicans take a cultural studies approach to their discussion of common sense gun reform and educational reform in Virginia.  Guns do kill people.  Virginia’s, and the United States’, continuing legacy of violence must be addressed.

The December 8th townhall meeting allowed me to think through the proposed legislation for the Virginia General Assembly session—specifically Senate Bills 16, 18, 51, and 64. (*See this link for all legislation related to weapons.)  The GOP talking points, distributed by 6th District Republican Committee Chairperson Jennifer Brown, read more like rally propaganda than clear education on the actual legislation proposed.  The document, designed only to whip up a crowd, not to provide information, parse ideas, and ask for reasoned feedback, included no links to actual proposals, no direct text, no grounded reality of the issues.  This is propaganda, not education or democracy, and this is the problem with regional, state, and national politics in the United States.

Why do we want to control people, rather than allow them the information they need to make their own decisions?  Isn’t that real liberty, real freedom?  For example, the Rockingham (VA) GOP Committee states in their talking points: “School shootings are relatively rare despite recent media narrative reporting and Democrat messages that would have you believe otherwise.”  They include no data, no links to reputable sources, no verifiable information. (*See this post and this one for actual statistics on school shootings and gun violence. *Also see the Moms Demand Action site and Everytown for Gun Safety.)  I do not want to mislead people.  Why would I?  I just want to share real data, real statistics, on a real problem that has deeply affected the state of Virginia and the United States.  I want a little bit of book learning to go a long way.

What I am about to say will strike you as naïve, and it is.  After all these years here, and after all the thinking about culture and roots and belonging and not belonging, I somehow did not anticipate the profound ways in which Republican talking points would distill themselves, like so much moonshine on a late summer’s day, into just guns.  Guns as power, guns as a God-given right, guns as a community of men and the supporting cast of women, guns as military pride, guns as sacrifice, guns as “sacred honor,” guns as nation, guns as Christianity. Guns as, like you see on the t-shirt in the photo included here (from the December 9, 2019, Rockbridge County Board of Supervisors meeting), Family-Faith-Friends-Flag-Firearms–“Five Things You Don’t Mess With.”  Guns as an old United States that should be able, through education, to embrace a new United States built on community, care, and justice.

A Democrat Goes to a GOP Gun Meeting

(Left: Virginia House of Delegates, 24th District’s Ronnie Campbell at the Buena Vista American Legion Building on December 8, 2019. Right: Two armed police officers at the event.)

(I wrote this post on Sunday, December 8, after attending Virginia House of Delegates member Ronnie Campbell’s townhall meeting in Buena Vista, Virginia.  The gun sanctuary decision was made the following night, December 9, by the Rockbridge County Board of Supervisors, who met at Rockbridge County High School.  I will write a new post soon about the December 9th meeting and decision. The next post should demonstrate that I did listen to people’s concerns about common sense gun reform, learn a lot of gun vocabulary, deepen my awareness of local culture, and come to understand even more poignantly the power of the NRA lobby in the GOP and, by extrapolation, our nation.)

You may know me.  I am one of the tens of thousands of Democrats who, in November of 2016, joined with friends and neighbors to decry the result of the presidential election, feel shame that I had not been more active before that point, and resolve to do something about it.  “It,” meaning all of it: stop-and-frisk police stops and killing of African American individuals; violence against and intimidation of immigrants; attempts to remove basic healthcare from millions of hardworking residents of the United States; and rampant corruption of the newly-elected president, so afraid to have his tax documents shared and so in the back pocket of a foreign government looking to manage the United States through its toady president.  You know me because I teach you, or live next to you, or am related to you, or sat next to you today at a meeting about gun sanctuaries.

My husband teaches at the sole public high school in our county in rural southwestern Virginia.  Four years ago, he almost singlehandedly beat back a gun raffle (it’s exactly what it sounds like) being held at the high school in support of the wrestling team.  When the raffle got cancelled, my husband was threatened by a county Board of Supervisors member inside the school.  After Parkland in 2018, my husband and many of his colleagues at the high school asked the Rockbridge County School Board and Board of Supervisors to consider greater safety measures for the high school.  The measure was never taken up, nor indeed responded to.  200 students bravely participated in a walkout soon thereafter, but the school board and board of supervisors never paid them any mind.

