A Common Sense Case Against Bernie Sanders

It is amazing to me watching the political process and the younger generation as they get involved. What is also amazing is the apparent lack of knowledge about how things work. I do not write this to criticize or disparage those who are under 30 and of voting age. I simply question their knowledge about how things work in the political process as well as common sense application of real world lessons.

I come at this topic first as a teacher and what I observe on a daily basis. The millenials are amazingly tied to technology and pop culture. They are also a product of the “me” generation and “I want it now” mentality. In many cases, hard work is a thing their great-grandparents used to do. I understand this is a very big label to place on a large number of people and there are a great many exceptions. I am generalizing to make a point. This group of millenials want to Google what they are looking for, and then check the first source that pops up and call that fact. That first site is often Wikipedia. No critical thinking is involved.

As a teacher, I see this over and over again. No critical thinking skills. I think it is a byproduct of an education system consumed by standardized multiple choice tests that are tied to federal funding. However, the education system and it shortcomings is a topic for another time.

What really gets me going is the push and mega support for Bernie Sanders. First, he is a self-proclaimed socialist. Socialism has become a proven failure around the globe. (Do not even try to play the China card because its economy is far from socialist). The promise of free health care and free higher education gets millenials all kinds of wound up. I am thankful for the interest they have in the election process, I really am. However, this group of Sanders supports have most likely not taken the time to really look into his policies and their impact on them now, and especially down the road. They see “free” and they want that now. That goes against the ingrained American idea of work hard for what you want. It goes against the idea of anything worth having is worth working for.

To keep this simple, I will explain how Sanders’ higher education plan is not really free. The plan is to tax the upper class and businesses.Bernie Sanders’ campaign site This is all well and good, they have the extra money. However, most of those people who have become wealthy worked extremely hard and made many sacrifices to obtain what materials possessions they have. What entitles others to reap the benefits of somebody else’s hard work? (Use the example of workers doing the same job for same pay and one works harder than another)

Upping taxes on the rich simply will not work. Instead, it will kill the economy long term. Rich people create jobs with the excess capital they have on hand. How many poor people have you seen create jobs? However, if the rich are taxed in order to pay for “free” education, “we” the consumers will pay. Businesses are not going to allow their bottom line to be exploited by the government. Instead, the businesses will raise the price of their products in order to maintain a certain financial standing. The consumer will pay for this when they go to buy a product. The consumer will feel the effects in their pocket for their “free” education. With less disposable income, consumers will cut back and buy less. In turn, businesses will produce less, sell less, and employ fewer people. This leads to an economic disaster. Granted, this is a simplistic, worst case scenario, however the point still stands.

Government “entitlements” can kill an economy. When was the last time there was a mass exodus of people from a free market nation to a socialist one? Why is it socialism in its extreme forms is falling apart? The answer is simple; it does not work. Bernie Sanders’ plan for education will not work.

If a person wants a “free” education, there are many ways to pave that road. Work hard in high school and get scholarships. Look for the billions of dollars in grant money. Or, heaven forbid, join the military and serve a higher cause than oneself. The millennial generation needs to understand how things work. They need to understand “free” handouts come at a price.

I paid a good portion of my undergraduate degree. (Yes, I did walk away with a very small amount of student loan debt that I paid off within a year of graduation). In the summers of my college years I would work two or three jobs, two of them full time, in order to pay for tuition. I was fortunate my dad would cover room and board as long as I was working hard towards my degree. I had a car payment to make, so I worked. When I messed around, the room and board dried up and I was on my own. So, I enlisted and got Uncle Sam to cover the last year of school in exchange for my service. Shortly after 9/11, Uncle Sam got more than a weekend a month and two weeks a year from me.

Eventually, I decided to get a master’s degree. Because I had served, a post 9/11 GI Bill was available and in addition to that I paid a bit out of my own pocket, and took advantage of my school districts reimbursement plan. My point is with all of this the Bernie Sanders plan is bad for America, bad for entitlements, and bad for future generations.

Nothing in life is free. It is all paid for somewhere. Those who do not want to work, are not entitled to that which I have worked hard for. I worked for it. I earned it.

Put down the game controller, get off the couch, and put in some work. Life is not all fun and games. Life is hard. You make sacrifices now so the future is better. It is called being an adult. As we used to say in the military, “Embrace the suck.”

https://berniesanders.com/issues/its-time-to-make-college-tuition-free-and-debt-free/

The Little Brother Grows Up: A Brief story on the F-16 Falcon

I ran across this link on the Air and Space Museum website a while back and thought it was an interesting read. I did not realize the F-16 had such a troubled upbringing during development in that it was competing with the F-15, a fighter that was designed to be an interceptor and eventually a tactical bomber.

The Outrageous Adolescence of the F-16

The Golden Age of Jet Fighters

I have long been a fan of aviation, especially military aviation. To be very specific, I have always loved the century series of aircraft and consider them to be part of the golden age of jets. These jets were conceived using the lessons learned from the aircraft of the Korean War, who had in turn learned from WWII and post WWII jets.

The century series are of particular interest because they stem from the arms race of the early 1950s. To offer some perspective, as the United States and Soviet Union built more destructive weapons, they also built platforms to deliver those weapons, or even defend against them. In addition, they also built up their conventional forces to extreme levels. This arms race created new technologies acquired through thousands of hours of research.

Unlike modern fighters, the century series were built primarily for speed and to carry a large, often nuclear payload. Or, they were designed to intercept nuclear bombers whereas, the fighters built since the end of the Vietnam War are generally fmulti-role attack aircraft. This multi-role function allows these 4th generation fighters like the F-15, F-16, and F/A-18 to switch from an air to air mission to ground attack sortie in mid-flight, provided they have the appropriate payload.

The century series of fighters were geared primarily toward the interception of Soviet bombers, or again, the delivery of nuclear payloads. The need to quickly get to a particular point, either interception or delivery of a payload, was of the utmost importance. The first, and slowest of the century series fighters was the North American F-100 Super Sabre that could trace its lineage directly to the Korean Era F-86 Sabre. This fighter was the first US fighter to achieve supersonic speed in level flight. The F-100, for the time, was an excellent aircraft that excelled in the role of fighter-bomber and evolved into a close air support aircraft when pressed into service during the Vietnam War. F-100 Super Sabre

The next aircraft in the series was the McDonnell F-101 Voodoo. It was initially designed to play the role of fighter-bomber, but was quickly transitioned to a reconnaissance aircraft. (Source) The F-101 flew with the United States Air National Guard until the 1980s and in Canada until it was replaced by the F/A-18. The F-101 was supersonic, and the dual air intake would become a staple of almost every American fighter for the next 50+ years. (Of course, there are exceptions to this rule, like the F-16, but those are few and far between). F-101 Voodoo

The Convair F-102 Delta Dagger first flew in 1953. The first item that is extremely noteworthy regarding this aircraft is the delta wings. This delta patter would incorporate an extreme sweep to the leading edges of the wings and a straight trailing edge. The tail, or horizontal stabilizer, could be eliminated from the aircraft. In theory, with enough thrust, the delta winged fighter could maintain Mach 2 flight speeds (twice the speed of sound) that would allow for the interception of slow Soviet bombers. However, pilots found the initial prototypes to be extremely difficult to fly.

