The gun letters

The Million Moms are "cowardettes who don't know the difference between a Glock and a glockenspiel."


Camille Paglia
June 7, 2000 11:07PM (UTC)

Greetings, campers!

Although I'm on summer hiatus working on book projects, I want to showcase a sampling of the fascinating letters that flowed in from Salon readers after my final column of May 17. As a lagniappe, I'm including outstanding letters to me from this spring.

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Today (Wednesday) we are featuring the letters on gun control, one of the hottest issues of this year's elections. On Thursday, letters on Elian Gonzalez, American politics and the Roman Empire will be posted. On Friday will appear letters on education, homosexuality, the media and pop culture.

Naturally, I can't nip out the door without commenting on a few recent events -- like the spectacular entry of Rep. Rick Lazio into the New York senatorial race. Within two weeks, polls showed Hillary Clinton and the relatively unknown Lazio in a dead heat. I was thrilled by the May 26 New York Post headline, "Rising Star Lazio Catches Hillary in a New York Minute."

I was impressed by Lazio, an energetic four-term congressman, from the moment I saw him on the Sunday morning political talk shows over a year ago. He has an agile grasp of the issues and knows how to handle the media with force and humor. The dour diva Hillary, in contrast, has of this date never had the guts to appear on any of those Sunday programs, even though she's been a repeat guest on the airheaded "Rosie O'Donnell Show," where she's servilely treated like a feminist Messiah. Herd Hillary off to the p.c. corral of the U.N., where she belongs!

When Lazio fell on his face and split his lip while sprinting up and down the street during a Memorial Day parade on May 29, I was absolutely horrified, but within 48 hours, the incident mysteriously began to add to his power. With his battered face, Lazio had morphed into a smash-mouth football tight end or a Roman gladiator (the title of this summer's hit movie). And he recalled boxers like handsome Rocky Marciano or Rocky Graziano, a beloved New York native. Indeed, the rousing theme song to Sylvester Stallone's 1976 film "Rocky" (about a working-class Philadelphia boxer) was played at Lazio's entrance into the New York State Republican convention on May 30.

My cousin Wanda Mastrogiacomo Hudak, the Broome County legislator, had a chance to inspect Lazio up close the very next day, as his upstate tour bus, the "Mainstream Express," visited Chenango Bridge near Binghamton. Wanda, who was in the welcoming delegation, writes that 600 people waiting on the grassy commons went totally "berzerk" when the bronze bus zoomed into sight with the grinning face of "the Young Warrior" pressed against a window.

As the ebullient Lazio and his spunky nurse-practitioner wife stepped off the bus, Wanda (an R.N. herself with 32 years' experience) instantly "evaluated his condition as only a nurse can do": She judged the stitched lip A-OK and the famous smile "intact." And as a mother, she was relieved to see Lazio wearing "crepe-soled tasseled loafers" instead of slippery dress shoes: "He learned his lessons well."

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The Hillary Clinton Carpetbagging Campaign had better stop touting the precedent of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy as a rationale for the election of an egregious out-of-stater. (Kennedy, in any case, had spent his formative years in Bronxville, N.Y.) It's Rick Lazio, overflowing with boundless, eager, ruthless, boy-wolf energy, who's the real Robert Kennedy in this race.

Lazio is no Newt Gingrich clone: He has a varied voting record, as when he flouted the Republican leadership to vote for continued funding of the National Endowment for the Arts, which conservatives wanted to abolish. Furthermore, Lazio hails from an ethnic-immigrant but non-urban segment of the American electorate that has never been adequately studied, understood or respected, despite its massive size. They're my people too, and I resent the elitist sneering at Lazio and his Long Island district that's already started in the celebrity media.

Incidentally, Salon's vast influence is illustrated by the speed with which my phrase about Lazio in my last column --"quick-witted, dynamic, fresh-faced" -- was absorbed into other news stories. Within days, the New York Times called Lazio "fresh-faced," followed by Time (which used it as a caption), the Associated Press and the New York Observer. This happens all the time. Salon rules.

