"...An overweening vanity leads the fond many, each man against the conviction of his own heart, to believe or affect to believe, that militia can beat veteran troops in the open field and even play of battle. This idle notion, fed by vaunting demagogues, alarmed us for our country, when in the course of that time and chance, which happen to all, she should be at war with a great power."
- US Senator Gouverneur Morris, Founding Father and Penman of the US Constitution, Boston, 1815
It’s been what?
Two centuries and some change maybe?
I mean, when exactly was the last time defense of the country depended on a bunch of raggedy-ass pig farmers?
Exactly when was it, that glorious time of independence and freedom, when the heavenly white light of liberty depended on a dirty band of fake Marines, ersatz soldiers, and drunken beer bellied louts led by a couple of second-rate cattle barons whose own grasp of civilization most closely resembles that of their bovine stock in trade?
We’ll come back to that.
We Americans, oh how we love to tell ourselves fairytales of the fabled citizen soldier.
We love to believe a bunch of simple farmers, untrained in war, armed only with primitive muskets and the fierce righteous fire of liberty in their bellies, faced down the greatest professional army in the world and sent the Red Coats back to King George. Oh yes, we proudly puff out our chests and tell ourselves how a rag-tag militia of common men rose up to drive tyranny from the land, how those patriots watered the tree of liberty with their own blood, and went on to pen the Constitution and lay the foundation of the United States with nothing more than the sweat of their own brows and the blessings of their creator.
It’s all bullshit, of course.
Bullshit, but that myth is so entrenched in the American psyche that to suggest otherwise is oft considered treason.
The idea is ludicrous. It is. It’s so ridiculous in fact that we laugh, we Americans, when the idea comes up in any other context but for our own Revolutionary War. The thought of some rag-tag half-assed militia facing down our own modern military? Hilarious. They’re nothing but a bunch of goat herders, towelheads, camel jockeys, we sneer with contempt. All the IEDs and suicide-belts in the world can’t so much as blunt our advance. Yeehaw!
And we’re right about that.
Sure we are. For no misfit militia can stand against a trained and equipped professional force.
Oh, certainly, militia might get lucky in an ambush or even a skirmish, but not in open battle. Not against professionals. Not against tanks and well equipped infantry and air superiority and advanced communications and technology. Which is why that militia so often resorts to guerrilla tactics and terrorism and a war of attrition – and even those things can’t win the day, not if the professional military and those who sent them are willing to stay the course.
The simple truth of the matter is this: American freedom, American liberty, has never depended on an irregular militia.
George Washington himself had a particular contempt for the militia, writing to his nephew, Lund Washington, in September of 1776 after the loss of Long Island and Manhattan to British forces,
“I am wearied to death all day with a variety of perplexing circumstances, disturbed at the conduct of the militia, whose behavior and want of discipline has done great injury to the other troops, who never had officers, except in a few instances, worth the bread they eat. In confidence I tell you that I never was in such an unhappy, divided state since I was born.”
Note that in the battle which prompted Washington’s letter, the Redcoats took New York in less than twelve hours, while the various American militias (forces actually sworn to the country and with some modicum of training unlike the modern militia movement) deserted almost to a man at the first sight of the professional soldiers advancing on them. At the Battle of Kip’s Bay, General Washington attempted to rally the panicked and fleeing militia by first commanding “take the walls!” pointing to the stone walls of the cornfields that made up the battleground. The men ignored him and continued to run away. Then because they were in utter disarray and their officers unwilling to stand their ground, Washington commanded the militia to “take the cornfields!” just to get them off the road and to stop running. Instead, the militia dropped their weapons and ran blindly away up the Post Road. Washington literally beat the fleeing militiamen with his cane and the flat of his sword in an attempt to turn their cowardice. Finally in frustration, Washington declared he would start running them through if they didn’t stand and fight. They didn’t.
Meanwhile on Long Island, the militia, facing battle hardened German troops under command of British General William Howe, threw down their weapons, raised their hands and attempted to surrender. The Germans shot the Americans in the face and then stabbed them with bayonets.