The F-102 was expected to fly beyond Mach 1 with ease. However, due to transonic drag (drag developed on an aircraft below Mach 1) the plane was limited to just under the speed of sound. During tests of the 1950s, the Whitcomb area rule showed buildup of drag that prevented supersonic flight. (Source) A solution was proposed to lengthen the plane by roughly 11 feet and “pinch” the fuselage to decrease drag. The solution, known as the “coke bottle fuselage,” worked and the plane evolved into a supersonic fighter and the F-102 flew until 1988 with the Air National Guard. However, the designation F-102 was eventually dropped in favor of a virtually new aircraft I will discuss later. (Source) F-102 Delta Dagger

The Lockheed F-104 Starfighter was famous and infamous at the same time. It was known by engineers and pilots as the “missile with a man in it” and by pilots as “The widow maker.” No explanation is needed for the latter. The F-104 was an incredibly fast plane with a top speed above Mach 2. (Source) In addition to extreme speeds, the designed interceptor flew above 100,000 feet with ease. This was a feet that was virtually unheard of at the time for a manned aircraft. These engineering feats came at a cost. The wings were extremely thin and sharp, often having to be sheathed when on the ground. (Source) Short wings, coupled with a tall vertical stabilizer gave the aircraft and ungainly appearance, but yet the look of a dragster. However, stability was the trade off for speed and maneuverability. The F-104 was not easy plane to fly.

The F-104 filled the role of interceptor until the F-106 was in production. The United States Air Force only purchased 296 of the aircraft. But the plane did sell well with other nations and were in service with those countries until as recently as 2004. (Source) The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) ultimately used the fighter with a rocket engine and allowed pilots to practice controlling an aircraft using only wingtip and nose thrusters, much like the characteristics of the space shuttle. (Source) Today, few fighters can surpass its rare speed and climbing abilities. F-104 Starfighter

The most widely utilized and probably most widely known, was the Republic F-105 Thunderchief. What is worth pointing out is this aircraft was originally designed to have the capability to be a low level nuclear bomber, that would eventually replace the F-84 Thunderstreak. (Source) It was pressed into service as the main fighter-bomber for the USAF during the Vietnam War. The F-105 had a very odd, yet graceful appearance with curved wings mounted midway up a very long fuselage and only two outboard pylons for air to air missiles. The weapons rack was designed to be an internal bomb bay for a nuclear bomb, but during the Vietnam War bombs were mounted to a centerline pylon underneath the fuselage. While the “Thud” was far from maneuverable, it was extremely fast. (Source) All in all, the F-105 performed above and beyond and was all the Air Force could ask for with its durability and reputation as a plane that would bring its pilots home. F-105 Thunderchief

The last of the century series fighters was the Convair F-106 Delta Dart. At first glace, it looked like a carbon copy of the F-102. Its birthplace lies in the development of the F-102. As problems arose and needed design changes to the F-102 came about, it was given the designation F-102B. As further developments continued, the Air Force changed the designation to the F-106A. The major changed included variable air intakes, as well as the “coke-bottle” fuselage. While the wing design was still the same, the air brake was changed and the vertical stabilizer was clipped. (Source) The F-106 was seen as a great dog fighter and had the M61 Vulcan cannon mounted internally. However, the fighter never served in combat and was ultimately replaced by the famed McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle. Its last flight was with the New Jersey Air National Guard in 1988.
(Source)F-106 Delta Dart

Now back to my original, rambling thoughts. In many ways I think of the 1950s and even into the 1960s as the golden age of jet aviation. So many different aircraft were being designed and pitched to the Department of Defense. Many had radical designs, offered new innovations, or were simply improvements over existing technology. Republic, Grumman, Lockheed, General Dynamics, Convair and even Rockwell were all among companies pushing their designs. Jet fighters were relatively new and the DoD was pushing for higher, faster, and more capable aircraft to fight the evil communists.

This golden age also allowed the US to focus its defense resources in an effort to defeat the aforementioned communists. The US had a dedicated enemy they could engage toe to toe on the battlefield, unlike recent wars. This allowed for a well defined mission and need for the role of its attack aircraft. At the same time technological advancements were booming. New avionics, new weapons, new engines, and virtually everything on an aircraft took off. (Pardon the pun). In my mind, the influence of the century series of aircraft has been felt in the next generation of fighters with the F-14 Tomcat, F-15 Eagle, F-16 Falcon, and F/A-18 Hornet. While the century series remained in service for near 30 years, most were relegated to test bed and Air National Guard duties within 20 years of their in service dates. Their advancements were felt in the true generation 4 fighters that have either been recently retired, or are still in frontline service, but awaiting replacement by the next generation, almost 40 years after their development.

While this blog entry has not been terribly full of new information or deep insight, it has sought to fill a gap in aviation knowledge and connect someone to a time of the explosion in the development of jets. A lot has been written on these aircraft, so there really is not much that I can add. As a child, I admired these planes, although I only saw them on static display, sometimes at an airshow, and even less frequently in the skies. I look at them now as a historian and marvel at the quick development from mock up to first flight to in service dates. (Try designing a fighter today and go from drawing board to deployment in less than 5 years). I am still amazed at what was learned about flight from these aircraft and how that was applied to generation 3 fights and then ultimately to the generation 4 and 5. If one is knowledgeable and looks carefully, they can see those old birds and their guiding hands on the fighters that streak across the skies today.

Sources

http://www.f-101voodoo.com/voodoo_history.htm

(Whitcomb Area Rule) http://history.nasa.gov/SP-4219/Chapter5.html

http://www.militaryfactory.com/aircraft/detail-page-2.asp?aircraft_id=157

http://www.militaryfactory.com/aircraft/detail.asp?aircraft_id=113

http://www.militaryfactory.com/aircraft/detail.asp?aircraft_id=)

http://www.pacificaviationmuseum.org/pearl-harbor-blog/lockheed-f-104-starfighter

http://www.militaryfactory.com/aircraft/detail.asp?aircraft_id=160

http://www.airpower.maxwell.af.mil/airchronicles/apj/apj98/spr98/werrell.html

http://www.f-106deltadart.com/history.htm

All pictures are courtesy of google images. Feel free to right click the picture to see the credit.

Is this a New Cold War?

It is well known the 50 years following World War II was the Cold War. This was largely brought about by political differences between the United States, her allies, and the Soviet Union. These differences stem even further back to a time near the beginning of the century, but were pushed aside due to the world wars and the need to eliminate a greater evil.

During the Cold War, the sides of capitalism in the west and Communism in the east fought each other through espionage, an arms race, and numerous undeclared proxy wars. The end result was western victory at a very high dollar cost and the economic collapse of the Soviet Union that was ultimately symbolized by the fall of the Berlin Wall.

While tension still existed, the threat of a nuclear war was largely gone from the public mind as was the threat of huge battles reminiscent of World War II across Europe. The Soviet Union crumbled and many satellite nations drifted away to begin an independent journey while the renamed Russia attempted a new democracy.

