Friday, February 1, 2013

Of True Guns and False Patriotism

A revealing map of the United States has appeared on a “gun rights” website . It purports to identify counties whose infallible constitutional scholars (otherwise known as county sheriffs) have endorsed a county-supremacy pledge not to enforce laws they don’t personally agree with, and it probably does that. In fact, the map is so damning as to who’s really offended by possible new gun laws that I sit in awe that a “patriot” site would create it, but I’m glad they did. Saves me the trouble.

The word “patriotism” has been abused to the point of becoming one of that ever-growing list of similarly abused English words that have achieved the status of “undefinable”. Never mind that we still insist on using these words in attempts at meaningful conversations on the various crises we need to talk about. The fact remains that, unless we define our terms, we basically admit to the evil twins of ignorance: of neither having any idea of what we’re talking about, nor of having any idea of what the other person is talking about.

 I hold this truth to be self-evident, and since it is, I’ll take a crack at defining the word. From my limited Montana perspective then,  “patriotism” is nothing more than principled courage of conviction acted out within a homeland that the “patriot” feels is still worthy of her principled courage. In the West, this definition includes the acting out of “patriotism” or “love of country” within a backdrop of mountains, forests and deserts. In other words, it’s wide-open spaces that define “patriotism” as well as that other much-abused word, “freedom”, to the average western inhabitant, including myself. How can it be otherwise? We’re story-based critters, after all, and prone to Myth, especially in the land of Myth—the West. So “Patriotism” and “Freedom”, by definition, are synonymous with “elbowroom” to us westerners. As Abe Lincoln recently said in the movie, if two things are equal to a third thing, then they’re equal to each other. All three words, then, can and should be used interchangeably in most applications, at least in West. I hope this helps.

Now, let’s look at that map of the U.S. showing the “secessionist” counties again: Now pull the following U.S. maps up that show federal subsidies to individual states on another tab: . Now split the screen—or have your teenager do it for you— put your nose up next to the screen and slowly back it away until the image of the Ugly Truth leaps out at you like one of those hidden holograms we like to stare at when we’re at the dentist’s office. In case you don’t want to read further, this image is all you need to know about the current perverse “2nd Amendment” debate. If you’re a glutton for punishment, as I obviously am, read on.

With very few exceptions, all of the counties whose sheriffs have declared they might have to secede from the Union are rural and therefore owe the existence of their law enforcement departments as well as their law-enforcement jobs to vast federal subsidies. Also note that the vast majority of these counties are in the West, where Civilization as angry AR-15 owners (otherwise known as constitutional scholars) know it could not exist without more federal cash into their counties than taxes paid back out by angry AR-15 owners to the federal government. Their federal tax subsidies probably subsidized the manufacture of their angry AR-15s. Is it coincidence, then, that the ENTIRE state of Utah has opined that it prefers to opt out of the Union on the one hand while its other hand remains fully active pilfering Uncle Sam’s back pocket? Historically speaking, I think not. After all, that state has been trying to “opt out” of the Union ever since it joined it, while remaining one of the nation’s premier and most cynical welfare states. The Ugly Truth is that the elite of these reactionary-to-corporate counties don’t really want to shrink the federal government. They love as much federal government as they can get, when it benefits them, just like they love unconstitutional federal oppression, when it’s about controlling you. The last quarter-century of federal drug policy is just one case in point. I hope this helps.

Let’s define our terms. The words “cynical”, “perverse” and “gun-love”[i] are three things that are also equal to each other. These sheriffs who are self-servingly jumping on the “Patriot” grandstand now are not speaking from positions of courage but rather the opposite, that of cowardice. After all, no one’s asking them to do what they’re thumping their chests about refusing to do, and yet their meaningless chest-thumping is directly related to their fear of being labeled a “communist” or “U.N. dupe” by the Angry Ones who, if one wants to address mental illness as part of the mix on curbing gun violence, should be the first ones to be strapped onto the psychiatrist’s couch. These sheriffs’ understanding of the constitution, if judged by Ravalli County Sheriff Hoffman’s apologia in the Bitterroot Star[ii], are rudimentary-to-non-existent. What can one say to a duly-elected sheriff who insists that a progressive’s right to free speech hinges on the “right” of the Angry Ones who have made careers out of intimidating progressives to possess as many untraceable AR-15 and multi-round magazines as they can afford. This ”Sovereign-Citizen” argument [iii] has always been predicated on the “Patriot”-turned-“Tea Party” credo of “We love our freedom, but we don’t love yours”[iv]. Stated another way, this quarter-baked “militia” assumption that if your average county sheriff can be socially-engineered by the Angry Ones into being “the decider” on who’s the despot who might need shooting and who’s isn’t has always been predicated on the perceived ability of the Angry Ones to intimidate (and even shoot if they “constitutionally” need it) anyone to the left of Attila. 

