Friday, January 13, 2012
One of the opening vignettes in the novel is the 1932 Battle of Anacostia Flats, i.e. the US Army's assault during the Great Depression on an encampment of impoverished WW I veterans seeking early payment of the bonus promised them for their wartime service. The author returns to this repeatedly in his chronicling of US government assaults on American citizens.
The book left me with a better appreciation of how some conservative, gun-rights advocates view the episode and I also learned that Jim Crow was banned from the encampment though in 1932, Washington, DC was a Jim Crow stronghold. Ross erroneously attributes an article entitled "The Bonuseers [sic] Ban Jim Crow" to the New York Times. It turns out the article was by Roy Wilkins and was published in the NAACP's house magazine The Crisis in October, 1932.
Wilkins' article is quoted in The Bonus Army: An American Epic by Paul Dickson and Thomas B. Allen (Bloomsbury, 2006) on p. 118:
[At Camp Marks in Anacostia] I found black toes and white toes sticking out side by side from a ramshackle town of pup tents, packing crates and tar-paper shacks. Black men and white men, veterans of the segregated army that had fought in World War I, lined up equally, perspired in sick bays, side by side. For years, the U.S. Army had argued that General Jim Crow was its proper commander, but the Bonus marchers gave lie to the notion that Black and white soldiers--ex-soldiers in their case--couldn't live together.I had either never known or else forgotten about this aspect of the Bonus Army's occupation. I also learned about the inspiring story of the Battle of Athens from Ross' book. In 1946, WW II vets and other locals successfully took up arms against a corrupt, local Democratic Party regime in Athens, TN, the county seat of McMinn County.
Ross' righteous anger about the ambush at Ruby Ridge and the Waco Massacre is refreshing. I remember many of my Liberal and Lefty friends being non-plussed about these two atrocities at the time. Unintended Consequences reveals that infamous FBI sniper Lon Horiuchi was at the scene of both crimes. Other government atrocities featured in the book include the Ken Ballew raid and the MOVE massacre. No government officials were ever held criminally or civilly responsible for any of these crimes.
From Ross' book, I learned of an interesting 1982 report on "The Right to Keep and Bear Arms" from the US Senate's Subcommittee on the Constitution. Here are two paragraphs from the report's "History: Second amendment right to 'keep and bear arms' ":
That the National Guard is not the "Militia" referred to in the second amendment is even clearer today. Congress has organized the National Guard under its power to "raise and support armies" and not its power to "Provide for the organizing, arming and disciplining the Militia". This Congress chose to do in the interests of organizing reserve military units which were not limited in deployment by the strictures of our power over the constitutional militia, which can be called forth only "to execute the laws of the Union, suppress insurrections and repel invasions." The modern National Guard was specifically intended to avoid status as the constitutional militia, a distinction recognized by 10 U.S.C. Sec. 311(a).You can read more selections from the report here.
The conclusion is thus inescapable that the history, concept, and wording of the second amendment to the Constitution of the United States, as well as its interpretation by every major commentator and court in the first half century after its ratification, indicates that what is protected is an individual right of a private citizen to own and carry firearms in a peaceful manner.
Ross makes the point in the book that early gun control laws were enacted to keep guns out of the hands of free Blacks. A surprising fact mentioned in the book is that Vermont has always permitted the open and concealed carrying of handguns without requiring a permit.
I'll close with two thoughts. One of the ironies of the books is that several of its characters train law enforcement officers in firearms usage and marksmanship as a means to get around gun control laws. The book has conflicted views on law enforcement personnel. Another irony is that the book's author and characters have a blind spot a mile wide. While they can see domestic government repression quite clearly, there is no clear acknowledgment that US government violence against foreigners is unjust and dwarfs domestic repression. Likewise, there is no evident appreciation in Unintended Consequences for the dialectical relationship between the killing of foreigners and the killing of Americans.