Saturday, December 22, 2012

The real rationale for the Second Amendment

Here's an interesting article by Robert Parry on the rationale for the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution (and basically the whole point about a "well regulated militia").

He says that the right-wing has re-written history, twisting the meaning of the Second Amendment. Well, I've seen them do that many times before, so it's certainly plausible this time, isn't it? Anyway, here's an excerpt:
The Second Amendment dealt with concerns about “security” and the need for trained militias to ensure what the Constitution called “domestic Tranquility.” There was also hesitancy among many Framers about the costs and risks from a large standing army, thus making militias composed of citizens an attractive alternative.

So, the Second Amendment read: “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Contrary to some current right-wing fantasies about the Framers wanting to encourage popular uprisings over grievances, the language of the amendment is clearly aimed at maintaining order within the country.

That point was driven home by the actions of the Second Congress amid another uprising which erupted in 1791 in western Pennsylvania. This anti-tax revolt, known as the Whiskey Rebellion, prompted Congress in 1792 to expand on the idea of “a well-regulated militia” by passing the Militia Acts which required all military-age white males to obtain their own muskets and equipment for service in militias.

In 1794, President Washington, who was determined to demonstrate the young government’s resolve, led a combined force of state militias against the Whiskey rebels. Their revolt soon collapsed and order was restored, demonstrating how the Second Amendment helped serve the government in maintaining “security,” as the Amendment says.

Beyond this clear historical record – that the Framers’ intent was to create security for the new Republic, not promote armed rebellions – there is also the simple logic that the Framers represented the young nation’s aristocracy. Many, like Washington, owned vast tracts of land. They recognized that a strong central government and domestic tranquility were in their economic interests.

So, it would be counterintuitive – as well as anti-historical – to believe that Madison and Washington wanted to arm the population so the discontented could resist the constitutionally elected government. In reality, the Framers wanted to arm the people – at least the white males – so uprisings, whether economic clashes like Shays’ Rebellion, anti-tax protests like the Whiskey Rebellion, attacks by Native Americans or slave revolts, could be repulsed.

However, the Right has invested heavily during the last several decades in fabricating a different national narrative, one that ignores both logic and the historical record. In this right-wing fantasy, the Framers wanted everyone to have a gun so they could violently resist their own government.

This interpretation used to be common among Constitutional scholars. At least, I used to hear it all the time. But the drumbeat from the right has drowned it out. And among politicians, even the Democrats are scared to death of the NRA (maybe especially the Democrats).

It's a lot like 'trickle-down' economics, which the right-wing has just hammered and hammered into our country. The Republican Party's 'Southern strategy' gave right-wing extremists the power to, not just drag America to the far right, but change the fundamental assumptions of our country.

I can't tell you how many gun nuts I encounter online who are adamant that assault rifles are necessary for Liberty (always capitalized) because, at any moment now, we'll need a violent uprising against our own democratically-elected government. (Of course, they lost the election - and to a black man, too - so the loons are becoming increasingly hysterical, aren't they?)

But the narrative on the right is that this was the intent of the Founding Fathers. Well, we did revolt against Great Britain, but that wasn't a democracy. The whole point was that we didn't have a say in our own government. Now we do.

And if you know anything at all about early American history, you'll know that the framers of the Constitution were worried about anarchy. After all, the Articles of Confederation had failed. We'd tried all that 'states' rights' bullshit, and it didn't work.

But the right-wing has been determined to re-write history, and they've been doing a pretty good job of it. Americans rarely even hear the other side of this, not these days. The right-wing has had everything its own way for decades now (which is why we're in such a mess these days).

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