Misinformed: How Divisive Politics are Reshaping American History for the Worse

Some Caveats

When outlining this article, I had some trouble deciding which direction it was going to go; so much needs to be nuanced, so many arguments could be made.  In the end, however, just one primary point needs to be clear:

Dear politicians, please keep your hands off American history.

Letting politics guide our interpretation of the past is, effectively, destroying it.  The situation is dire; we have been pushed to the precipice. Don’t take my word for it; I have supported every claim here with links to relevant articles and studies–please click through them and read them carefully. Here we go, into the breach…

The Problem

For at least the past two decades, historians have been battling the wave of politically-motivated agendas; from the often-misconstrued interpretation of the 2nd Amendment to the falsities uttered about American History by certain candidates, historians have done as much as they can to stem the tide of ignorance.  But is it enough?

amerhistcomicmcclellan copycolor

Cartoon inked by Dan McClellan, color added by Tom Verenna. Dan does not necessarily condone or support any argument made herein. Awesome people will click to embiggen.

Part of the trouble is that politicians think history is inflexible; that there is only one single interpretation of the past: theirs. But history is not a stagnant entity.  Conclusions are drawn from evidence that historians–regardless of their political affiliation–are tasked with interpreting.  Sometimes conservative or liberal slants will cause a bias in these interpretations, but that is why historians peer review. Peer review is meant to dislodge bias and keep things honest. In the event we don’t know something, historians are taught to be responsible enough to say, simply, “I don’t know.” They may proceed with their conclusions, but do so more cautiously.  This is because the historian recognizes (or perhaps, ‘should’ recognize) that a consensus over certain events can change if better evidence or new arguments present themselves and usually this occurs through the academy where scholars can easily access and evaluate the new claims critically.  What a historian should not do, nor what they should allow to happen, is to simply make baseless assertions about the past without supporting evidence.

Politicians don’t know any of this; if they do, they ignore it. While some officials take the ‘white-out’ approach (that is, removing all negative aspects of American history from textbooks), others simply make baseless and fictional claims. Frankly, some parties are worse than others.  Presently, members of the tea party movement and a slew of GOP-affiliated candidates and elected officials have committed the most offenses against the history (not all offenses, mind you; but certainly a large majority).

The Short List

To start, let’s examine one of the more controversial debates today: church and state. In 2010, Glen Urquhart (a tea party candidate) stated that the phrase ‘separation of church and state’ “was not in Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptists.”  But in fact it was in the letter to the Danbury Baptists.  Jefferson’s exact statement is:

“I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.” (Jan 1, 1802; Emphasis added)

The reader can check out the full transcript of the letter here.  Jefferson was not just citing his own opinion willy-nilly, either. His views were based upon precedent. For example, Madison’s original draft of the Bill of Rights, heavily indebted to the views of his friend Jefferson, expressly ordained a separation between church and state in very specific terms:

“The civil rights of none shall be abridged on account of religious belief or worship, nor shall any national religion be established, nor shall the full and equal rights of conscience be in any manner, or on any pretence, infringed.”

The first part is especially important. Jefferson clearly agreed with this. In his 1799 letter to Elbridge Gerry, he would make it clear:

“I am for freedom of religion, & against all maneuvres to bring about a legal ascendancy of one sect over another.”

This was the common feeling at the time in government and across the country. It was believed that in his own home, a man and his family could practice whatever religion they wanted without fear of persecution or mockery. But no national adherence to any faith would be established. Why?

Because the Anglican Church had been established under the crown as the official religion and it brought about fears of power within the church; that a church could bring about a form of national tyranny. A national religion stripped a man’s right (notice here I say ‘man’, because at this point ‘liberty’ and ‘freedom’ only applied to freemen) to make his own choices about whether or not to practice religion or which one to practice.

Most famously, the wall of separation between church and state was laid out in an official and binding government treaty. In 1796, a document was drafted and sent to the Senate floor where it was read aloud and unanimously agreed upon, signed by John (not Quincy) Adams, and published in newspapers across the country, which contained the words, “As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Mussulmen (Muslims-ed.).”  [Treaty of Tripoli, Article 11]

http://images.tribe.net/tribe/upload/photo/69b/801/69b801d6-b8bb-48f1-9a52-c2dea1525423

Original and a copy of the draft crafted by Joel Barlow in 1796. Notice the words which were agreed upon by the legislative and executive body by the founders of the country just 14 years after the American Revolution.

