Saturday, March 3, 2018

A Well-Armed Miltia

Dear among American mythologies is the idea (the fairytale, really) that a valiant militia of rebel patriots defeated the powerful British Empire on the battlefield, thus winning independence for the new country. They 'whupped' the Brits and sent them back across the sea, and did so through the use of sly frontiersman tactics, firing from behind trees and bushes while the British insisted on arranging themselves in pretty ranks on the open field either because it had not occurred to them to hide behind trees or because doing so would be less than picturesque or chivalrous.  

We see the reemergence of this myth in modern thought (if one can call it thought) championing the critical necessity of preserving 'our second amendment rights'. It is needful, so the story goes, for common Americans to be allowed to arm themselves such that they may resist in the event of foreign or domestic aggression and thus preserve our freedoms--such as the freedom to bear arms! Or, say, the freedom to refuse to provide a cake for a same sex marriage. The freedom to observe 'our deeply held religious convictions', whether those impinge on the freedoms of others or not. 

Come to think of it--which 'self evident' freedoms are we talking about? All men being created equal doesn't really seem to be among them. And 'endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights'? See, ya'all, it says 'inalienable'. It means no damn illegal aliens!' 

Well ,but there's another problem. The fact is that the rebel militia in the American Revolutionary War was very nearly superfluous on the battlefield, ineffective against the well trained British Army. Washington himself put it this way: "To place any dependence upon militia is assuredly resting upon a broken staff." In pitched battle, militia units tended to very quickly break and run, thus critically endangering the regular army force that had tried to employ them. But yeah, militia recruits could stand behind some distant tree and wait for an enemy to wander within musket range (which would be a very short distance indeed). 

The best that can be said for the rebel militia is that it was a nuisance, both to the British and, to some extent, to the Americans--to the one because roads and waterways might temporarily be interdicted, to the other because it was disorganized, unreliable, and untrained. General Nathaniel Banks wrote that the militia "... are not sufficiently fortified with natural courage to stand the scenes of war". So much for the courageous American patriot standing ready to defend our rights.

No, it was the trained Continental Army alone that was able to hold (sometimes) its ground against the British, and it was the intervention of the French, with their modern army and navy, that brought the war to a conclusion in America's favor. 

Frankly, I believe that 2nd Amendment enthusiasts, when they make the claim that the civilian populace must be armed in order to resist the tyrannizing power, are simply being bluntly dishonest. 'Back then, we had muskets', they say, because the enemy had muskets. Now we must have machineguns, because the enemy will have machineguns.' But hold on now, Son ... the enemy will also have a well trained, highly disciplined army, and, oh by the way, helicopters and jets and tanks and missiles and bunker-busters and drones, and, if things get too sticky, tactical nuclear weapons. 

Perhaps we had better talk first. Trees ain't much good to hide behind no more after the napalm comes in. 

And in the meantime, we're killing ourselves with the weapons we are collecting to protect ourselves. 

So yeah, let's talk. Let's reason together. 

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