In a recent post by Leonard Pitts entitled “Rep. Giffords’ departure a blow to democracy” Mr. Pitts runs into the collectivists dilemma. The dilemma that pits harsh historic reality against wishes and pipe dreams of the utopian reformers.
While I will get to the point of this article shortly, I want to set a foundation for my argument by first clarifying and delineating terminology. I have found that often misunderstandings can be avoided by a simple clarification of words and ideas, as more often than not, we bring to an argument words that do not represent the same meaning to either party. Because of this confusion over definitions and terminology, even simple agreements and lessons are rarely reached.
For instance, if a liberal says someone is a “conservative” one may think that the conservative person stands for nationalism, imperialism, guns, war, capitalism, and tax breaks for the rich. Depending on the very definition of the words, the described conservative may very well support those issues ascribed to him, and indeed, the person being described may believe he is a conservative because that is the label he has grown accustomed to.
On the other hand, if you are a conservative, and hear someone being labeled as a “liberal” this label may bring to your mind that the person being described supports welfare, anti-war, anti-capitalist, believes in big government, and wants restrictions on free trade and free markets.
A libertarian on the other hand, may think that the person being described as a conservative is a neo-con (new conservative) and this neo-con would then fall into a larger grouping of Bush, Rumsfeld, Gingrich, Romney, Krauthammer and their like. Furthermore the libertarian may clump liberals and neo-cons into a group called “collectivists” and, in the libertarians mind, there may be no real difference between liberals and neo-cons, because while there are differences in various policy’s they support, to the libertarian the end result is the same; bigger government and more restrictions on personal liberty.
The libertarian would say that with the Democrats you get more taxes to pay for the welfare programs, which in turn requires extortion via the state (credible threat of force), and via the Republicans you get more taxes to pay for the warfare programs, which in turn requires extortion via the state. The libertarians would argue that in neither case is the immorality of taxation argued nor addressed, and the only argument that ensues from either the Democrats and the Republicans is an argument about what programs the looted funds should be spent on.
Understand that in this post I am not arguing for the Democrat, Republican, or Libertarian view. I am simply pointing out, as I stated above, it is extremely difficult (if not impossible) to have a well reasoned argument with anyone unless we can first find some common ground to agree on (such as the definition of words.) Only then can we proceed from a common agreement to those areas under contention. If we can’t agree on something, then there is no use on arguing whatsoever.
Back to our main topic – Mr. Pitts’ article.
I believe that Mr. Pitts is probably a good man who has the best of intentions. To me, he sincerely demonstrates very real and legitimate concerns about guns and crazy people who may get their hands on them. Where Mr. Pitts and I would disagree is on the framing of the debate, the nature of the reality of the situation and the proposed solution.
Mr. Pitt concludes his post by saying that when it comes to the realm of reasonable gun control, “Nobody talks. Nobody listens.” Once again I must take exception to his verbiage, and I am not just nitpicking here, as this inaccurate wording, which leads to inaccurate inferences, which in turn can and does lead people to incorrect conclusions.
The reality is that people talk about killing, murder, firearms, and what to do about it every day… Mr. Pitts is talking to us via his writing where he sharing his viewpoints through his article, people are communicating in the comment section below his article, people are talking about this issue on Capital Hill, the media talks about this, the NRA talks about this, Handgun Inc. is talking about this, W&C talks about this. Therefore it is incorrect to say that “nobody talks” about this.
I would however, agree that nobody is listening. But realistically, how can we be expected to truly listen to ideas when (as described above) we are all hearing different things which convey different meaning to so many?
Where one person hears “reasonable precautions and measures” the other hears “draconian measures.” Tempers flare, cognitive thinking ceases, our brains go into survival mode, active listening and communications shut down for one group and, another group of less informed are swayed one way or the other; not on the basis of reality and solid reasoning, but on the basis of demagoguery and emotions.
If there were truth in editing laws (not that I am for more laws of any kind), the conclusion may more accurately be titled “People are talking about this issue all the time, but nobody will do what I believe will work best, so here is my two-cents.”
The article begins with the opening thesis: “In a democracy, nothing is supposed to matter more than the will of the people. So it was painful to watch last week as the will of the people was overturned and one of Arizona’s duly elected representatives was forced from office. It wasn’t a recall vote or scandal that did it. No, the people’s will was overturned by a gun.”
