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An explanation

regarding my previous post is perhaps in order.

On a cool, fall day in Wilmington, North Carolina that I can remember vividly, but which to many people was long ago, I stood before a United States Coast Guard recruiter, raised my right hand, and took my very first military oath. I can still remember it.

“I, __________, do solemnly swear  that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.”

I took it again when I enlisted in the Navy. Later, when the Navy lost its collective mind and chose to make me an officer, I took another one.

“I, __________, having been appointed an ensign in the United States Navy, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office upon which I am about to enter. So help me God.”

I was very serious about the oaths when I took them. Because of circumstances, choices I made about the direction I wanted my career to take, and frankly some dumb luck, I was seldom in situations in which I would have to pay the ultimate price to fulfill my oath. When I was, rarely, in such situations, I emerged virtually unscathed (more dumb luck, perhaps?). However…

I had the honor of

  • following in the footsteps of
  • serving with
  • mentoring

other people who also took seriously their oaths of enlistment and/or commissioning who did pay that ultimate price in the fulfillment of their oath(s). They were and are, to the last person, better people, in my mind, than anyone who would suggest sacrificing one of our rights if only other people would sacrifice some of theirs. I cannot explain the anger I feel when I encounter questions like that.  To encounter that question on Memorial Day Weekend? Not good. Those men and women died in service to a nation and document, to an idea, that some are apparently willing to toss away all so lightly. I do not apologize for my response, but I thought it needed some context.

Apparently, stupid questions do exist

As evidence of that, I offer the following question from Quora, along with both my (slightly edited) original answer and some other thoughts.

Assume that the States have reached a compromise and agreed to pass two constitutional amendments, as long as both pass at the same time. One would limit the right to bear arms. What other right would you be willing to limit in exchange?

In exchange? Really? Allow me to rephrase your question in broader, but I believe completely accurate terms.

“Assume that the States have reached a compromise and agreed to pass two constitutional amendments, as long as both pass at the same time. One would limit a right specifically protected by the Constitution. What other right would you be willing to limit in exchange for the first right being limited?”

Seriously?

Perhaps you are thinking in terms of “gun folks” liking the right to keep and bear arms, and other people liking some other right. So, if the first group accepts limitations on their rights, what right of the other group would they like to see limited? It becomes a sort of “you can limit my freedom as long as I can also limit yours.” Why, in the name of all good common sense, would an ostensibly free people, even if barely smart enough to tie their own shoes, agree to such a thing?

This guy comes into the ER complaining of a headache. He has little round divots in his skull. Some of them go all the way down to the dura mater. He says, insists really, that he fell asleep in the rocking chair on his front porch and “woke up with a really bad headache.” He is admitted, forthwith. Just a little bit later, another man comes into the ER. He, too, has little round divots in his skull, some all the way down to the dura mater. Fell asleep on his front porch and woke up with, you guessed it, a really bad heacache. An alert ER nurse notes that their listed addresses put them next door to each other. Upon further investigation it is learned that

  1. they were, indeed, next door neighbors
  2. they had a disagreement
  3. they decided to settle the disagreement by taking turns hitting each other in the head with a ball peen hammer

That is what your question proposes: “I’ll let you hurt me, but you have to let me hurt you too.” It is what stupid, immature adolescent boys do. It is not how reasonable people approach liberty.

Great jumping Shiva/whiskey tango foxtrot, over/OMG. This is not a case of “my” rights and “your” rights, or even “their” rights. The rights protected by the Constitution are our rights. I am not willing to see any of them further abridged, limited or infringed.

So, no. I’m not making the exchange of any right for the loss or limitation of another. Hands off all of them.

The additional thoughts

Early in my military career I was a member of that species fondly referred to as a “deck ape.” Some will know what this means. My apologies in advance for reverting to that sort of communication.

