Friday, August 8, 2008

My Thoughts on The Mike Vanderboegh Hooplah

As we all know by now, Mr. Vanderboegh wrote a piece that went to the very heart of the 2nd Amendment. His editorial touched off somewhat of a firestorm of debate about the proper tactics gun rights advocates should be taking. Some wholeheartedly support what Mr. Vanderboegh said, ome are saying that his editorial is a bit extreme and that it's counterproductive to our cause because it "scares the white people."

While I may not agree with Vanderboegh's delivery, considering his likely audience in Madison, Wisconsin, I can't help but find myself defending his message, or at least the general principles behind it. I can't however say that I agree with this general approach as a strategy for defending our rights. Mike's general message, that the 2nd Amendment is ultimately about defense of tyranny is without question something the general population needs to be reminded of. I simply believe that sometimes it's preferable to temper our delivery of that message.

I think we at times forget that most people don't share our fervor for guns & 2nd Amendment rights. They can be won over, but throwing the entire gamut of 2nd amendment rhetoric at them at once is likely to be a bit of a "culture shock." The last thing we need are those indifferent on the issue dismissing us as wing nuts. I know I've said things that I didn't consider "out there" or "crazy" as a gunnie that were interpreted in a very different light by the indifferent folks. I then had to re explain myself. My message would have been more effective had I toned it down and considered my audience.

Vanderboegh's message, although blunt, is an important one. I'm by no means going to say we're near an armed revolution currently, but imagine what the Declaration of Independence must have sounded like to some colonists, or Patrick Henry's "Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death!" speech. To some extent, any discussion of revolution is going to "scare the white people." That's inevitable, since revolution carries with it the implication of violence. For those who can't distinguish between protective violence and predatory violence, the mere mention of violent revolution is going to be scary as hell.

I won't sugarcoat. I own guns for a variety of different reasons. The main reason is for self-defense, and that includes defending myself, my family, and friends from Jack-Booted Thugs should they ever start kicking in doors en masse.

If we think about the concept of revolution, what are we really talking about? We're talking about "We The People" coming together to arm ourselves and overthrow a tyrannical, despotic government. The concept is more about the deterrent effect of the implicit threat of revolution than anything else. It's a "NO" emphasized, both collectively and individually and it's supposed to be scary, it's supposed to be a threat against the government that says "fuck with me enough and I'll kill you."

We're saying that if government pushes hard enough, if the abuses and usurpations are sufficiently egregious we'll push back. The language of the 2nd Amendment preserves our ability to push back. It asserts against the government that we have the authority to push back. The 3rd element is willingness, and that, in part is dependent upon one's "line in the sand" is. I may tolerate far greater abuses than another fellow American before my line is crossed. Honestly, knowing what I'm like I'm sure I'd see many people reacting to their line being crossed before it got to the point where mine was breached.

That "willingness" is about far more than just one's "line in the sand." Any successful revolution must have popular support. The American Revolution prevailed not because of the men who fought and died. It succeeded because American colonists as a whole wanted freedom. Freedom, individual liberty, self-reliance, personal sovereignty and responsibility were both fervently and widely held values.

For now, those values are what we must fight for. That's the principle reason why I disagree with Vanderboegh's approach. My other point of disagreement with him is simple. If all we accomplish is to scare people then what we'll have done is alienated people and marginalized ourselves. It's hard to have a broad, positive impact once you've done that. It's hard to keep those founding principles and values alive if you've been marginalized. As Judge Learned Hand wrote,

"Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women; when it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can save it."

If we lose the fight to keep the flame of liberty alive in the hearts of Americans (and future generations) then the 2nd Amendment and it's purpose become a moot point. An armed revolution, even if initially successful, can never free from bondage a citizenry that has lost the will to be free.

A tyranny may one day come to be but if we lose the initial, more important fight then our once free nation will fade into obscurity. If that spirit, courage, that flame of liberty no longer exists among a majority of our countrymen, then those who do "hoist the black flag and start splitting throats"will fight alone. They won't have an enthusiastic, liberty-minded citizenry leading the charge with them and their efforts will be futile. Our goal needs to be keeping that flame lit.


Jay G said...

A-freakin'-men, brother... Outstanding.

Sebastian said...

I think you are correct. The Brady reaction I think was instructive. I think they were actually appalled that those of us (like myself) who are derided for being moderate, did not outright reject the fundamental premise that there are instances where violently resisting your government is morally justified. I seriously think they are just unable to wrap their heads around that one.

In a way our blogosphere has to be somewhat fascinating to them. For years the Bradys have been telling themselves that the NRA is extreme, whereas most gun owners are not as extreme as the NRA. I think the blogosphere has been an instruction to them that a lot of NRA's core backers are actually rather extreme themselves. Because, even if they don't agree with the tactics and rhetoric of people like Mike Vanderboegh, and don't believe we're close to a point where violence is justified, they still do fundamentally believe in the purpose of the second amendment.

I think we need to put up a fundamental intellectual challenge to the entire premise of gun control. As much as I might agree that Mike's ultimatum was unhelpful in that cause, our reaction to it might have forced the Brady Campaign to recognize something that might be uncomfortable for them.

Mike W. said...

Sebastian - The Brady's have to paint us as extreme on this point. It's the only real angle they have and is really just their basic fearmongering.

I agree, I think most gun owners do support Mike's underlying premise and it's important that the Brady Campaign see that. I think we need to get that underlying message out there in the most non-confrontational way possible.

If the general public comes to accept the core purpose of the 2A and isn't frightened by it I think that'd be a major blow to gun-control efforts. We have to tread lightly though, because many people have fears, misconceptions and prejudices that we don't share. Breaking those down as we get our message across is essential IMO.