Surely, no one can take issue with this opening thesis can they? Yes, they can and I do. Not because the first sentence of the paragraph isn’t true, it is absolutely true; in a democracy nothing is more important than the will of the people. Mr. Pitts is spot on here, but I take issue with the two implications which will draw the casual reader into a widening whirlpool of incorrect inferences.
Where the first paragraph begins to go askew is in the implication of the first sentence followed by the remaining paragraph which would naturally lead to someone drawing the conclusion that i.) America is a democracy, and secondly that ii.) a gun has overturned our democratic form of government in Arizona.
Neither of the inferences could be much further from the truth.
First, America is not a democracy; it’s a Constitutional Republic.
Now don’t roll your eyes, this is important; both myself and at least one of the people that Mr. Pitts references in his article (I will quote this man later) as well as many of the founders believe this is important, so stick with me.
Note that I didn’t tell you which form of government I believe is superior to the other; I am simply clarifying the argument by clarifying the definitions.
American is not a democracy, nor was it ever intended to be or become one. This fact is made abundantly clear by the Framers of the Constitution in both their writings (such as the Federalist and Antifederalist papers) and their recorded statements about democracy, which in their minds was not a synonym for a republican form of governments but rather an antonym. This widely held belief lead them to establish a Constitutional Republic instead of a democracy.
Again this is not my opinion, this is not splitting hairs over semantics and this is not me trying to be clever. If you don’t believe me, read the founding era documents, study your history, and for those of you that won’t do that, here is a quick video that outlines the ideas the Framers enshrined.
Again, I am not arguing the virtues of one system over the other. I am simply stating the facts, because this is about the definition of words, which we need to understand and agree upon in order to see the reality of the situation and reach a reasonable, mature, and fully informed decision. So in this instance, the fatal flaw of Mr. Pitts thesis and subsequent argument take root with this fallacy.
Secondly, even if America were a democracy, the majority rule in Arizona was not “overturned by a gun.” Why? Because an inanimate object is by its very definition, incapable of doing anything without outside force acting upon it. In a very real sense a firearm, hand grenade, RPG, and even a tank is an inanimate object. In this way the argument is misleading because the firearm, hand grenades etc., can not logically be blamed for a person’s actions. Again, this isn’t semantics, this is reality.
So to correct Mr. Pitts opening thesis, it should read something like this: “It was painful to watch last week as one of Arizona’s duly elected representatives was forced from office. It wasn’t a recall vote or scandal that did it. No, the people’s beloved representative from Arizona was forced from office by an insane man, a man acting irrationally and using an inanimate tool that is most often used for good in a civilized society, yet in this case it was used for evil purposes.”
Think about it. When a police officer uses a firearm to protect innocent life, the hoplophob’s that want civilian disarmament don’t scream that the police should be disarmed. Or when soldiers kill an enemy combatant on the battlefield we don’t hear those same people clamoring that they want the military to surrender their firearms.
Why not? Because intuitively we recognize that the use of lethal force – even with firearms – for the correct reasons (protecting innocent lives) is a virtuous act rather than a vicious act. Simultaneously, no one accredits the firearm for this virtuous act. When you hear about the U.S. Navy SEAL’s going in to rescue hostages, you never read articles or hear stories that give the credit of the dramatic rescue to the firearms used. Why? Because we all realize the firearm has no capability without its handler/operator.
So the logical question is, why do they get the blame when they are used for evil?
But how about when police and military kill innocents, and I am not talking collateral damage here, I am talking outright murder and battlefield atrocities. We all know it happens, and it happens all too often, yet do these same people scream and write articles about these murders and atrocities rightly demanding an end to the senseless murders? Do they demand that police and military surrender their weapons because a minority of the “sheepdogs” got out of control? Do hundreds of thousands of people organize and march on D.C. to demand the disarmament of the police and military? Nope, no one is screaming for the military or police to be disarmed – at least not when their guy or their party is in office.
Ah… but those bothersome facts and realities of disarmament debate don’t fit so well into the neat an tidy little box that is being packaged and sold to the public as “gun control” do they?
