The thinking Viking has studied US History. Mind you, I’m not a “historian”, but I did willingly take 10 credits of US history as electives, and I found it fascinating. And I read. Sometimes, quite a lot. I’m also blood-related to Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman.
So today, I’m going to have a little chat about how our country came to be, why, and what happened after it almost was almost torn apart – just little bits, anyone who follows me knows that I don’t go off for pages and pages when I get down to brass …tax. (reminds me of an old bug Bunny cartoon…) Sorry, couldn’t resist.
Lets get started. We revolted against Great Britain because of the stranglehold they had on our economy and legal status. Bizzare laws made Americans have to ship materials to Britain to be made into goods, then buy these same goods at very high prices from British companies, and of course the profits etc didn’t…trickle down to them. Hmm. Taxes – without being able to participate in deciding the laws, riles many, and this gave rise to the famed Boston Tea Party. Not to be confused as the Tea Party is today. See what I did there? Secret meetings, revolutionary publications, a couple riots (google the “Boston Massacre”), foreign solidarity, a little bit of treason, some guns, more guns..bigger guns…….some..well, OK a LOT of bullets, bunch of dead people, and we win our independence. (Thanks France! I mean that. We would still be a colony if you folks hadn’t helped. Don’t forget that, Americans. The French are NOT pansies. Ask anyone who Napoleon defeated.)
So we begin the war by declaring that everyone has the right to pursue life, liberty and happiness, and that yada yada some times it is needed to get violent and fix a broken government. And it worked, well, well enough to form the United States. So far, so good.
Then, very quickly, they realized they had forgotten to include some details, details about human rights that were crucial to their anger towards the Crown.
Such as the right to free speech and the redress of grievances, and the right to peacefully assemble. These three were violently suppressed by the British. People died trying to get their concerns addressed in the times prior and during the war (see “Boston Massacre” that I mentioned above) , groups larger than 3 were forbidden, printed word was censored, all while their complaints about the situation fell on deaf ears. People suppressing protesters today are forgetting this. It is part of our very fabric as a nation for those who are upset with the status quo to state so, and to seek a redress of grievances – loudly and publicly, and repeatedly, day after day after day if they wish. So long as they are peaceful, as the amendment stipulates, it is very un-American to stifle and suppress words from others/protesters that you do not agree with, so long as certain lines are not crossed. Some lines have been crossed, and people are getting hurt. Line one? Lets just say “pepper spraying cop meme” and “Scott Olsen” – peaceful protests that were made violent by those very people hired to protect the people. (I’ve met Mr. Olsen a couple times now, nice guy) The other line – non-peaceful assemblies. If you gather in a group of a couple + hundred, with the main slogan being “Fuck the Police!” (aka an “FTP March”) – then of course they are going to take it wrong. Smashing windows and spray painting slogans on businesses or cars may make you feel powerful, but that crosses the line. Those are crimes, pretty much anywhere. Wrong message, wrong tactic.
On the other hand, the Founding Fathers had no way to anticipate the Internet, TV, radio, <much later DOH! “cell phones smarter than the space shuttle”> where one persons speech can be heard and read by millions and millions. Hell, I am watching the freaking Olympics in LONDON right now. (DAMN!! Nice goal, Team USA women’s soccer!!!) In those days, someone who was spewing BS would literally get shouted down by those nearby who realized that the person was a rambling lunatic – there was no way said lunatic could reach the entire nation with dangerously disturbed ideas. Best you could do back then was an un-amplified bull horn or maybe get published in some small news rag. Of course, even in those times they realized that this made the wealthy better able to have their voices heard, hence some quotes you may have seen about corporate power that our founding fathers made. They had no idea. Now, a few mouse clicks can expose someone’s private life, one man with an opinion that most find repugnant can find many, many more like-minded people. So, tricky. Maybe I’ll have some answers after this bit and will add here, maybe not. <later> Oh, yeah, they could also never have anticipated that corporations would one day be “people” who can spend as much as they like pursuing “free speech” and saying fucking anything they want that will make people do what they want them to do, be it advertising for drugs no one needs, useless or even dangerous products or ….trying to buy a presidential election. And hiding behind the Fourth amendment to avoid disclosing who the real humans involved actually are. It is bat-shit insane that we allow this.
So, moving on. Guns. Not many can discuss this rationally. On the one hand, you have the pro-gun ownership people, who cite the 2nd amendment. Well, I can’t argue much on the big issue. without private gun ownership the Revolution would never have survived, and we would have remained under tyranny for – how long? Also, hunting and self-defence – both were BIG parts of life in new America, with real pirates, real “indians” who really did kill people, and no “911″ from your cell phone to summon help. So, “yes guns for the people”, it is constitutional, and if this country ever gets so bad as it was back then, well, so be it. We are NOT there now, so don’t go off on me. Also, back then, there were basically two classes of guns – pistols and muskets/rifles (yes, they had true rifles then, dispite what some anti-gun folks say “all they had were smooth bore muskets – not accurate at all” – this is not true. The Americans used Kentucky Longriflemen as some of the worlds first snipers) ) and then were the BIG GUNS such as cannon. Military rifle were basically the same as hunting rifles. Maybe add a bayonet. Nothing anything like an AK-47 or M-16/AR-15. I would wager that a couple hundred modern soldiers -given enough ammunition and their modern gear – could have defeated the entire British army. And may the gods help the nation who tries to invade US soil. Remember the movie ”Red Dawn”, anyone? Cold War straight up propaganda, but the point about how well armed Americans are is true.
