Thursday, December 02, 2010

Armed People are Polite People

"No kingdom can be secured otherwise than by arming the people. The possession of arms is the distinction between a freeman and a slave. He, who has nothing, and who himself belongs to another, must be defended by him, whose property he is, and needs no arms. But he, who thinks he is his own master, and has what he can call his own, ought to have arms to defend himself, and what he possesses; else he lives precariously, and at discretion."
-- James Burgh (1714-1775) was an English Whig politician
Source: "Political Disquisitions: Or, an Enquiry into Public Errors, Defects, and Abuses" (London, 1774-1775)
A "kingdom" of course, means a nation, an "earthly kingdom." That kingdom may be part of a larger nation, and therefore a community, a neighborhood, a rural area, or a town, county or region.
History shows us that if only warriors (whose reason for existence is to defend the tribe, the vill, or whatever) are armed, their dedication to defense against external threats soon takes second place to bullying the very people that they supposedly are defending. As Burgh says, the unarmed man (or woman) "lives... at discretion." The discretion of the bully. This starts out as a kind of "parental" toleration which becomes contempt and disdain for the unarmed person - who is now somewhat "lower caste," and goes from there.

"A people armed and free forms a barrier against the enterprises of ambition and is a bulwark for the nation against foreign invasion and domestic oppression."
-- James Madison
(1751-1836), Father of the Constitution for the USA, 4th US President
Notice that Madison speaks of both internal and external threats. The two are often (but not always) related. Foreign invasion is often triggered by the actions of the same government which is oppressing its people domestically: either because they are greedy and seek more power and more wealth that their own subjects can provide, or because they are willing to seek foreign adventures to distract their subjects from their condition.

But when we consider "domestic oppression" we need to remember that it is not just government that is a source of such oppression: it can be bandits and outlaws (as was often the case in England in the Middle Ages and in the United States in such places as "Bleeding Kansas" of the 1850s and strife-torn Missouri in the 1860s and the vicious gangs of pre-vigilante San Francisco and the mining camps of the 1850s), it can be landowners (such as some of the cattle ranchers of which Louis L'Amour writes) or corporations such as the railroad companies in Texas or the mining companies of Colorado in the 1910s.

Even the most vicious and nasty of thugs - whether hired guns or the owners or the foreman - tend to back down and be much more polite when the people they face are armed and able and ready to defend themselves.

"Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed as they are in almost every kingdom in Europe. The supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword because the whole body of the people are armed, and constitute a force superior to any band of regular troops that can be, on any pretense, raised in the United States."
-- Noah Webster

(1758-1843) American patriot and scholar, author of the 1806 edition of the dictionary that bears his name, the first dictionary of American English usage.
Defined the militia similarly as "the effective part of the people at large."
Source: An Examination of the Leading Principles of the Federal Constitution, Philadelphia, 1787
Sadly, this has changed from 1787 to 2010: the Federal Government found pretense to raise a massive band - bands - of "regular troops" - not so much the Regular Army, Army Reserves, and National Guard (which are concerned more with external duties - foreign occupation) but the massive numbers of police agencies and police officers of all types from the small local town forces to the oversized (and heavily armed) urban police forces and sheriffs' offices to the massive State Police and dozens of Federal "law-enforcement" agencies and branches of agencies which are an internal occupation force: THIS is the modern standing army which has taken away liberty.

At the same time, the disarming of American citizens NOT in one of these agencies has proceeded apace: more and more types of weapons considered "military" or (even worse) "law enforcement" in nature have been taken out of the hand of civilians on a variety of pretexts. Reduced to hunting weapons and semi-automatic weapons of small caliber and small capacity, without modern technology such as silencers and night-vision-scopes and specialized rounds, this makes possible the domination of the modern standing army.

And with this disarmament and rise of the standing army of police, the contempt and disdain for the civilian - relatively if not totally disarmed - grows more evident with each passing year. Witness the attitude of the TSA - perhaps not EVERY TSO, but certainly many including supervisors right up to the Secretary of Homeland Security and the White House. Witness the attitude and the evidence of corruption, of concealment of lawbreaking, and rejection of civilian control on anything but a pro forma basis of too many metropolitan and even state forces. As in Europe and Latin America in the past, the uniformed (and plain-clothed) police see no more need for true politeness: the words "sir" and "ma'am" in the mouths of too many police officers is nothing but rote mouthings. When spoken by a man or woman in uniform, one hand on the belt near their pistol, the other hand out for "papers" or on the key of a radio microphone connecting to back-up, the words are meaningless.

In a truly free society, politeness is a necessity because an offended person need not look to a "protector" for succor or assistance - the offended person is armed and capable of responding appropriately to the offense, regardless of age or size or sex or physical condition.

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