While still a power on the world stage, Russia turned to internal conflicts and the ideas of capitalism. At the same time, the US continued expanding it’s economic and military influences around the globe. This led to numerous small conflicts and military actions from Africa to Asia to even South America.

In recent years, Russia has begun to rattle the proverbial saber. President Vladimir Putin, a former KGB officer, reclaimed the Ukraine over the objections of the rest of the world. Russia is also developing 5th generation aircraft that could theoretically challenge US aircraft for control of the air over a battle space. In addition, Russia has also begun to attack groups fighting against the Syrian government. Many of these groups were initially funded by the United States in order to oust the Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. Now, the US and Russia are in agreement that ISIS is a problem and that must be dealt with immediately. However, US leadership does not support the present Syrian government, leaving the two larger nations at odds over how best to proceed.

To further complicate matters, Russian bombers have flown close to the British Isles with weapon payloads destined for Syria. While the flights have been over international waters, they are close to the coast of America’s closest ally. Clearly this is saber-rattling to get the attention of the world, or at the very least the US and its allies. At the same time, Russian fighters have been known to “buzz” US warships in the Pacific as well as “flash” their weapons at US fighters over Syria. Just one instance alone is something that happens around the globe between nations, however Russia is showing its teeth to the United States. This escalation of force, or showmanship, could end up with more downed fighters, either intentional or accidental. (See linked article about the downing of a Russian fighter by Turkey).* On a side note, the implications of a Russia vs Turkey conflict could also have profound effect on relations between the US and Russia as Turkey is an ally of the US in the region.

So the question begs, is this the beginning of a new Cold War? The Obama administration is in the midst of down sizing the military after years of war. This is similar, although nowhere near as drastic as the demobilization after WWII.* While the military downsizes, Russia is trying to expand its influence, especially in Eastern Europe and into southwest Asia.

I believe what happens in southwest Asia will be the key. The Russians have supported the Assad led Syrian government against rebel groups, including ISIS. On the other hand, the US has supported the rebel groups against the Syrian government, and either directly or indirectly, ISIS. ISIS is obviously a threat to the United States, but has recently threatened Russia.

If a joint strategy to deal with ISIS first and then the Syrian government second, a new Cold War has the potential to be avoided. A possible solution to the fighting in Syria could involve sectors of responsibility, joint air strikes, or even communication and coordination regarding ground troops. The key obviously is communicating on an end goal in Syria and working together to meet that objective. Stabilizing Syria against the common enemy of ISIS can prevent a Cold War. Fighting with a non-cohesive strategy could lead to a blast from the past, another arms race, and ultimately a financially costly Cold War.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/12015465/Turkey-shoots-down-Russia-jet-live.html

*While there is a personnel downsizing, the budget is certainly increasing.

A Veteran’s Thoughts on Veteran’s Day

Veteran’s Day originally started as Armistice Day. This was to recognize the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month as the end of World War I. In 1938, the name was changed to Veteran’s Day and it now serves to recognize and honor those who served in the US Armed Forces.

I think it is important to recognize and offer a thank you to those who have sacrificed much for this nation. However, it is somewhat awkward for some vets. I am one of them. When someone says “thank you for your service” I am often at a loss as to what to say. Certainly I am appreciative of the recognition but it is not what I seek. I tend to offer a thumbs up, or a head nod and simply say “you’re welcome” and try to leave it at that. Many veterans feel the same way. Recognition, glory, and thank yous are not what veterans are generally looking for.

While veterans are appreciative of recognition, it often makes us feel odd. Many businesses offer discounts, meals, and freebies on Veteran’s Day. All of that is well and good, but it seems to me at least, a bit self-serving to take advantage. It feels strange to say I am a vet and I want my discount. Some of these freebies are offered with a valid military ID. However, unless you are a retired or current active duty vet, then you do not have a military ID. Those are turned in upon your discharge from service. The way to prove service will then lie with a DD-214, which is the paperwork that contains a veteran’s service record. I know how strange it feels to pull that out to prove military service in order to get a free meal. I did it once and it felt absolutely silly, embarrassing, and self-serving.

None of this is said to disparage those wish to give back to our veterans. It really, and truly is appreciated.

A sad fact of Veteran’s Day is the Stolen Valor type people. These are generally people who pretend they served in order to maximize personal gain. It seems these people come out of the woodwork around patriotic holidays in order to gain some recognition that was built on the backs of real people. Most of these people are very easy to spot simply because it will be the primary source of their conversation upon meeting a new person. They also tend to talk easily about what they have “done” in the military. A lot of times these seem to be stories they read in a book or saw in a magazine or movie. These people are noticeable, especially if you are in the know regarding the military.

In the coming years, more and more of these fakers or posers will claim service they do not warrant. This steps all over the sacrifices of real veterans. Even though we have been at war since 2001, the actual number of Global War on Terror veterans is relatively low in comparison to other wars. This is mainly due to the all volunteer military. Therefore, veterans are out there, they are just not a dime a dozen as many would like to think. So in dealing with the unknown, be cautious. Many want to take the credit for the work of the few.

All of this said, veterans are an extremely proud group. They are an elite group within society. In this day and age they have volunteered when few would. In the past, they have served when their nation called upon them. They do what few can. As a nation, we should all be thankful for them. Each person who has served in our military was willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for their brothers, sisters, and people of the United States.

As a nation, we should be proud. We should be grateful. We should be thankful men and women have been willing to put their life in harms way in order to protect the American way of life.

Judging Columbus

Recently in America, we celebrated Columbus Day, or Indigenous People’s Day, or whatever. Many people do not Celebrate Columbus’ discovery of America, but instead choose to celebrate the newly dedicated Indigenous People’s Day. This is being done because a certain segment of the population does not want to publicize Columbus and his contributions to America. In many circles he is seen as a bad person in history.

Contemporary focus on Columbus has come to center on his treatment of the Indians, or shall I call them Native Americans? History is full of people who were not of the utmost moral quality, yet aspired to do incredible things. In this age, the untrained tend to judge historical figures by 21st century standards, and not by the age in which they lived. This is historiography, and I have written on it  before. 1

Is it fair to judge Columbus in such a negative way? When I was growing up, Columbus Day was celebrated and we talked about him in school. We spoke of him as the person credited with discovering America. Later, this fallacy was given to Leif Ericson the Viking who landed on the coast of New Foundland around 1000 CE (Common Era, after the year 0). The Vikings left without establishing a permanent colony and their voyage fell by the wayside. Before even the Vikings it is thought the Chinese, or early people from India came to the North and South American continents. They came and traded with the ancient American empires. Whether Columbus was first is not really the issue. Has history blamed him too harshly for the results of this actions in the late 15th century? Should we dismiss some of his actions as a bi-product of the period?

