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0230 and I can’t sleep,

so I’ll write, instead. Be warned, this is what my brain does this hour of the morning.

Recently, I mentioned an answer given by Tom Kratman to a question on Quora. The question was “what are the most important things for non-Americans to keep in mind when visiting the US?” In his answer, Kratman touches briefly on the implications of the US being what he considers an 18th (and in some ways 17th) century country. While I agreed (and still agree) with his answer, I want to look a little more at some things about the US. What follows was inspired not only by Tom Kratman’s words, but also by a conversation I had with a man for whom I have a great deal of respect.

Some people have suggested the US is a “warrior culture.” I disagree. Aside from the seeming lack of a coherent definition, and in spite of our relatively warlike nature (as opposed to some of our nominal allies), war is not really our thing. For my purposes, I will define a warrior culture as one in which the expectation is that most people (usually men) will possess both weapons and some degree of skill in their use. While the US has a fair number of weapons (including a lot of guns) in private hands, I see no real evidence of a general social expectation that people will be skilled or even trained in their use, especially in their martial use. Martial use, I submit, is the purpose to which a warrior expects to put his weapons. Most people I know who own weapons don’t really expect to put them to martial use.

Many, even most, of those folks I have encountered who say we are a warrior culture, also claim to “embrace the warrior ethos.” It is, in most cases, a claim I find rather dubious. My reading of history, and reading about warrior cultures, leads me to conclude that those who truly embrace this ethos have a common answer to a specific question. “How do you see yourself dying,” or “how do you expect to die” is typically answered with some version of “fighting” or “in combat.” More than one person has phrased that as “I expect to go out of this world the same way I came in: naked, screaming and covered in someone else’s blood.” It was common throughout history for warriors to expect to die in combat rather than peacefully in their sleep, even in cultures in which warriors were a distinct subculture. It was, in many cases, to be preferred. I don’t meet many people who give that sort of answer to the question of how they will die. Quite frankly, of those who do, many of them give every indication of being mere poseurs. With apologies to many of the people with whom I served, especially those who were certainly much more of the “high speed, low drag” sort than I (not all that high a bar), even most of them are not warriors, in spite of the hype of their various services and units (see The Legacy of Heorot and its description of all but one of the grendel hunters, Cadmann Weyland, as soldiers instead of warriors). It’s worth noting, I think, that in spite of the historical atrocity that was the movie 300, Sparta, which was certainly a warrior culture, was held at bay for a long time by Athens, which arguably was not.

If the above is accurate, and it may or may not be (obviously, I think it is), then if the US is not a warrior culture, what is it? Certainly, we are not a pacifistic  or peace culture. As it relates to the topic of this posting, we are, I submit, primarily a frontier culture. The frontier and our relatively recent experience with it, still exert a profound influence on the US. Many of the frontiersman, while they pushed westward in search of land and resources, wanted very much to be left alone (the tendency of some to take what were the lands of the native groups they encountered was, I submit, a reflection of something other than the frontier). Their response to not being left alone, or to being treated in a way they considered unjust, could be quite violent. This is what I see as a reasonable explanation of our relatively warlike nature. We are still a frontier people of the 17th and 18th centuries, with a corresponding tendency to define “unjust” or “not being left alone” rather broadly. We are, after all, largely descended from a people whose own frontier experience was not that far in the past (though further than ours) when they began to settle in what would become the US. Thus, we get things like this from Kipling, from which I’ll share the first twelve lines.

“My son,” said the Norman Baron, “I am dying, and you will be heir
To all the broad acres in England that William gave me for share
When he conquered the Saxon at Hastings, and a nice little handful it is.
But before you go over to rule it I want you to understand this:–

“The Saxon is not like us Normans. His manners are not so polite.
But he never means anything serious till he talks about justice and right.
When he stands like an ox in the furrow – with his sullen set eyes on your own,
And grumbles, ‘This isn’t fair dealing,’ my son, leave the Saxon alone.

“You can horsewhip your Gascony archers, or torture your Picardy spears;
But don’t try that game on the Saxon; you’ll have the whole brood round your ears.
From the richest old Thane in the county to the poorest chained serf in the field,
They’ll be at you and on you like hornets, and, if you are wise, you will yield.

I find it interesting that in spite of what some people in Hollywood might say, many of our movies, especially our action/adventure movies, reflect this frontier viewpoint. John Wayne westerns? Of course. And many of Clint Eastwood’s movies. And Die Hard. All the way up to John Wick. So many of them reflect the “everything was fine, then you had to go and piss him off” frontier attitude.*

In the gun community, we find the frontier culture, as opposed to a warrior culture, represented in a popular pro right to keep and bear arms quote (of unknown origin):

A Rifleman’s Prayer

Oh Lord, I would live my life in freedom, peace and happiness, enjoying the simple pleasures of hearth and home. I would die an old, old man in my own bed, preferably of sexual overexertion.

