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As many of you already know, there has been much talk from the right since the Newtown massacre about the "original intent" for the 2nd amendment. For decades, only the right-wing fringe would openly claim that they have the right to take up arms and shoot their fellow Americans -- if they deem the government has become "tyrannical" -- and that the 2nd amendment gives them this right. Up until recently, it was extremely rare that such a vision was openly promoted in the mainstream. But it seemed to breach those walls with the advent of the tea party and its cousins, who sometimes also used the term "2nd amendment remedies."

There is, of course, nothing new about the idea that the 2nd amendment was put in place to guarantee the possibility of "popular" revolts. It has always been there, lurking in the dark, ugly underbelly of right-wing psychoses. Such a wild misreading of actual history and context has long been a staple on the right. But what does appear new is the seemingly easy acceptance by the mainstream media that such a misreading deserves its own day in court. Rather than being soundly blasted to the furthest edges of the fringe, this false reading of history is all too often given something approaching equal time in our national discourse.

Now, I'm not saying it shouldn't be addressed and exposed for the truly odious, dangerous, malevolent false history it is. It should be. It must be. But it seems to have gained a perch as a "legitimate" point of departure, and that must change.  

One possible way to change that is to always ask the purveyor of such nonsense how they define tyranny. What is tyrannical to the person who holds such views? Remember, many of those who spoke of "2nd amendment remedies" thought that the election of Obama itself was proof of "tyranny". Soon after, many on the right thought that the idea of helping out mortgage holders who were underwater was a form of tyranny. This is what sparked Santelli's disgusting rant at CNBC, which set the table for the tea party. That group saw health care reform as tyrannical. Of course, for many a decade, much of the right has said that taxes are a form of tyranny -- ignoring the fact that we have the lowest effective taxes on individuals and businesses in the developed world. And now, for many of these same people, any gun regulation, no matter how slight, would be grounds for an armed uprising.

What gives them the right to define it for all of us? Most of America would disagree with them about Obama, Obamacare, taxes, mortgage programs or gun legislation. Most of America would not agree that sensible, rational, logical gun safety legislation is grounds for open revolt. But a small fringe of gun fetishists believes that their view of "tyranny" is self-evident, which is why they don't even bother to explain their rationale, much as they never bother to detail what constitutes "liberty and freedom" when they toss those words around with unthinking abandon.

Make them define it all. Make them elaborate. Make them put all their cards on the table. Don't let them get away with tossing off empty platitudes and bad history. Make them explain why they believe taxes and gun legislation are grounds for open revolt, but the despicable and unconscionable invasion of Iraq was fine with them. Make them explain why even the idea of helping out individual mortgage holders sent them into a rage, but trillions in corporate welfare caused not a whimper.

America is the most unequal society in the developed world. We have the highest percentage in poverty of any developed nation. We start wars with far, far weaker nations at the drop of a hat, and have been continuously fighting these indefensible wars since WWII. Millions have died, millions have been maimed, millions exiled by these corporate ventures disguised as essential wars. But, for the American right, it is their own taxes and their own guns that concern and obsess them. Tens of thousands of Americans die each year due to lack of health care access, but it is the idea that some of the needy might be covered under new laws that drives the right into a frenzy.

Of course, we can also counter their ignorant misreading of history with the real thing. We can demonstrate that no new government tries to make its own ouster easy. We can remind them that if the "founders" really wanted to empower all citizens to overthrow their government, they wouldn't have limited the vote to white male property holders. And, we can remind them that this is 2012, not the 1780s, and that even if they're correct about the founders -- they aren't -- times have changed radically since then. Times have changed so radically that only an insane person would want to base current policy on 18th century thought.

But, mostly, we just need to push back the fringe to where it belongs.

9:42 PM PT: As I mentioned in the comments, I want to make this clear. I am not saying that our government has not been tyrannical. It has. It has a very dark history, going back to the very beginning, and the founders themselves did not escape that.

We started out wiping out Native Americans, imposed slavery on people based upon race, crushed legitimate dissent decade after decade -- especially if that dissent came from the left. If workers wanted to form unions to better their lot, for example, our government often aided and abetted business owners in crushing those organizations, either through outright murder, the cracking of heads, or new laws.

Our government fights war after war, primarily to benefit capitalists and expand or protect their markets. Our wars have resulted in tens of millions of innocent civilians dying (3.8 million in Vietnam alone). Our capitalists have spread pollution throughout the world, spread toxic products, spread cigarettes and other deadly commodities. We have a truly odious history of destroying local cultures, ripping them off for their natural resources, and leaving them high and dry.

