The history of this nation is complex. That’s an understatement. The history, as popularly recalled and recited, is full of invisible narratives: indigenous peoples, African agricultural technology, Black labor and immigration of European labor after the Civil War, Reconstruction, the Dawes Act and Indian relocation, the Hayes-Tilden Compromise and the KKK, labor, homosexuals, Muslims and Jews, etc. It’s not that these narratives are fully invisible. It’s that they are not infused into the “dominant narratives” precisely because it is impossible for many of these recollections to occupy the same space at the same time. If these stories are told, it is impossible to view the United States (in historical perspective) as a democracy. A compelling argument cannot be made without excluding these narratives (lying) – or without accepting white supremacist definitions of humanity (lunacy).
The options, then, are not particularly appealing for rational folks with a desire to assert the myth of American democracy. Still, the point here, is not to belabor the obvious (after sifting through additional narratives). It is to raise the consideration of another narrative: that of crime as a widespread, pervasive element of life in America.
The question of crime is not neutral. It is a situational and relative thing. For example, the first criminal acts on this continent since the arrival of Europeans might include genocide against the indigenous population and the seizure of Africans. If that is a point of departure for understanding and framing criminality, then our outline will look different than those framed by law-and-odor (no typo) candidates, criminologists, district attorneys, psychologists and the like. In fact, if we begin from that point of departure, one of our first questions would be: “How did the organizers of these criminal networks frame, sustain and extend their practice?”
One answer must be that they established a government. Another answer must be that they established shipping and trading networks to ensure the supply of labor; built plantations to extend the supply of products to market; and created a system of law to criminalize any and all actions by Indians and Africans to resist the imposition of this criminal will. For example, the act of an African running away from a plantation was illegal. The act of an African killing a plantation owner and his or her family was illegal. These are peculiar prescriptions in a democracy, but not at all at odds with a criminal enterprise organized around appropriation.
If we extend this inquiry further, we’d need to look into what happened to the enormous streams of revenue generated by these initial criminal acts. For example, land ownership and agricultural development might form the cornerstone of the inquiry. Similarly, industrial development on appropriated land or by appropriated Africans would be part of our final calculus. This is all part of an invisible crime narrative. And this is at the macro-level…at the level of systems and collectives.
At the micro level, it is difficult to perceive America as a safe place. Regardless of the narratives which have emerged, it is hard to imagine that the criminals did not always perceive themselves to be at risk of losing their ill-gotten gains. As such, there was a perpetual threat from Indian and African populations – and this threat begins AFTER the appropriation of land and labor. I would imagine that if I were a criminal engaged in either direct appropriation (shipping, farming, ranching, etc.) or indirect appropriation (legislator, judge, banker, financier, etc.) I would be deathly afraid of any organized resistance that might tip the balance against me. Thomas Jefferson, a leading criminal of his era, said as much:
“For in a warm climate, no man will labour for himself who can make another labour for him. This is so true, that of the proprietors of slaves a very small proportion indeed are ever seen to labour. And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with his wrath? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep for ever: that considering numbers, nature and natural means only, a revolution of the wheel of fortune, an exchange of situation is among possible events: that it may become probable by supernatural interference! The almighty has no attribute which can take side with us in such a contest.”
This is fear and trembling. And it is in this context that the American NEED for guns was born. Guns are as fundamental to the American enterprise as the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Emancipation Proclamation (with its limited liberty for Africans held in hyper-criminalized states (the Confederacy) rebelling against normalized states (the Union)). Weapons are fundamental to the protection of criminal enterprises. How could you expect someone to operate a plantation (worked by enslaved Africans – with families forcibly divided as a means to control the labor force) without guns and an extreme reliance on violence and psychological terrorism? How could expect folks to displace an indigenous population without using similar measures? Disease might be one factor – but guns certainly played a role in the annihilation of the Pequots, the relocation of the Seminoles, the conquest of the Chiricahua Apache and other collectives.
