2020年5月1日 星期五

Uses and abuses of the Second Amendment

And an easy oven dinner for the weekend.
An “American Patriot Rally” including armed demonstrators on April 30 at the Michigan State Capitol, demanding the reopening of businesses.Jeff Kowalsky/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Author Headshot

By Jamelle Bouie

Opinion Columnist

If you’ve been following the anti-lockdown protests, you’ve probably caught sight of the scenes from Michigan, where groups of armed and unarmed demonstrators marched on the State Capitol grounds, demanding an end to emergency measures. Many of them clad in paramilitary gear and waving flags associated with right-wing movements (the Gadsden flag, the Confederate flag), they denounced Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, as a “tyrant” and promised insurrection if she continued to enforce the lockdown.

Whitmer is popular with the public at large, but she has become a chief target for anti-lockdown protesters, largely because of her high-profile tangle with President Trump. But I don’t want to get into the particulars of Whitmer’s political position as much as I want to make a note about the anti-government militias that seem to dominate the protests.

As understood by the Supreme Court, the Second Amendment guarantees the right to own and bear arms. Americans can purchase guns, they can carry them on their person, they can use them for recreation or in self-defense, they can collect and stockpile them. But I think the scenes from Michigan represent a dangerous move from bearing arms to brandishing them. I’m not sure we can say the participants were protesting as much as they were trying to force lawmakers to bend to their will under threat of lethal violence.

Writing on the violence in Charlottesville, Va., in August 2017, Dahlia Lithwick and Mark Joseph Stern of Slate magazine made the powerful point that in a clash between armed protesters and their unarmed opponents, Second Amendment open-carry rights can “swallow” First Amendment rights to free speech:

Nonviolent demonstrators lose their right to assemble and express their ideas because the police are too apprehensive to shield them from violence. The right to bear arms overrides the right to free speech. And when protesters dress like militia members and the police are confused about who is with whom, chaos is inevitable.

What we witnessed in Michigan is a supercharged version of this dynamic, when the Second Amendment effectively grants a kind of super citizenship, where carrying a gun allows you to threaten democratic deliberation itself, so long as it is done “peacefully.” And of course, this super citizenship is not actually available to all Americans; it is contingent on race and gender. Or, as I argued in the context of the gun march on Richmond, Va., in January:

In Virginia and many of the 30 other states that allow open carry, Americans have a right to mass, armed protest. But that right, and the right to bear arms in general, is informed by the settler history of the American nation and structured by hierarchies of race and gender, despite our collective pretense to universalism. Or put another way, every American has a right to gun ownership, but the paradigmatic gun owner is still a white man.


What I Wrote

I started the week with a column on how we’re witnessing a spreading class consciousness among America’s most “essential” workers.

The strikes and protests of the past month have been small, but they aren’t inconsequential. The militancy born of immediate self-protection and self-interest can grow into calls for deeper, broader transformation. And if the United States continues to stumble its way into yet another generation-defining economic catastrophe, we may find that even more of its working class comes to understand itself as an agent of change — and action.

And I finished it with a column about Justin Amash and the futility of third-party presidential campaigns:

Our politics are plainly inhospitable to third parties. But the usual answer — that this reflects a failure of will or imagination among voters, or that it’s the result of a constructed “duopoly” — is wrong. The reason for third-party failure is embedded in the structure of our politics. Americans who want more choice at the ballot box — to say nothing of Americans who want a European-style parliamentary democracy — have to change that structure.

Now Reading

Jonathan Rauch on the legacy of George Wallace, in The Atlantic.

Marina Bolotnikova on Walter Johnson’s new history of St. Louis, in Harvard Magazine.

Jake Goldenfein on facial-recognition technology in Public Books.

Paula Findlen on the Decameron in The Boston Review.

Amanda Mull on the opening of Georgia in The Atlantic.



If you’re enjoying what you’re reading, please consider recommending it to friends. They can sign up here. If you want to share your thoughts on an item in this week’s newsletter or on the newsletter in general, please email me at jamelle-newsletter@nytimes.com.

Photo of the Week

A church in Albemarle County, Va.Jamelle Bouie

This church is right down the street from Monticello and has a wonderfully red roof. I took a picture of it one morning, at the peak of magic hour, when the sunlight is bright but not too strong. I used a small, Olympus 35 mm point-and-shoot camera.


Now Eating: Oven-Roasted Chicken Shawarma

A staple of weekday eating in the Bouie household, I served this with homemade hummus and pita, as well as chopped fresh herbs and tahini sauce. Recipe comes from The New York Times Cooking section.


  • 2 lemons
  • ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled, smashed and minced
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • A pinch ground cinnamon
  • Red pepper flakes, to taste
  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 large red onion, peeled and quartered
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley


Prepare a marinade for the chicken. Combine the lemon juice, ½ cup olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper, cumin, paprika, turmeric, cinnamon and red pepper flakes in a large bowl, then whisk to combine. Add the chicken and toss well to coat. Cover and store in refrigerator for at least 1 hour and up to 12 hours.

When ready to cook, heat oven to 425 degrees. Use the remaining tablespoon of olive oil to grease a rimmed sheet pan. Add the quartered onion to the chicken and marinade and toss once to combine. Remove the chicken and onion from the marinade and place on the pan, spreading everything evenly across it.

Put the chicken in the oven and roast until it is browned, crisp at the edges and cooked through, about 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from the oven, allow to rest 2 minutes, then slice into bits. (To make the chicken even crisper, set a large pan over high heat, add a tablespoon of olive oil to the pan, then the sliced chicken, and sauté until everything curls tight in the heat.)


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