George Washington was a slave owner. He owned upwards of 300 slaves during his 50+ years as a slave owner. While he did allow for their release, it would not occur until two years after his death in 1799. This was only due to his wife Martha, signing a manumission that released the slaves from their duty to the Washington/Custis estate. 3

Thomas Jefferson was also another great American that we speak highly of. He was also a slave owner. His home at Monticello was built by slaves. He freed fewer than five slaves in his life. Despite having a relationship with Sally Hemmings, a slave of his for almost 40 years, and through which he had six children. Jefferson also wrote he did not believe Africans and Anglos could coexist in the same environment. 4  This is the same person Americans hold in such high regard.   I have written on Jefferson’s shortcomings before.

Whereas many “great” Americans hold a special place in the hearts of Americans for their contributions, so too does Christopher Columbus. As children, many of us were taught he was looking for an all water route to China, but instead he “discovered” America. He did not discover a new continent. The Chinese and Vikings had already been to North America. What Columbus did stumble upon was a series of islands in the Caribbean and never set foot on North American soil. 5

Columbus did not set out to open the world to new discoveries. Like most sailors of the time, Columbus wanted to make money. A westward, all water route to China would open that door. It would be much faster than travelling around Africa and the Indian Ocean to China.
When Columbus landed on Hispaniola, he recorded his observations of the natives, claiming he thought they would “make good servants and I am of the opinion that they would very readily become Christians as they appear to have no religion.” 6 Shortly after landing, Columbus planned to build a fort, but stated in his diary fortifying the place was unnecessary because the natives were “simple in war-like manners.” 7 Columbus obviously thought the Indians were primitive and he could easily conquer and enslave them if he chose. He wrote of this several times in his diary.

In the 15th century, slavery was a way of forcing barbarians (foreigners) to accept Christianity. God, gold, and glory were the reasons for Spanish exploration. When encountering natives, he recounted numerous times the natives noted him and his explorers as the people who came from the heavens. 8 Logic dictates the people from the heavens were the Spanish. Indians learned the Spanish language very quickly and him vice versa. This seems to be the case if one takes Columbus at his word in his diaries. When looking at the historiography, Columbus may have simply heard what he wanted to hear. European ideas of the time dictated they were the vastly superior race of the time, and therefore they could bend the world to their will. After all, the Europeans had defeated the Muslims and pushed them out of France. This feeling of invincibility became even more evident with latter explorers.

On his second voyage in 1493, Columbus brought several natives back to Spain and forced them into slavery. This was possibly done in an effort to build a slave trade and show how valuable the Indians were. 9 Columbus said they might “be led to abandon that custom which they have of eating men…learning the language, they will much more readily receive baptism and secure the welfare of their souls.” 10 Obviously the push was to develop a slave trade, similar to that which was being created in Africa at the same time. It should also be evident of the push for spreading the word of God, as was the goal of the Spanish government.
Also on that second voyage, he brought colonists with him who desired to exploit the natives for their gold.   When the gold was hard to find, the Spanish began to kill the natives, who in turn resisted. Columbus ordered more forts built and required the Arawak Indians to bring gold dust. 11  Those who did not pay the tribute would be hunted down and killed. Eventually, the Spaniards revolted against Columbus and his cruel treatment of the natives. The Spaniards wanted to share the land with the natives and have them work the land, much like the feudal system of medieval Europe.

Because of the argument signed with King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, Columbus had the power to administer any island he claimed for Spain and was entitled to profit from them. 12 It is clear from letters he wrote to the king that he planned to obtain gold. In these letters he explained an elaborate system for keeping track of the gold. On his second voyage he enslaved a number of Indians to be returned to Spain, while many more were to be forced to mine for gold.13  After he was imprisoned by the Spanish and sent back to Spain, Columbus wrote another letter explaining his actions. In it, he speaks of how he should be judged, “…as a captain who went from Spain to the Indies to conquer a numerous and warlike people…” 14  This certainly gives credence to the belief Columbus set out to obtain wealth and certainly took pride in forcing other to do it for him.

In the end, I think those who think only in present day terms have judged Columbus a bit too harshly.  Perhaps it is because of the desire to revise history, or to make amends for past mistakes.  On that I have no idea.  However, I feel Columbus acted as any other European explorer with an edict from the King of a world power would.  He sought to make money, which he never did.  Columbus sought to line his pockets through any method necessary, including building a slave trade, raping the population of their resources, and pushing upon them a new religion.  If we are to judge Columbus as a villain of history, then should we also judge Washington and Jefferson the same?  After all, they did own slaves and did participate in its trade during their lives.  Or perhaps we should simply look at the time period and apply the societal norms and then make a judgment about their character and intentions.

Sources and for further reading:

**Eventually I will clean up my citations and reference list.  I know I am not using the proper format.  Maybe I should write an entry sometime about how to do historical research and documentation.

1 http://chrismcmillanhistory.com/?p=12

2 http://www.history.com/topics/exploration/leif-eriksson

3 http://edit.mountvernon.org/research-collections/digital-encyclopedia/article/george-washington-and-slavery/

4 http://www.monticello.org/site/plantation-and-slavery/thomas-jefferson-and-slavery

5 http://www.economist.com/node/5381851

6 http://legacy.fordham.edu/halsall/source/columbus1.asp

7 http://legacy.fordham.edu/halsall/source/columbus1.asp

8 http://www.smithsonianmag.com/ist/?next=/people-places/columbus-confusion-about-the-new-world-140132422/

9 http://www.smithsonianmag.com/people-places/columbus-confusion-about-the-new-world-140132422/?no-ist

10 http://www.smithsonianmag.com/people-places/columbus-confusion-about-the-new-world-140132422/?no-ist

11 http://www.smithsonianmag.com/people-places/columbus-confusion-about-the-new-world-140132422/?no-ist

12 http://ageofex.marinersmuseum.org/index.php?type=explorersection&id=64

13 http://ageofex.marinersmuseum.org/index.php?type=explorersection&id=64

14 http://ageofex.marinersmuseum.org/index.php?type=explorersection&id=64

Blame the criminal, not the gun

I am a gun fan, not necessarily a nut, but certainly a fan. I love to shoot as often as I can and enjoy giving different guns a shot. Yes, the pun was intended. I appreciate the original intent of the 2nd Amendment. Feel free to read my last entry to see my research on that subject.

Before I get started, let me say that while I am an avid supporter of gun rights, I do appreciate the views of the other side, even if I do disagree with many of them. One of the wonderful things about this nation is we are free to disagree with each other and still be friends at the end of the day. Often times that is forgotten on people. I have friends who are not gun folks, it does not make them any less of a person in my eyes, it just means they view things differently than myself. Ultimately our values are shaped by our experiences in life. I have been shooting guns since I was about five or six. My first gun was a 20 gauge break open single shot shotgun given to me by my dad.  My second was a 20 gauge semi-auto shotgun, also from my dad.  (I still have and use both).   I have learned to appreciate and respect them. I enjoy shooting so much I managed to get Uncle Sam to pay me to do it for a little while.

