Have You Heard The One About The Second Amendment?
OK. It doesn’t happen often but I know the warning signs and if I don’t vent, right now, I’m liable to go stark raving bonkers right here on my skimpy little raft which is the only thing keeping me from drowning in a vast Sea of American Stupidity.
Inspired by my President, Barack H. Obama, who only has one term left and is currently refusing to play nicely with morons, I too am ready to stand up and howl for the survival of standard intelligence which is currently fighting a losing battle with pandemic nonsense.
When I was a child, Americans prided themselves on being intelligent, well-educated, open to new ideas and (literally) reaching for the stars. Something awful has happened in the ensuing fifty-or-so years since then. Some Americans seem to actually embrace life in the fact-free-zone, getting their information from an echo chamber and spending their leisure time dumbing down in places like The Creation Experience. Or teaching schoolchildren from fairy tale books rather than science texts.
But enough is enough. There’s a definite threshold to my ability to play along graciously with sophomoric silliness and the people who promote it. And the Great American Gun Debate has definitely pushed me over the edge.
I really don’t care if there are grown-up people out there who still like to play shoot ‘em up, in their spare time. As long as they keep their very dangerous toys locked up the rest of the time and don’t expect normal people to ooh and ahh over their hunting or shooting range performance. If you really, really need to get your “man card” punched, go for it.
But please, please don’t lay anymore of the pious Second Amendment sermonettes on me because all that does, in normal people circles, is stamp you as a really pathetic dumbass who doesn’t know squat about American History or your precious Constitution that you thoroughly misinterpret and mangle every time you mention it.
Maybe, instead of spending so much time thinking about guns, some of you might want to take a continuing-ed course in American History in the hope that someday you might actually know what you’re yammering about.
One thing that’s likely to jack up the IQ (Ignorance Quotient) of the Great American Gun Debate is the fact that the TEA Party finds itself momentarily issue-less. The spanking they took in the 2012 election, the disdain of a majority of Americans for their ideals and their inept candidates and the Republican Party’s survival tactics resulting in numerous ideological cave-ins have not presaged a rosy future for the TEA Party.
But now they have GUNS! Now they have a reason to get the tricorn hats and Gadsden flags out of mothballs again.
Here’s a preview of what’s to come:
“The Second Amendment is there to protect us from losing the rest of them,” said Adam Brisebois, 34, of Hudson, who cradled his 3-year-old daughter on his right shoulder and a rifle on the left. “If we don’t fight, we’ll lose our rights.”
“There is an assault going on on the Constitution. And that is job one of ours - to protect our flank and protect gun owners,” said Tom Gaitens, a Tampa, Fla.-based tea party leader. “To us, this is the fundamental issue on the founding of our nation.”
Many protesters are hunters, but say access to hunting is not their prime concern - just as a sign hanging behind the podium at the New Hampshire rally said: “The right to keep arms is not about deer hunting. It is about defending the republic from tyranny.”
“I don’t have an automatic weapon. I don’t want an automatic weapon. But the citizens need to have guns that are equal to the guns that the government has,” said Roger Rist, a 69-year-old business owner from Meredith. “I certainly hope I don’t have to take up arms against the government. Might we have to? Yeah.”
Please. Spare Me. Do you people really believe that your flea-market pea-shooters are ready to take on drones? or chemical or biological or nuclear-enabled weapons like those that you know your government has? or would you like to see every citizen stockpiling such stuff because—Second Amendment? Your premise is pseudo-historical and completely hysterical. If the US government ever becomes the tyrant of your paranoid delusions, it won’t need gun laws to squash you like a bug. It’ll just do it. Whether you have guns or not. Better get out now while you can . . .
And, of course, there’s the Grand Poobah of Gun Nuttery, Wayne LaPierre, Vice President of the National Rifle Association, tendering his utterly uninformed opinion in a congressional hearing last week:
I think without any doubt, if you look at why our Founding Fathers put (the Second Amendment) there, they had lived under the tyranny of King George and they wanted to make sure that these free people in this new country would never be subjugated again and have to live under tyranny.
What stuns me about that last bit is that in an audience made up of elected representatives of the American people, serving at the highest levels of the federal government, people who are well-educated specialists in American government, not one of them interrupted Wayne LaPierre to say “that part about the Second Amendment? Wayne. That’s total BS” [or words to that effect].
So now, I’m starting to wonder if the rest of us aren’t somehow complicit in this “dumbing-down” of the national discourse because we don’t call anyone on lies, exaggerations, melodrama or nonsense, anymore. We just let it ride, which is tacit agreement.