In anything but a support role – and often not even then – the militia was an abject failure. They were worse than useless and held in utter contempt by actual soldiers both on the British and the American side of the Revolution. The truth of the matter is that the Continental Army which Washington demanded from the Continental Congress and that eventually won our independence from King George, those soldiers were a professional military force. Untested and unsure at first, but after that terrible winter at Valley Forge, they were well trained courtesy of Baron Friedrich von Steuben and increasingly well supplied by the Continental Congress and supported by France.
If the Founding Fathers had depended for their independence on the various irregular militias, they surely would have all been hanged – separately and together.
Those men, those men who led the Continental Army and fought for our freedom, those men knew exactly what they were doing when they included the words “well-regulated militia” in the Second Amendment.
And they for damned sure weren’t talking about giving Americans the right to shoot down their own government – because those Founders were the government.
There are few things professional soldiers despise more than some fake wannabe warrior.
Professional military personnel look upon militias and paramilitaries the same way cops regard amateur security guards.
And for good reason.
Irregular militias, paramilitaries, are worse than useless when it comes to defense of a nation. Literally worse than useless. They are untrained, undisciplined, undependable, and too often belligerently unaware of their own pitiful state. They take up resources and risk the security of real soldiers. Irregular militias are often indistinguishable from an armed mob. Like those currently occupying Malheur Wildlife Refuge in Oregon, militias are almost always composed of misfits and rejects, wannabe soldiers and pretend Marines puffed up with stolen valor, disaffected braggarts, belligerent drunkards, criminals, the dangerously mentally ill, conspiracy theorists, and angry losers of every stripe.
These raggedy-assed pretend patriots are not out there defending your freedom.
Most of them don’t even rise to the level of the militiamen who fled the British at Kip’s Bay.
They’re in it for themselves.
They’re in it for themselves and only for themselves and make no mistake about it.
These are Sovereign Citizens – an oxymoron if ever there was one. These are people who have declared themselves a nation unto themselves and have rejected the obligations of civilization. They are citizens of nothing, an army of one, defenders of mob rule and rights by force.
They believe freedom comes at the muzzle of a gun and only at the muzzle of a gun, and they believe in their freedom not yours.
They literally believe a gun gives them the right to do anything they want.
Literally, these people believe might makes right - or more correctly might makes rights. Their rights, not yours.
Those militiamen occupying Malheur Wildlife Refuge are little different from the mobs of armed men currently roaming Somalia or Iraq or Syria. They are lawless thugs, nothing more. They want you to believe they are defending freedom, defending America, defending their twisted and simplistic interpretation of the Constitution.
They’ve turned the Second Amendment into a religion, a bizarre sexual fetish, into mental illness.
But those guns? The ones they’re so proud of? Those weapons are not turned to defense of the nation. They’re not aimed at some foreign invader. They’re aimed at you.
They’re aimed at the United States of America.
These militias exist solely for one reason: to shoot down Americans.
They are not preparing to face some foreign invader. They are not standing in defense of their countrymen. In point of fact, they declared us, you and me, their enemy. This is the face of the modern militia movement, just the same as any ISIS fighter who would shoot down Americans in the name of ideology. Same as any Muslim extremist, these militiamen hate the American government, they hate liberals, they hate gays, and they hate those who don’t adhere to their particular religion. These are racists, homophobes, anti-Semites, Islamophobes, sexists, and bigots of every stripe and bitter flavor – don’t take my word for it, go read their statements in their own words. These are fake soldiers who pretend valor they never earned. These are drunks and murderers, liars and cheats, wife beaters and tax dodgers, and blustering cowards. They are busy fighting amongst themselves, literally murdering each other, and raging against illusionary tyranny that exists only in their fevered imaginations.
These are not patriots.
They do not believe in democracy.
They do not believe in the republic.
They do not stand with the rest of us against the fall of night.
They believe in guns and violence and brutality. They are a howling mob and nothing more.
These are nothing less than self-declared enemy combatants who intend violent overthrow of the United States government. They fully intend to impose their idea of America, their idea of who is and is not an American, their idea of religion and race and sexuality, their idea of freedom and liberty and happiness, on the rest of us by force of arms or gun us down in cold blood if we will not submit.
They intend civil war.