Guns were a necessity to protect the lives of proto-American criminals and their progeny. Guns do not emerge into a value-neutral context. Guns are part and parcel of a broader “settler-colonial” pattern which has been replicated in nations like South Africa, Rhodesia, Australia and Israel. Armed populations were needed to protect seized assets. Now, in America, Indians and Blacks did not pose the sole or greatest threat to reappropriation. In fact, other “white” criminals posed the greatest threat precisely because their phenotype allowed ease of travel and access to firearms. Gun control, then, has an historical context. The ACLU is engaged a battle about that context right now. And so, controlling access to guns is NOT something to be applied to “whites.” Gun control is for others – for non-Americans. Controlling “white” access to guns is fundamentally absurd and un-American.
If you can recall the narratives of the Wild, Wild West…those tales were as much as cattle rustlers and bank robbers and desperadoes as they were about “Cowboys and Indians.” A narrative that doesn’t tell the full story should not be ignored – it may contain valid kernels worthy of consideration. The western contests between small, non-slave operated farms and large cattle ranchers are legendary. These battles were fought over the placement of wire to forestall the grazing of cattle and protect crops. They were fought with guns and with real posses…not the kind of relatively toothless entourages that accompany today’s “criminalized young, wealthy BLACK entertainers.” These posses fought as mercenaries on the side of ranchers against small farmers and against law enforcement. Small farmers had to have guns. Ranchers had to have guns. Travelers by stage coach had to have guns. Pinkerton men had to have guns. Slaveowners and overseers had to have guns. City police had to have guns. Gold miners had to have guns. Saloon owners had to have guns. Pimps and prostitutes (servicing mining towns or new outposts) had to have guns. Hunters had to have guns. Frontier settlers had to have guns. Companies operating mines and railroads had to have guns because workers were forced to work in often deadly conditions – and naturally resisted this treatment. War veterans had to have guns because they often moved to the dangerous frontier in search of new opportunities.
Everyone had to have a gun.
It should be obvious that America was not some peaceful land of democracy and apple pie. It’s simply an absurd, indefensible proposition. Criminals need protection – and whether you’re a farmer building on stolen land or a rancher seeking to displace that farmer; or a slave catcher venturing north to reclaim stolen “property”; or an Army officer enforcing a land seizure treaty, you needed a gun to reinforce that first criminal act. Guns are all-American. America, as it exists today, is impossible without the gun – and controlling the use of guns (even if it results in the deaths of a few thousand children) is/has been/will be viewed as acceptable collateral damage required to sustain this essentially criminal enterprise.
…”from my cold dead hand.” – Charlton Heston
Of course, these days, Blacks do have access to guns, but that access was restricted long enough for shooters to shift targets from the original criminal to the visible competitor.
but, there are exceptions to every rule:
this FOX piece (invariably white-washed), however ignores the fact that trend is traceable back to Confederate soldier Nathan Bedford Forrest and his organization (the Ku Klux Klan) born at the Maxwell House (yep, your morning cup of joe) in Pulaski, Tennessee AND that the trend has a present day application. of course, this particular manifestation of military cum gang banger was glamorized by Hollywood and memorialized forever in The Birth of a Nation (1915).
the more things change, the more they stay the same:
“Another type of gang member has also begun to proliferate within the military, evidently thanks to lowered recruitment standards and an increasing tendency of recruiters to look the other way. In July, a study by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks racist and right-wing militia groups, found that because of pressing manpower concerns, “large numbers of neo-Nazis and skinhead extremists” are now serving in the military. “Recruiters are knowingly allowing neo-Nazis and white supremacists to join the armed forces, and commanders don’t remove them from the military even after we positively identify them as extremists or gang members,” said Scott Barfield, a Defense Department investigator quoted in the report.
The New York Times noted that the neo-Nazi magazine Resistance is actually recruiting for the U.S. military, urging “skinheads to join the Army and insist on being assigned to light infantry units.” As the magazine explained, “The coming race war and the ethnic cleansing to follow will be very much an infantryman’s war. … It will be house-to-house … until your town or city is cleared and the alien races are driven into the countryside where they can be hunted down and ‘cleansed.’ ”
Apparently, the recruiting push has worked. Barfield reported that he and other investigators have identified a network of neo-Nazi active-duty Army and Marine personnel spread across five military installations in five states. “They’re communicating with each other about weapons, about recruiting, about keeping their identities secret, about organizing within the military,” he said.
Little wonder that Aryan Nation graffiti is now apparently competing for space with American inner-city gang graffiti in Iraq.”