A few words for our modern day Patriot movement to consider

Fair warning…I’m actually not trolling my pro-Second Amendment friends.

In my way, I’m helping. Poor, weak, and unworkable arguments, and, worse, exactly the wrong poster boys for the cause, only play into the hands of those who wish to limit that right with what they see as well-intended, pro-social restrictions for the greater good. In highlighting a few points for consideration, I merely suggest that prudence, solid arguments, and the long game might work better. Better, at least, than the kind of empty, ill-advised, and short-sighted rhetoric we hear about here. I’m sure there are articles that portray him in a more favorable light. By all means, find and read those, too. But please do consider what follows as well. Dismiss it or disagree with it as you will, but consider it.

Personally, I’m pro-2A mainly because I reserve the right to self defense, all argument to the contrary aside. I’m happy to engage on that front, but so far the takers have been few, far between, and I think generally weary of actual discussion. It’s talking point versus talking point. However the Second Amendment should have been interpreted, DC v Heller settled the matter for the time being. To change this state of affairs will require either a new amendment that will muster support from 3/4 of the states (never mind the utter unlikelihood of such a measure making it through Congress and a presidential signature first) or a new SCOTUS that will overturn DC v Heller with a new majority interpretation of the existing Second Amendment. I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for either, so that’s where we are now.

That’s the reality. It’s an individual right. As such, either an individual will behave lawfully or lawlessly. It’s a safe assumption that there is no right to behave lawlessly with arms, so that leaves only lawful use being protected. There’s your hunting. There’s your self defense.

But what if arms-bearing individuals associate freely with others? Why might they do so? Well, either for lawful, or for unlawful reasons. As long as we can avoid affrighting, a point Justice Scalia was quite clear about in DC v Heller (short version: hell no), I guess that leaves hunting parties and…hrm. Well, there’s free speech (barring affrighting, naturally), as we see in the open carry movement. On that point, I’ll just offer this. Westboro Baptist Church clearly has its rights and exercises them with great vigor. Does that make them a good poster child for the cause of free speech or just muddy the waters? Did it win them any significant support, even from those who might otherwise agree with them?

What other group arms-bearing activity might there be? Defense? From what? Well, post-Katrina, the what might have been roving marauders looting  homes and savaging storm holdouts and survivors. What else, maybe? Oh, tyranny. That’ll take us back to the lawful versus unlawful distinction.

Then there’s the “because tyranny” line of reasoning we see from Mr. Vanderboegh (see article linked above), but honestly I’ve moved away from that one a fair bit over time. Why? We’ve already got it, it’s just run by Wall Street. The president isn’t the disease. He’s a symptom. Wall Street is the disease. The disease doesn’t need guns to keep us down. This they’ve demonstrated time and again. Tempting us with consumer goodies does most of their heavy lifting, screwing us into longer hours, harder work, longer work lives, and less financial security has done the vast majority of the rest. When that fails, they herd us into free speech zones and call out the riot gear goon squad to pepper spray and nightstick us into submission while the rest of the country yawns and buys more goodies with their shrinking dollars.

So what do folks like Vanderboegh suggest? Oppose tyranny by identifying the wrong target and do so how? Threatening acts of violence with no stated strategy, no defined goal, no defined enemy? That’s just lawless sedition and barely merits mention in a “because tyranny” context except that’s Vanderboegh’s reasoning. Want to know what tyranny looks like? Read up on the Stamp Act, just one of a long series of offenses against some “American” sentiment, and how the people reacted. Notice which people it was. Notice who they targeted.

Hint: it wasn’t wealthy suburbanites with expensive, yet insufficient, armaments. It was the poor. The unemployed. The rabble. They didn’t actually entirely cohere around the issue of the stamp tax. That was just ready cover for a host of grievances for their treatment at the hands of the wealthy elite. The point is that it was largely the frustrated, angry poor, not the frustrated angry comfortable folk. They took that anger out with swords and pitchforks. They took it out on store owners and local bureaucrats. They took it out on royal appointees. They took it out on their governors. They forced change because they were many, they’d had enough, and they had nothing left to lose.

Strangely, perhaps, it was this kind of lawless, armed (or otherwise) widespread mayhem that helped tip the balance toward the war for independence. A war called for, incidentally, by wealthy white male landowners for the benefit of…wealthy white male landowners. The people, such as they were, were secondary. They were merely labor, the means to ends, and not all of those people had a free say in the matter. Hell, those were only 3/5 people as we later learned, but that’s another story.