The problems we face with historical ineptitude doesn’t stop there. Back in 2011, Sarah Palin made the remark that Paul Revere was actually warning “the British” on his famous ride.   Of course this is nonsense.  That same year, Michele Bachman–yet another tea party-backed candidate–made the mistake of suggesting that John Quincy Adams was a founding father.  She surely meant John Adams, seemingly without realizing that there existed a difference between the two of them.   While we can try to forgive these candidates their slip-ups, what we cannot forgive is the deliberate attempt to then change history by their supporters.

Immediately after Michele Bachman and Sarah Palin made these incredibly erroneous statements, tea party members went to Wikipedia in an attempt to edit the entries for John Quincy Adams and Paul Revere.  The saddest part is that it is unclear whether these supporters were changing it in an attempt to help Palin and Bachman save face (e.g., in an attempt to say, “Look, see? Our candidates were just merely reading information from Wikipedia; it’s all Wiki’s fault!”) or if they legitimately believed their candidates had somehow had access to secret government documents that were ignored by every other historian on the planet.  Either way, this attempt to alter the facts of the past is not just a terrible breach of trust, it is dangerous.

It is dangerous because these individuals really believe they are just like the founders of this country. One candidate even went so far as to say, ”Our nation was founded on violence. The option is on the table. I don’t think that we should ever remove anything from the table as it relates to our liberties and our freedoms.” (Stephen Broden, 2010)  That is downright scary.

The 2nd Amendment is another big example where politicians spout off fictions without knowing the history. Historian Saul Cornell wrote that:

“When the Second Amendment is discussed today, we tend to think of those “militias” as just a bunch of ordinary guys with guns, empowering themselves to resist authority when and if necessary. Nothing could be further from the founders’ vision.

Militias were tightly controlled organizations legally defined and regulated by the individual colonies before the Revolution and, after independence, by the individual states. Militia laws ran on for pages and were some of the lengthiest pieces of legislation in the statute books. States kept track of who had guns, had the right to inspect them in private homes and could fine citizens for failing to report to a muster.

The founders had a word for a bunch of farmers marching with guns without government sanction: a mob. One of the reasons we have a Constitution is the founders were worried about the danger posed by individuals acting like a militia without legal authority. This was precisely what happened during Shays’ Rebellion, an insurrection in western Massachusetts that persuaded many Americans that we needed a stronger central government to avert anarchy.”

Quite so.  The new United States government would secure itself by means of force if necessary–against all who would stand up against it.  The 2nd Amendment did not recognize unsanctioned groups of common folk with rifles as ‘militia’; and when groups of farmers gathered together in armed resistance, the government would then sanction militia to fight them.  When the Western half of Pennsylvania rose up in arms against President George Washington in what became known as the Whiskey Rebellion, he sent a force of 13,000 militia to suppress the insurrectionists. In our modern day, the National Guard is the only state-sanctioned militia.

The saddest thing is that they’ve effectively brainwashed their constituency by calling all information contrary to their agenda “liberal bias”.  It is an old rhetorical ploy, actually often used by people who have zero defense against an argument, to attempt to emotionally appeal to the audience.  You don’t need “facts” when you can just call whatever your opponent says a “bias”.  But that isn’t how the world actually works.  Despite the rhetoric, the world runs on a balance of cause and effect.  Historians are responsible for carefully observing this balance and reporting on it based upon years of research and study.  Knowing what effects occurred from what cause helps us better equip ourselves so it never happens again (if it is bad for society) or so that it continues to happen (if it is good for society).

When you attempt to remove all of that research and replace it with careless claims without any supporting evidence, what you get are people who show up to political rallies with semi-automatic rifles, tricorn hats with dangling tea bags, and “Don’t Tread on Me” flags without any grasp as to what those symbols really mean.  They shout slogans like, “Taxation without representation!” without understanding the importance of the Stamp Act and the Tea Act.  This results in some candidates making claims like, “(I)f our founders thought taxation without representation was bad, what would they think of representation with taxation?”  (Once again, Michele Bachman in 2011).   They make an inconvenience a grievance, turn our modern day issues into those of the founding fathers–something that historians would call ‘anachronistic’.  The American revolution was not started over modern issues.