This is, beyond any hint of a shadow of doubt, one of the dumbest, most asinine, most poorly thought out questions I have ever encountered. It is also what happens when someone who doesn’t have two f***ing brain cells to rub together thinks he can be clever. You sir, are a waste of space and protoplasm. You use up oxygen that could be put to better use by my cat when she’s taking a s***. You should have never been born. Your mom should have closed her legs and told your dad “no,” or he should have had his balls cut off before he could achieve the Big Squirt. My freedom is not for sale or available in exchange to you or any other dumb ass or collection of dumb asses just because you think your ability to string together a sentence means you have any sort of usable intelligence. Leave me and others, and our freedoms, the f*** alone for, should you one day achieve your apparent goals, rest assured that I or someone like me will happily put a bullet in your f***ing head. Have I communicated my disagreement in terms you can understand, dips***?

Here. Have video clip. This one’s for you (starting at 0:25).

 

*DEEP BREATH*

Ahem.

This rant is hereby concluded.

Myopia

Recently, a congresscritter fondly referred to as “AOC” (which her supporters assure me does not stand for anything which includes the term “occasional cortex”) tweeted a tweet (twit?), which read, in part

Ever since the Bush Admin, Patriot Act, & creation of Dept. Homeland Security, the dangerous erosion of American civil liberties has worsened.

I will not provide a link.

Mind you, I don’t really disagree. The Patriot Act was an abomination foisted off on the American people in the name of overwhelming need.* I’m not really convinced DHS was necessary. The problem, as regards the good Congressperson, is that “the dangerous erosion of American civil liberties” began with the Alien and Sedition Acts. Though those have, of course, expired, they set the stage for a series of attacks that have gone largely unabated. Wilson, both Roosevelts, Carter, FISA courts, the NDAA of 2012, Nixon, J. Edgar Hoover…do none of these ring a bell?

My diagnosis of the good congresscritter is myopia of the partisan variety.

*Proving, once again, the wisdom of William Pitt the Younger’s words:
“Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves.”

You’ll notice I didn’t ask

People who own, use and appreciate guns are sometimes inclined toward what we might  call “strongly held beliefs.” Accordingly, there are some questions that, usually jokingly, go into the category of Questions Man Is Not Meant To Ask. Among those, we find things like .270 vs .308 vs .30-06, or “can a Model 70 made after 1964 be any good.” And, of course, when it comes to handgun caliber selection, there is this one: “is there any better caliber choice for self-defense than that developed in the early 20th century by the prophet John Moses Browning?” It has been said that those who ask such questions, especially if those questions suggest anything associated with JMB could ever be eclipsed, risk causing a universe-ending time paradox. Accordingly, I shall forbear to ask.

Joking aside, choice of self-defense calibers is a very personal thing. Though I have a preference, which I will not share, I recognize other people have made different but equally valid choices. All of which brings me to a post by Commander Zero at his blog, Notes From The Bunker. The current debate probably rages around three calibers, 9mm, .40 Smith and Wesson and .45 ACP. He provides the most useful decision flowchart to help answer the “which of the three should I choose” question. Behold the flowchart:

defensive caliber flowchart

I couldn’t agree more.

Guitars and liberty

I’ve written recently of the nature of authoritarians (here, here, and here, for instance). Specifically, I observed that authoritarians know only one basic approach. That is, they use force (and/or its threat) as a way of getting others to do what they want. It’s important to understand that authoritarians are not inherently bad people. In many, perhaps even most, cases they truly believe that their goal is worthwhile or even laudable. Quite often, it is. The problem, of course, is how they choose to achieve their goal(s). As I noted in yesterday’s post, those who refuse to comply become the nail to the authoritarian’s hammer.

Like the guitar player who knows only three chords, and only the basic fingerings of those three chords, the authoritarian’s repertoire is limited. Again, the authoritarian knows only the threat of force and the actual application of force. There aren’t many songs that can be played, that way. Thus, when someone “just doesn’t get it” and refuses to “get with the program,” authoritarians double down on force. If that doesn’t work, they double down, yet again. It’s a poor guitar player who plays the same song over and over, louder each time, in an effort to generate applause when the audience just doesn’t appreciate his efforts.

Appropriate “musical” interlude:

 

 

But what of the audience? What of those who will not applaud the non-musician with a guitar? What of those who will not comply with the backed-by-the-threat-of-government-force demands of the authoritarian? Depending on where they live, their repertoire need not be quite so limited.