Of course, we aren't the only imperialist power to do this. Europe was guilty of much of this, especially from the so-called Age of Discovery onward. But we are among the first to normalize and naturalize empire through the means of capitalist indoctrination and marketing. We are among the first empires to pretend we don't have one, and that everything we do is simply about "freedom and prosperity".

But armed revolutions coming from the right will do nothing to stop anything that is truly "tyrannical" about this nation. Armed revolutions from the right will, in fact, just increase the power of private tyrannies and expand the gap between rich and poor. Their vision of "freedom" is freedom for the rich. Their vision of liberty is the ability of business to do as it pleases, regardless of the harm it inflicts.

No one should be fooled by their attempts to enlist Madison and Jefferson and talk of patriotism and liberty. A coup from the right will mean another kind of slavery for the masses. They will shoot their fellow Americans, claim the 2nd Amendment gives them this right, and bring about civil war. All too many have never gotten over the last one.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tyranny worthy of rebellion is in the eyes (3+ / 0-)

    of the members of a group of people large enough, committed enough and with the resources to potentially succeed at the rebellion.  This has been true throughout human history.

    Looking back at US history, was the treatment of the colonies, so bad that a revolutionary war was justified?  Many thought it was not, but the forces of rebellion decide these matters.

    That is the answer as a practical matter.  There is not going to be a committee of academics who decide this - other than in the mind of other academics.

    The most important way to protect the environment is not to have more than one child.

    by nextstep on Mon Dec 24, 2012 at 10:30:07 AM PST

  •  Fuck those fringe (5+ / 0-)

    founding fathers.

    Federalist #46 (James Madison)

    Extravagant as the supposition is, let it however be made. Let a regular army, fully equal to the resources of the country, be formed; and let it be entirely at the devotion of the federal government; still it would not be going too far to say, that the State governments, with the people on their side, would be able to repel the danger. The highest number to which, according to the best computation, a standing army can be carried in any country, does not exceed one hundredth part of the whole number of souls; or one twenty-fifth part of the number able to bear arms. This proportion would not yield, in the United States, an army of more than twenty-five or thirty thousand men. To these would be opposed a militia amounting to near half a million of citizens with arms in their hands, officered by men chosen from among themselves, fighting for their common liberties, and united and conducted by governments possessing their affections and confidence. It may well be doubted, whether a militia thus circumstanced could ever be conquered by such a proportion of regular troops.
    Federalist #29 (Alexander Hamilton)
    if circumstances should at any time oblige the government to form an army of any magnitude that army can never be formidable to the liberties of the people while there is a large body of citizens, little, if at all, inferior to them in discipline and the use of arms, who stand ready to defend their own rights and those of their fellow-citizens. This appears to me the only substitute that can be devised for a standing army, and the best possible security against it, if it should exist."
    ...these were the FEDERALISTS.  This is the moderate, pro-government side of the debate.  The other side wanted ALL the guns in the hands of the general public, as members of a general militia.

    States' rights? Corporate rights? Militia rights? Government rights? Hell no! Only individuals have rights. Proud lifelong human supremacist.

    by happymisanthropy on Mon Dec 24, 2012 at 10:35:08 AM PST

    •  Oh, and (4+ / 0-)

      Federalist #29 (Alexander Hamilton)

      whither would the militia, irritated by being called upon to undertake a distant and hopeless expedition, for the purpose of riveting the chains of slavery upon a part of their countrymen, direct their course, but to the seat of the tyrants, who had meditated so foolish as well as so wicked a project, to crush them in their imagined intrenchments of power, and to make them an example of the just vengeance of an abused and incensed people?

      States' rights? Corporate rights? Militia rights? Government rights? Hell no! Only individuals have rights. Proud lifelong human supremacist.

      by happymisanthropy on Mon Dec 24, 2012 at 10:41:43 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  What garbage. (0+ / 0-)

        All that is is a stupid, blind, irrational opening for endless civil war, or the total disintegration of society into competing interest blocs, war lords and their troops killing each other, etc. etc.

        Hamilton appears to be sanctioning any militia to take it upon itself to kill their fellow Americans if it feels a federal mission is out of order.

        Why resort to guns and bloodshed as the first course of action? Why not attempt the power of the better argument and stop a terrible mission before it is undertaken?

        Hamilton's own actions, once in government, showed that he preferred the latter course, not the bellicose tone of the section cited. Those who attempt to use the 2nd amendment to justify their own bloodlust fail to take that into account . . . . . as well as all of the writings by these same founders pointing to democratic debate instead.