What Vanderhoegh is agitating for (again, sedition) looks rather like that, but lacks the honesty. What he attempts to incite is utter lawless, armed revolt against some nebulous enemy, without even the foresight to see that it must be against…wait for it…business owners, bureaucrats, appointees, governors. Except this time it’s not swords and pitchforks. He expects US citizens armed with firearms to affright, or worse, the aforementioned wealthy elite. Those are his locals. Those are your locals. We’re not talking a march on the Crown here. That didn’t happen before. It won’t happen now. Any plans for that will die on the vine. All that’s left is local.

And just where do these comfortable suburbanites think they’ll go at the end of a long hard day of lawless, disorganized affrighting of, or shooting at, local business people and city/county officials? Or the governor? Will they be headed to a cozy home as though nothing went down? Or the hospital? Prison? Morgue? Does that sound like a strategy for success to you in our modern age? Or for utter and complete failure? Has it worked in Egypt? Syria? Iraq?

This takes us right to the militia argument. These aren’t the good old days of foot soldiers, cavalry, and “police,” such as they were, insufficiently armed for crowds with pitchforks, and lacking radio communication, crowd control tech, and all the backup the power of the state can muster in a hurry in the event of a breakdown in the social order. When the jackbooted thugs come marching in, it’ll take the coordinated efforts of our fearless militiamen to stand against them. The lawless rabble ploy might have worked before, but Wall Street got wise to us. Look how they coordinated with the feds and local authorities to crush Occupy, and those folks left their pitchforks at home. So militia it must be!

That might sound good when it comes to gun rights, that’s why we have those rights, right? Militia is what makes it possible to resist tyranny. But there’s some catches to it. Take note, the Second Amendment doesn’t say that an agitated and disorganized armed rabble being necessary to the security of a free state. It says “well regulated militia.” That’s not what this seditionist Vanderboegh is calling for, is it? Is he helping your case or hurting it? Seems to me he’s calling for the wrong tool for the wrong job. The times, they have a’changed. He just missed the memo.

From here I’m going to safely assume we can dismiss this crank as harmful to the maintenance of Second Amendment rights. In the meantime, we’re stuck with this idea of militia to resist tyranny. For the moment let’s not even contemplate the fact that this is not what the well regulated militia is expressly stated to be for in the Second Amendment. Well, lets not linger on that point for too long. It should be enough to note that if the lawful role of that well regulated militia is to provide for the security of a free state, its function is to keep order, i.e., suppress the armed and agitated rabble. The entire idea of statism, of government, isn’t merely implicit in the Second Amendment. It’s entirely explicit, right there in black and white. Maybe we could read that awkwardly and suggest it’s the role of the well-regulated militia to take on the shopkeepers, bureaucrats, appointees, and governors, like the rabble used to to, but that’s a stretch. How else, though, should it defend us from government run amok?

If we take the idea of militia at face value and dig around in the history a little bit, that “well-regulated” bit in the Second Amendment comes loaded with the notion that the governor of the state the “militia” is in calls them up. Hold on…the governor is going to call up our patriotic militiamen (as they seem to be thought of today) to attack his own interests? That doesn’t seem to work. Any other band of armed rebels can call themselves whatever they like, even a militia, but they don’t fall under the “well-regulated” aspect (more like the rabble we just dismissed), and probably, rather than securing the support of the various state guards and similar bodies, will only invoke their ire, along with that of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and all five branches of our standing military. However much ammo and even ordnance the militia proponents may have, short of some astounding tactical geniuses and another component I’m reserving till the end of this, it’s a safe bet that when Uncle Sam finally says, “fuck it,” there’s not much an unregulated militia is going to do against air support and indirect fire. That’s the ugly reality of it.

Ultimately, history decides. Successful rebels, militiamen, and revolutionaries get called heroes and Founding Fathers. Dead and/or failed ones get called terrorists. If that’s the chance our modern patriots are willing to take, all the foregoing aside, then so be it. But that lead me to my last consideration on the matter. Staying power. Intestinal fortitude. Complete and total dedication.

Once again, let’s let history be our guide.