Now, the post blue-wave, mobilized Republican Committee of our area is responding to the Virginia Citizens Defense League by proposing that our county be a “gun sanctuary county.”  The Board of Supervisors meeting is of particular interest tomorrow because the Board will hear a “Second Amendment Sanctuary” resolution, of the type drafted and approved by over thirty Virginia counties (Washington Post 11/29/19 Editorial linked here).  Some residents are advocating that the sheriff and law enforcement defy any state laws passed to implement common-sense gun safety reforms.  We Democrats in the area are concerned about mob rule and lawlessness, as well as general safety in a state that has seen the Virginia Tech massacre, (2007), the Charlottesville violence (2017; Gender Shrapnel post here), and the Virginia Beach shooting (2019).

The Board of Supervisors has chosen to hold the gun sanctuary resolution discussion and decision at our local high school.  Keep in mind the school shootings that have taken place in the United States since Columbine (and note that there have been 45 school shootings in 46 weeks in 2019; related Gender Shrapnel post here).  Tomorrow night, when the meeting takes place, my husband and 150 students, parents, and coaches will be at the high school for a home meet of the academic team.  My daughter will be wrapping up swim practice for the high school. Nice time to hold a gun sanctuary meeting at a public school.  When my husband wrote to the chair of the Board of Supervisors to express concern about the confluence of the gun sanctuary meeting and regular school-type events, he received no reply.  But, at Friday night’s holiday parade, he did feel a large presence grab his right shoulder then his left, hold him place, put his mouth on my husband’s ear, and threaten him verbally.  You know me.  I’m the woman whose family is not allowed to express concern about safety without being physically and verbally threatened.

When I spend a Sunday afternoon at the American Legion in Buena Vista, Virginia, I am sitting with Republican neighbors.  They introduce themselves in a friendly way, a little less friendly when the word spreads through the crowd that I am from the other side.  The American Legion building has framed military uniforms, a framed copy of the American Legion constitution, enough American flags to keep a whole town warm at night, and 170 chairs set up for constituents of the Virginia 24th District, one of which I am.  About sixty of us are to sit back, relax, and hear Virginia House of Delegates member Ronnie Campbell prepare them (us?) for the Rockbridge County Board of Supervisors meeting the following evening.  Our delegate frames the gun sanctuary discussion through the lens of voter ID (“everybody thinks they can vote”), abortion (“there’s stuff coming at us”), the news media (“Fox is the only one left out there. Citizens are not properly informed”), and Trump (“one of the best presidents we’ve ever had”).

Guns are metonymy for Republican talking points, and they are real objects that kill real people.  You know me, and I have had enough.

50 Ways Rockbridge: Three’s a Charm

(50 Ways Rockbridge original call for issues groups / December, 2016)

50 Ways-Rockbridge: Year Three’s Big List

I just found in my kitchen drawer a short stack of scrap paper, which included the original 50 Ways Rockbridge announcement to our local community. (*See the photo above.)

This simple, urgent community convocation seems quaint to me now—the result of nine or ten people getting together in the wake of the November, 2016, elections to figure out what could be done to combat what we were certain would be a series of unjust and inhumane statements, actions, and orders.  The idea was to create an organization that would encourage the growth and de-growth of issues groups, whose specific work would be supported by all the people who constituted 50 Ways.  A month later, we saw the mushrooming of “Indivisible” groups and were approached to sign on as a local Indivisible group.  We did so, but maintained that we were actually “divisible,” that we were not seeking absolute agreement and harmony on every issue, but rather a willingness to research the issues, educate ourselves and others on them, and then choose appropriate actions to take at the local, regional, state, and national levels. Activists would choose and run their issues groups and seek support from the larger group for educational events, protests, and rallies.

The first year brought great energy, hundreds of people, and thousands of phone calls, letters, e-mails, and letters to the editor.  You can see the Year One summary here.  A local women’s rights rally, environmental protests, and fighting off numerous attacks on Obamacare stand out as key moments at which our entire group galvanized to resist inhumane actions and build community.

Year Two, summarized here, brought new challenges.  People were tired.  There was attrition. The “president” and his web of cronies were even bigger assholes, crooks, felons—indefatigable in their horribleness, criminality, and inhumanity.  Some issues groups disappeared, while others become more clearly defined.  50 Ways shrank some, but also grew in its resolve and infrastructure. We worked closely with the local Democratic committees to get out the vote and welcome the blue wave of Midterms, 2018.