First I want to deal with a little terminology that is often misquoted or misused by the media, probably because they have not done their homework on the subject. Most of these terms I will not use in this entry, but I just want to clarify some terminology for those uneducated on the subject.
1. Magazine. A magazine is the detachable box that allows a weapon to hold more ammunition before reloading. It can be detachable or internal. A magazine IS NOT a clip.
2. Clip. A clip is the brass strip with grooves in which a bullet’s rim is slid into place. This allows to quickly reload empty magazines by placing the fully loaded clip onto a speed loader, and then sliding the rounds into the magazine. I have seen 30 round magazines, but never a 30, 40, or even 100 round clip.  Media reports are so wrong on this it drives gun enthusiasts nuts.  If you want to argue a point with the other side, at least be able to discuss intelligently and have a working knowledge.   I would have loved to have seen clips and speedloaders as it would have saved me a lot of time in the military reloading magazines.
3. Assault weapon. An assault weapon is a military weapon that can fire on fully automatic. A person must have a Class III Federal license to own a fully automatic weapon. You can not just go to Walmart and buy one. You must go  through a Federal Firearms License dealer, or you can buy one privately. However, you still have to get the license to legally own this kind of firearm.
4. Automatic weapon. An automatic weapon is a firearm that fires multiple rounds with one, continuous squeeze of the trigger. When you release the trigger, the rounds stop firing. The exception to this is if the barrel gets too hot and continues to cook off rounds on the belt of the weapon. I have seen this happen before in a training scenario. Some of the automatic weapons our own military uses are the M4, M16A4, M249, M240, and the M2.
5. Semi-automatic. A semi-auto weapon is one that fires one shot each time the trigger is squeezed and does not need to be reloaded or have the bolt worked between shots. Law enforcement officers carry semi-automatic pistols. Most pistols made today are semi-automatic. Many rifles, such as the popular AR15 are semi-automatic. These are widely available to the general public. They work the same as a bolt-action rifle with an internal magazine. The only difference again is the bolt does not have to be worked manually to chamber a new round.
6. Silencer vs. suppressor. A firearm makes a loud noise because the bullet is pushed out of the barrel through an explosion. The bullet is going past the speed of sound, therefore there is a shockwave as it reaches that point. A silencer, to the best of my knowledge, does not exist. However, a suppressor does. A suppressor drops the sound considerably, but it does not reduce it to the point as if it is barely heard like in the movies, “twerp, twerp.” It sounds like a crack of a small-caliber rifle. The sound is mitigated through a series of baffles inside the “can” or suppressor. You must register the suppressor through a family or corporate trust. It is possible to register one individually, however, there is a mountain of paperwork and it can not be e-filed when registered as an individual.

In the wake of the shooting in Oregon, the call for gun control, and gun confiscation in some circles, is rearing its ugly head. I do not believe restricting firearms will stop any mass shootings, and will therefore write from that perspective. Looking at the violent crime statistics for cities like Chicago and Washington DC. proves there is a “higher” rate of violent crime than in most other areas. Both of those cities are known as high crime areas and for good reason. Note there has been a drop in murder per capita over the last 10 years from the data most immediately available. Source  These cities are known for their strict gun control laws.  I might point out the rate per 100,000 residents of violent crime is higher than more gun friendly areas.

Criminals will not and do not acknowledge laws because they are just that, criminals. Laws are for honest people, which most gun owners are. Guns are not the problem in America. Personal responsibility is the problem. Do we blame spoons for making people obese? Do we blame the pencil for misspelled words? Do we blame the vehicle for drunk driving? Do we blame the explosive in a suicide bombing? Why then do we blame the firearm? As a society we must blame the person, not the abused tool for the problem.

This leads me to the meat and potatoes. Why do we allow guns in our country? First, they have been a part of the United States since its inception. The nation was born from the barrel of a gun. Our nation was forged through independence, individuality, and a strong moral compass to do the right thing. The original intent of the 2nd Amendment was to protect people from the tyrannical government. It was designed to allow the people to protect the people and allow them to secure the blessing of liberty. Think of this as protecting “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Source While this quote is from the Declaration of Independence that actually gave no rights to anyone, it is important to understand Jefferson meant no people should be restricted from taking care of themselves.  This was foremost on the minds of the Founding Fathers when the wrote the Constitution 11 years later.

When the Constitution was written in 1787, the open carry of firearms was a part of life. People travelled and there was no police force. Most of the nation was agrarian. Help was miles away. Within cities, there were some organized law enforcement groups, but they were few and far between. Who would the people call on for help in the middle of the night or on the road in the middle of nowhere? When help was needed, and seconds counted, it was only minutes or hours away at best. The question now is, who has the duty to defend you and your family? Common sense would say the police. However, the Supreme Court of the United States would disagree. The 1981 Supreme Court case Warren v District of Columbia stated, “Courts have without exception concluded that when a municipality or other governmental entity undertakes to furnish police services, it assumes a duty only to the public at large and not to individual members of the community.” Source This is quoted in HR 2252 from 2011 in which the US House of Representatives attempted to pass a bill in order to allow the use firearms to protect a family and home. A similar bill was proposed in 2003 with HR 648. This ruling alone says the police have no responsibility to protect an individual, only the community as a whole. The proposed bills show the obvious foresight by some members of Congress that a person should be responsible for their own protection, not the state.

I have a hard time believing most people would have a problem with a weapon in another persons home. However, somebody might. That is fine with me if they do. They do not live under my roof and therefore have no say or affect in my plan for my family’s protection.

When the issue with firearms becomes biggest is in the public realm. Firearms are all over the place and most people are completely unaware of it. Concealed firearms are also expanding around the nation. In many circles, firearms are no longer even noticed because they are so commonplace. There is a certain sensitivity, or insensitivity to them. (Perhaps I am stumbling onto a future top of discussion here). If a person, or family, is out in public who will defend them? The Supreme Court has stated the police have no duty to defend an individual. What do you do if an individual decides to go on a shooting spree and you are caught in the crossfire? Obviously try to find cover in a safe spot and wait for the police to show. How long will that take? What if that crazed gunman decides to target your family? If you have no firearm and they do, you are already behind the eight ball in a life or death situation.

For most of us it never will and let us all be thankful for that. We should all be prepared, or at least allow for those who are willing, to be prepared. When driving down the road, we do not expect to have a flat tire, yet we have a spare just in case. We have insurance on our home in the event of a natural disaster. Would it not be prudent to have some sort of insurance and protection for our own lives when out in public? Trouble does not make an appointment so we must be prepared.

Some argue about the wholeness of gun free zones. In theory it is a great idea. In 1990, then Senator Joe Biden introduced the bill and it was eventually signed into law by George H.W. Bush. Yes, the same Joe Biden who said to fire a double-barreled shotgun through the door. Source I will not get into the absurdity of that today. Gun free zones were established to keep firearms away from public schools. (Private schools can generally make their own rules). I applaud the idea, but in reality it seems kind of crazy to advertise gun free zones.

The argument holds water that many mass shootings take place in gun free zones. For instance Newtown, Ft. Hood, Chattanooga, Columbine, the Washington Naval Yard, and Aurora come to the top of my mind. What if a legal weapon carrier had been in one of those locations to take action to defend themselves or others? Perhaps fewer lives would have been lost. Would it not be better to at least have tried to fight back with equal power? The police in every case were at best minutes away when seconds truly counted.