There are so many ways in which the Second Amendment has been mutilated and miscast by gun nuts that it would take more than this post to thoroughly explore them all. So here, for anyone interested, are some jumping-off-points for learning more about the reality based and well-documented rationale for the Second Amendment despite the TEA Party and Wayne LaPierre’s efforts at fictionalizing it to serve their own ends.
How about starting with the fact that the entire Bill of Rights, of which the Second Amendment is a part, was actually a sort of marketing tool, like the Federalist Papers, cooked up by James Madison to get some reluctant state governors on board with ratifying the Constitution which, for a while, looked like it might fail.
And all of this effort was in aid of switching from a distributed model of government, as set up in the Articles of Confederation, in which states held more power than the central government, to its opposite, in which the federal government was supreme, as set forth in the US Constitution. That was a tough sell to the States and the federalist founders had to do some fancy footwork to make it happen.
So. Back to the Second Amendment which was designed to accomplish exactly the opposite of what TEA Party and gun rights advocates would have us believe. The Second Amendment was meant to assure the people that the federal government could guarantee “domestic tranquility.” It was conceived of as a tool to prevent insurrection against the government, not to enable it. And no one, but no one, of the founding fathers believed that it would be necessary for American citizens to protect themselves against their own self-government.
Indeed, as Robert Parry of Consortium News so aptly puts it:
. . . the Right has invested heavily during the last several decades in fabricating a different national narrative, one that ignores both logic and the historical record. In this right-wing fantasy, the Framers wanted everyone to have a gun so they could violently resist their own government.
This bogus “history” has then been amplified through the Right’s powerful propaganda apparatus – Fox News, talk radio, the Internet and ideological publications – to persuade millions of Americans that their possession of semi-automatic assault rifles and other powerful firearms is what the Framers intended, that today’s gun-owners are fulfilling some centuries-old American duty.
The mythology about the Framers and the Second Amendment is, of course, only part of the fake history that the Right has created to persuade ill-informed Tea Partiers that they should dress up in Revolutionary War costumes and channel the spirits of men like Washington and Madison.
But this gun fable is particularly insidious because it obstructs efforts by today’s government to enact commonsense gun-control laws and thus the false narrative makes possible the kinds of slaughters that erupt periodically across the United States, most recently in Newtown, Connecticut, where 20 schoolchildren and six teachers were murdered in minutes by an unstable young man with a civilian version of the M-16 combat rifle.
The Second Amendment actually says this:
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.
The brand new nation—America—was, in fact, rather chaotic, in the beginning. News travelled slowly and the colonials were self-interested separatists. Several notable uprisings of citizens occurred while the new government tried to figure out how to govern.
For example, Shays’ Rebellion, in western Massachusetts in 1786, occurred when a former Continental Army captain, Daniel Shays, along with other veterans and farmers took up arms against the government because the new government was slow to address their economic grievances.
Under the Articles of Confederation, the United States lacked an army, or any other peacekeeping force, to put down the rebellion. George Washington was rightly concerned that if the country appeared to be in disarray, the British who had so recently recognized American self-government might try to take advantage of the chaos.
In 1786, Washington wrote “I am mortified beyond expression that in the moment of our acknowledged independence we should by our conduct verify the predictions of our transatlantic foe, and render ourselves ridiculous and contemptible in the eyes of all Europe.”
As a result of Shay’s Rebellion, Washington decided to take part in the Constitutional Convention, which was convened to revise the Articles of Confederation but instead threw them out and created the U.S. Constitution, which shifted national sovereignty from the 13 states to the Big Gubmint we have today.
When the 1791 anti-tax revolt, known as the Whiskey Rebellion, arose in Pennsylvania the Second Congress expanded on the idea of “a well-regulated militia” by passing the Militia Acts which required all military-age white males to obtain their own muskets and equipment for service in militias.
In 1794, President Washington successfully led a combined force of state militias against the Whiskey rebels demonstrating how the Second Amendment helped serve the government in maintaining “security,” as the Amendment says.
As usual the reality is just about the exact opposite of what the gun rights contingent have convinced themselves, and millions of others, to be true. So the rest of us have a choice: either nod complacently when the Right spouts these fractured fairy tales or call it what it is—pure, unadulterated bullpucky. Maybe we’ll all learn something in the process.
And, in closing, I’d like to retweet President Washington’s sentiments: “I am mortified beyond expression that in the moment of our acknowledged independence we should by our conduct verify the predictions of our transatlantic foe, and render ourselves ridiculous and contemptible in the eyes of all Europe.” Because, Roasters, for some time now, that seems to be what Americans are bent on.