In this third year, we have refined our communications through directed e-mails, consistent Facebook posts, and, especially, an overhauled website.  We continue to sponsor talks and workshops and to stage and support protests and rallies.  Our number of active members is reduced, and so the quick, on-the-fly response to major national issues is at times less nimble. We have paid attention to what other resistance groups do and why, and we have enhanced our connections to groups like VARatifyERA, Everytown for Gun Safety, the NAACP (especially our wonderful local chapter), Al Otro Lado, and CAIR, among many others.  We particularly like the Americans of Conscience weekly lists and broadcast those to our members.  While we have disagreed on some major issues, we continue to take the time to talk them through and to understand others’ opinions.  The gun sanctuary issue from just a few weeks ago pointed to major cultural issues where we live and also to the ways in which the national GOP ethos has permeated even remote areas of our nation.  Following the Rockbridge County Board of Supervisors vote on the “second amendment sanctuary” issue, some Facebook chatter shone light on divisions among us.  “Why fight an unwinnable battle?”, some asked.  “Why not always show up to suggest that another possibility exists?”, others replied.  We continue to research, educate, and act, and we continue to be “divisible.” To put it in more academic terms, we encourage the dialectics of disagreement because it is in this very articulation of our hard-fought opinions that we show what democracy looks like.  May we continue to do so through Year Four, and may we get out the vote for the primary and for the big show in November.

Thank you for the many ways in which you’ve supported 50 Ways through these three years.  Here’s the Year Three “Big List.”  Many specific events are not listed, but the major ideas are here.

Community

We have:

  • Brought together many people in person to participate in the group
  • Brought together over 600 people on Facebook
  • Sent out hundreds of activist e-mails (I’m looking at you, Sarah and Tinni!)
  • Collaborated with Indivisible groups across Virginia
  • Held group meetings, which have included visits by representatives, delegates, candidates, subject experts, and members of community organizations and agencies
  • Attended townhall meetings and asked tough questions
  • Supported candidates in our area
  • Participated in the CARE Parade, Rockbridge Community Festival, Buena Vista Labor Day festivities
  • Partnered with CARE Rockbridge, Coming To The Table, Lexington Democratic Committee, Rockbridge Democratic Committee, Rockbridge NAACP, Project Horizon, Rockbridge Area Community Services Board, Washington and Lee’s Amnesty International, ESOL, History Department, Latin American and Caribbean Studies Program, and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Program
  • Rallied for the Environment; Immigration; and protested gun encroachments
  • Overhauled our website
  • Collaborated on a broad Community Resources List, now hosted on our new website
  • Enjoyed getting to know more of our neighbors in a variety of settings

Issues Groups

  • Tracked our issues and exhorted, rallied, and protested, as necessary
  • Relied upon the excellent leadership of our issues coordinators
  • Sponsored 50 Ways meetings, including a gerrymandering update, presentation by the Tijuana/Al Otro Lado group, presentation by Rockbridge Area Health Center, an abortion rights session, an election panel, a mental health workshop, and a panel on past and present Democratic candidates from our area
  • Sponsored Earth Day Celebration and Walk (Environment), and many Environment Committee panels and series
  • Encouraged Get Out the Vote, especially through Plus3 work
  • Sponsored anti-racism workshops, three book discussions, Green Book film, collaboration with NAACP
  • Fundraised for Tijuana/Al Otro Lado immigrant rights work; Tijuana group talk; Edwin Castellanos Campos’ Tiempo de cambio community talk; Latinx Festival; legal path to citizenship work, fundraising, and follow-up; ICE education; protest; focus group;
  • ERA resolution in Lex City; Renee Pullen and question of rape kits for our area; Carliss Chatman’s presentation on reproductive rights; PRIDE Festival; non-discrimination; dress code; excellent progress at RCHS (LGBTQ ally week and transgender ally week);
  • PTSA collaboration; teachers and staff of color; recruited volunteers and experts for YAS Program at MRMS; Students of Color Club at RCHS; advocacy for fourth guidance counselor position; encouraged greater participation in and interaction with the city and county school boards
  • Work on Prison Reform and drug court

Resistance

  • Environment; Immigrant rights; ERA, gun lobby, gerrymandering, flipping VA blue!
  • Written a mission statement and followed it
  • Updated our website for resources and action
  • Maintained close to daily communications with 50 Ways members
  • Learned—a ton
  • Sent hundreds of postcards to our representatives and to fellow voters
  • Written dozens of letters to the editor of our area newspapers
  • Sent many e-mails and made many phone calls to our representatives
  • Accepted generous donations from community members
  • Survived, together, so far

We still have work to do for Year Four!:

  • Support our wonderful issues groups
  • 50 Ways member survey and focus groups
  • Poverty issues and actions
  • Gun reform
  • Revive County Unity
  • GET OUT THE VOTE
  • And!!