Recently I have read several articles claiming there is no evidence the shooters in question targeted gun free zones because they were gun free. That very well may be the case, but the end result is still the same. A gunman walked into a gun free zone with the intent to kill and went on a murder spree. Law abiding citizens were rendered defenseless because a feel good law, that is ignored by criminals, told them their gun was not allowed. Would a good guy with a gun have prevented a shooting? Maybe, maybe not. But at least the innocent could have had a chance.

With all of that said, what can be done? More legislation? More paperwork and more laws will not prevent shootings. Less access to firearms is not the answer. Gun owners are already tired of being told what, where, and when they can do things with their properly acquired and legal firearms. It simply is not fair to punish the law-abiding gun owner with restrictions on types of guns, magazines capacities, and waiting periods for purchases.

Many gun control advocates push for more background checks and mental health screenings. I can partly get on board with some of that. A person going into a gun store, or buying from a dealer at a gun show, must undergo a background check through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS. Source A person can be denied purchasing from a dealer for any number of things. However, a transaction between private citizens is not monitored. However, how many criminals will truly show up at a gun show that is crawling with police and untold numbers of gun advocates? Criminals are going to buy their guns on the black market, or as seems to be the case lately, they are going to steal them. Theft is illegal, but again the criminals who wish to do harm do not care. Maybe we should start making heroin or methamphetamines illegal also. Laws on paper should prevent that. My point is, criminals will get their guns and they will do bad things with them. So who really gets hurt with legislation?

Focusing on mental health is the new buzz in the gun control world, and rightfully so. The push is for mental health screenings before a purchase. However, federal laws regarding health care are very tricky to navigate. Think HIPAA laws here. Also, this adds another step to ownership for law-abiding citizens. Some might argue it can save lives. It might, but why does the federal government need to know about a person’s health? Who would pay for the health care screenings? How many other rights does a person have to spend money in order to exercise them? I cannot think of any. As a law-abiding citizen and pro-gun advocate, I think this might be the thing to focus on, despite the resistance. However, the points about criminals owning guns still hold true. Only a few people would likely be caught through mental health checks. As I have pointed out, a large number of mass shootings have been done by people with mental health issues that simply stole their weapons from family members or obtained them through other illegal methods. I might also add several of them had noted mental issues and were still able to obtain weapons.

Ultimately, the gun issue is extremely difficult and both sides are admirably passionate on their beliefs. Looking at the information I have read, and a fraction of which I have presented, I believe it is up to the individual to defend themselves. The Supreme Court ruled in such a manner that should not be questioned. By virtue of the 10th Amendment, states have the right to make laws that are not already administered by the federal government. In most states, this allows for the right to conceal, and in some cases, open carry. The explicit right here is one of self-defense.

Nobody should be subject to having their life taken by a crazy person with the intent to kill them. Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence of the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Source  Sometimes these unalienable rights must be protected from someone who wants to take them away. Free human beings should be able to protect themselves and their families from that threat. Protection might have to come from the barrel of a gun.

In the end, I am okay if a person is in favor of gun control. I will respect your wishes on your property. But do not take away the rights of legal gun owners to protect themselves and their loved ones because you might be afraid of something you do not completely understand. In the end, allow legal gun owners to protect themselves when there are no police officers around, one day you may thank them for it.

Sources and for further reading:

http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/declaration_transcript.html

http://www.city-data.com/crime/

https://www.congress.gov/bill/112th-congress/house-bill/2252/text

https://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/nics

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonkblog/wp/2013/02/02/study-the-u-s-has-had-one-mass-shooting-per-month-since-2009/

Updated article reporting a Harvard Study.  This happens to support my overall theories on self-defense and gun violence/deterence.

http://www.beliefnet.com/News/Articles/Harvard-University-Study-Reveals-Astonishing-Link.aspx#2ZmBmJyW5oPXvRY8.01

The Founding Fathers and the intent of the 2nd Amendment

As an adult I have become more politically astute, or at least I like to think so. That does not mean I am all-knowing on anything, just that I keep a closer, more observant eye on things than I used to. I have also discovered as I have become older I have become much more of a Libertarian than a Republican in my political associations. I think I tend to fall middle-right on the political ideology scale. At the same time, there are some issues that really get me going and others that simply do not matter. I assume that is the case with most people. The one issue that just gets me twisted and ready to go from zero to jerk in two seconds is gun control.

I cannot say I am opposed to gun control because honestly there are some people who have no business ever putting their hands on a firearm. I know, I served with some of them.

In this article, I do not intend to focus on self defense and right to carry a weapon and the ins and outs of that argument. I will save that for another day. What I plan to focus on the application the 2nd Amendment.

Gun control is an issue that gets conservative stomachs twisted in a knot and liberals foaming at the mouth. Liberals cling to the “well regulated militia” aspect of the 2nd Amendment while conservatives hold the meaning of the same as the right to use weapons and force against the government as a last resort.

Someone might ask, “Last resort from what?”  The last resort as protection against an oppressive federal government that would stifle the voice of the people, fail to protect them, or possibly refuse to follow the Constitution. In 1773, American patriots dressed as Mohawk Indians and led by Sam Adams boarded a ship in Boston Harbor, dumping its contents into the ocean as a form of protest against the Tea Act. King George III expected the value of the tea to be repaid and therefore passed the Intolerable/Coercive Acts. These acts were designed to punish the colonists for their actions until their debt was repaid. Part of those acts allowed for the quartering of British soliders in Bostonians homes and allowed for them to confiscate weapons within the city. This last part was implied by British General Gage as he applied the proper act when ordering his soldiers to secure Boston.  The following year, 1775, the Revolution broke out as the British moved through Lexington and Concord. The British had gotten wind of an American stockpile of weapons and moved to take them away from the colonists. 1

Some people might also ask what did the Founding Fathers mean when they wrote the Bill or Rights? I will take a look at that shortly. Also, the topic has been brought up, usually by those in favor of strict gun control, did the Founding Fathers really expect people to own the “advanced” weapons we have today? The answer to this second question is probably not. However, I say this because they may not have envisioned the actual weapons, but they most certainly knew about technological advances in warfare. Many Founding Fathers were scientists, engineers, and historians. Society had advanced from the stone ages through technology, and therefore weapons would also. In the late 1700s, rifled barrels were a relatively new technology and allowed for a bullet to spin, thus allowing far more accuracy, stability, and range. No longer was the smooth bore musket the weapon of choice.

Edged weapons had also advanced. Europeans no longer used long, heavy swords to pummel their enemy into the ground before bashing their skull. Cavalry sabers, with sharp, curved blades were the sword of the day. This allowed both mounted, and foot soldiers to quickly slice at their enemy and then withdraw for another attack. Again, an advancement in technology. So the premise that the Founding Fathers never intended for people to own, or perhaps even use, advanced weapons is merely an historical fallacy dreamed up to counter the pro-gun crowds desire to own “advanced” weapons. (Sometime I will deal with the issue of types of weapons and who can or should own them).