Other matters: though I normally avoid organized groups, I've joined the National Italian-American Foundation, because I've gone into full battle mode over the outrageous ethnic slurs in HBO's vile series, "The Sopranos." I'm sick to death, for example, of Italians being falsely portrayed as gross, sloppy, boorish eaters. Why are Italian-Americans used as scapegoats and comic relief from the headache-inducing, anorexic tribulations of WASPy Ally McBeal? Just fatten up Calista Flockhart, and get the hell off our case!

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It has been brought to my attention that certain media articles are listing me as a writer for Nerve.com, a site I have no interest in whatever. After a November 1998 benefit for the Museum of Sex project (I sit on its advisory board), I agreed at the museum's request to participate in a roundtable discussion of sex and religion on Nerve.com -- a feature I found so tedious and ill-organized that I withdrew midway.

That is my sole connection with Nerve.com, which I regard as a dull enterprise by networking Manhattan yuppies. While I have indeed participated occasionally in online forums or live chats for a variety of sites, I write exclusively on the Web for Salon, as I have done since its inaugural issue in 1995.

Finally, no day is complete without a dose of pop. I loved last week's profile of Candice Bergen on A&E's "Biography" but was irate at the wildly disproportionate attention paid to CBS's "Murphy Brown" (which I was no fan of) at the expense of Bergen's sensational 1966 debut as a glamorous lesbian in Sidney Lumet's "The Group" -- where, despite her lack of acting skills, she burnt up the screen with her innate class and smoldering beauty.

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There was a time when Bergen genially joked that she started her career (in more than one film) by playing "the world's richest lesbian." And did I miss any reference to Bergen's understated performance as Sydney Biddle Barrows in the 1987 docudrama, "Mayflower Madam"? If it was there, it was buried. This kind of censorship is unworthy of A&E.

I've been marveling at the quality of acting, scriptwriting, direction and production in TNN's nightly rebroadcast of CBS' "Cagney & Lacey" (1982-88). The super-talented, perspicacious Tyne Daly is, of course, simply awesome as Mary Beth Lacey, an ordinary but movingly generous woman torn between her career as a New York police detective and her responsibilities at home, but Sharon Gless is no slouch as her partner, feisty, tomboyish, nerve-raw Christine Cagney. What crap the TV industry turns out today!

Finally, I'm very impressed with Brice's dance-club remake of Bronski Beat's searing "Small Town Boy" (from "The Age of Consent," 1984, U.K.), one of the few truly artistic statements in the post-Tennessee Williams era about the agon of male homosexuality -- which I continue to believe originates not in the genes but in an early failure in male bonding, thanks to the sins of the fathers. Out of that terrible wound, so many gay men have made great art. No lesbian, tied to woman's earthy abundance, knows such tragic loneliness.

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If only the invigoratingly practical Dr. Laura Schlessinger, one of the few media personalities with the balls to defy the shrill, arrogant gay-activist establishment, had bothered to investigate the historical and psychological complexities of homosexuality, with all its dark currents, before she rashly sounded off about its biological "deviancy" ...

But that's another subject that must wait for the fall. See you in September!

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LETTERS IN RESPONSE TO "THE MILLION MOM MARCH: WHAT A CROCK!"

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I live in D.C. and had to leave the city to get away from the "Million Mom Parade." My children (6 and 7) were indoctrinated for two full weeks in their schools about this march -- it drove me crazy (No sweetie, Mummy IS NOT going to march with the other Moms) Why? Well love, Mummy believes in the Second Amendment. What's that? It's the law babe, and I love my Constitution!).

Can't people have an idea or concept that isn't fed to them from the Clintons' twisted perspective? I don't own a gun (but my mother who lives in rural Maryland does), but I do believe the Second Amendment gives us the right, and it's not something I'm willing to give up.

Bless you for saying that it's the piss-poor parenting and the disenfranchisement of "community" which help create children who shoot other children. I have European friends who are diplomats in this town who think we (Americans) are barbaric to have guns at all. This from a very good Austrian friend -- to whom I replied that perhaps if the Nazis hadn't taken all the guns away in the '30s, Hitler wouldn't have been quite so pesky.

