Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Irony, illustrated

I intend at some point to visit Lexington and Concord. It's where my country began, symbolically, and the difference between the historical fact of how those battles played out and our national mythology about them is vividly illustrative of who we are as a people. It's the kind of place I feel a need to stand in and soak up.

On a practical level, they're an inconvenient distance, sitting at about four and a half hours' drive away. It's too far for a day trip, and is much more the kind of thing we'd do as a day's stopover while heading further north for a longer vacation in Maine, Vermont, or New Hampshire. But we won't be doing it that way.

See, going on two and a half centuries ago, The people of Lexington and Concord were prepared to come out under arms by the thousands to violently repel a group of government employees intent on seizing their military weapons. That the majority of their small arms and ammunition had already been hidden away--leaving Lieutenant Colonel Francis Smith only a few heavy siege cannon to dig up and destroy before withdrawing--doesn't seem to have discouraged them. The Colonials of Massachusetts had previously made it clear that attempts to disarm them would not be borne with good humor.

Today, though, Massachusetts requires licensing and registration of all firearms, prohibits possession of arms without such permission from the state, and the FOPA only protects us during nonstop transit. If we stop to see the ground where our forefathers fought a tyrant to retain their arms, we'll be in violation of Massachusetts' draconian gun control laws.

The European civilizations in America are very young in historical terms, and when you've been reading a lot about Rome, it's easy to get in the habit of thinking of the American Revolution as a very recent thing. The fact remains, though, that on the scale of human lives two hundred thirty-six years is a long time--time enough for a civilization to fall a very long way.

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