Saturday, January 12th, 2013

There are lots of reasons I’d rather not argue about guns — excuse me, sorry, I didn’t mean to say “argue,” I meant to say “join the conversation about guns.”

It’s not that I don’t like guns. I do. I’m a gadget geek all the way down to my bones. As far as I’m concerned, guns in almost all their incarnations are some of the coolest gadgets ever contrived by the human mind. They’re shiny; the best ones have lots of moving parts; they make enough noise to thrill just about anybody; and, if you have a really good gun and you practice every day, you can hit the bull’s eye of a target a mile away. Don’t try to tell me that’s not cool, because I won’t listen.

On the flip side, most guns are made to do just one thing: Kill people, immediately, from a safe distance. Not cool at all. A very douchey thing to do, when it comes down to brass tacks. If you want to kill someone, man up and do it with your bare hands. Argue all you want about how you need to kill people with a gun, but I won’t listen to that, either.

Which brings me to the most important reason I’d rather not argue about guns: I don’t want to get shot. Arguing about guns seems to elevate the blood pressure of the people doing the arguing. I’m not saying there’s going to be a shooting in every argument, I’m just saying it’s a lot more likely in a heated argument where you can be pretty sure at least one side has a gun. You can just have that argument between yourselves while I go play with my toys in my basement lair. You’re always welcome to join me, of course. Don’t bring your gun, though.

That said, I’m going to argue anyway. Shoot me.

My argument, in fact, is with Thomas Jefferson, who gets dragged into this “conversation” by way of his famous quote about the tree of liberty:

God forbid we should ever be twenty years without such a rebellion. The people cannot be all, and always, well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented, in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions, it is lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty. … And what country can preserve its liberties, if its rulers are not warned from time to time, that this people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to the facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.

It’s a strange quote to invoke, not least because I would think that patriots wouldn’t like it implied that they’re full of the same kind of shit you’d find in tyrants. It’s one of those metaphors that sounds all lofty and highfalutin, but only if you don’t think about it too much.

If you’re going to quote one of the founders in support of your argument in favor of taking up arms against the government, it seems to me that Jefferson is probably not your best choice, either. You might consider quoting somebody like Washington instead. A guy who will sneak up on the enemy in the middle of the night and kill them in their sleep, on Christmas, carries a little more weight than a career politician who picks up a pen instead of a gun and writes a few grand words now and then about how great it would be if somebody else did the rebelling. There’s my two cents on that.

The rebellion Jefferson was talking about in this quote above is not the American revolution, but Shay’s Rebellion. Shay led a bunch of armed citizens on a raid of a federal armory. He gets a lot of credit for moxie, but his rebels got stomped like bugs, and Shay’s Rebellion, instead of warning the country’s rulers not to fuck with armed citizens, pushed them instead in the direction of a stronger federal government. Maybe I’m getting the wrong message here, but I feel like that’s a story you’d want to stay away from if you’re arguing for less government, particularly when, four years later, Washington used his newly-ratified constitutional powers to stomp some more rebels in the Whiskey Rebellion and, not incidentally, make him more badass than before.

It seems to me that armed uprisings aren’t all that Jefferson seems to think they’re cracked up to be. I wonder how he’d feel about rebellions if he’d fought in one? I could be wrong, but maybe he’d have put it the way Major General Smedley Butler did:

War is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives. A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small ‘inside’ group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes.

Butler was a badass Marine. And a two-time Medal of Honor winner. And his name was Smedley. Nuff said.

smedley | 8:35 am CST
Category: Big Book of Quotations, daily drivel, yet another rant | Tags:
2 Comments | Add a comment

2 Comments

  1. 1 PeteO said at 8:13 pm on January 13th, 2013:

    I’m only responding because you quoted the quote I quoted EXACTLY.

    The half-truth is that I just like that quote in connection with gun control arguements because nobody knows what to make of it. I don’t think it’s a great quote for OR against. Frankly, I tend to walk away from it wondering what Jefferson would think of our current arguements. So I expected a lot more comment than I got. Certainly not as one sided as I got.

    My opinion on Jefferson is that I’d like to see a lot more of him I my wallet.

    My take, supported or not by Jefferson, logic, statistics, or not, is that they’re out there, those guns, and as much as I’d love to kill a man with my bare hands, he might have a gun and shoot me before I have the chance. And hey, I’m getting old. It’s getting harder and harder to convince myself that I could knock down a prowler with this baseball bat. And it’s easier to agree with gun control activists and belive that the cops can protect you when you live in Monona and not Waco. I don’t own a gun now but when that stuff I see every night on the news starts happening down the block and not across town, I’d like to know that Mr Obama won’t just nod and tell me the baseball bat will have to do.

    As for Butler, he was dead before we liberated the Jews from Nazi death camps. You, me, Clooney, Biden and Smedley can agree that war is a racket, most are, but my guess is that those families appreciated the effort and intervention. They might disagree with Smedley in at least one case.

    Guns are bad, people are bad, war is bad, Jefferson was an idiot. You’re not going to get any arguement from me. What burns my butt is that it’s become a conversation because some under medicated whack job killed some kids and so the gun activists jump all over it like its a gun problem.

    Here’s a better answer to this problem: shut down the schools. Everyone take your kids back and home school them. Can’t shoot up a school if there aren’t any and they’re not working anyway. That’s what we do, shouldn’t everyone? Perfect answer, no?

    I didn’t think so.

    Don’t know if that’s worth anything, but I hope at least that it was entertaining and not what you were expecting.

  2. 2 Dave said at 10:00 pm on January 13th, 2013:

    Good answer. Sort of what I expected. VERY entertaining, especially the part about your wallet.