When there is no limit to the amount of ‘wrong’ that is be believed as ‘right’, people start putting their trust in those who completely lack credibility–people like Glenn Beck and David Barton.  They will start to trust any piece of literature that falls into line with exactly what they believe, even satirical pieces of fiction.  Mythical constructs like ‘The founders started a revolution over gun control’ run rampant–not because such an utterance is based upon any solid facts, but because the mythology of the statement conforms to their belief system. The founders not only instituted gun control, but enforced gun control. Follow the link to see just how frequent it was for the patriots to take arms away from private citizens. Minutes books from the various Councils of Safety and Security count occasions where armed militia (sanctioned by the state and recognized by the state) or associator companies nudged their way into the homes of fellow Americans to literally take, by force, arms and munitions for use of the government.  Example 1:

From the Northampton County Committee of Safety minutes, found at Lafayette College and courtesy of the Northampton County Historical Society.

And Example 2:

http://books.google.com/books?id=Ql00AQAAMAAJ&pg=PA625&img=1&zoom=3&hl=en&sig=ACfU3U0U_0p6z0juNSwOk4Ax9jqIXCTK_Q&ci=156%2C528%2C695%2C599&edge=0

PA Archives, War of the Revolution Vol. II, 625.

A few days later, it was resolved that:

http://books.google.com/books?id=Ql00AQAAMAAJ&pg=PA627&img=1&zoom=3&hl=en&sig=ACfU3U1-LyFG0hrvy_-4oaVLimqnIvODCA&ci=150%2C682%2C701%2C209&edge=0

Op. cit.

The Committees of Safety and Security were the de facto elected officials that overthrew the local parliamentary British governments and they elected the very members of the Continental Congress (my ancestor, Josy Dreisbach, was among the members of the local county Committee of Safety).   Not only did they have records of gun owners in the counties that they presided over, but they required that all nonassociators and nonmilitia to give up all their firearms.

But it would not always be enough.  In fact, though Pennsylvania raised thousands of troops, only a quarter of them could be armed.  There just weren’t enough guns.  The other myth that ‘every man owned a musket’ in American history is fraught with error and fallacy.   When militia were sent to aid Washington in his Philadelphia Campaign in 1777, even with the drafted militia courtesy of Pennsylvania’s Militia Act, he had to send half of them back home–there were no weapons to equip them with and they did not bring any themselves.

http://books.google.com/books?id=LWE3AQAAMAAJ&pg=PA70&img=1&zoom=3&hl=en&sig=ACfU3U0jH7xjnnhLBnYvWojbffYMilFF_w&ci=98%2C466%2C775%2C374&edge=0

Yep.

And that was the state of things. A lack of arms in Pennsylvania was a continuing problem for the government. But if you were to ask any candidate from the tea party about this, I doubt they would be aware of the crises of the time and how limited the availability of firearms was really.

As hard as this might be for some readers to swallow, especially those who have bought into the myths laid out by pundits and talking heads, every time we throw away a fact for a falsity, we step on the graves of our founding fathers.  We diminish their sacrifices, their trials, and their lives.  We are playing a dangerous game of tug of war–and though I come down hard on conservatives, democrats occasionally do it as well (though, honestly, not nearly as much as conservatives).

Every chance we allow politicians to sway public opinion about our American history we risk destroying the fabric of our own cultural past.  And while some candidates are just waiting around with a bucket of White Out and a chance to make their move, we must be vigilant.  We can’t let this continue to happen:

A little more than a year after the conservative-led state board of education in Texas approved massive changes to its school textbooks to put slavery in a more positive light, a group of tea party activists in Tennessee has renewed its push to whitewash school textbooks. The group is seeking to remove references to slavery and mentions of the country’s founders being slave owners.

According to reports, Hal Rounds, the Fayette County attorney and spokesman for the group, said during a recent news conference that there has been “an awful lot of made-up criticism about, for instance, the founders intruding on the Indians or having slaves or being hypocrites in one way or another.”

“The thing we need to focus on about the founders is that, given the social structure of their time, they were revolutionaries who brought liberty into a world where it hadn’t existed, to everybody — not all equally instantly — and it was their progress that we need to look at,” Rounds said, according to The Commercial Appeal.