But if that is not to be, Lord, if monsters such as this should find their way to my little corner of the world on my watch, then help me to sweep those bastards from the ramparts, because doing that is good, and right, and just.

And if in this I should fall, let me be found atop a pile of brass, behind the wall I made of their corpses.

 

*As a side note, I submit almost every Bugs Bunny cartoon reflects this. For instance here,

and here,

and especially here

 

 

I hate bringing this up

Truly, I do. I just don’t see any way to avoid it. The necessity of doing so is a royal pain in the…fundament. Let me begin by noting that I was a member of the NRA for exactly one year. As it turns out, I’m not much of a joiner. Besides, I have, especially over the last 20 years or so, been profoundly unimpressed by its sometimes less than enthusiastic support for the right to keep and bear arms. I would much prefer an organization of its size, with a commensurate ability to motivate voters, which had more of a take no prisoners approach (think in terms of a “what would happen if GOA got with JPFO and they had a child” sort of organization). Still, the NRA remains the 800 pound gorilla in the room. Hopefully, they will get their internal issues taken care of so they can focus on what’s important.

With all that said, the city of San Francisco of all places (everyone should visit for the food, regardless of your opinion of its politics) seems determined to drive people like me (back) into the NRA fold. How might that be accomplished, you ask? Why, by engaging in this sort of oozing, putrescent, self-serving, virtue-signaling, political nonsense.

Old NFO recently noted that he doesn’t want interesting times, again. I quite agree. Sadly, there are people closer to me than the San Francisco Board of Supervisors who seem either oddly determined to bring them on, or foolishly convinced they can never occur. As evidence, I submit my current, favorite delightful little quisling, Beto O’Rourke and his asinine-bordering-on-betrayal-of-his-oath comments.

I don’t want to talk about this stuff. Do you know what I want to do? I want to tend my garden, raise a few chickens and rabbits, cook for family and friends and spend real time with them, learn to brew beer, play my guitar, ride my motorcycle, go to the range, actually finish a book and get paid for it, hunt, fish, camp and go to church. Instead, I find myself facing a seemingly increasing number of asshats who appear determined to force those of us who value the individual over the collective, and freedom over safety, into a corner where we decide we have no choice but to do the thing.

I don’t want to do the thing. I would very much appreciate not being forced to in any way participate in doing the thing, ever again.

Not a happy day at RM Ranch.

 

 

It’s important to do your part

Later this month, I will participate in three activities by which I hope to contribute to society in a meaningful way. To wit, I am scheduled to hunt feral hogs two times toward the end of September and to hunt whitetail deer when archery season opens (also at the very end of September).  It is a burden to be so socially conscious, but I shall do my best to bear up under the weight*…and to fill my freezer with yummy.

EDIT

OldNFO has noted that fall is at least supposed to be in the air. I note that my part of Texas is scheduled to stay near (though hopefully not reach) triple digits for several more weeks, so no long sleeve shirts or jackets anytime soon. OldNFO also notes that with fall comes football. While I’ve always enjoyed a good football game (“good” meaning two closely matched teams who play because they love the game), it has always suffered from a scheduling problem.

hunting season vs football

It’s a relative degree of “don’t care,” but as football seems to be increasingly less about kids having fun and more about…something else, it becomes easier and easier to make fall about me and being outdoors. That said, if you have kids playing football (or engaging in any other extracurricular activity), make sure you give them your enthusiastic support. This means that, among other things, you go to their games and events! You know, like a parent is supposed to do. If you’re a hunter, that’s not preferring football (or band, or debate, or…) over hunting. It’s putting your kids ahead of your pastime. The truth is, unless you are one of the relative few who absolutely depends on hunting to feed your family, it’s a pastime. So, go to your kid’s game. The game animals will still be there when your kids have moved out and are on their own.

*I am also tentatively scheduled to hunt deer, once more, when the general season opens, but I don’t know if I am capable of shouldering such a load of responsibility. One can only do what one can.

Not to state the obvious, but

I keep running into what I can only term stupid less-than-optimally-intelligent (hereinafter referred to as LTOI) questions. I’ve been told there are no stupid LTOI questions, only stupid LTOI people asking questions. My feeling is that in many cases both the question and the questioner are LTOI. But I digress.