If the American Revolution is any indicator, and I think it is, the militia argument is a recipe for widespread social chaos and, I fear, probably defeat, because it wasn’t even the militia that won the war for independence. By way of illustration, I highly recommend A Narrative of a Revolutionary Soldier, the autobiography Joseph Plumb Martin. He was there and fought through seven campaigns (years) and through to the end of the war. Granted, it’s just one person’s view, and that from a soldier’s perspective, but already I’m seeing signs of his point of view on this front being vindicated in A People’s History of the American Revolution. He joined the Connecticut State Troops (militia) at 15 and re-enlisted at 16 in the Continental Army. His experience was this: in spite of all promises to the contrary, the standing army was nearly always starving, 3-4 days in a row with no food being all too common. They had flimsy clothing and pathetic blankets, if at all, and frequently had to bed down on the ground in brutal New England winters with no shelter. They infrequently got paid, and that in scrip that was practically worthless. And through all that plus the horrors and depredations of war, with Loyalists spying on, and occasionally firing on them, to say nothing of the Redcoats, they stuck it out and won that war. The militias? Not so much. When times got hard, like not enough food, shelter, or pay, they tended to cut and run.

It might feel good and patriotic, and I have no doubt of the sincerity behind these sentiments, but think through the long game. How long would any of the unregulated “militia” we hear about last beyond the first letter from home saying they can’t make the bills because the soldier isn’t working and earning a check? How long before they say, “no food, and this for a bunch of ingrates that spy on us and fire on us, fuck this?” Maybe a great many. Many enough? And should those who stick it out die for nought while their less dedicated compatriots tear loose for home, what will be gained?

When we won the war, the troops who served in the Continental Army found that the hundred acres they were promised weren’t going to happen after all. Worse, public opinion of them was…and this is some serious bullshit here…negative. “What do we need them for?” “What good is/was a standing army?” “They aren’t/weren’t worth the expense.” And that was the ones who stuck it out through hell and back.

Joseph Plumb Martin. Young. Able-bodied. Determined. Seven years for us to win that one, and ultimately only because we finally got support from the French. Truly, how will a “militia-led” revolt here fair against the US Armed Forces? For years, at that.

First, with what financing? The feds have an amazing capacity for locking down the accounts of people who fund “terrorists.” And they get to say who the terrorists are. Do you think for a moment that an organized armed militia arrayed against federal interests won’t be labeled as terrorists? Where, then, does the money to run this patriotic revolt come from? How does it get to you? Where does it get spent? It won’t be checks, debit cards, or credit cards. What, you’re going to revolt funded by Starbucks gift cards, BitCoin, and unmarked small bills transported furtively in leather satchels marked “Loot?”

Assuming most of our patriots will provide their own arms (hence the sacred nature of that right!), and start out with at least a few thousand rounds of their own ammo (all carried in rucks from the get-go?) where does more ammo come from? After all, you’ve got major money problems. You can’t exactly order bricks to be shipped to wherever you’ve stationed everyone. For that matter, where are the armorers and their cleaning/repair gear? How’s that being provisioned and paid for? You really need to figure this out now, don’t you think, else it’s going to be a very short operation.

How about food? Starting with enough food for how long? How will you do a better job of securing provisions than the Continental Army did? They sucked at it and they were backed by the wealthy elite. The officers ate pretty well, just not the grunts. And how will you maintain a logistical system for getting that food, such as it is, to your troops? And how will our modern day patriots feel about eating stale biscuits and rank meat (when lucky) while the brass are getting Pizza Hut carry out? Without sorting out these details, you’ll know Sgt. Plumb’s hunger all too well.

How will the clothing and gear be financed? Where will it come from? What about replacements? How will you get that and other essential gear to your troops? How will you fare without replacement skivvies? Fatigues? Canteens? Tents and shelter halves? In the heat? In the cold? In the wilds? In urban settings? Against predators, pests, vermin, unfriendly civilians?

How will troop movement be financed? What will you use for troop transport? I’m guessing APC’s aren’t much of an option on a large scale. Even if you settle for trucks (common enough overseas among the insurgents), how will you get fuel to them? Who does the repairs? With what parts? With what tools? Sgt. Martin moved on foot. Are you ready for thirty-plus mile marches on no sleep, days on end? You, maybe. Your fellow soldiers?

And how kindly will the civilian ingrates who resist you be to patriotic militiamen? Even if you had money, they won’t deal. They’ll likely spy on you and report you, your numbers, your movements, and your obvious assets to the authorities. Some might even engage you. You, personally, might have the drive and dedication, but the rest? And that while lacking the logistical support to take on the world’s most powerful military force, funded by the wealthiest corporations in the world, corporations that have no interest in seeing their markets destabilized.