Nothing that this tea party spokesperson said above is remotely true. ‘Liberty’ absolutely existed in the world before the American Revolution. In fact, ‘liberty’ was more abundant in the Netherlands and in Canada, for more people, than in America following the ratification of the Constitution (American Indians and women had more rights, as did people of African descent–all marginalized in America after the founders had won the war and for decades after).

Rand Paul, while announcing his bid for presidency, boldly announced: “I am running for president to return our country to the principles of liberty and limited government.” What he is actually saying is “I’m running for president to return our country to a state where slavery existed, where the Constitution didn’t exist, and when we were under the Articles of Confederation.”

Historically, there is no other way to understand his proclamation since the Constitution effectively did away with limited government. Amendments to the constitution that make discrimination and segregation illegal are items that Rand Paul would love to remove. Why? Because Paul thinks it incredibly inconvenient that people aren’t permitted to discriminate against other people. Seriously, he wrote that in a college editorial; I’m not pontificating. These are things he actually believes.

Paul, like the confederates of old, see discrimination as a natural right. In other words, Paul, whether he and his constituents realize it or not, is redefining ‘liberty’ and ‘freedom’ to mean something quite the opposite of what they actually mean. If you’re not clued in, that’s a problem.

Paul sees a world where government oversight doesn’t exist, specifically–in this instance–where your freedom is concerned. You see, Paul doesn’t care about your rights or your freedoms. How can he? He hasn’t thought through his own arguments (best case) or he just would rather see you suffer (worst case). After all, what is to stop a police officer from pulling you over because you’re black, or a woman, or overweight? Without anti-discrimination laws, juries could pass rulings based solely on the color of ones skin or their sexual orientation or their religious beliefs. Oh, you’re a progressive Christian who believes in evolution? Well, too bad for you, because this jury from rural Alabama is made up of creationists. Guess whose going to jail? And when you are paid less money because you happen to be a woman, or because you’re physically handicapped, or because you lost a leg in that war that the Republicans want so badly, or because you happen to be a dark-skinned Italian man, or because you’re black, you have zero recourse. You can’t sue that employer.

So what happens to freedom then? Socially, certain groups will be marginalized. The Constitution is basically lit aflame. Why? Because in this country we have majority rule with minority rights. We can’t ever forget about that last part–minority rights. And yet Paul wants you to. Because he doesn’t know his history. At least, we hope he is just ignorant and not being a jackass on purpose.

That should frighten you. Yes, we expect a few crazy people out there to run for elected positions; in a country with nearly 319 million people, you can’t really expect everyone to be sane and grounded. But when people running for president, who are as notable as Rand Paul, can’t even get the basic premise of our Constitution correct–in fact, they interpret it to mean the exact opposite of what is written–then one should worry.

The hard reality is that pundits and politicians don’t like what the founders actually said and did.  No tea party candidate or conservative Republican is going to quote Jefferson on his views concerning religion; nor will they quote Franklin on his views about church.  They won’t quote Hamilton on big government.  They won’t quote Washington, Jefferson, or the Congressional resolves about taking away privately-owned firearms from civilians. These items run contrary to their agendas, to their motivations.  So, if they don’t outright know of these facts, they simply try to change them through misinformation and lies.

What is perhaps most troubling isn’t that they get away with it (though, that is also troubling), but that they have duped a portion of the population into letting them get away with it and that they got them to help perpetuate these falsehoods.

Whitewashing history is not a solution; it is the problem.  Those who abuse and misuse history in this manner must be held accountable.  This is why we need to put our trust in historians.  They are paid to go over the records, to examine the data, to determine the reasons why things happened, how they happened, what influenced the events and motivated the people.  We cannot leave it up to politicians and their supporters to alter the past to fit their preconceived notions.

Each American has a right to their own respective beliefs. But when one attempts to recast the past into a mold they shaped with misinformation, that crosses a line. We, as a people who love and cherish our American heritage and our history, cannot allow this to happen. We need to speak out against it, to reprimand those who are guilty of it, and for goodness sake, we have to stop voting them into office.

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9 responses to “Misinformed: How Divisive Politics are Reshaping American History for the Worse

  1. Excellent analysis.

    One minor point.

    Re: “In our modern day, the National Guard is the only state-sanctioned militia.”