The intent of the Founding Fathers is a not very complex when looking at the historiography of the day.  First, the Declaration of Independence was written in July of 1776, over a year after the British and American colonists had exchanged fire at Lexington and Concord. It was also roughly a year after the bloody Battle of Bunker Hill. It was a year to the day in which George Washington had been named Commander of the Continental Army. And it would be more than a year before the French began to truly supply the Americans with arms. So how were the Americans to fight? With their own weapons of course! These would be privately owned weapons that had been used for hunting and survival in their previous life. The importance of privately owned weapons was essential to arming the Americans and fighting the Revolution.

Much of the American Revolution was fought using local militias. The militia was the group initially called out to confront the British at Lexington, Concord, and the ensuing retreat of the British back to Boston. Militias, and what defines them, has been a source of conflict in the gun control debate. The term militia was used directly in the 2nd Amendment and has been a key term on the gun control platform.

The right to bear arms is explicitly stated in the Constitution. Who exactly has that right is the main source of conflict between pro and anti-gun debaters. The 2nd Amendment says, “a well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” 2  The militia has the right to bear arms. Who makes up the militia?

In 1787, the US Constitution was written and took affect in 1789. At the time, the United States had virtually no standing army. It was expected the militia would be called out in the event of an invasion or outbreak of hostilities. There was never more than 6,000 men in the standing army until after the War of 1812. 3 Six thousand men would hardly stave off an invasion. Naturally, supplemental forces would have to come from the militia. The Militia Act of 1792 established the requirements of the state militias. 4 This act attempted to establish a procedure for call up to national service but it was hardly effective. The militia became a bit of a sideshow in the national focus. Today some claim the militia is the equivalent of the National Guard. I do not believe that is the case and will explain why at a later date. Suffice to say for the moment that the National Guard can be called into federal service. The National Guard could then be used to enforce federal law. This enforcement might go against the Constitution or desires of the American people, thus violating the purpose of the militia and its right to bear arms in protection of the people from an oppressive federal government.

With the militia and small army out of the way, the words of the Founding Fathers need to be analyzed. For background in 1787 and the British, their laws, and their military might was still very much on everyone’s mind at the Constitutional Convention. Many convention goers were against the Constitution because they felt it made the Federal government too powerful. This group, the Anti-Federalists, insisted a Bill of Rights be added to protect the people from the government. The Federalists, lead by Alexander Hamilton, insisted the Constitution was written in such a way the government could not possibly be oppressive. He even presented justification for the Constitution in The Federalist Papers. The Anti-Federalists refused to ratify the Constitution without the Bill of Rights. The Federalists agreed and the first ten amendments were ratified.

Keep in mind both sides agreed to the Bill of Rights. Both sides of the discussion were clear on an armed populace. The following quotes will demonstrate their clear acceptance of an armed populace.

George Mason, an Anti-Federalist said, “I ask, sir, what is the militia? Is it the whole populace except for a few public officials?” 5  Mason said this in debating ratification, there was no clear definition of the militia.

Alexander Hamilton said, “The best we can hope for concerning the people at large is that they be properly armed.” 6 Again, support for gun ownership. Hamilton also said in Federalist No. 28 something that is even more telling on gun ownership and its original intent. “If the representatives of the people betray their constituents, there is then no recourse left but in the exertion of that original right of self-defense which is paramount to all positive forms of government, and which against the usurpations of the national rulers may be exerted with infinitely better prospect of success than against those of the rulers of an individual State. In a single State, if the persons entrusted with supreme power become usurpers, the different parcels, subdivisions, or districts of which it consists, having no distinct government in each, can take no regular measures for defense. The citizens must rush tumultuously to arms, without concert, without system, without resource; except in their courage and despair.” 7 Obviously he favored ownership to insure protection of individual liberties. Hamilton believed in the power of the Federal government, but he was clear it should not abuse the citizens and they should have a recourse to an abusive federal government.

James Madison, who was also a Federalist and worked closely with Hamilton to build the Constitution said in Federalist No. 46, “The Constitution preserves the advantage of being armed which Americans possess over the people of almost any other nation…where the governments are afraid to trust the people with arms.” 8

Thomas Jefferson, although not at the convention and an ardent Anti Federalist, said to in a letter to William Stephens Smith, “What country can preserve its liberties of its rulers are not warned from time to time that the people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take up arms.” 9

Tench Cox said, “Who are the militia? Are they not ourselves? Is it feared, then, that we shall turn our arms each man against his own bosom. Congress have no power to disarm the militia. Their swords, and every other terrible implement of the soldier, are the birthright of an American…[T]he unlimited power of the sword is not in the hands of either the federal or state governments, but, where I trust in God it will ever remain, in the hands of the people.” 10 This last statement makes it very clear where he stood on the idea of an armed populace. Little explanation of this quote is needed.

All of the above quotes come from debate regarding the Constitution, the 2nd Amendment, and the powers of the people versus the power of the Federal government. It should be clear by just reading those quotes that the Founding Fathers were ardent supporters of an armed America, not just an army commanded by a federal government. They expected Americans to arm themselves and to stand up to tyranny within their own nation, just as they had stood up to the British during the colonial period. I believe the militia is the American people. They are allowed to be armed. They are allowed to assemble. These are rights protected under the Bill of Rights. These are rights that cannot be taken away without due process. The Founding Fathers wanted a United States that would not be abused and would take the steps necessary “to provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity…” 11

On another note, I know I have mentioned a number of scenario and topics in the above entry.  They are all related and all relevent in my mind.  However, I could end up writing an entire research paper if I focused on all of the topics. Over time I will get to those issues I deem to be most pertinent and of interest to both myself, and any readers I can manage to convince to follow my ramblings.  If you ever have something you would be interested in reading about, feel free to mention it to me and I will see what I can do.

Happy reading!!

 

For further reading:

1  http://www.davekopel.org/2A/LawRev/american-revolution-against-british-gun-control.html

2  https://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/second_amendment

3  http://digitalcommons.buffalostate.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1009&context=history_theses

4  http://lawsonline.com/LegalTopics/Militia/regulated-militia.shtm

5  http://econfaculty.gmu.edu/wew/quotes/arms.html

6  http://econfaculty.gmu.edu/wew/quotes/arms.html

7  http://econfaculty.gmu.edu/wew/quotes/arms.html

8  http://econfaculty.gmu.edu/wew/quotes/arms.html

9  http://econfaculty.gmu.edu/wew/quotes/arms.html

10 http://econfaculty.gmu.edu/wew/quotes/arms.html

11 https://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/preamble

Thomas Jefferson, slavery, and the Declaration of Independence

On July 2, 1776, the Continental Congress decided it was time to become an independent nation and cast out the British in favor of a self-governing nation of loosely united states. These signers knew they were committing treason when the affixed their names to the Declaration of Independence upon its official signing the following month. Had the Americans lost the war, or had the signers been captured, it would have meant certain death for them. (5 were captured, tortured, and ultimately by British hands). 1 Source
However, I’m not writing today to analyze the reasons for signing. I want to look at for whom independence was declared. There has been much debate among historians and curriculum writers in the education system that the signers wanted slaved to be included. Revisionists like this theory and it tends to fit nicely into a kinder, gentler view of the signers.