Meanwhile, what will your wives, children, siblings, parents, and friends be doing?

Ultimately, don’t take this as an attack on your,  your best and noblest intentions, or your personal ability to tough it out the way Sgt. Martin did. It’s just a quick, simple analysis that shows not the weakness of individual militiamen, but of the notion of militia itself. It was already insufficient against the Crown and muskets. Militia were pretty much expected to be just sufficient to take on the rabble crowds and help slave states patrol for runaways. Even if a genuine militia could be organized without state sanction today, and I don’t mean fifteen buddies with matching patches and mismatched weapons and ammo, how would it possibly fare any better today?

All of that at least pre-supposes the size and functionality of a genuine militia. Anything less than that, and all that’s left is a ragtag band of pissed off malcontents who can’t or won’t be pleased by the system they have (hell, I know I’m not and won’t be) who can’t come up with any better idea than, like the yahoo linked to above, to use incendiary speech to incite others to violence. Maybe he’d have the courage of his convictions, lock, load, and fire upon “the enemy,” you know, Americans. Then he dies. Short story. Or maybe he won’t. In which case, he’s a chickenshit who’s willing to see other people die for his failure at vision.

In short, why is anybody even paying attention to people like that. You’re smart, people. Forget manning up. Brain up. You run businesses. You can build anything and fix all of it and everything else. You’re not the idiots the left make you out to be. Think this through.

We want to preserve our Second Amendment rights. And we want to prevent and resist tyranny. I am simply and starkly suggesting that these are two entirely different balls of wax.

There are solutions to our ills. And sure, they can include guns for hunting and defense. You can look to preppers and sustainable living types for inspiration if you want to opt out. Co-ops. Employee-owned/operated businesses. Anarcho-syndicalism. If peace were more your thing, you could look to the Quakers, the Amish, the Mennonites.

If you want to opt-in, there’s savvy political alliances to be made on an issue by issue basis. Seek out the shared square inch and work with enough people, leaving differences at the door, to make change happen at the polls. Start local, move up and out. End electronic voting and go back to paper ballots with paper trails. Volunteer for non-partisan GOTV efforts. Support making ballot initiatives available at the local, state, and national levels. Support open primaries and publicly funded elections. Support opening the ballots to third parties so we can have genuine pluralism in our representation. End gerrymandering. Get corporate money out of politics. Get dark money out of politics. Do these things and I predict we’ll all be amazed at how many social ills practically disappear, right along with most of our differences.

But Second Amendment activism “because tyranny” and “because militia?” Really? And with poster boys like Vanderhoegh and wealthy tax/fee cheat Bundy? Now that his story has cooled down a bit, how’s that one working out? How do you think any action stirred up by that kind of short-sighted soul ends, if not death and or shame, either yours or someone else’s because some loudmouth stirred up passions and not thoughts? The victors write the history. The dead won’t be remembered as heroes. Just homegrown terrorists. And they’ll have accomplished absolutely squat, other than maybe putting some extra dollars in the funeral director’s pocket.

If I’m wrong, by all means, please tell me how. My ideas might not be the best ones. If not, which ones are? How do those ideas play out in the face of opposition? We’ve got important rights to protect and a duty to country. This isn’t a spur of the moment surprise party or bar crawl. Think it out.


Note: buying the two books mentioned by clicking through to Amazon won’t put a dime in my pocket, but it will support St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Spend a few bucks, enjoy the reading, and help more than one good cause at a time, yours and theirs.


P.S. The notion that the revolution was fomented only by the poor is actually only half the story. There’s also the Whigs to consider, the group of wealthy, elite “Americans” who took their name from the liberal party in England and who labeled their opponents Tories after the conservative party who supported stern measures against the colonies. Once you dig more deeply into our history, the ironies abound. The Whigs did everything they could to calm the violent tendencies of the poor and unemployed who, left with few options but to congregate in major port cities, were agitated into action by firebrand rabble-rousers.  We’ll eventually get to who supported the Constitution and the arguments in the Federalist Papers and who opposed a strong central government, whose arguments are found in the Anti-Federalist Papers, and who was ultimately responsible for the Bill of Rights, wherein is found our Second Amendment right to bear arms. Looked at through these various lenses, at least one thing should become clear…rabble-rousing those who can afford expensive firearms is a new twist and seems to bear little resemblance to the past that got us here.


Image credit: Washington National Guard. Licensed under Creative Commons.




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