The Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s might have been a lot more effective if African-Americans had only had the good sense to abandon non-violence, radio personality Rush Limbaugh suggests.
"If a lot of African-Americans back in the 60s had guns and the legal right to use them for self-defense, you think they would have needed Selma?" Limbaugh asked.
"I don't know. I'm just asking. If John Lewis, who says he was beat upside the head, if John Lewis had had a gun, would he have been beat upside the head on that bridge?"
Limbaugh, of course, is opposed to gun control measures. John Lewis, a civil rights icon who is now a Congressman from Georgia, was beaten during the legendary march from Selma, Ala., to Montgomery for voting rights legislation in 1965. He didn't say he was beaten, he suffered a concussion.
But that's neither here nor there. Limbaugh is raising a question that has been recurring with disturbing frequency on the part of right wing agitators during the past few weeks: Would America's race problem have been resolved more easily if African-Americans had had weapons?
It is a particularly stupid question, but it is a question worth considering.
Would John Lewis have been beaten if he had been carrying a gun on that march?
No, he would not have been beaten. He would have been killed.
These marchers were up against the police establishment of the State of Alabama. They were attacked by police dogs. They were beaten savagely. Does Limbaugh honestly think that Gov. George Wallace would have hesitated to order his troops to open fire if the marchers started brandishing weapons?
Not only would Lewis have been killed, but the segregationists would have used the conflict to deny credibility to the entire movement. There would have been no Civil Rights Movement.
The genius of Martin Luther King, Jr. and his colleagues was to build the moral credibility of their cause through the use of non-violence. They followed the teachings of Ghandi – and the teachings of Jesus – to suffer violence but not respond in kind.
There were certainly people who thought that was a weak position. People like Limbaugh who worship power and call it principle would never understand.
But, in the end, it was Martin Luther King and John Lewis who prevailed. King was assassinated, but the Voting Rights Act became the law of the land – though it is once more under attack. The Rush Limbaughs of the 1960s crawled back under their rocks.
I expect the current Limbaugh is losing his audience, too. It's about time. He's not only wrong, he is stupid.