Saturday, January 29, 2005

It's a Good Thing We're So Free

The most frequent on-the-job use of email seems to be the forwarding and re-re-re-forwarding of alleged humor and simulated profundity. I got one yesterday that I found thought-provoking ... but probably not in the direction that the sender intended.

It was a collection of one-line slogans -- electronic bumper stickers, really -- related to firearms and their proscription by law. You've seen lots of these before, I expect. A few examples:

An armed man is a citizen. An unarmed man is a subject.

Colt: The original point and click interface.

If guns cause crime, then pencils cause misspelled words.

Enforce the "gun control laws" we have, don't make more.

Ho, hum. Now, I own firearms, and I enjoy shooting. In fact, that's why one of my day-job associates forwarded this collection to me: he sent it to a small group of us who shoot together, usually one Saturday a month during reasonable weather (March through November, more or less). Passing around items like this is a kind of code. It reminds us that we're the Midwestern version of good ol' boys, and we're sure not anything like those pink-panty lib'ruls and bicoastal Democrats who want real men's guns taken away from them, because they're scared of guns. And indeed, I think there is truth in some of these little slogans, mixed with rather less wit than their authors would like to think.

But the one that flipped a switch in my Friday-afternoon-deadened mind was this:

The Second Amendment is in place in case they ignore the others.

"In case they ignore the others?" In case?

What amendment -- indeed, what part of the constitution -- have they not ignored? (Or "usurped," as our Founders would have put it?)

The men who wrote our constitution knew that, if we were to be meaningfully free, we would have to be armed. But that's not enough. Being armed is what a mathematician would call a necessary condition, but not a sufficient condition, for political liberty. Other conditions are also required. He who would be free must be willing to fight, kill, and die to remain that way. He must also be willing to believe the evidence of his own eyes and ears when deciding whether "his" government is respecting -- or encroaching on -- his liberties. He needs to be willing to know and remember history, so as to have a standard to use in evaluating just how "free" he is. He may have to shut off the teevee and do some reading, and -- horrors! -- thinking, from time to time.

When tyranny comes, it doesn't have to be abrupt. If one's supervisors are clever -- and ours are damnably clever -- they bring it on a little at a time, and anaesthetize the sheep with benefits and prosperity. The big thing is to be gradual. One year is always just that tiny bit worse than the one before, but the transition is smooth and no one gets upset. Thus we arrive at today, where you spend half your year working for government in one form or another, and assure yourself that you live in the "freest country on earth." And we gun owners tell ourselves that if "they" ever decide to ignore any of those other parts of our dead-letter constitution, our dead-letter 2nd Amendment will put a stop to that nonsense right away.

Sure you should be armed. But it's no good if you won't open your eyes and see.

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