Think, please. If more firepower meant more “freedom”, then Afghanistan, Iraq and Mexico would be candidates for the Second Coming of the Jesus In Full Body Armor. I can’t speak to that, since such events are inscrutable to us mere mortals. But I have a suspicion that when these sheriffs and other Angry Ones pontificate about those funny words, “freedom” and “patriotism”, they have a cowboy-western version of Wide Open Spaces in mind instead, where “the existence of the 2nd Amendment ensures your right to carry out (your) responsibility” to protect yourself and “The 2nd Amendment is foundational and must be maintained if we are to remain free.” (Hoffman, Bitterroot Star, 1/29/13)

Contrary to their consistent, egregious and willful misreadings of American history, those repeating “sovereign-citizen” talking points—now sadly including quite a few elected officials who feel justified in proudly stating they will not do the jobs they have been elected to do—are not living within a Revolutionary War frame of events. They’re not even living within a Civil War frame of events, where you could actually get away with a full-on war to defend stupid ideas you just can’t let go of. Rather, these rural benefactors of federal largesse are living in a modern world frame of events, the closest historical parallel being the Jim Crow South, in which they will be—and they know they will be—the losers no matter how much they bluster, wave confederate flags or wear three-pointed hats. Far from the armed revolution they pine for and threaten us with, they will only threaten, enable, and occasionally carry out random acts of hateful violence against the rising tide of a peoples’ irresistible march toward a more just planet. Look at the maps. It can’t be any other way.

 Will they cause us trouble? They already have. Ravalli County, for example, has an ugly history with the “sovereign-citizen” movement, and it still suffers mightily under its excesses. Remember Celebrating Conservatism (C.C.) and its “sovereign-citizen” guest speakers, including Shaeffer Cox who’s just been sentenced to 26 years in Alaska for attempting to carry out exactly what C.C. brought him to Hamilton to encourage their own to consider? Remember C.C.’s “Ravalli Co. Questionnaire”, demanding that the sheriff organize a county militia in which every able-bodied male be required to serve, the women being held in reserve until the event that the males are “overrun”[v]? Remember C.C.’s “2nd Amendment Declaration” threatening to overthrow the government if one more gun law is passed[vi]? Remember Cal Greenup and the militia flare-up of the mid-90s? Remember Oklahoma City? Our inestimable commissioners[vii]?

We should take their threats seriously, just like the Civil Rights movement took white-supremacist threats seriously. At the same time, those of you who really practice “courage” and “patriotism” under the Big Sky (and you are legion) can't help but continue continue moving in a more just direction, because, in the end, “gun-control” will inevitably be “forced” upon the Angry Ones by the majority of the real People of the WHOLE United States (see maps), most of whom don’t have the luxury of fantasizing in the wide open spaces we in the West insulate ourselves with. The Angry Ones will lose. We know it and they know it. That’s why they’re angry. After all, a world-view umbilicily-tied to the active denial of physical realities—global-warming, evolution, human rights, massive gun violence, the subjugation of women, you name it—cannot stand. The only question remaining to Us the People (see maps) is how much longer do we allow ourselves to suffer under such a xenophobic and just-plain unworkable philosophy.

Before I get off my stump, I’d like to speak as an Old Hippy who actually spent time in the military and who comes from a branch of our multicultural American tree that includes an ancestor who was a county sheriff during Shay's Rebellion, and who might have had a few choice things to say to our modern pointy-hat wannabes as to the real reason why the 2nd Amendment was inserted into the Constitution at the last minute[viii]. I’d like to ask our constitutional scholars otherwise known as county sheriffs not to presume to lecture me or any other Old Hippy on the meaning of “patriotism”, “freedom” or various and sundry other twisted versions of otherwise-reasonable words. I’d also like to say to all of you folks, whether you agree with me or not:
·      If you’re paying attention to reality, which you really should be doing, let’s evolve. It’s time[ix] .