One of the LTOI questions (presumably asked by LTOI people) I seem to encounter on a regular basis is some version of “why should the right to keep and bear arms include the right to own (insert hated gun type of choice)?” I’ve argued from the standpoint of freedom and Enlightenment principles until I am blue in the face, often to no avail. So, here, I wish to state what I see as the most fundamental reason the right to keep and bear arms, including the right to own those guns some might hate, is absolutely essential. Simply this: Should we ever again live in “interesting times,”* firearms are essential because they make it much easier to adorn lamp posts with piano wire and tyrants.

*shamelessly stolen from Old NFO, who may have borrowed it from a large country currently interested in a former British colony

It’s not that I think all taxes are bad,

rather, it’s the belief that taxes and whatever they produce are an inherent good at least as valuable as their cost, to which I object. It’s what leads me to like things like this:

 

I wish I had written that…

I like the Batman movie franchise. I’m particularly fond of the Dark Knight arc. One of the essential elements of that arc is the relationship between the dual characters of Bruce Wayne and Batman. In this arc, it becomes clear that, at least in the mind of the hero/protagonist, the disguise is not Batman. Rather, it is Bruce Wayne. In other words, Bruce Wayne is Batman dressed up like a “billionaire playboy.” Batman is not Bruce Wayne dressed up like a scary vigilante.

Not too long ago, on Quora, the best answer to the question “what are the most important things for non-Americans to keep in mind when visiting the US” was given by Tom Kratman. It’s an answer I wish I had written. I’ll quote the thesis, now.

“We are an 18th century country (in some ways a 17th century country) with the trappings of modernity.”

He has more to say and I encourage you to read the entirety of his answer. It will take you but a moment.

Over the years, I’ve spent a lot of time talking with non-Americans (and a good number of Americans) about why the US is the way it is. Often, this has been regarding our arguably peculiar approach to individual liberty. Whether it deals with freedom of speech, the right to keep and bear arms, freedom of religion, a general mistrust (or even distrust) of government, the design of our federal government as laid out in the Constitution, it has always seemed to come back to individual liberty.

One of the points I tend to make is that we are a nation that quite literally grew out of the Enlightenment, especially the Scottish Enlightenment. I’ve touched on the importance of this more than once on this blog (rather than list the examples, allow me to suggest a simple search for the term “enlightenment”). Some people understand it. Others, especially some of the ostensibly well-educated, respond with some version of “well, the Enlightenment was actually a European philosophy…” as if that is some earth shattering bit of news no one had ever before considered. It also suggests, of course, that there was no way for American colonials-cum-revolutionaries-cum-founders to have in any way learned of the Enlightenment or be influenced by it. In other words, it’s the refusal to consider an inconvenient thought by hiding behind the trappings of intellectual achievement.

Regardless of the reasons, though, some people just don’t get it. Thus, the beauty of Tom Kratman’s answer. The Enlightenment was very much a thing of the 18th (and late 17th) century. Given that what would become the US was settled largely by Europeans, it should come as no surprise that this philosophy would have a significant influence on the development of the United States. Without discussing things like the Scottish Enlightenment, or from where the Founding Fathers pulled various ideas (they were shameless about stealing ideas), we can simply point to the late 17th century through the 18th century and say “that’s who we are.”

We are, in other words, an 18th century people dressed up in 21st century clothing. As Kratman notes, just a couple of sentences after his thesis:

“Because we are an 18th (or 17th) century country we tend to be armed, traditional, conservative, religious, patriotic, polite, warlike, and highly skeptical of the state.”

This is the truth that lies just beneath our surface. It lurks just under our 21st century clothing. We wear the clothing (largely) because we like being the world’s biggest economy, which necessitates being able to sell what we produce all over the world. We go to international conferences and say (and wear) the right things. Underneath that, though, is the 18th century that thinks having the world’s most powerful military is a pretty good idea. Also lurking there are our widespread beliefs about government being fundamentally untrustworthy but the country being worth both idolizing and fighting for. Other neighbors include religion, politeness, being armed and the other things Kratman lists.

Those who call things like our Electoral College or the right to keep and bear arms, vestiges of a past we need to leave behind or things that made sense “back then” but don’t make sense anymore confuse the appearance with the reality. They assume, incorrectly, that we are a 21st century nation with a few, obsolete 18th century ideas and ideals still hanging on. They are wrong. The 18th century America is who we are. The 21st century America is the disguise. There are exceptions, of course. We find those in what can be best described as certain elitist subcultural enclaves. Still, though, the 18th century remains and those who pretend otherwise go merrily on their way, unaware that they’ve accepted the disguise as the reality.

Democratic Socialists at their very best

I saw the original footage, but it’s so much better this way.

Beyond that, I have nothing to say.