To understand the slave issue it is probably best to look at Thomas Jefferson as he was the primary writer on the committee that consisted of Robert Sherman, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and Robert Livingston. An original draft of the Declaration spoke of King George III allowing for the capturing and carrying of slaves on British ships. He also mentioned the negative affects of buying and selling of men. In addition, Jefferson wrote of how the King refused any law outlawing the practice. 2 Source After reading this, it does not appear Jefferson necessarily condemned the practice as an American. It appears he wanted the Americans held blameless. In the end, the Continental Congress rejected this portion of the Declaration of Independence and it was removed. In my mind, it says the signers did not want to deal with the slave issue because they knew it was controversial, but a necessary evil for many of them.

When the Declaration was signed in 1776, slavery was still legal in all 13 colonies. However it was still predominant in the southern colonies. Some of the most respected men in America detested slavery, but felt slaves were needed in order for their cash crops to be profitable. This group included names such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and later James Madison (although the latter did not sign the Declaration of Independence). 3 Source I theorize based upon common sense and knowledge of colonial economics and relations, the wealthy plantation owners in the south did not want to loose their slaves and the northerners did not want to push the issue because the support of the south was needed in order to fight a prolonged conflict with Great Britain. Both sides knew slavery was evil, but was needed to keep the southern economy afloat in order to keep the fledging colonies above water.
I want to move back to Jefferson. He is reported to have been against slavery. He favored a plan of gradual emancipation. In 1778, he proposed a Virginia law that would prohibit importation of slaves. 4 Source This ideas would later be incorporated into the Constitution as part of the 3/5 Compromise. These ideas sound good when thinking of Jefferson. Emancipating slaves was a phenomenal, but unpopular idea, despite the desire among many segments of the population to end the practice. Emancipating slaves also went against Jefferson’s actions. He was a slave owner. Jefferson owned them until the day he died and did not free them upon his death. 5 Source Also, Jefferson even stated he did not think Africans and Americans could live peacefully within the same nation. Do these sound like the words of a person who was against slavery? This runs counter to Jefferson’s actions as he may have fathered up to 6 children through his slave Sally Hemming. 6 Source
The question still stands, who was to be declared independent by the Declaration of Independence. Looking at the evidence makes me think Jefferson was against slavery as it being inhumane to own another human being, but was acceptable for the time, and acceptable to him. (This ties in with historiography. It is essential to study history from when the events took place and not place judgment by modern day standards). I also know from studying Jefferson he believed in the goodness of human beings and thought they would do the right thing. In my mind it was a social issue, fed by the social status of the day in that none of the slave owners really wanted to be the first to free all of their plantation slaves and therefore, Jefferson did not feel so inclined.
From also looking at the evidence, I do not think it was his intent, nor that of the Continental Congress, to free slaves. The Declaration of Independence is simply a list of grievances against the king of England and did not give any rights to Americans. The grievance being addressed was the transportation and trading of slaves. The Declaration was the official notice to King George III that the Americans had no desire to be part of the British Empire. Slaves at the time were viewed as property, and therefore a possession of the Americans. Thinking in this manner, slaves would be set free at the behest of well thinking Americans at a time more suitable than the beginning of the Revolution. Sadly, it would take almost 100 years, a bloody civil war, and a constitutional amendment to achieve what Jefferson had hoped would happen.
For Further Reading and examination of sources see the links below.

1 http://www.constitution.org/bio/fate_of_signers.htm
2 http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/declara/ruffdrft.html
3 http://www.crf-usa.org/black-history-month/the-constitution-and-slavery]
4 http://www.monticello.org/slavery-at-monticello/liberty-slavery/jeffersons-antislavery-actions
5 http://www.monticello.org/site/plantation-and-slavery/thomas-jefferson-and-slavery
6 http://www.monticello.org/site/plantation-and-slavery/thomas-jefferson-and-slavery

Revising History

I’ve dedicated this blog to my own rambling and commentary on history and social events. One of my main interests in life lies in the study of current events and history. My educational background shows I have a BBS in History from Hardin-Simmons University with a minor in Political Science. I’ve also managed to be granted a Masters in Arts in Military History (with honors) with a concentration in War Since 1945. I’ve also spent the past 14 years as a Social Studies teacher in Texas. I like to think, or at least put on a good show, that I know a little about the subject. However, I’ve discovered over time how limited my own knowledge is when compared to others. I like to take this as a lesson, there’s always a bigger fish and there is always more to learn.

As I have mentioned in my own study of history, I have spent more and more time beyond thinking of the basics of what happened. Studying the facts is where the study of history begins. In education, we refer to that as comprehension. I am sure most historians see their own thinking evolve as I have. As we gain more knowledge, we begin to stretch our study from “what happened,” to “what does it mean?” “What are the trends that I see?” “How are events influential to others?” “How does history impact life today?” These are just examples, but at least give an idea of my own thought process.

One thing that really gets me going is revisionist history. I tend to look at it from a couple of perspectives. First, history is what it is. It cannot be changed. What happened, happened. I think trying to whitewash history in order to placate certain segments of society does a disservice to the events and anyone involved. I believe the job of historians is to explain those events in their historical context. Historians refer to this as historiography. (I will tackle that topic at a later date. If you want to jump ahead, feel free to Google it). At the end of a research segment, a personal spin can be added in the conclusion and commentary. However, during the actual presentation of research, events must be presented in a neutral manner. Again history cannot be changed. It is what it is.

That said, some people claim revisionists are trying to change history. That certainly may be the case. However, conservative thinkers will claim liberals are trying to whitewash history while liberal thinkers are will claim conservatives are not telling the full story. I hate the idea of cleaning history, even the parts that make my own culture look bad. Every society has its bad apples and I think it is important to know all aspects of history in order to avoid similar problems in the future. On this same note, I believe history is all revisionist in that any new information that is discovered should be added to the overall historical picture. This is essential to ensuring future generation can get a full view of the past from multiple perspectives in order to have the greatest vision of the past as possible.

This revisionist theory is at a crossroads in the media. The conflict over the Confederate flag is huge. The fact that it flew over the south during the Civil War naturally leads some to automatically say it is a sign of racism and slavery. Others will simply say it is a sign of southern pride. The contentious debate over the causes of the Civil War still rages.  (Again, I see another blog topic on the causes of the Civil War). Some groups are pushing to end the flying of the Confederate flag as well as taking down, modifying, or moving monuments to Confederate soldiers. By removing these parts of US History, segments are taken away and lost to history simply because certain segments did not like what happened. The Civil War was horrific, and both sides of the causation argument have good, valid points. What happened in the South is still part of a heart breaking time in history. This division between North and South could be felt immediately after the war. Sectionalism continued to raise its dirty head during Reconstruction, leading to many problems and fewer solutions. Southern ideas are still prevalent in the US. They have been since colonization in the 1600s and are still felt today. Revising the people and history of the south does not change its contribution to history. (Perhaps the history of American slavery will be a future blog topic. I can sense it becoming one).

It is important that we revise history by adding to it, not taking away. The future must know the past, warts and all, in order to truly paint the most accurate picture of the past.