--Amy Stewart

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I'm the exact demographic that many of the groups you wrote about are targeting: I'm a white, upper middle class college-educated Democrat woman living in Upper Montclair, I'm a mother of two young children, and my years in college were immersed in various aspects of feminism.

So I should think the Million Mom March is great, right? No, I think it's excruciating, and I agree with you -- yes, we need more intelligent gun laws, I suppose, but they won't compensate for the atrocious collapse of parenting, caring, communication and true family life in this country. I saw "The Vagina Monologues" and thought it was the worst, most embarrassing putrid bourgeois crap ever spit out of a blow hole. Really eye-rolling stuff. And as a friend of mine pointed out, "wasn't she really talking about the vulva most of the time? Shouldn't it have been the Vulva Monologues?" God, I hate that dopey crap.

--Frances Pelzman Liscio

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You're one of the few who had the same read on the march as me. As a young journalist, I moved to Washington, DC in 1990 and lived near Capitol Hill for about six months. In that short time, our neighborhood was shot up several times, I was attacked by a gang of youths once, my dog was attacked, and there were many other incidents that left one with the impression that the parents were doing absolutely nothing to control their children. Kids as young as 12 would be out on the streets literally all night long.

When I got attacked on my way home from work, the adults around didn't try to discourage the attack or help me. All I heard from adults (dressed in suits) was "get whitey." Fast forward to the tragedy a few weeks ago at the National Zoo. That shooting didn't just happen, it escalated all day. Again, the parents did nothing to stop it. Who gets blamed, guns. Why? They don't vote and parents do (sometimes).

You never see politicians making proposals to address this lack of accountability, which I believe is the main reason we have so much violence. There have always been lots of guns in this country. Why are people turning to them more often now?

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One thing that is not discussed in the media is where our ingrained love of guns comes from. My family has been here since before the Mayflower. Schools don't like to talk about the many folks that came here to basically escape taxes (Pilgrims sounds better, I guess). For hundreds of years my family has believed in low taxes and guns as the key to individual security.

Since the Depression, the fabric of society has changed to the point where people like Rosie O'Donnell are calling the shots. What does she know about what it took to make this country great? None of those stupid solutions they are proposing will do anything to stop the violence, because, after all, criminals don't care about laws -- that's what makes them criminals.

So, if we keep this course of false solutions, there will be no choice but to eventually ban guns and confiscate them. That will create a whole new class of criminals, just like Prohibition did. And like Prohibition, the bans will not affect the intended audience, and may even strengthen the criminal element.

--Mike French

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In your May 17 column you refer to the US as "the most heavily armed nation in the world." In fact, that distinction belongs to Switzerland, where almost every adult male is obligated to have an assault rifle at home. That Switzerland happens to be an exceptionally pacific nation provides further evidence that gun ownership is not at the root of the American problem with violence.

--Vernon Shetley,
professor of English
Wellesley College

You say that gun laws are useless because "the problem with gun-control laws is that they only work on already law-abiding citizens." This is one of the strangest arguments I've heard in the gun control debate, because it is obviously the case that the problem with any law is that it only seems to "work" on the law-abiding. By definition, murderers, rapists, thieves, etc. are not law-abiding citizens. So criminal law, obviously, only deters already law-abiding citizens. Does this mean criminal laws are useless?

Finally, as a student of American politics, I am a great admirer of the openness of American government, which has allowed ordinary citizens some amount of agenda-setting power, simply by mobilizing and forming interest groups. However, I am concerned that one very powerful interest group, the NRA, has so successfully managed to present itself as an impartial defender of the Constitution that many people seem to ignore the fact that the NRA is closely tied to gun manufacturers and is in the business of promoting the cause of gun manufacturers.

So while I agree with you that policy should not be decided by "packs of weeping women," neither should policy be decided by a single interest group which I would argue wields a disproportionate amount of influence in the political system as it is. Of course gun owners shouldn't have to give up their guns. But registering these guns is not too much to ask.

--Name withheld by request

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The evidence that registration of firearms historically leads to confiscation is compelling.