        •  we already experience this: (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          diomedes77
          the total disintegration of society into competing interest blocs
          Our country is becoming more divided into competing interest groups. It is just about to the point where you might call us a tribal based society based on political beliefs/ideological goals.

          "Don't part with your illusions. When they are gone you might still exist, but you have ceased to live." Mark Twain

          by Void Indigo on Mon Dec 24, 2012 at 01:05:27 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  Notice the part about state militias. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      cany

      As in, the founders were talking about government militias, formed to make a federal standing army unnecessary. Government militias, per state, used to defend the state.

      They werent talking about individual, private citizens, acting on their own whim, deciding when and where to rebel against the government through force of arms.

      Again, if they had, they wouldn't have limited it all to white male property holders.

      They didn't allow women and minorities to have guns. They especially didn't allow slaves.

      This is where the Madisons and Jeffersons were extreme hypocrites. They talked a good game about "freedom and liberty", but they had a very narrow conception of who got to play the game.

      It's a total misreading of our history to think this gives some license to everyone to choose, on their own, to rebel and STILL be supported by the Bill of Rights.

      Shays Rebellion immediately tells us otherwise.

      •  ok (0+ / 0-)
        As in, the founders were talking about government militias, formed to make a federal standing army unnecessary. Government militias, per state, used to defend the state.
        Forming such a milita is logically impossible without supplies to arm them with.  THAT is the purpose of the second amendment: to ensure that there were arms available in the hands of good guys in the case of an emergency.

        Note that states are FORBIDDEN to maintain troops in times of peace without the consent of congress.  There is NO "right" of states to keep militias.  The right to bear arms belongs to individuals only.

        They werent talking about individual, private citizens, acting on their own whim, deciding when and where to rebel against the government through force of arms.
        No one is suggesting that people can start shooting whenever they feel like it.  The British would have hanged Jay, Hamilton, or Madison if they had the chance.  
        Again, if they had, they wouldn't have limited it all to white male property holders.

        They didn't allow women and minorities to have guns. They especially didn't allow slaves.

        Gun ownership was about as strictly limited as book ownership.  I'm not sure how this detracts from my point.  It certainly was never limited to militia members only.
        It's a total misreading of our history to think this gives some license to everyone to choose, on their own, to rebel and STILL be supported by the Bill of Rights.
        I agree.  There is no right to rebel.  There is no right for states to keep a militia.  There is no right to be a member of a militia.  There is a right to keep and bear arms.

        Which part do we disagree on?

        States' rights? Corporate rights? Militia rights? Government rights? Hell no! Only individuals have rights. Proud lifelong human supremacist.

        by happymisanthropy on Mon Dec 24, 2012 at 03:27:56 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  It's not an individual right. (0+ / 0-)

          It's a collective right. And it was seen as such for two hundred years prior to Heller went against precedent.

          BTW, personally, I think our government has been tyrannical all too often. I think we have a long history of it, going back to the founding. From genocide of Native Americans, to slavery, to Jim Crow, to the crushing of dissent -- primarily dissent from the left . . . we have had more than two centuries of bloodshed and blood lust. War after war after war, with millions dead because our capitalists pushed for open markets and protection of established markets at any cost.

          Whether it was started by the government, or the government just aided and abetted private tyrannies . . . our history is often all too poisonous.

          But gun nuts (mostly right-wingers) who currently suggest they have a right carved out for them by the founders to start shooting their fellow Americans over their idea of "tyranny" are flat out crazy. And not one of them has ever come up with a sane definition of "tyranny".

          As in, their ideas of what constitutes tyranny are nothing but self-centered, greedy and narcissistic desires to hold on to their pieces of metal or to prevent the needy from receiving a leg up. I never hear them call our endless wars tyrannical. Or the fact that we have the most unequal society in the developed world. I never hear them talk about the huge gulf between white, black and Hispanic wealth, or the environmental destruction largely borne by minorities.

          Their idea of tyranny is a tax increase, or an assault weapons ban, or health care reform. And for that they want to enlist the founders?

          Sorry. No dice. If they do rebel over those things, and start a shooting war, they're nothing but dirty, two-bit murderers, not patriots.

          •  there is no such thing as a collective right (0+ / 0-)

            it's an oxymoron.  Rights are inherent in the individual.  Collectives are not people and do not have inherent rights.

