In response to discussions about an assault weapons ban after the mass shootings in Atlanta and Boulder, Sen. Lindsey Graham told Fox News’ Chris Wallace, “If there’s a natural disaster in South Carolina where the cops can’t protect my neighborhood, my house will be the last ones that the gangs will come to, because I can defend myself.”
The next day, Graham circulated a video of himself shooting an AR-15 assault rifle at a South Carolina gun range.
For many progressives, liberals and other Americans who are not part of the MAGAverse, TrumpWorld or America’s gun culture, Graham’s performance of gun-toting hyper masculinity was laughable. His comments about defending his family from “gangs” were also criticized as being especially ill-timed given the recent mass shooting events. But again, as is so many other instances, those outside of the right-wing echo chamber were not the audience for Graham’s performance.
The South Carolina senator was speaking to a right-wing culture, moral universe and imaginary where guns, whiteness and toxic masculinity are tightly if not immutably linked together. He was channeling the idea of the white American male as defender of his home and family — and of heterosexual white (right-wing) male power and privilege — against some type of “criminal” or “invader,” generally understood to be black or brown. This enemy to be defended against may be a “Muslim terrorist,” an “urban” black male or a “Latino gangbanger.” He may also be a member of “antifa,” the right wing’s current bogeyman.
Lindsey Graham’s assault rifle and others like it are also central to end-times survivalist dystopian fantasies of societal breakdown and failed government that involve “race war,” environmental collapse, another pandemic or other such disaster.