Before 1920 in the U.K. there was almost no impediment to the purchase of firearms. The 1920 act required a certificate issued by the local Chief Officer of Police before a firearm could be acquired. In 1946 the Home Office, in its guidance to police forces on the "good reasons" for which a firearm could be held, averred that self-defence was no longer to be accepted.

My late father was among about 60,000 law-abiding people who had their pistols confiscated by the government here in the U.K. in 1997 after just such an uninformed fiasco as the Million Mom March

Registration allows government to do three things:

1. It can use incremental rulemaking to change the classes both of weapon available and the person who may have them.

2. It can, over time, control the peaceable use of weapons to the extent (as here) that most people have never seen a firearm.

3. It can use the registration lists to make sure it confiscates every single legally held weapon.

There is very little evidence from anywhere that the registration of weapons has any benefit to society. There is substantial evidence that registration is expensive, usually ineffectual and open to abuse.

On the subject of heavy automatic weapons, I'm not sure I agree, either. Neither "Assault Weapons," which weren't what were actually banned nor heavy military weapons have ever been used much in the commission of crime either in the USA or here.

--John Daragon
U.K.

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I wish to answer why we law abiding gun owners object to registration. Registration, historically, has always been the prelude to confiscation. The anti-gun faction have repeatedly stated their ultimate goal is to ban all guns.

In 1929 the Soviet Union established gun control, and from 1929 to 1953 about 20 million dissidents were exterminated. In 1911 Turkey established gun control, and from 1915 to 1917 1.5 million Armenians were exterminated. Germany established it in 1938, and by 1945 13 million Jews and other peoples were exterminated.

China established gun control in 1935, and by 1952 20 million dissidents were exterminated. Guatemala established gun control in 1964. By 1981 100,000 Mayan Indians were exterminated. Uganda established gun control in 1970, and by 1979 300,000 Christians were exterminated. Cambodia established gun control in 1956. From 1975 to 1977 one million educated people were rounded up and exterminated

The liberal media, always conscious of their First Amendment rights, want to blame crime on gun ownership to eventually justify confiscation, but their soft-on-crime law enforcement and pro-violence and immoral entertainment industry is the real cause.

With guns we are citizens. Without them we are subjects. As a retired veteran New York City police officer with over 20 years in the streets, I know that the police are unable to protect you from the predators out there -- predators that we read every day have been released from prison only to commit more heinous, vicious crimes.

The founding fathers were most astute when they framed the Constitution and provided for the Second Amendment. It is my right to own a firearm unfettered by bureaucratic agendas. I served my country defending this principle and take umbrage at those who try to take it away while shunning punishment of criminals.

--Robert C. Conner
Pittsboro, N.C.

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As an owner of three "assault" weapons, I wanted to correct a few misconceptions.

Military-style weapons are not military weapons. For example, my AK-47 (I bought it as a memento of the Vietnam era, and as a toy) looks exactly like the military AK-47. Unlike the militarized version, however, mine is not an "automatic weapon." It is a semi-automatic weapon, like many popular firearms. That means it fires one bullet with each pull of the trigger ... it cannot "spray" bullets like the liberal media says. Interestingly, sometimes the media uses the correct adjective for these weapons (semi-automatic) but then implies, through the use of the word "spray," that they are machine guns. The gun control crowd intentionally spreads these confusions.

Automatic weapons are very tightly regulated, with an individual license required and background investigation. The only crime ever committed with a legal automatic weapon in the US was by a policeman.

"Assault weapons" like the evil looking AK-47 (Viet Cong, Chinese infrantry, etc.) are not "heavy-duty." Assault weapons were developed to increase the number of rounds that an infantryman can fire quickly ("spray" as in the mass media clichi). Thus they are fully automatic. However, heavy rounds, such as were used in the WW-II M-1 are physically heavy: an infantryman cannot carry a sufficient quantity to spray them around. Thus assault rifles like the AK-47 or the M-16 fire small, lightweight and relatively low powered rounds.

Semi-automatic weapons are not "assault weapons." Some just happen to look like them. True assault weapons are fully automatic.