Mr. Pitts then continues: “This episode joins a long list of elections overturned and social movements derailed by men with guns, as in the shootings of Abraham Lincoln, James Garfield, William McKinley, Huey Long, Malcolm X, Medgar Evers, the Kennedy brothers, George Wallace, George Moscone, Harvey Milk, Martin Luther King Jr. Somehow, people who should never have guns never have trouble getting them…”
Here I find common ground with Mr. Pitts. I agree those assassinations were tragic events. I even agree that “Somehow, people who should never have guns never have trouble getting them.” Yet the equation here isn’t complete, not by a long shot.
In order to be completely objective, shouldn’t we include mass murderers in this group? How about the Hitler, Stalin, Chairman Mao, and Pol Pot’s of the world (to name only a select few of the more infamous off of a very long list of politically empowered murderers and rapists)? In this case I would certainly agree with Mr. Pitts that they be denied weapons. Then again, they really didn’t need weapons, because they had devoted followers who obeyed blindly, killing anyone deemed a threat or unworthy by their leader.
So how about those who blindly and obediently followed the insane men? Shouldn’t those men (the soldiers and police who enforced the dictates of the insane rulers) be denied firearms rather than the mostly peaceful citizenry? After all, to the best of my knowledge, a well armed and peaceful citizenry has never committed acts of violence on the scales attributed to the above names.
Think I am being a bit melodramatic?
Consider this: According to professor R.J. Rummel these men and many more like them (men empowered by good people like you and I), lead democide movements that killed more than 260,000,000 innocent non-combatant men, women, and children in the last century alone.
Do the math, that’s a pretty staggering number. If you lined up 260,000,000 men, women, and children and began killing them today you would need to kill 2,600,000 of them every year for 100 years. To look at it another way, you would have to kill 7,123 people every day, or 593 every hour, or about 10 people every minute for 100 years.
Let that sink in for a moment. I mean let it really sink in. I realize it is unpleasant, but this is the reality of humanity. Realize that the total of recorded human history proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that humans are barbaric to each other without the mutual assurance of potential death extending both ways. It proves that despite the best of intentions, when one group gets power and then consolidates its power, things get really ugly, really quickly for the minority.
Contrast that number with the total number of American combatants killed, wounded or MIA since the American Revolutionary War (236 years ago) and the number of 2,489,335 combat casualties seems pretty anemic held up the democide inflicted on the innocent non-combatant civilian population.
As you can well imagine, it’s kind of tough to herd up tens of thousands of men, women, and children every day to exterminate them (they tend to resist, even if it’s just trying to run away to escape death, and this resistance to established authority tends to slow down a normally efficient killing process down quite a bit).
So how is this amazing feat of democide accomplished? Good question.
Well, some otherwise generally pretty good chaps (employed, empowered, and armed by bad men like Hitler, Stalin, Chairman Mao, and Pol Pot) first disarm all potential resisters. Then those innocent men, women, and children are herded like so many cats and cattle into containment zones, where they can be starved or worked to death or otherwise disposed of in a manner that the state sees most economical, fitting, and politically expedient.
I know what your thinking. Your thinking “JEEEZZZZ come on man! That was like forever ago, and we have soooo evolved past such atrocities. Why, in our modern world, we are so much more enlightened than those backward guys in the old days.”
But have we really evolved past such senseless violence and barbarity? Well, quickly Google “genocide in history” and then check out the top hit (Wikipedia) and you will see that genocide is going on right now, every hour, of every day, all over the world. That’s not my opinion, that’s Amnesty International and the United Nations saying it.
There are common denominators in genocides, to keep it simple, I will list the top 5.
1.) One group is being killed, while another group is doing the killing (pretty obvious right? Coincidentally, this is not the same as number two below, as millions of men, women, and children have starved to death because of government policy that did not necessarily inflict violence on the victims, it just prevented them from feeding themselves… it’s cheaper in the long run you see, because bullets and Zyklon B cost money.)
2.) One group is receiving violence and another group is imparting violence.
3.) One group is begging for life and the other group steadfastly refuses to stop it’s killing or enforcement of government dictates which ultimately leads to the first point above, or some derivative thereof.
4.) To provide maximum protection for the killers while simultaneously ensuring the victim can be easily killed with minimum risk to the killers, the victims must first be unarmed. Again, not my opinion, historic fact.
5.) Those in power often sell the promises of a non-violent society to the utopian dreamers and the naive, who – ignoring all of humanities brutal history foolishly believe the eternal lie of peace through the disarmament of the peaceful citizenry. The dreamers in turn then help to sell the fantasy to the unsuspecting and gullible public. (After all, you can’t have an omelet without first breaking 260,000,000 eggs they would reason.)