            States' rights? Corporate rights? Militia rights? Government rights? Hell no! Only individuals have rights. Proud lifelong human supremacist.

            by happymisanthropy on Mon Dec 24, 2012 at 09:49:29 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  There is no such thing as an inherent right. (0+ / 0-)

              We humans create them. We decide to make them collective or individual. It's up to us. It's always been up to us.

              And, please, don't tell me about "natural law." I studied the Enlightenment for decades. The philosophes who believed in natural law were engaged in "naturalizing" their own philosophical systems. They tried to impose a universalism on their vision which they could not possibly prove.

              If there were such a thing as "natural law"; if what some in the West view as natural were indeed inherent . . . then why is it not universally held across cultures and time? Why has there always been such great diversity of opinion on these things across time and space -- and even among Europeans themselves?

              Great example of that: property rights. For our first 200,000 years on this earth, we humans lived communally, with no concept of "private property", much less natural law concerning private property. We shared virtually everything. And even up through the 19th century, Native American tribes had no such concept.

              They didn't own land. They inhabited it, or occupied it.

              The Western conception of "natural law" is invented by those particular thinkers, in that particular time and place. Humans have always invented "rights".

              •  As in, we can grant collective rights. (0+ / 0-)

                If we want to. It's up to us.

                And we should. We must. Because without collective rights to match the collective power of corporations and capitalists, we will never, ever be able to stop them from crushing us and exploiting us. They have too much power, as money is power, and more money is more power.

                Corporations are themselves collectives right off the bat. Corporations (and capitalism itself) collectivize workers, consumers and the government to work on the behalf of ownership. Your ideas of a purely and solely individual "right" just aids and abets corporate collective tyranny over workers, consumers, citizens and the earth itself.

                In short, you are doing exactly what the rich and the powerful, the plutocracy, want the people to do:

                Divest themselves of their only means of fighting back: collective organizing power on behalf of the collective itself. Worker and mass solidarity on behalf of workers and the vast majority of the population.

                They want us atomized. They want us to see ourselves as alone, as just individuals against the state. That just guarantees that they will always be our lords and masters.

                •  you think you're fighting them (0+ / 0-)

                  but you've validated and vindicated them by recognizing the validity of their rights.

                  States' rights? Corporate rights? Militia rights? Government rights? Hell no! Only individuals have rights. Proud lifelong human supremacist.

                  by happymisanthropy on Mon Dec 24, 2012 at 10:17:30 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Wrong. Corporations are not people. (0+ / 0-)

                    I grant no rights to corporations. I do to people. The people. We, the people, should grant collective rights to ourselves, in order to protect us from plutocracy and oligarchy.

                    Workers' rights, civil rights, human rights, women's rights, consumer rights, minority rights, etc.

                    Even animal rights.

                    But not corporations. Not businesses.

                    People.

                    And certainly there is no right to profit. People get rights. Profit has no rights. Guns have no rights.

                    •  Governments derive their powers from the consent (0+ / 0-)

                      of the governed.  Governments have powers, not rights.  Corporations derive their powers from the government that chartered them.  Thus people are superior to governments, and governments are superior to corporations.

                      States' rights? Corporate rights? Militia rights? Government rights? Hell no! Only individuals have rights. Proud lifelong human supremacist.

                      by happymisanthropy on Mon Dec 24, 2012 at 10:54:32 PM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  Never said government has rights . . . (0+ / 0-)

                        I said people do, and people create rights. We always have, going back at least to the first "high" civilizations, roughly 6,000 years ago. Most likely, going back thousands of years prior to that.

                        But, again, there is no record of "private property" being an inherent right, a "natural right" until just a few hundred years ago. If something is "inherent" or "natural", and self-evidently so, it would logically have appeared far sooner and all over the globe. It did not.

                        Logically, since humans created rights, and they've been both collective and individual across time and culture, we can still create collective rights today. We can add to the franchise. We can add the right to food, health care, education, shelter, etc.

                        We can also decide, collectively, to remove "rights" that endanger us, like the 2nd amendment. If we agree as a people to these things, we add or subtract "rights".

                        Nothing is stopping us. There is no deity. There is no such thing, empirically speaking, as set "natural law." No proof for it.

                        Which means it's up to us to decide, and it always has been.

    •  You are also forgetting they were just three. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      cany

      Just three men wrote the federalist papers. Madison, Jay and Hamilton all owned slaves at one time or another, with Madison owning them throughout his life. Jay and Hamilton had an ambiguous relationship with the anti-slavery movement, giving them better records on the topic than Madison. Two of the three were from the south.

      It would be very strange indeed to give the final word on the 2nd amendment to just three white males from the 18th century. Citing them in no way makes your case.

