This is an entry in a series that may or may not be completely selfish. I’ve gone back and forth over the years on how best to describe my ongoing ideological journey, or truly if it’s worth describing to you, the reader, in the first place. At the same time I have a tendency to grow weary of debates raging on Facebook and Twitter rather quickly.
And so what I’m offering (perhaps only to myself) is a brief chronicle of books I’ve been reading, enjoying, arguing with and adoring. Of course, I agree with precisely nobody on every issue, so if this were a Twitter account I’d say something like, “An entry does not constitute an endorsement.” That being said, life is just too short to read bad books and you can be sure that if I feel like I’m wasting my time reading it there’s a small chance I’ll write about it…mainly because I am selfish.
Thanks for indulging. Feel free to reach out with push-back, questions, etc.
American history is typically presented in remarkably sanitized terms. Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz’s work presents a starkly different picture. As the title indicates, the stated topic is Second Amendment rights, how these were arrived upon, how they were viewed, and the impact of our uniquely American gun culture.
What Drew Me
Several years ago the author was interviewed on Intercepted – a podcast I highly recommend – and I was taken aback. Roxanne Dunbar-Oritz is critical of the Second Amendment in a way that I’d never heard an historian speak before. Those “well-regulated militias” that the text centers on, were largely slave patrols and civilian armies targeting Native Americans and committing genocide. Given this context, the author argues, we would be right to examine and reevaluate our acceptance of guns and gun culture as inevitable, or worse, as sacrosanct.
The most common response to gun violence in our public discourse is confined to the poles of increased background checks and the freedom granted by the Second Amendment. But when you take into account the reality of our history as a nation, as Dunbar-Ortiz does, the devotion to guns in America has inescapably horrific roots. In light of the documented slave and “Indian” patrols being the genesis of gun obsession (not to mention the common origins of the police and the Marines), simply resting the argument of gun control and gun rights on the Second Amendment, thus taking for granted its righteousness, leads us down the violent path we know well today. Add to this the religious zeal that gets aligned with gun ownership and our current problems with gun violence make perfect sense.
The historical roots of gun culture in America, when properly understood, brings to light the causes behind our uniquely American realities of gun violence. Suicide, mass murder, police killings and more are the result of hundreds of years of colonization, genocide and slavery.
In short, time to rethink guns in America, even if that means killing the sacred cow of our Second Amendment (because it’s horrifying to begin with).
“Violence perpetrated by armed settlers, even genocide, were not absent in the other territories where the British erected settler-colonies – Australia, Canada and New Zealand but the people of those polities never declared guns a God-given right; only the founding fathers of the United States did that. And the people of the other Anglo settler-colonies did not have economies, governments, and social orders based on the enslavement of other human beings. The United States is in deed “exceptional,” just not in the way usually intoned by politicians and patriots.”