If you take your eyes off the meaningful issue, don't be surprised when your meaningful rights disappear.
I was puzzled by a string of posts that I saw on Facebook on Wednesday. I had grown used to seeing the status updates supporting teachers and unions in general, but suddenly a chain of updates were popping up declaring support for gun rights.
This confused me because I do not see how the Second Amendment could possibly come to harm any time soon. Even with a majority of Democrats, the NRA is far too powerful of a lobbying force to allow any meaningful change to gun control.
So why is this suddenly an issue? Why would people who fall in the middle of the road politically and tend to be working class suddenly be so concerned about their right to bear arms?
Republicans in Wisconsin answered my question when they rammed through the legislation that neutered the public unions. The fact that the Senate had to alter the bill so as not to affect the budget in order to not need a quorum tends to prove that the removal of collective bargaining rights was more ideological than it was fiscal.
Please don't write this off as another tin-hat conspiracy, because this is far from the first time that political sleight-of-hand has been used. Just last year, the nation erupted in controversy over Park51, better known as the "Ground Zero Victory Mosque." People nationwide took sides on this issue, and it consumed the airways.
While this was going on, Congress passed legislation that eliminated health care funding for the first responders who were at Ground Zero on 9/11 and have suffered from heath problems since. After this evil piece of self-serving garbage was finished, the national fervor over the victory mosque dried up like last week's rain puddle.
Distraction is a common tool used in arguments when you do not really feel that your argument holds water or that people will listen to you.
People would not be OK if they knew that first responders were getting the short end of the stick, but if people don't even realize that the issue is up for a vote because they are riled up over a perceived ideological threat, the stick can be shortened even more and no one will notice.
The same thing is happening now on Facebook. The uprisings in the Middle East have proven how powerful social networking sites can be in mobilizing a political force for change.
Facebook status updates supporting teachers, unions, and working people in general seemed to be doing this same thing in solidarity with Wisconsin workers. Then, out of nowhere, and with very little reason, many of these same people became worried about losing their guns.
Union-busters cannot win the argument that neutering the unions in Wisconsin and other states would really affect the budget, especially after giving tax cuts to the rich, but they can certainly distract people with the mantra of God, guns, and gays.
God has been played out a bit much, just last year with Park51. But guns can still get people riled up, even when there is no point in wasting your status update. Guns are also an important issue for the very same people that might oppose union busting.
So keep focused, people. Unions are still very necessary, (read my column on unions on this issue published Feb. 21, "Comrades of Another Snowy State Need Our Support") and if you are liberal, then they are the only force on the left that can even remotely stand up to giant corporations after the Citizens United decision.
If we keep our eyes on the real issue, we can still win!