      •  Very strange indeed (0+ / 0-)

        it would be quite peculiar for the final word on the second amendment to have been written before the amendment itself.

        States' rights? Corporate rights? Militia rights? Government rights? Hell no! Only individuals have rights. Proud lifelong human supremacist.

        by happymisanthropy on Mon Dec 24, 2012 at 03:30:46 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  It's even simpler than that (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Farkletoo, ban nock, diomedes77

    Even before Concord and Lexington, the British policy was to disarm the colonists. Here's how PBS explains this:

    To reduce the potential military threat to his troops, Gage began to disarm colonists, seizing their ammunition. The march on Concord was not the first such mission. In September 1774, the General had sent 260 men to capture the supply of gunpowder at the Powder House on Quarry Hill (now in the town of Somerville). Starting out before dawn, the British regulars took possession of 250 half-barrels, bringing them back to Boston before noon. Following angry protests in the countryside, Gage made steps to secure Boston from the American mobs.
    It's like the way we don't have a King and we don't have a parliamentary system. We don't have a government that behaves like the British government did in the 1770s. The American Right forgets that to get rid of tyranny we have elections. The real thing is absolutely the best antidote to the stupid.

    -7.75, -8.10; Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? . . . and respect the dignity of every human being.

    by Dave in Northridge on Mon Dec 24, 2012 at 10:42:21 AM PST

  •  In the body of the constitution the Federalists (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    nellgwen, diomedes77

    told us how to handle uprisings against the "tyranny" of the government "The privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it." Artlicle 1 section 9 US Constsitution.

    Seems that the founders saw the possibility of an uprising against the government and made provisions for it. So much for firearm ownership being a bulwark against tyranny. The federal government gave itself the power to lock up everybody if there was a rebellion. Maybe the well regulated part has to be examined in light of angry armed men who had not been paid. Or the Whiskey Rebellion when farmers marched on New York City armed to the teeth to protest taxes and had to be stopped by the army. Does anyone remember from high school history "Not worth a Continental" the worthless script with which veterans of the Revolution were paid?

    Or examined in light of the French Revolution that came hot on the heels of the end of our Revolution? Maybe the point was in fact that firearms needed to be well regulated? Washington writes of the virtue that regular drill teaches young men and how it shapes their character and instills patriotism. Of course he was crushed when states ignored his advice and never formed well regulated militias. Congress passed laws require the states to equip and drill and provide uniforms and the states simply ignored these laws. At least according to the official history of the US Army.

  •  The political reason for the Second Amendmeni (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    diomedes77, Sharon Wraight

    is that the Sourthern states were wary of the Federal government.  This wariness is very well documented.

    So this let the South have armies at the start of the Civil War.

    The Civil War basically repealed the original intention of the Second Amendment.

    •  Compromise . . . (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      nascent orange, Ironic Chef

      The Federalists were trying to gain the confidence of those who did not want a federal system. They said things in order to get the Constitution ratified. They played politics. Shocked, I know!!

      Strange and sad that the right believes that only the founders were somehow above selling snake oil for political gain, even though they were politicians as well.

      None of this was holy writ. It was all the work and workings of flawed human beings, many of whom held slaves, and sought what was best for their own class and geographical area.

      That anyone would want to be held in chains to the thinking of the 18th century ruling class in America is bizarre beyond words.

    •  Now this is the best argument against letting (0+ / 0-)

      amendments or Supreme Court changes to the constitution appease activists of either side. Descendents may suffer in unexpected ways to compromises to ensure unity. A difficult area since without some unity we have gridlock as the radicals of either side insist on having everything thier way.

      Fear is the Mind Killer...

      by boophus on Mon Dec 24, 2012 at 04:58:09 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I'm not a constitutional scholar, so I went to (0+ / 0-)

    wiki, and that's what they seem to suggest. I'm also not invested in the idea, just heard about it and googled.

    How big is your personal carbon footprint?

    by ban nock on Mon Dec 24, 2012 at 04:14:45 PM PST

  •  Illegitimate revolutions (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    diomedes77

    Any passing observer of 20th century history can gain two lessons, which were not clear at the time of the American Revolution: (1) tyrants don't need to confiscate a single gun to oppress the people, they simply win them over through propaganda; (2) the people don't need to pick up a single gun to overthrow a tyrant.

    Why all the guns then? Because another thing is true: (3) if you want an illegitimate revolution to succeed, you will need a lot of guns. This is the actual "right" those NRA types are worried they will lose.

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