(Editor’s note: You can listen to this column, read by the author, here.)
The shooting at Club Q will be weaponized to attack Second Amendment rights. This is to be expected.
What may be more troubling is how it is being weaponized to attack First Amendment rights.
Semantic warfare in politics is fascinating and nothing new. Republicans had little luck reforming “estate taxes” until strategist Frank Luntz suggested they start calling it something folks could better understand: “death taxes.”
Gun haters have dropped “gun control” for the warmer and fuzzier “reducing gun violence.” Beto O’Rourke’s honesty of “hell yes, we’re going to take your AR-15s” will not be uttered anytime soon, although it is exactly the goal. His electoral record of consecutive defeats shows you why semantic warfare works. Say what sells, not the truth.
These games get more sophisticated with each year. And though unethical, it’s not immoral and not illegal.
It’s the byproduct of a robust political dialogue. It’s the byproduct of the First Amendment. It’s freedom of speech in action.
But something has changed. We’ve now hit an age of winning at all costs. We’ve hit an age of not just name-calling your opponents but silencing them — canceling them.
An insane man walked into a club that caters to people like himself — as he claims to be nonbinary — and shot, killing six.
But before word came out that he was nonbinary it was, well, people like me who were responsible for the killing.
First of all, I proudly own firearms and work to protect Second Amendment rights, knowing it is as important to a free people as the First Amendment, which until about a decade ago people on the left used to work to protect.
You might remember when the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) fought for unpopular people’s right to say unpopular things. That’s back when the left was about principles, not winning at all costs.
And secondly, though I strongly support gay and lesbian rights, including the U.S. Senate’s passage of the gay marriage bill, I do not support the forced speech mandated by many in the transgender movement.
Forced speech is the opposite of free speech. Forcing someone to tell a lie or lose a job is evil.
I support anyone identifying as anything they want. I don’t care what bathroom anyone uses, but no one has a right to dictate that I must call a person who is clearly a man, a woman. I don’t want to be forced to lie. (It’s more fun when you do it on your own).
Just as no one has a right to tell the shooter he can’t identify as nonbinary, no one has the right to force me to refer to an individual as a plural, “them.”
I have been labeled by some — I’ll say obviously mislabeled — a hater and bigot because I, exercising my First Amendment rights, utilize pronouns correctly. By doing so, these critics say I have added to the anti-LGBTQIA+ sentiment and empowered shootings like Club Q.
To them, I am a murderer twice over: gun-rights activist who thinks, for the most part, people have either XX or XY chromosomes.
And what of those in our community who care and work hard, yet have a different, out-of-step opinion regarding the public dialogue on what they consider to be the dangers of indoctrinating young children into a transgender lifestyle?
Authors and clinicians like Jordan Peterson, Chris Ruffo, commentators like Matt Walsh and Tucker Carlson — even elected officials like Gov. Ron DeSantis — are, apparently, as guilty as the sick bastard who pulled the trigger. That’s according to New York Times columnist Michelle Goldberg in her blame-those-dare-to-talk-about the-dangers-of-trans-culture column “Club Q and the Demonization of Drag Queens.”
I am no homophobe, gone to my share of drag shows, and as anyone who has spent more than an hour with me knows I’m the furthest thing from a prude. But I would like to hear their points and arguments explored in the court of public opinion. We did this for years with this issue of gay rights and gay marriage and I believe we arrived at the right conclusion.
But many in the trans movement are intolerant. They command if you don’t use their language you are hateful. They say if you do not accept them as what they want to be accepted as, you are a bigot. Call them by the wrong pronouns, they’ll cancel you.
Jon Caldara is president of the Independence Institute, a free market think tank in Denver.
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