Don’t Tread On Me

 

In Gender Shrapnel, I highlight the ways in which harassment accumulates without our noticing the steps along the way.  I talk about how we absorb harassment for weeks, months, maybe years, and then experience high-consciousness, or “last-straw” moments.  During these last-straw moments, we look back and string together all the harassment events and all the symbols that accompany them.  We put it all together, we synthesize and analyze and, yet, we can go through this cycle repeated times.  Our resilience allows us to take the blow and carry on, kind of like forgetting the pain of childbirth or setting aside trauma.

This month’s “blue wave” in Virginia, which, for the first time in 26 years, boasts Democratic control of all sectors of state government (WAMU; The Atlantic; Salon; The Washington Post) has happened in the White House’s backyard. Serving as a possible bellwether for other state elections and the 2020 national elections, Virginia has thumbed its collective nose at the President and the prostrate GOP. These weeks since November 5th have brought blue euphoria and, I believe, red revenge.  We are on the node of built-up harassment and resultant resilience.  November has been the month of impeachment hearings, clear-as-day proof that Trump ordered Giuliani to negotiate to hold back hundreds of millions of state-approved aid to serve Trump and his reelection aspirations for 2020, and noble testimony from respected and respectful state officials like Fiona Hill and Marie Yovanovitch.  November has signaled our national divisions.

November has reminded me that we Democrats should be at a last-straw moment.  We should have had enough, more than enough, by now.  Each careful little step, each overly cautious accusation in the face of real harm, each mostly uncelebrated victory.  Barack Obama was belittled and threatened and attacked, and the GOP chose to undermine every common-good initiative of his platform. Hillary Clinton was harassed and trolled and threatened, blamed for all that Trump was actually engaging in at the time, told repeatedly and menacingly that she’d be locked up, and then, in essence, she was. These messages and actions told Democrats that we were too black and too woman and too caring of our neighbors and countrypeople, that we too should be locked up.  We were told not to tread, not to tread at all, because there is punishment for stepping out of line in a white, male, cis, hetero supremacist nation.

Don’t tread on me.  That’s what about one-sixth of the license plates in my state tell me.  The license plates peer out from the back of giant trucks that take up more than half the road and more than a single parking spot.  The giant trucks tread on everything, everywhere they go, imperiously declaring their greater size and might.  The Don’t Tread On Me trucks roll through the streets like tanks, claiming their right to everything, their willingness to fight, for their God-given right, to dictate and rule.  They are not asking to foment and share in democratic principles.

“Don’t tread on me” is the motto of the Gadsden Flag, described in this The New Yorker piece as “a favorite among Tea Party enthusiasts, Second Amendment zealots—really anyone who gets riled up by the idea of government overreach.”  The great irony here is that Tea Party enthusiasts have paved the way for ultimate Trump control of the GOP, and Second Amendment zealots allow for the gigantic NRA lobby to have a major hand in government rule.  “Don’t tread on me” ethos actually has brought major government overreach.  Tariffs on China, withheld aid for Ukraine, immigration policy, prohibitions on women’s bodily autonomy, and ever more limited rights for the LGBTQ community all come to mind as particularly heavy-handed government control.

Here in Virginia, red counties are pushing for so-called “Second Amendment sanctuary” resolutions, through which counties pledge to defy any new common-sense gun legislation coming out of Richmond in 2020.  This past Monday night in Rockbridge County, dozens and dozens of people lobbied the Board of Supervisors for just such a resolution.  I feel tread upon, and I think that is the desired effect.  We Virginia progressives are supposed to feel punished for a resounding November victory.

The Virginia Tech campus massacre happened in 2007. In 2017, Charlottesville witnessed a group of armed people overtake its downtown and kill a peaceful protester, while white supremacists marched and chanted, “You will not replace us.” The Virginia Beach shooting took place in May of this year. “You will not replace us” is another way of saying “don’t tread on me,” especially when the Second Amendment arms people to the teeth and allows them to increase their own threatening footprint.

On this day in this month of November in this state of Virginia, I want us to let go of “don’t tread on me” threats and the “you will not replace us” chants.  I want us to prioritize how we can walk together, tread together, towards common-sense gun legislation, stronger education reforms, and greater civil rights for all.