Of the above facts, I find it sad that after such a long history, after such clear precedence; people still follow the same old lies, time and time again, always to the detriment of humanity, to the hurt of their friends and loved ones, to the anguish of their wives, children, and husbands. We look back in shame, we hang our heads and cry, and yet, we empower bad people to kill us. This is as true for us at the national level as it is at the personal level.
I could go on, but with over 100 years and 260 million deaths, you can probably figure a lot of this out on your own.
In the light of these facts, it would be difficult to argue that this reality is not a part of the natural order of man. A sick reality, but reality none-the-less. I also know that this reality paints a bleak picture, but just because we don’t like what we see, even if we refuse to contemplate the absolute horror of it all, ignoring it doesn’t change the facts, or make it any less real.
In order to find more appropriate answers, more humane and more ethical answers, we need to shape our knowledge of the past around the reality of human history and our nature.
Finally, Mr. Pitts misses the target completely (yes that was a pun) when he states “We need to ban fully automatic weapons from private use. The hunter who needs a gun that fires hundreds of rounds a minute isn’t much of a hunter.”
But what does a fully automatic weapon and hunting have to do with the argument? First of all, fully automatic weapons have been illegal to own (without special dispensation) by the average citizen since 1934. Secondly, I don’t believe that any of assassinations Mr. Pitts mentions were committed with automatic firearms. Thirdly, this gets back to blaming an inanimate object for a person’s actions. Finally, and most importantly because it ties back into the constitution vs. democracy issue – What does it matter what the hunter uses, or how sporting it may be to kill the deer with a tank even? The Second Amendment isn’t about hunting or giving an animal (human or otherwise) a sporting chance. It’s about preventing mass murderers like the ones I describe above from killing people by the thousands every day.
In light of the above facts, I would tell Mr. Pitts and those who think like him that: “I would gladly trade those terrible assassinations every day by the lone dis-empowered armed lunatic over the murder of tens of thousands of additional innocents by the politically empowered sociopath who uses blindly obedient followers armed with weapons (usually firearms) to rape, pillage, and murder the multitude of innocents.”
I believe a solid majority of the murdered 260,000,000 million innocent men, women, and children would agree with me here, and if we had a democratic vote, I believe we would overwhelmingly win that one.
Furthermore, I would contend that with an armed citizenry of, oh… lets say 650,000,000, there would have been a lot less killing of innocents, and a lot more killing of those truly insane that would kill the unarmed innocent if they were given half the chance.
Albert Einstein once said that: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” I think that it is high time we quit sticking our heads in the sand and faced the reality of our nature, and what we do to each other. More guns in the hands of cops and military while disarming the population almost always has a very, very, bad downside for personal liberty and longevity of the minority.
As for me, I will take my chances as an armed and free man risking the occasional lunatic before I believe the currently unachievable utopian pipe dream, thereby rolling the dice that all to often seem to lead to the long waiting lines to the ovens, hasty ditches, and the untold suffering that accompanies the unarmed masses.
In the end I believe that Mr. Pitts is on the losing side of the moral argument, and historical reality.
In closing, I would like to finish off this post with a few quotes of a murdered civil rights leader that I, more often than not, agree with. I believe that if this great man was alive today, we would be, at the very least FaceBook friends, and we would share and exchange ideas on a regular basis. I further believe that if this man could speak from the grave today, he would, even in light of his assassination, wholeheartedly support my position as outlined in this post.
The below quotes, while condensed, are in context:
“It is criminal to teach a man not to defend himself… It doesn’t mean that I advocate violence, but at the same time, I am not against using violence in self-defense. I don’t call it violence when it’s self-defense, I call it intelligence… Last but not least, I must say this concerning the great controversy over rifles and shotguns… in areas where the government has proven itself either unwilling or unable to defend the lives and the property of Negroes, it’s time for Negroes to defend themselves. Article number two of the Constitutional amendments provides you and me the right to own a rifle or a shotgun. It is constitutionally legal to own a shotgun or a rifle.” – Malcolm X
I cordially invite Mr. Pitts and all other people of good character to join us in engaging in reality rather than rhetoric and propaganda. I think Malcolm X would agree with me, and I believe he would ask Mr. Pitts and others who believe in disarming peaceful citizens to reconsider their position.