The Founding Fathers had no idea that two hundred years later everyday people could buy weapons designed for waging war. For common firearms, there simply was not much difference, and who has a use for a cannon when hunting? We already have laws against fully automatic machine guns, thanks to the days of prohibition and the Thompson sub-machine-gun (great gun! fun to shoot!) among others. Before the gun-nuts can go off, I own a gun, in times past have owned several. I only have the one now, but it would make Dirty Harry proud. I have, maybe 9 rounds for it, leftover from my last trip to the shooting range, admittedly years and years ago. I figure if I can’t stop an assailant with 6 rounds of .44 fire, then I am going to need help. If I really want to go out and shoot something bad-ass, I know a cop or two who runs a yearly marksmanship event, where they let you play with some bigger stuff. No need for an AR-15 with a hundred round magazine. Ever. If there’s a revolution, I’m sure some enterprising person can scare up better weapons. They have already been made. Rifles and handguns. Single shot, semi-auto, revolver, yada yada yada. In closets and garages and warehouses and under pillows and beds all over the North American continent. Yes ,- Canada too.. This is why it is pointless and wrong to ban guns entirely – the pro-gun statement about only criminals having guns if guns are illegal is….true. There is a HUGE black market for guns, and until our society doesn’t drive demand, it will not go away any time soon. Think about putting toothpaste back in the tube. you might WANT it there, but it aint gonna happen.
I’m gonna skip the third amendment – not much of an issue these days.
The Fourth is a big one for me. “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” – THIS IS WHY ANONYMOUS AND MANY OTHERS fight against internet laws that would allow massive amounts of personal data to be collected and analyzed by government agencies this is, for the vast majority of people, a completely unreasonable search. It is the basis for what most people assume is a human right – the right to privacy, to have our personal lives public only so far as we wish. They had no idea, none, that things like bank balances, phone numbers, memberships in private clubs, places we have visited, things we have bought, think we simply “like” are all possibly being searched, without cause or warrant. They also had no idea that people thousands of miles from one anyone would be able to communicate dangerous information to almost anyone, or that people thousands of miles apart could form the tightest friendships of their lives without ever meeting some of their friends, but still knowing what they all look like, recognize their voices, and trust them with secrets. We have to be very careful here. Also unknown? Drug testing. Drug testing welfare recipients is one of the worst violations of the Fourth Amendment I can imagine. Have to prove you are not guilt – guilty before proven innocent. Doesn’t sound so good now, does it?
The next, the Fifth, is pretty well understood until you read “when in actual service in time of War or public danger” – oops. They never anticipated 9/11 and the now-never ending war on terror that kind of make “all the time, everywhere” a possible cause to suspend this right. Mind you, I don’t think this would actually happen, but…well, I am writing this piece for a reason……what will they be writing about in two hundred years about us?
Skipping the next couple, #8, you have some troubles these days. “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.” – we live in a country where we have more people in prison per capita than any other nation on earth. The majority are for non-violent offenses. The War on Some Drugs has failed. We all know it, anyone who doesn’t see the wrongness here just isn’t being honest. Mind you, I’m a NOT advocating legalizing all street drugs. If I ever meet the meth dealer who got my friend hooked after she was clean for a year, I’m gonna knock him into tomorrow. But I digress. Bradley Manning is on trial for treason for telling the truth. There are states that are trying to pas laws that could make women who miscarry babies into felons if they can’t prove it was a natural event.
Nine and Ten aren’t considered much -
Ninth Amendment – Protection of rights not specifically enumerated in the Constitution.
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
Tenth Amendment – Powers of States and people.
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
Read these two a couple times. They both end with “the people”. Think about that.
Jumping ahead to the 13th and 14th amendment – ending slavery and establishing that people born here were citizens. I’m not actually going into the details of the causes of US Civil War. The 13th is a no-brainer. No one would publicly claim to want to return to the days of slavery. but the next the 14th another double edged sword whose other edge wasn’t anticipated. The fourteenth was INTENDED to make sure the children of slaves were citizens. They hadn’t counted on our current trouble, with non-citizens essentially invading and having their kids become citizens. Tricky. And at the time, something no one would really have considered even a potential problem. We can’t just kick them all out – that would be both impossible and incredibly cruel. Against our traditions. The statue of Liberty would weep if she knew what some were trying to do to immigrants. So we try compromises, I hope they work out.
Damn, been writing for almost two hours.
I gotta run and pick someone up from night classes.
Anyhow, just think about it.