A headline in The Washington Post on Wednesday screamed, “Armed militia helped a Michigan barbershop open, a coronavirus defiance that puts Republican lawmakers in a bind.”
Donald J. Trump’s incessant drum beating has reached enough disenfranchised fools with guns seeking liberation from frustrations they can’t otherwise escape. In their own bizarre way, the raging boys and girls with guns are just another cruel manifestation of Mother Nature’s punishing game.
Novel coronavirus protesters with their military-style mowing machines and attitudes are suddenly showing up around the country to demonstrate their resolve to reopen America by force of arms. Their sentiment is understandable, their motives are arguably noble, and their reasoning, if any applies, is flawed. Not even revisionist history is on their side.
At another showing last week in Shepherd, Texas, armed protesters showed up to support the owner of a tattoo parlor and bar in Odessa, Texas, which reopened in defiance of an order that it remain shuttered. The New York Times reported that when owner Jamie Williams reopened her East Texas tattoo studio, she asked customer Philip Archibald for help.
“He showed up with his dog Zeus, his friends and his AR-15 semiautomatic rifle.”
For one thing, and this is a huge one thing, at some point the scary appearances of armed protesters among peaceful citizens will provoke a confrontation with authorities to whom they will most certainly lose. Whether or not that will ignite a conflagration will be determined by how armed protesters are tamed now.
Armed force is always in vogue at the movies, at least until ordinary people pursuing ordinary lives are suddenly threatened by strangers with guns. Then it gets real. Most folks are understandably concerned when a bunch of ignorant loudmouths wearing mismatched paramilitary costumes and carrying military-style death machines show up to save them. The potential victim’s usual reaction is to call for help, loudly and repeatedly, ratcheting up tensions already stoked by the appearance of idiots with guns.
For the 99 percent of Americans who know nothing about such things except what they see on TV, discovering that gun-toting madmen are real is terrifying. There is another view. Military leaders and experienced peace officers are trained to recognize the potential threat to peaceful assembly and categorize it as a complex problem rather than the end of time. The need to even train for such events is a sad commentary on our society.
The first step toward a peaceful solution to an armed confrontation is to seek the lowest common denominator for finding a nonviolent solution. Contrary to the movies, most mercenary wannabes go home at the thought of facing down real guns. Sane people, especially sane people who have already had to fight for their lives, have no desire to use deadly force. If, however, they are adequately provoked, they will apply that force with carefully honed precision.
Conversely, the idiots with the guns are locked in Rambo mode, convinced that with their souped up, $1,000 semi-automatics, they can take out the opposition just like their favorite hero does. The problem is that while they are standing around wearing their best “I’m-not-a-SEAL-but-I-play-one-at-protests face,” the authorities confronting them are thinking about the best way to kill them. Believe it.
The misguided sunshine patriots’ dangerous attitudes are exactly why police forces and military formations routinely train to apply whatever force is necessary to prevail. In contemporary times, think Waco, Ruby Ridge, Wounded Knee, the Attica Prison riots, and lastly, the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge on Jan. 2, 2016. None of them ended well for the insurrectionists, or for the soul of our nation.
Stories of armed protests are woven throughout the fabric of American history. Since the American Revolutionary War, at least 24 major insurrections and dozens of protest- related shootings and slaughters have occurred in America. Among the worst was on September 14, 1874 in New Orleans, LA, when it was the state capital. The Battle of Liberty Place began when 5,000 members of the paramilitary Crescent City White League attacked the outnumbered New Orleans Metropolitan Police and normally sympathetic state militia over perceived racial slights. Eventually they occupied most of the capital’s important buildings. The despised Federal Army was called in. It made short work of the mostly former Confederate soldiers. About 100 men were killed or wounded on both sides.
Another event in the 20th century was the Green Corn Rebellion in rural Oklahoma on Aug. 2 and 3, 1917. The uprising was a protest to the World War I military draft by European-Americans, tenant farmers, Seminoles, Muscogee Creeks and African-Americans over the 1917 Selective Draft Act. Three protesters died and 450 were arrested. Most of them ended up either in prison or the army.
During the peaceful intervals between rebellions, there were range wars, coal wars, sheep wars, cattle wars, and bloody miner strikes, but nothing that threatened the core institutions of modern society. In today’s world, if the affected governors and lawmen continue to allow these armed thugs to terrify their constituencies without hindrance or repercussions, the situation is going to get out of hand. Somewhere, some governor or sheriff is going to get tired of Bubba and the boys usurping their authority and forcefully act. When they do, somebody is going to get hurt. If the hooligans are lucky, they will get to go to jail. If they aren’t lucky, they may get to visit the morgue. Once the genie is out of the bottle, copycat fools will probably try somewhere else.
Plenty of rebellions, uprisings and protests can be found in a brief chronological walk through the history of American insurrection. In addition to sometimes being colorful in name and deed, the sheer numbers of rebellions since 1775 suggest that today’s boys with guns and the people who have to take them away need to study history’s playbooks before somebody dies as a byproduct of COVID-19.
The United States is in a fragile, vulnerable place. Guns are not the problem. The problem is the idiots openly carrying them around and the bigger idiots encouraging them. A few guns in the hands of zealots could fuel a destructive vendetta that will further politicize the institutions that ostensibly serve us.
No doubt Trump is ecstatic at the very thought. It is getting time to get scared.