Sorry for the nitpicking (and the less than erudite English -- I'm an engineer), but these minor misunderstandings are used to foist excessive restrictions, such as the absurd rule that you cannot import a weapon that has certain cosmetic characteristics shared with assault weapons, but are not fully automatic.

--John Moore Phoenix

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I consider myself a woman Libertarian Republican.

Gun control strips women of their power to equalize in an unequal fight. I can't believe that these Moms don't understand that. I certainly now think that none of them have ever been in a situation where they needed to defend themselves from a stalker or a rapist.

You are so right about Rosie O'Donnell -- she is a puppet, and stupid, to boot. But, there are also a lot of educated women that can't think for themselves and still run to a man, in this case or Buddy Bill, to solve problems for them.

The worst part is that these women won't look at the facts and make up their own minds. They are stuck. We will never have true equality until they do just that. It makes me believe that if women ran government it would all be about who they like. He's mean --I don't like his policy. He's nice (so what if his policies are idiotic) I like him.

The truth is that the Second Amendment is our ERA in a physical world. And, in poll after poll (not the ones the liberal media publishes) overwhelming numbers of Americans want the government to enforce the existing 20,000 gun laws on the books.

--M. L. Wilson

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On Mother's Day, we can all expect to be treated to a media melodrama of the Million Mom March against guns. There will be several thousand uninformed cowardettes who don't know the difference between a Glock and a glockenspiel schmoozing with celebrity types who owe their own personal security to armed bodyguards.

When will women wake up and smell the violence aimed specifically at them and realize that owning a gun for the purpose of self defense is the best equalizer around? When will the pro-choice voices sing out in defense of my right to choose to insure my own personal safety (and that of my family) by any means possible ... up to and including the lawful ownership of a firearm?

--Susan Laws
Wimberley, Texas

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I am here today because I own a firearm that has kept me safe from a very abusive EX-Husband.

And I did not stop there. I furthered my education in pistols, and rifles and am now the Civilian Marksmanship program director and NRA sanctioned Match director for my Gun club of 700+ members. I am a certified NRA pistol and rifle instructor.

I took my children, ages 21 and 10 and taught them firearm safety and taught them the Bill of Rights and the Constitution as those items are not taught in Central Florida schools anymore.

I had the distinct pleasure of participating in the protest to the Million Misinformed Moms in Tampa and saw some very ugly things happen as the police stood by and did nothing. Even the Mommies that need to stay home re-educated themselves on what our Country was founded on.

--Deborah Boyle
Maitland, Florida

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Historically, gun registration has always been followed by confiscation. This was true in Germany of the '30s, and more "democratic" regimes as in Australia and England of a few years ago. Many Canadians are now risking jail time rather than register their weapons in their government's new scheme, and just recently in California those who had registered their ownership of an SKS carbine were ordered to turn them in to the state (most have refused this order). California is also attempting to remove "assault" weapons from the people of their state, the same weapons that preserved lives and property during the Rodney King riots in L.A. When you devise a way to make rapists, murderers, and thieves register and turn in their weapons, I might consider doing the same. Given the record that governments have on this issue, I probably won't. History has never been on the side of government nannies who say, "this is only for your protection."

--Bill Huston

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In far too many cases gun registration has had the net effect of facilitating genocide. Coupled with the fact that our own "reasonable" Gun Control Act (GCA) of 1968 was largely plagiarized from the Nazi Waffengesetz (weapons law) of 1938, which enabled the disarming of Jews and others in Germany, this reality makes gun registration schemes very problematic for some of us.

Additionally, "automatic weapons," that is, machine guns, are among the most heavily regulated products in America. Manufacture, sale, and possession are all strictly controlled under provisions of the National Firearms Act (NFA) of 1934 as amended by the GCA of 1968 and the Firearms Owner's Protection Act (FOPA) of 1986.

Not only is each privately owned "NFA" weapon tracked by the BATF and subject to inspection, the purchase requires a background check analogous to that required of a high level security clearance and a $200 per weapon excise tax each time the weapon is transferred to an approved buyer. Newly manufactured machine guns (post-1986) are restricted from civilian purchase, per the FOPA.