There is frequent reference in the writings of present-day proponents of individual liberty to the “four boxes of liberty.”* Those are, in something approaching desired order of use:

  1. the soap box – for speaking out, protesting, assembling, petitioning for redress of greivances
  2. the ballot box – for the rather obvious purpose of voting out those who either infringe upon or will not defend liberty
  3. the jury box – for the purpose of the jury sitting in judgement of not just the facts of the case, but of the law itself, likely up to and including jury nullification
  4. the ammo box – for use as part of what Judge Kozinski termed the Constitution’s “doomsday provision” Silveira v. Lockyer, 328 F.3d 567 (2003)

Each of these has its place. While there are some who, unfortunately I believe, seem to frequently and enthusiastically call for using the ammo box,** I submit we are nowhere near that profoundly unfortunate necessity. We are, however, desperately in need of using the first three far more than we currently do. Still, each of them serves to illustrate the approaches available to those who will not give in to injustice, or sit silently while liberty is under attack.

The audience, then, has far more tools at hand than does the authoritarian. They have multiple ways of finding another guitarist, another genre of music, a different venue. The challenge, of course, is using them in a way that protects liberty rather using them to impose our will on others. Wanting to be left alone, when rightly conceived, means I will also leave you alone to live your life as you choose – even if I think your way of living life sucks.

 

*Wikipedia, of all things, actually gives a decent though brief treatment of this concept, including its likely origins.

**It’s worth noting that it’s not typically current or former law enforcement or military folks who are sounding the call for armed rebellion. No, that distinction falls largely to the keyboard commando, whether he lives in his mom’s basement or not. If that’s you, I lack the words to tell you just how much you (and I) don’t want things to ever reach that point. To avoid that, let’s use the first three boxes a lot, okay?

Of hammers and nails

More apologies to Francis Bacon…

I wanted to try to dig just a little more into the mind of the authoritarian. My goal was to write a post that was deep and insightful, something that would provide an incontrovertible explanation as to what drives the authoritarian. This is not that post.

My observation is that authoritarians understand that their approach, the use of force (even if the use is simply the threat of said force) always works – except, of course, when it doesn’t. It is that exception which serves to frustrate the authoritarian. In most instances, the authoritarian, usually via the particular agency of government he supports or represents, finds that the (sometimes judicious) application of just a little more force, will compel compliance by the one(s) who oh so clearly did not get the message the first time. This, too, always works. Again, except when it doesn’t.

It is the person who consistently declines to comply, the woman who simply refuses to knuckle under to code enforcement when she hasn’t violated the law, the man who defies his neighbors and their shock that he grows lettuce rather than azaleas in his front yard flower beds, who frustrates the authoritarian to no end. All the authoritarian knows, the only response of which he can conceive, is to double down on the pressure. The one who refuses to knuckle under, who refuses to give in, who simply declines to comply, is clearly a nail and the only tool possessed by the authoritarian is the hammer of (usually governmental) authority.

I see this authoritarian approach demonstrated a lot on Quora. As it happens, I’m a fairly active writer there on topics relating to the right to keep and bear arms, so I’ll use that an an example of authoritarian thought. It is worth noting that authoritarian thought is not at all limited to discussions of guns. I’m simply pulling from where I often see it demonstrated.

It is not at all uncommon for one or more gun control advocates to suggest that with the proper application of governmental force, whether by law enforcement or by, say, the National Guard, any and all sorts of gun control measures could be successfully implemented. The logic goes something like this:

  1. Pass the law/issue the EO
  2. Threaten the necessary force
  3. Most gun owners will comply
  4. Apply the necessary force to those who do not comply
  5. The vast majority of remaining gun owners will fall in line
  6. The scourge of violence committed with guns will be removed from American society

It is this same logic which is arrayed against other behaviors some find so objectionable as to be worthy of being wiped out. Let’s look at a First Amendment issue and make “hate speech” the target.

