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A tale of two fallen icons

Two icons have fallen today, one human and one a statue of a human. One event is good, the other is bad, and both represent the radical and opposing political forces pulling America apart.

Let’s start with the human icon, that being Wayne LaPierre, the now former executive vice president of the National Rifle Association (NRA). LaPierre became a human icon by his own hand, because for many years he placed pictures of himself everywhere he could in NRA literature, publications, TV programs etc. LaPierre did everything he could as the NRA’s senior executive to make his face and name synonymous with the NRA, and in many ways, superior to the NRA name and logo.

LaPierre did not rise to icon status by virtue of his own great skill and the resulting earned adulation by NRA membership and leaders. Rather, LaPierre artificially nurtured an almost Communist Party image of “Our Great Leader” by simply shoving his own face into everything he could that the NRA put out from 1991 until last month.

This high-visibility self-promotion activity picked up after LaPierre had ousted longtime NRA-ILA lobbyist Jim Baker in 1998, then brought him back in 2011, only to oust him again in 2012, and then it picked up more after LaPierre ousted longtime NRA-ILA lobbyist Chris Cox, and then the self promotion pretty much had maxed out when LaPierre ousted short-time NRA-ILA lobbyist Jason Ouimet, and installed a grandpa used car salesman-looking guy named Randy Kozuch in 2023. Kozuch looks like Father Time and has a fixed and perpetually unnerving entre nous wink. LaPierre’s truth is crazier than any fiction we could write; you can’t make this stuff up.

In other words, LaPierre has been in a constant power struggle and self-promotion mode since becoming executive vice president, with an iron fist that served his own personal power and not the NRA membership. Not only did LaPierre spend millions of NRA members dollars on himself, his family, his wardrobe, and other trappings of a self-indulgent communist party ranking official, he plastered his likeness everywhere he could to such laughably grotesque levels in recent years that no online hunting or gun-related chatboard was free of ridicule for LaPierre.

That emperor may have been dressed in the most expensive suits, but to NRA members he had no clothes. LaPierre may have long ruled the NRA headquarters like a cruel and petty tyrant, but a lot of his own members hated his guts. LaPierre represented everything wrong in Washington DC politics. So when LaPierre announced that he was stepping down yesterday in the face of a lawsuit over his illegally spendy habit, it came as a great sense of relief to those who have the most riding on the NRA – its members and donors.

The crashing of this (false) icon to the floor and shattering into pieces is a good thing.

Pivot to the City of Brotherly Love, the cradle of American freedom, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and the National Park Service is removing the statue of William Penn from a riverfront park (ironically called Welcome Park) owned by the citizens of America and managed by the NPS. The removal of this iconic statue of the most tolerant and accepting man of the 1600s-1700s, William Penn, is destructive.

William Penn was not just some European guy, he penned the Penn Charter, which outlined many of the open minded individual rights and government duties that we find a hundred years later in America’s founding documents, the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights. William Penn was a broad minded, open minded, tolerant, kind, generous person. He sought to financially compensate the native Indians who lived and hunted in Pennsylvania, rather than use violent force to oust them and outright take their lands.

The reason why Pennsylvania had only one Indian reservation (which was eventually violently stolen from the Cornplanter Senecas by the US Army Corps of Engineers so the agency could make a new recreational impoundment lake for happy white people to drive their motorboats in the 1960s), was that most of Pennsylvania’s Indians were bought out and firmly moved westward as the frontier moved westward. Pacifist Quaker William Penn wanted to live in harmony with the Indians in his new colony, as much as he could, and his actions showed a humane approach that was unique in that period.

So removing the iconic William Penn statue from its position at Penn’s own home is a rejection of a tangible and meaningful symbol of peaceful coexistence and reconciliation. By people who claim to be all tolerant and peaceful. It is a bad thing.

(Thankfully, it was announced late today that the NPS had “prematurely” stated that it was going to remove the William Penn statue, which is going to stay in place for the foreseeable future. Apparently public resentment about this racist decision overwhelmed the NPS and the PA state government.)

As we can see, icons come in all shapes and sizes. Some are good, some are bad, some deserve a wrecking ball and others deserve flower garlands. One thing is certain about icons, as these two icons discussed here show, they bring out tremendous political and cultural passions because of what they represent. This is why they become such useful political tools, to the detriment of The People.

Josh and Wayne LaPierre of the NRA in 2016 at the Great American Outdoor Show. See? Wayne even showed up to argue about his tenure with me eight years ago.


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