"Transferable" automatic weapons are limited in number, difficult to buy and very expensive. Semi-automatic firearms of military appearance are not machine guns and are no different in function from self-loaders of less imposing appearance. The semiautomatics often referred to as "assault weapons" (an oxymoron, assault weapons are by ordinance definition fully automatic) account for less than percent of all weapons confiscated by police nationally!

--Jim Parran

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There are few examples in history where gun registration wasn't followed by confiscation. In New York, people were required to register all their rifles and shotguns. No problems, until the state government passed an "assault weapons" ban. Suddenly, registered owners were receiving letters telling them that they had a short time limit to choose between a) turning their expensive weapons over to the police for a pittance, b) selling or storing the weapon out of the state (Selling the weapon, however, might run afoul of certain federal regulations.) or c) prove that they have rendered it permanently non-functional, by, for example, having it welded shut.

The second example was in California, where they placed a time limit on registering "assault weapons" that was too short to complete the process, turning tens of thousands of owners into felons (which would cost them the right to own any guns, vote, and a host of other penalties). The Attorney General said that the deadline would not be enforced and that he would allow registrations to continue, and then turned around and retroactively said that the original deadline would be held to, and that anyone who registered after that date had to dispose of their weapon or be prosecuted.

The California situation was compounded by the fact that they were unclear as to which models of firearms were actually considered "assault weapons" and the AG's office started playing games with that list, telling owners of a certain kind of SKS rifle that they did not have to register, then, once the deadline was passed, reversing the decision to say that the weapon was indeed covered by the definition. The lawsuits are still in progress.

--Rich Chandler

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Why can't anyone, when supporting the right to bear arms, ever quote the entire Second Amendment? It reads, "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." I would put the emphasis on "well regulated," which, to me, means the government has the power to regulate how, where and under what conditions we use our guns.

Since when do we need a militia of minutemen ready at any time to pick up their arms and rush to battle? I think the Second Amendment is outdated. I think people forget that the Constitution is not the Bible. It must change, and was meant to change as the U.S. grew.

--Mark Osborne
Weatherford, Texas

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To what extent is the debate over firearms reflective of the great cultural divide between liberal-urban elites and blue collar workers?

We have seen our nomenklatura attack one of the most simple and satisfying pleasures known to the working man for two hundred years -- tobacco. Is the war on gun ownership just another impending puritan putsch?

--Richard D. Henkus

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At what point did the average American think it would be a great idea if we just let Courtney Love & Rosie O'Donnell dictate national policy on constitutional issues? If it weren't so tragic, it would be hysterically funny.

While Rosie is proud to lead the charge for the Clintons now, she doesn't have the foresight to see her glory days with Bill & Hill are numbered. In the not-to-distant future she's going to be tossed on to the pile of Clinton friends that have outlived their political usefulness. Rosie bellows loudly that the full weight of the federal government should be brought to bear on the evil-gun owners of America. All the death & destruction and of course think of the children... Meanwhile, her pals Bill & Hillary are already planning four or five crisis issues ahead. After they finish with firearms there must be a new crisis to save us from. They're already laying the groundwork for wars on SUVs, alcohol and high fat foods. This is where good ol' Rosie exits stage left.

When Ronald McDonald becomes Joe Camel, where does the queen of nice(?!) fit in? When the Clintons move on junk food, the realization of what she's up against is going to hit her like a ton of bricks. I can see Rosie's minivan slathered with bumper stickers -- "When Twinkies are outlawed, only outlaws will have Twinkies," "You can have my supersized, double quarter-pounder with cheese value meal when you pry it from my cold, dead fingers," and "Ted Kennedy's car has killed more people than my Big Gulp."

By then it will be too late, the populace will have long since accepted Big Brother's right to regulate every aspect of our existence.

--Richard Meyer


Camille Paglia

Camille Paglia is the University Professor of Humanities and Media Studies at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia.  Her most recent book is "Glittering Images: A Journey Through Art From Egypt to Star Wars." You can email her at askcamille@salon.com.

MORE FROM Camille Paglia

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