Politics: September 1999 Archives

I have often been told by advocates of the "gun control" upon learning the fact that the Second Amendment was primarily intended as a defense of the people from their own government that guns would be useless against said government. How, for instance, would an assault weapon protect me from a tank at my front door?

Well, Ted Turner's TNT television network is going to be showing an original picture in October of this year, Animal Farm, based on the George Orwell book of the same name. Noting that the movie was coming soon, and I had not read the book since I was a child who didn't quite understand what he was reading in the first place, I picked it up to read it again.

The introduction in my fragile and frayed copy was written by one C. M. Woodhouse in 1954, a few years after Orwell's death. In it, he discusses the idea that the pen is mightier than the atomic bomb. Animal Farm was first published the same month the first nuclear weapon was used against human beings, in August 1945, so the topic was fitting. He acknowledged the entire phrase written by Edward Bulwer-Lytton is actually conditional: Beneath the rule of men entirely great, the pen is mightier than the sword. Certainly, he goes on, we are not under the rule of such men, and the sword is thoroughly obsolete compared to the weapons first detonated in Japan when the book was published. So can the pen really be mightier than the sword, or the sword mightier than the atomic bomb?

Winston Churchill certainly used the pen more than the sword, with much success, while effectively ruling over Orwell and his nation. Of course, as Woodhouse notes, Churchill proved Bulwer-Lytton's epigram by fulfilling its conditions.

In essence, Orwell was speaking out against totalitarianism for much of his shortened but prolific career. He wished, maybe against hope, that we could find, install, protect, and keep such conditions where the pen would remain mightier than the sword, where great men were in charge, and where might would not make right. Whether it was the pigs or Big Brother, rule through coercion via physical force was the enemy of man. Nevertheless, Orwell did not seem to acknowledge that where the pen lacked power over the sword, that it therefore followed that the pen should be taken away. Further, it did not follow that the sword should be taken away because it cannot defeat the musket, or the musket because it could not defeat the cannon, and on. In You and the Atom Bomb, also published in 1945, he wrote:

Rifles, muskets, long-bows and hand-grenades are inherently democratic weapons. A complex weapon makes the strong stronger, while a simple weapon -- so long as there is no answer to it -- gives claws to the weak.

Maybe the weak will lose in a fight matching a pen to a sword or a pistol against a cruise missle, but at least they will go down fighting. At least they can fight back. They may lose, but that isn't the point. The point is in the fight, not the victory. New Hampshire residents, whether they know it or not, advertise this every day with the phrase Live Free or Die embossed on their license plates.

In today's United States of America, regardless of the Constitution, its support the Declaration of Independence, and the amendments to the Constitution, we are not under the rule of men even mostly great, let alone entirely great. And in most imaginable scenarios short of civil war where a significant portion of the forces serving the government revolt, it is sure that ordinary citizens cannot stand up against the government with hope of winning. Does that mean that we therefore shouldn't be allowed to have guns for the purpose of protection?

Think about what it means to give claws to the weak. You squash a housefly without thinking, but a bug of the same size and physical prowess with a stinger on his behind -- the use of which against you will surely mean the bug's death -- gives you pause. At the very least, you will kill the bug with much more thought and care. At most, the bug will get lucky and cause you some pain. And while a swarm of houseflys causes something between annoyance and disgust, a swarm of bees causes something between apprehension and terror, and may more readily result in death.

Thomas Jefferson worte in his papers:

No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms. The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government.

We will protect ourselves from tyranny in government. It may not be required, and if it is, we may lose. Maybe the hand-grenade is not mightier than the atomic bomb in this day and age, with these leaders we have. And if Orwell only got the date wrong, we should not anticipate a reversal in the current trends. But, as a last resort, at least we have claws.

<pudge/*> (pronounced "PudgeGlob") is thousands of posts over many years by Pudge.

"It is the common fate of the indolent to see their rights become a prey to the active. The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt."

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Politics category from September 1999.

Politics: February 1999 is the previous archive.

Politics: October 1999 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.