They intend civil war, no less. If you don’t believe me, all you have to do is listen to their rhetoric. All you have to do is read their websites and manifestos. All you have to do is listen to their endless threats of violence and look where it is directed.
All you have to do is take them at their own words.
They are not patriots.
A gun doesn’t make you a patriot.
A patriot is someone who rallies to the defense of country, of community, of civilization. In the American tradition, a patriot is a citizen soldier, a minuteman, a reservist, a guardsman, one who turns out in the dark of night, in the most bitter of winters, sworn to defense of the United States when called.
A gun doesn’t make you a soldier.
A soldier is a professional. A soldier first and foremost is part of a team, not a mob, not an individual. It takes courage, discipline, endless training, and a willingness to give your life in defense of others – not for yourself, not for heroism, not for glory, but for them. In the American tradition, a soldier is willingly sworn to defend the rule of law with his or her own life at the command of the elected civilian leadership – even when that soldier may disagree with that leadership, perhaps most especially then.
In the American tradition, more than anything else, a soldier is one who believes this: I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.
That, that right there, is what makes us exceptional.
A gun doesn’t make you a citizen.
A citizen is one who is part of civilization, not outside it. A citizen is one who works to hold society together instead of working to burn it down, who learns from the past in order to build a better future for all. And in hard-won, hard-learned American tradition, a citizen is one who believes that the benefits of civilization are the birthright of all – not just a select few. Not just those brutal enough, ruthless enough, to take it at the muzzle of a gun.
Citizenship is an ideal, an obligation, a duty.
Citizenship is not an excuse to act like a lout or a thug.
Citizenship is an acknowledgement that we are stronger together, despite our differences or maybe because of them, than we ever were alone.
And if civilization does not protect the weak from the ruthless, then what damned good is it?
Those squatting in Malheur are not patriots. They are not soldiers. They are not citizens. They are an armed rabble of selfish malcontents, thieves and scoundrels, louts and violent drunkards. They believe they are protecting themselves from government, but civilization, government, exists to protect us from them.
They are nothing but bums with guns.
And that too is an American tradition, this ongoing lunatic tolerance for sedition in our own midst.
We ignore the cancer while it eats us alive. This is not freedom. This is not the liberty our ancestors fought and died for. This is not patriotism. This is like living with a rabid dog, one who foams at the mouth and bares its diseased fangs at our families and who sooner or later will be at our throats.
The men who wrote the Constitution did not intend this.
They did not.
Twenty years after the Revolutionary War, malcontents on the Western Frontier, those who benefited from the newly formed United States but who didn’t want to contribute to the maintenance of civilization, rose in sedition. Farmers long accustomed to doing whatever they wanted without regard for their fellows or the rule of law declared themselves exempt from government – just as those currently occupying Malheur do today. President George Washington sent an army of 13,000 trained militiamen into Western Pennsylvania and Kentucky to explain to those insurrectionists the error of their ways. The Whiskey Insurrection (more commonly called the Whiskey Rebellion) collapsed in short order – and those vowing to overthrow the United States government and shoot down their fellow Americans fled.
And that, my shiny electronic friends is the answer to the question. That was the only time the militia stood in defense of the United States.
The Founders very clearly never intended for Americans to shoot down their own government or turn arms on their fellow citizens. And George Washington himself was willing to send the militia to enforce government authority on the land. Unless you are now going to tell me how George Washington was unamerican and ignorant of the Constitution?
Your freedoms, your liberty, are protected by the sworn soldiers, sailors, marines, airmen, guardsmen, and reservists of the US Military. Along with the countless men and women who labor unknown and unacknowledged, in uniform and out, to hold civilization together with their bare hands every single day.
Most of all, your freedom is protected by you, by the government you create, by rule of law, by equal justice for all, by the maintenance of civilization for the benefit of all, by citizenship.
If you want a better nation, be better citizens.
Pointing guns at your fellow countrymen isn’t it. Ignoring the rule of law isn’t it. Demanding freedom to do as you please at the expense of others, at the muzzle of a gun, in the company of false patriots and wannabe heroes isn’t it.
It is long past time to put this ridiculous myth of the militia to rest.