    That statement is fair enough on the strictest analogy, but given the rising complexity of modern society, municipal and state SWAT units are strategically comparable to militias protected by the second amendment. They would definitely “count” as thus protected even by the originators of the amendment. Although I think they also would have expected the individual states to have the power to regulate or disband them, but every state allows them; and does regulate them in one way or another (or allows them to be regulated, e.g. by any recognized municipality or county that forms one–in each case regulation coming from the responsible elected parties, e.g. county sheriffs or city councils, emphasis on elected).

    • Hey Richard,

      Actually law enforcement is never once discussed by congress during the debate over the 2nd Amendment. They aren’t considered part of the militia force and therefore are probably exempt from consideration of the law (in that it was just presumed that constables and commissioners would be armed); The 2nd Amendment was entirely about equipping a militia force to deal with uprisings, like Shays’, the Whiskey, and Freis’s Rebellions, but also for protection of state borders. Come to think of it, no member of congress seemed to have thought to discuss gun handling and ownership by a policing force at all. Quite interesting. Lots of discussion about how to define a militia and what it meant to have access to a firearm *as a militiaman*.

      • There were no police forces in 1789 which would explain why Congress didn’t explore their role. Local law enforcement was done through the sheriff and courts system. Like you have mentioned, the Second Amendment was mainly about militias. It was evident in their writing that an unorganized militia was a mob, but at the same time they didn’t want to disarm people. The situation where someone would carry a loaded pistol around was rare because of the type of pistols involved. They obviously recognized that there were limits to gun ownership though because I have yet to find anyone who said there were no limits to it and that crazy and insane people could own firearms.

      • That’s a good point. To see how novel the idea of a police force was, see the brief history here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Police#United_States. And I think the idea of an armed police is even newer. UK police were only recently armed at all (and remember America was a UK colony). See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Police_use_of_firearms_in_the_United_Kingdom. When armed policing was needed, it seems it was the militias or members thereof that were called upon. I suspect you might have to study the rise of armed law enforcement during the development of the frontier after the Revolution to start seeing standard notions that police should carry guns. But I don’t really know. My point was that the way police forces are operated now, they are essentially what the Founders would have called organized militias. It might surprise them that we did that. But still.

  2. What is interesting is that the same tension between order (as shown is the court cases seeking to relieve certain individuals of their arms) and liberty existed and was debated at the time. The act of stripping someone of their arms if they did not associate was a life threatening act, given the exigencies of the time. It was intended to bring suspect people into line.

    It is a tendency of the left in this country to see an armed individual as threatening, particularly if the individual is of a different political opinion. Societies that wholly depend on collective action for collective good do not deal well with dissenters who refuse to follow the program, particularly if they are armed. Disarmament becomes an urgent priority to keep the wheels on an authoritarian machine.

    The Pilgrims ran a despotic little colony, and I am sure there are plenty of other examples. Our history is replete with them. So some of the impetus to have a Second Amendment was to secure liberty to the individual, just as the First Amendment threw off the chains of established religion as it was practiced in England and in Virginia, in order to free the individual (and not collective) conscience.

    Fortunately our Republic is more resilient than a popular democracy and it is difficult to stampede us into mob action. Though many leftists clamor for it, the loss of Second Amendment freedom (as interpreted by our Supreme Court) is a difficult goal to attain. When a left-leaning political faction uses every excuse to bring disarmament to the fore, one may be forgiven for distrusting their motivation.

    • Thanks for your comments. I’m afraid we’re going to have some disagreements.

      (1) Your contention that “same tension between order (as shown is the court cases seeking to relieve certain individuals of their arms) and liberty existed and was debated at the time” is, frankly, preposterous. (a) There was no tension here at all; all the founders agreed that unstable people shouldn’t have firearms. Today, the majority of people–including gun owners–over 85% (some polls have shown figures as high as 90%)–in this country support stricter background checks which means more people will not have access to firearms. (b) No one is ‘relieving’ anyone of their arms today. You still go out and buy an AR-15 now just as you could four years ago. In fact gun laws have loosened in the past 12 years. Incidentally, we’ve also seen a rise in gun violence and mass shootings since then as well. (c) Since the revolutionary war and proceeding rebellions which followed it had absolutely nothing at all to do with gun control in any way; they were, in fact, about taxation issues–rightly or wrongly–which seemed predicated on the fact that the rebels didn’t grasp the difference between a representative republic and a monarchy (and the difference is quite plain). So in many ways your whole point is unfounded. But from the rest of your response, this is par for the course.

