America leader of the free world?

 | 2 min

A while back, Ebs posted about how he used to be an American fanboy. I wouldn't put my feelings that strongly, but I've had a great respect for the principles on which America was founded. I suspect that this respect for America comes mainly from reading way too many Louis L'Amour cowboy books.

I associate the founding of America with sentiments like this:

  • "we hold these truths to be self-evident" Declaration of Independence
  • "all Men are created equal" Declaration of Independence
  • "certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness" Declaration of Independence
  • "liberty and justice for all" Pledge of Allegiance
  • "Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press" First Amendment
  • "the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed" Second Amendment America was created to provide the freedoms and rights that ordinary people lacked in England. Everybody in America (eventually) was guaranteed the basic human rights of liberty, equality and justice. Liberty included free speech & freedom of (and from) religion.

I've always found the right to bear arms to be particularly significant (and not just because I've had a lifelong gun fetish ;-).

First, it suggests the right to personal self-defence. You were allowed to be armed to defend yourself, your family and your property. Second, there was defence of the country. An armed populace could be expected to defend the country from enemies. However, since the republic maintained a standing army, this wasn't expecially significant.

The main reason for prohibiting Congress from infringing the right to bear arms was that Congress controlled the military. Without the general population having the right to bear arms, it would too easy for Congress to abuse its power and use the military to back up that abuse. The right to bear arms was vital so that people could rebel and overthrow the government if it got out of control.

In some ways it is heartening that Americans still have this right. Most people in the US can buy guns, even in Walmart. Most states allow people to obtain concealed carry permits for handguns. The gun lobby is extremely powerful in the US. It's a pity that Americans aren't so keen on standing up for their other rights (like free speech, free press and the right to a fair trial).

Technology has possibly rendered the right to bear arms effectively useless anyway. The populace can't _really _use their arms to overthrow Congress if they only have rifles and pistols and Congress has machine guns, missiles and nukes. But still, I think the right should be preserved for its symbolism if nothing else. It is the right to bear arms which allows Americans to defend all their other rights and freedoms ... if only they cared enough to do so.