[i] I know. Not really a word, but it’s as shortened a phrase as I can make sense of.

[iv] Q. Who has the right-of-way at an uncontrolled intersection?
         A. The “patriot” of course. You wanna make something of it?!                

[vi] Celebrating Conservatism’s “2nd Amendment Declaration”, printed in Ravalli Republic 3/3/10
·       Text:
 “Let it be known that we, the people of Montana, stand in recognition of the true principle that whenever a government abandons the purpose for which we have created it and even becomes hostile towards that which it was once a defender of, it is no longer a fit steward of the political power that is inherent in the people and lent to this government with strict conditions. These conditions are clearly defined in the United States Constitution and understood by the common man. Furthermore, to the extent that our government violates these conditions, they nullify their own authority, at which point it is our right and duty, not as subjects but as sovereign Americans, to entrust this power to new stewards who will not depart from the laws we have given them. This being the case, let it be known that should our government seek to further tax, restrict or register firearms or otherwise impose on that right that shall not be infringed, thus impairing our ability to exercise the God-given right to self-defense which precedes all human legislation and is superior to it, that the duty of us good and faithful people will not be to obey them but to alter or abolish it and institute new government laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form as to us shall seem most likely to effect our safety and happiness. --Defending All. Aggressing None (sic)--

·       Letter-to-editor, Ravalli Republic 3/9/10:
“A few questions to the people whose signature appeared on the “Second Amendment Declaration” that was printed as an ad in the Ravalli Republic on March 3:
“Do you realize that your names are now published in a pledge to “abolish the government” if one more gun tax or gun law is enacted?
“Have you considered what “abolishing the government” would actually look like? Have all of you really visualized and accepted - as many of your mentors and leaders apparently have - a civil war fought for the love of guns (which your “declaration” clearly implies) with all the peripheral anti-family and anti-life damage that usually comes along with that sort of thing?
“The disclaimer at the bottom of the ad states that “Celebrating Conservatism” had permission to reproduce your signatures. Is that true?
“Some of your signatures are illegible and may forever remain a mystery, but many are very readable and include prominent citizens and quite a few whose signatures appear two or three times. A few of you are people I’ve been rattling around in the Bitterroot with for over two decades. So now that you’re published in such an inflammatory document - apparently with your permission - are you comfortable being associated from now on with an organized movement whose tenet is that God wants our country to suffer through your implied blood-in-the-streets action for the sake of your guns?
“Or do some of you, at least, feel buffaloed by this ad? Hope so.”
Bill LaCroix/ Coordinator/ Bitterroot Human Rights Alliance

[viii] Silas Halsey, Suffolk Co. N.Y., 1784-92.

[ix] Coalition to Stop Gun Violence Insurrectionist Timeline:

Note: Our Ravalli County sheriff, Chris Hoffman, is a decent man who has shown the courage to stand up to “Patriot” and “Sovereign Citizen” rhetoric in the past. While he may have said what he thought he had to, by in endorsing the “Sheriff’s First” dogma he formerly disavowed, this time around he didn’t show courage. In fact, a concerned observer like myself could draw the reasonable conclusion that he may have bowed to actual threats and intimidations, as several of the “gun-rights” blogs and chats I’ve been following indicate may be the case. All taxpaying Ravalli County citizens have a right and reason to consider this possibility. Whether or not, his caving to ‘”patriot” rhetoric” is at the clear of our safety, which is the essence of the actual job-description his oath and salary are about. Disappointing.


  1. Came here via Merle Ann Loman on Facebook. Glad I did. Thanks for organizing this argument. It is just right. Really appreciate it.

  2. Wow, you totally missed the point. It has nothing to do with secession.

  3. SPOT ON comrade veteran and citizen Bill....still bills
    in current session that are purely wasting our time
    when session only meets 90 days...

  4. I would name your blog the dreamland! While Santa knocks at our door long evening dress, Quinceanera dresses, leather shoes for men just once per year, you blog is open the whole year – wow!