      (2) Adding support for my claim that your entire argument is null, your next assertion, that “The act of stripping someone of their arms if they did not associate was a life threatening act, given the exigencies of the time.” goes against the evidence, but also against standard logic. Using Pennsylvania–a frontier state harangued by Natives, the French, and the British from the first colonization to the end of the American revolution–as the best example, only a fraction of the population prior to the Revolutionary war had any access to a firearm in their personal home. This was due to (a) the expense of owning guns (they were expensive to produce wholly and were hard to come by, while what firearms did exist were often a mish-mosh of assembled bits cobbled together from a variety of weapons), (b) religious reasons (Quakers and Moravians were anti-gun and even introduced legislation in attempts to ban the use of firearms in the state), and for many on the frontier, (c) it was a death sentence to *own* a firearm (raiding parties of Native American tribes beset farms of those who they discovered owned rifles–they would kill/scalp the inhabitants, burn their farms, and take their rifles), and (d) there was simply not enough black powder to go around (only one mill existed in the 13 colonies in 1775). Dozens of examples exist of these types of raids. But let’s pretend these other factors didn’t exist, there is still the problematic issue that most Pennsylvanians did not own firearms and lived happy or fulfilling lives without them. For most of the Scotch-Irish and German immigrants, life proceeded quite normally without a single rifle or pistol. So clearly the needs of the time did not require a gun at all. Additionally, we do not see men and women being slaughtered, following by newspapers clamoring about going, “Oh woe is them, if only they had a Brown Bess to fight off the savages!” No, we see the opposite. Aside from the fact that thousands of people were completely fine going about their lives without a firearm in their home, the hard fact is that those with guns were targets. While those without firearms might have their property burned, but they would more often than not live. Those with guns died, were scalped, and the natives would now have another weapon to use against other innocent people. Pennsylvania in fact had a terrible problem finding enough guns to supply their own troops–only 1/4 of all Revolutionary war soldiers and militia could be armed at all.

      (3) Your next bizarre claim, “It is a tendency of the left in this country to see an armed individual as threatening, particularly if the individual is of a different political opinion.” is an example of your own political and eschatological blinders in action. Some more facts to absorb: (a) The majority of people showing up at rallies with loaded firearms are conservatives, not liberals; (b) death threats are more likely to come from conservatives (Obama has received more death threats than any other president in history and they overwhelmingly come from conservatives–it is just a fact, they also have more guns); (c) Democrats have been targeted by conservatives and shot at (Ahem…the mass shooting at Tuscon); (d) white supremacists and racists who adhere to violence as a means of coercion tend to be on the conservative side (though not always, the majority of them do tend to be conservative).

      (4) A little historical background might actually change your mind about your viewpoint that “our Republic is more resilient than a popular democracy and it is difficult to stampede us into mob action.” In fact it is quite easy for people in this country to be corralled into mob action. It has happened several times in our recent history and over a dozen since the founding era. The Civil War was a thing because a group of white elitists lost an election and managed to convince the poor Southern men–many who did not own slaves–that this was an issue of states rights when, in fact, it was an issue about whether or not white elitists could continue to own slaves. Hundreds of thousands of men became casualties of a war that resulted precisely from a ‘stampede’ into ‘mob action’. This speaks nothing of the Whiskey Rebellion, wherein 7,000 people marched on Pittsburgh in open revolt against President Washington–most of them came over issues that had nothing to do with the original problem that started it all: a tax on Whiskey. People are easier to persuade than you realize.

