Andy Stone: A Stone’s Throw
Aspen CO Colorado
A few years ago, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman (not my favorite, but he has his moments) suggested that the United States was financing both sides of the war on terror.
The point was that we were paying outrageous billions (trillions?) of dollars to support our military efforts against the terrorists – and, at the same time, we were, through our insatiable appetite for oil, pouring many more billions (trillions?) into the treasuries of the Middle East states that support those terrorists.
It was a good point. Not, of course, that we could actually change anything, but simply that the world is so complex that we cannot even be clear what side of what battle we’re really on.
I thought about that this week as I followed the news – specifically, the stories about gun control and the stories about the looming budget crisis.
The budget crisis in question (we seem to be constantly awash in budget crises) is the so-called “sequester,” which will impose automatic spending cuts if Congress cannot agree on alternative budget measures.
And, horror of horrors, those cuts will fall most heavily on the Department of Defense.
Naturally, those who identify themselves as the Forces for Truth, Justice and the American Way (in which the American Way is defined as spending almost as much on the military as the rest of the world combined) are screaming bloody murder. (And that gets us back to gun control? Not quite. Wait. We’ll get there.)
These screamers are outraged at the thought that we might not be able to continue spending more on defense than we did at the height of the Cold War. In case you’ve forgotten, that was when our hundreds of millions of implacable communist enemies – Russia and communist China – threatened us around the globe, sparking little wars against freedom wherever they could and keeping thousands of missiles with atomic warheads aimed at our country at all times.
But of course, that threat fades when compared with a handful of nasty Arabs. Damn right we need to boost our spending.
And, as I am certain I do not need to point out, those voices for unfettered military spending come quite reliably from the right side of the political spectrum.
Indeed, many of them bravely condemn President Obama as a secret Muslim who is eager to speed the downfall of the United States by slashing our military budget.
I assume none of this is news to anyone.
But what got me thinking about Friedman’s insight on our supporting both sides of the war on terror was the fact that many of these same people are the ones fulminating (love that word) most relentlessly against any form of gun control.
They are the same people who insist that the Second Amendment was never intended to protect the rights of hunters or other gun enthusiasts.
No, they make it clear, the point of the guaranteed right “to keep and bear arms” was to protect We the People against a tyrannical federal government. I believe the official right-wing term is “jackbooted government thugs.”
Now, these thugs – regardless of their choice in footwear – may or may not be arriving any time soon in their black helicopters under orders from the secret Muslim in the White House when they come to crush our freedom. But as long as we protect our Second Amendment rights, they can be certain that they will face a withering fusillade from our unlimited supply of semiautomatic assault rifles with 100-round clips.
As Richard Schrade, a member of the Libertarian National Committee, wrote on the United Liberty website, “The Second Amendment was to protect the ability of the people to violently overthrow the government.”
Even as we wait behind the barricades, assault weapons clutched in our sweaty hands, we will know – we certainly should know – that those jackbooted thugs will be armed with weapons almost beyond our power to imagine.
We will have assault weapons – some maybe even modified (in defiance of tyrannical jackbooted federal laws) for fully automatic fire. They will have .50-caliber machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades, bazookas, flamethrowers and, if it amuses them, tanks. And – why not? – guided missiles.
And how do we know they will have all these violent murderous toys at their disposal?
Because we were willing to spend our nation into bankruptcy, willing to throw the old and the sick onto the trash heap, willing to let our roads and bridges and schools fall into disrepair, if need be, in order to be damn sure that our military got every penny it asked for, every weapon it could imagine.
In short, We the People (or, at least, some of us) are apparently willing to accept the endless slaughter of innocents in order to protect our right to arm ourselves to the teeth in case we need to violently overthrow a government that we are willing to spend ourselves into bankruptcy arming beyond all possibility of violent overthrow.
Remember that old childhood conundrum: If God is all-powerful, can he make a rock so big that he can’t move it?
I guess today’s version of that question would be: If God is all-powerful, can he make a fool so stupid that even he can’t get through that thick skull?
Looking back to the beginning of this column, I was hoping to wrap up with Joni Mitchell and “Both Sides Now.” But that song begins, “Rows and flows of angel hair/And ice-cream castles in the air.” That’s a mighty long airy-fairy jump from unlimited military spending and shooting sprees in elementary schools.
But, then again, that song ends with this: “It’s life’s illusions I recall/I really don’t know life at all.”
And I suppose that’s just about perfect. So let’s leave it at that.
Andy Stone is the former editor of The Aspen Times.
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