  1. Pass the law/issue the EO
  2. Threaten the necessary force
  3. Most who engage in hate speech will comply
  4. Apply the necessary force to those who do not comply
  5. The vast majority of those who still engage in hate speech will fall in line
  6. The scourge of hate will be removed from American society

That both the right to keep and bear arms, and the right to say things that are offensive, including things that are vile, disgusting and even evil, are constitutionally protected means little to the authoritarian. He seeks “a way around the Constitution” so as to apply force to end that to which he or she stands opposed. She seeks a way to force you to comply.

 

Inconceivable!*

Recently (a good, relatively imprecise word that takes up less space than “the other day”), I wrote about the desire of most people to simply be left alone. That was brought on by some thinking I’ve been doing about busybodies (moral and otherwise) and authoritarians. While I vacillate somewhat in my views of both groups (some days they are all evil, space-Hitler wannabes and other days just people with whom I have a major disagreement), most days my calmer, more rational side comes down on the side of them just being people with whom I strongly disagree about, well, lots of things. Primarily, of course, I disagree with their belief that they have the fundamental right to tell me, you or anyone else what do.

I go through periods in which I don’t get the reading done that I want. Today, though, I was only a day late in reading this post from Sarah Hoyt. The part that resonated with me was this:

It was the last meal we had in Portugal, Tuesday lunch.  Somehow motorcycle helmets came up.  And my brother explained to my parents that Americans have weird hangups and fought tooth and nail laws on mandatory helmet use and seat belt use, despite the obvious benefits of both.

At which point I explained that (It’s not true that “F*ck you, no” became my catchphrase this trip, but it’s also not a total lie) “F*ck you, no. I don’t care how beneficial it is, what right does the government have to mandate things EVEN IF THEY ARE GOOD FOR YOU.”

At which point everyone but my husband stared at me in sheer incomprehension.

I encourage you to read the entire post, if you’ve not already done so. If you aren’t a regular reader of her blog, According to Hoyt, you should probably change that, too.

Anyway, there is a lot to be learned from the last sentence of the above quote, “At which point everyone…stared at me in sheer incomprehension.” It is that incomprehension against which those who love liberty struggle, as much as it is against the uncomprehending authoritarians. It is not simply that authoritarians believe their way – always someone (or several layers of someones) in charge of one part or another of others lives – will work better than the alternative. Rather, it is that they do not and cannot conceive of the alternative working, not really.

In my calmer, more rational moments, I recognize that’s why authoritarians make the arguments they do. It’s why they try to hold up Somalia as an example of libertarianism. It’s why they speak of the need to license gun owners or to outlaw “hate speech.” It’s why they seek to misrepresent constitutional conservatives. Because the alternative, that people are largely capable of running their own lives, that locals know more about their circumstances than some group of “experts” 2,000 miles away, and that most people are pretty honest and trustworthy, simply makes no sense to them. When we speak to them about natural rights (whether you choose to define them as coming from God or simply part of being human), they laugh, not because they have a good argument against them, but simply because the idea is contrary to how they view the world. It’s like trying to teach a goldfish to whistle – the concept is alien. The big difference, of course, being that in this case alien is also threatening.

Those who oppose authoritarianism suffer from no such disadvantage. After all, we grew up surrounded by authoritarians and busybodies. We have, our entire lives, interacted with the institutions they build and run. We know how they think. Many of us thought the same way for a good while, until “it” happened. For some it came on quickly, for others more slowly, but the result was the same. We had that “Oh, dear God, who thought this crap was ever a good idea and why did I ever buy into it,” moment. Followed by anger and frustration at the realization of how widespread “this crap” really is and by how completely we had accepted it. Even those of us who were known to be a little on the independent side (a characteristic thankfully instilled and nourished by my parents), bought into it more than we often like to admit. Still, at least we understand it. For many of us, the fact that we bought into it at all leads us to not only dislike it, but to actively hate it.

I don’t have a real clear picture of where to go from here, just some broad, general ideas. Clinging, nay fighting, tooth and nail for the principles found in our Constitution seems a good place to start. Beyond that, I don’t have much, right now.

What do you think?

*I really like The Princess Bride, okay?