      (5) Finally, your position that “Disarmament becomes an urgent priority to keep the wheels on an authoritarian machine” is evidently false. I can point to a few modern examples where disarmament resulted in less gun violence and zero mass shootings and yet no loss of liberty or freedom. Australia, one of my favorite examples, disarmed themselves. They’re still a democratic society with every conceivable liberty. Gun loss have changed absolutely nothing for them and has had the added benefit of massively reducing suicides (firearms are the number one item used in suicides). I would also add that, again, the logical premise of your argument fails. Even with all the guns Americans currently privately own, they would not stop the United States military if it were ever used in a coup against the people by some vicious dictator. You’re not going to stop a legion of tanks, armored vehicles, fighter jets, drones, and pacifying weapons with an arsenal of handguns, hunting rifles, AR-15’s and dated Browning machine guns. The very notion that the military would even allow such a thing to happen is ignorant at best, delusional and paranoid at worse. We don’t live in the 1700’s anymore–Napoleon isn’t rising in America, Caesar is not crossing the Rubicon. The argument that your guns are going to stop the rise of a dictator–should that ever happen (it won’t)–is probably the most stupid argument ever conceived. To use such an argument towards advancing your right to own and carry firearms is downright sickening, sociopathic, and scary. It is scary that so many people are just OK with the death toll caused by people and their access to firearms because, hey, in one paranoid world view, the government might rise up and get us. Bullocks.

  3. You managed to deflect most of my argument, in a very emotional manner, by not taking it on directly. I never once claimed that the Revolution was about gun control. I said that disarming a non-associator could be a life threatening act. Notice I did not say a Moravian. People who were seen as Tories were indeed in danger, and the intent of taking their arms was to both disarm them and dissuade them from making any trouble. That point alone makes my argument–that as a government becomes more authoritarian (or is in conflict, as ours was both during the Revolution and during the Civil War) it must disarm and demoralize its adversaries.

    Notice that you said confiscating guns in modern democracies led to “less gun violence.” I would suggest that the violence ticked up, without your “gun” modifier. Check your facts.

    You neglect the fact that a large proportion of conservatives are Christian, and in fact are constrained from committing violence, except in self-defense, by their own beliefs. If they show up at a rally armed, so what? Your point that the Giffords shooting was political is laughable, and completely distorts the facts.

    My point about mob action was perhaps misleading–I meant that in a pure democracy, an emotional event can stampede people into all manner of ill-advised legislation. That is not to say we have not had our share of bad laws–it just takes longer to accomplish, and longer to undo it once it’s done, which is not the definition of a stampede. Prohibition is an example. The emotional wave that causes people to resort to war is in a different category, and can be accomplished through propaganda in any society.

    True, in today’s world if our military was turned against our population, there would be no contest, though it is arguable whether our volunteer force could be successfully deployed in that manner. I suppose if a fascist nationalism swept the country, it could, but that is extremely unlikely. You will notice that I argued that an authoritarian regime becomes paranoid about guns–I did not argue that citizens were capable of resisting a military crackdown. You extrapolated my arguments to make your emotional appeal.

    So why are people so concerned about keeping their arms? Ask Korean shop owners during the LA riots. Ask people whose loved ones are mowed down in gun-free zones. Ask the people who successfully defended their property in New Orleans against looters, the low-lives who intentionally disregarded the order to leave the city, when hurricane Katrina swept in. These were not pea shooters–they were the hated semi-automatic rifles that were effective in keeping out-of-control mobs at bay. It’s not paranoid to support our gun freedoms when we have such heart-breaking examples of the urgent need for arms. We are unique in America, in that the surest individual defense is not found in waiting for the cops to show up, but in defending ourselves.

    Your anti-gun rant allowed your mask to slip a bit. It is completely legitimate to try to correct the historical record. But that is not your project here, with respect to the Second Amendment. So I will gladly bow out and read sites that are purely concerned with revealing history in its own context, and not with selectively using the past to put forward a political point.

    • “You managed to deflect most of my argument, in a very emotional manner, by not taking it on directly.”

      No… I addressed your arguments entirely (and responded directly to quotes from you that I cited), and I don’t need your approval on that point. It’s all right here for readers to decide.

      “You neglect the fact that a large proportion of conservatives are Christian, and in fact are constrained from committing violence, except in self-defense, by their own beliefs.”

      Wow, really? At this point, while reading through your attempts to shift goal posts and create strawman arguments to attack, I decided that it would be a complete waste of time to continue our conversation. If you honestly believe that most conservatives “are constrained from committing violence” based solely on the fact that they are “Christian”, which is perhaps the most delusion argument I’ve ever heard, I think we’re done here. Have a nice day.

  4. Pingback: Did 72 People Die in Boston During a Gun Raid? More Right-Wing Abuse of American History | American History and Ancestry·

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