It seems that when some modern Americans look to the documents that form the framework for this long-standing republic, they assume that these documents are static, stagnant, and in some ways, repugnant.
Nothing could have been clearer than the recent declaration by many of the mayors and councilmen of this nation’s largest cities, who stated angrily that a certain corporation could not do business in the their cities because one of the company’s corporate officers had the audacity to state his adherence to traditional family values. Most of these same petty tyrants would also like to see the Second Amendment stripped away, along with the First.
There are even more state and federal officials, both elected and appointed, that hold the view that rights are something to be doled out in measured quantities to those constituencies who have put them in power, and heavily restricted to all others. In a perfect world the individuals that ascribe to these views and the political parties they represent could be simply voted out of office. Unfortunately, the infectious desire for control long ago infected both major political parties in this nation, and they are far more likely to work together as like-minded elitists to preserve the monopoly of power they collectively share, than restore power to the citizenry.
From my personal perspective, it appears that the Democratic Party is the more corrupt of the two, having balkanized cultures and built a power base built upon grievances that has only grown more polarized and vehement in recent years as they’ve adopted a smorgasbord of positions accurately reflecting views of socialist, Marxist, and communist thought that are fundamentally incompatible with personal liberty. The mainline Republican Party is almost as corrupt, being far more interested in serving the needs of deep-pocketed corporate interests (especially in certain business sectors) instead of the small business owner that is the core of American commerce, ingenuity, and job creation. Only the Tea Party faction within the GOP seems aligned with first principles.
Earlier this week I spoke briefly about the system of government our nation’s brave Founding Fathers gave us. Unlike peoples in other lands, we have the right to use the soapbox (free speech) and the ballot box (voting) to voice our displeasure and discontent, before having to resort to the cartridge box (insurrection or revolution). It is this system that has made our nation so robust, when every other sizable nation on this earth have gone through multiple governments and often multiple bloody revolutions and pogroms to effect change on more fragile frameworks.
For more than 200 years, the tension against tyranny provided by the First and Second Amendments have kept Leviathan from biting off large chunks of our freedom. Instead, the desire for power and control inherent to governments have been forced to nibble away at the edges of our liberty. Given enough time–and more than two centuries is quite enough time–even such small-scale usurpations act to weather away the Republic we were meant to have, as water wears away mountains.
Now, more than any other time since our nation’s Civil War, we face a nation divided against itself. It is not a division based upon regional or religious beliefs, ethnicity, or even class. It is a division based upon differing ideas of the foundational role of government in our society.
There are those that believe that the purpose of government in our society is to enforce (their) orthodoxies. Many of these same individuals and groups are those that feel the role of the government is to distribute the fruits of success throughout society, including to those who refuse to contribute to that success. There seem to be only one commonly held theme among those who adhere to this loose confederacy of beliefs.
The role of government is to impose.
Look at the various caucuses in Congress, unions both public and private, and the “social justice” movements as examples of these poisonous beliefs. Those who espouse this mindset come from various economic strata and a wide variety of cultures, and share a common belief that all people should have a share of private sector success provided to them by the government. They also share a common, often maddening belief that those who do not share this view should be shunned, or worse, silenced. They hold that a very powerful central government is necessary to enforce their will, through regulation as a necessity and force (or threat of force) as required. This is the sort of government that previous generations of Americans took up arms against, both on this continent, and overseas.
Those of us offended by the tyranny of government and the uniformity of thought have another view of government.
The role of government is to ensure.
No society is free where dissenting thought is crushed or drowned out. When the government plays favorites and corrupts the market, there is not free commerce, and no personal freedom. When the government uses it’s power to enforce only the laws it desires, and ignores or unevenly enforces laws based upon whim, there is tyranny.
We live in a tyrannical time. Our government has grown too large, and too corrupt.
Ideally, we will be able to use the soapbox and the ballot box to return this Republic to it’s correct path, but the founders have warned us to be prepared for the tyranny of government that eventually attempts to enslave all free peoples. It is against this vicious cycle of dependence and acquisition of power that a free Republic must stand, and the core of that resistance is the “well-regulated militia.”
Modern man does not use the term “well-regulated” in the way that his nation’s founders did, a way that was commonly understood throughout the 18th and 19th centuries.
The phrase “well-regulated” was in common use long before 1789, and remained so for a century thereafter. It referred to the property of something being in proper working order. Something that was well-regulated was calibrated correctly, functioning as expected. Establishing government oversight of the people’s arms was not only not the intent in using the phrase in the 2nd amendment, it was precisely to render the government powerless to do so that the founders wrote it.
A well-regulated militia is one that functions as expected, as a reserve martial force to be called upon in times of trouble. The explicit “trouble” that was fresh in the minds of the Founders when they composed our Constitution and Bill of Rights was the corrupting force of tyrannical government, having just overthrown the armed forces of the British tyrant King George III and his military government in America.
In our modern context, what is a “well regulated militia?”
I submit that it is the totality of the people, armed with knowledge of this nation’s history and the role of the militia in securing our freedom. It is the bodies of Americans, keep in “fighting trim” as age and ailments allow, and souls that are not timid.
It is a citizenry proficient in the use of small arms suitable for military service, educated with a basic academic knowledge of small-unit tactics and military strategy, and dedicated to the ownership and upkeep of arms, ammunition and paraphernalia suitable of be pressed into militia service.
We are meant to be a nation of free men.
To keep that heritage, we must be a nation of riflemen.