My Rifle

"My Rifle"

This is my rifle, the man says, and then he tells you why. Kim du Toit noticed, and added:

Change a few of the words, and the man could be talking about a car, or a machine tool.... Real Men know all too well what the Wrangler is talking about.
That's true: the simple joy of working with a machine, making it function, having it do just what you want -- that is obvious in the man's words.

There is more than that, though. Like all the best technology, this machine is for something. If you love a tractor, it's because it helps you feed your family, to clear and maintain and master the land. The rifle, too, has a job. Here's how the gentleman describes that job:
This is the rifle I'll grab if I ever have need of a longarm in a place other than a rifle range. This is the rifle that stands by to defend me and mine if necessary. This is the rifle that marks my personal line in the sand, the line that none who come looking for trouble shall pass with impunity.
That assertion is at the core of heroic philosophy, whether that expressed by Greeks or Norsemen or those Pakistani tribemen we were talking about a few weeks ago. "This land is mine, these people are mine, I shall keep them safe, none shall harm them while I live."

There are well-educated men who say that this is madness:
Some years ago, the distinguished historian Richard Hofstadter told me that, after a lifetime of studying American culture, what he found most deeply troubling was our country's inability to come to terms with the gun — which in turn strongly affected our domestic and international attitudes. Emotions of extreme attachment to and even sacralization of the gun pervade American society.... Much has been said, with considerable truth, about the role of the frontier in bringing about this psychological condition. I would go further and suggest that American society, in the absence of an encompassing and stable traditional culture, has embraced the gun as a substitute for that absence, and created a vast cultural ideology we can call "gunism." Paradoxically, this highly destabilizing object became viewed as a baseline and an icon that could somehow sustain us in a new form of nontraditional society. That new society was to be democratic and egalitarian, so that the gun could be both an "equalizer," as it is sometimes known, and also a solution to various social problems.
That is to misread the nature of the thing entirely. The importance of the rifle here isn't about "the absence of an encompassing and stable traditional culture," but the mark of one. A culture that lacks this value will not survive. Violence does not exist on the frontier alone, but pervades the world. If peace and civilization are to exist, men must defend them. A culture that has survived understands it entirely.

You cannot name the culture that has not sacralized its weapons -- that has not decorated them, or named them, or built rituals around them. Traditional American society is the same as any other traditional society. Those who view this as strange are the ones who are cut off from their roots. They are the ones who have chosen to walk away from what their grandfathers believed.

America has come "to terms" with the gun, long ago. Our gentleman from Tennessee knows everything about his rifle -- both how it works, and what it is for, and what it is not. His words have echoes in the heroic poetry of every nation.

It is others who do not understand: he understands perfectly.

French Vote

French Vote, Sarkozy Wins!

Well, actually the voting is far from over. That's just how I'd gamble if I were inclined to gamble on things. I don't have much to go on, except this BBC article. They interviewed voters at one precinct and labeled the story "French voters bucking trends," so I figure I'm also justified in drawing conclusions about the whole race based on the same single data set.

Only three pro-Sarkozy voters were encountered by the BBC, two women pensioners and a young professional, who were used to explain that "the centre-right candidate [Sarkozy] does have his supporters... both among older residents and the young professionals[.]" The two pro-Sarkozy speakers said he "does not change his opinion all the time" and has a program that is "coherent" and "properly costed."

The other voter said that Sarkozy "stands for reform" and "will take on public sector workers" whose unions have prevented that reform.

All the rest of the speakers are voting for his opponent, Ms. Royal. Their reasons for preferring her policies?

A) "I don't want Sarkozy, his social ideal is America.... France is not a violent society like the US."

B) "Sarkozy speaks well -- but his unspoken message is frightening. His ideas are racist."

C) "Segolene [Royal]'s policies are much more tolerant and humane than Sarkozy's."

D) Sarkozy is "brutal."

E) Sarkozy is "a sleek version" of Jean-Marie Le Pen (who leads France's largest far-right party, Le Front National).

F) "Sarkozy is too radical."

G) "Sarkozy is too close to big money, and it's about time we had a woman president."

That last statement is the only positive reason articulated for voting for Ms. Royal. Everyone else only cites reasons for voting against Sarkozy -- his racism, his radicalism, his unspoken violence, his connections to big money, that he likes America.

If we were to draw trends from this one data set (like the BBC), we'd say: the election is all about Sarkozy. His supporters are voting for him; his opponents are voting against him. Royal's policies and thoughts just don't seem to make an appearance, even among her strongest supporters.

Actually, of course, I've been following the election more broadly; but the overall trends do seem to be the same. Royal's last rallying message to her supporters was that a Sarkozy win would be dangerous and "could trigger violence and brutality across the country." Even for her, at the last, the election was all about him.

Good Reading

Some Excellent Finds:

XKCD produces a map of the internet, graphed according to a particularly insightful compass rose.

I'm a little late in getting around to reading "Why We Fight Over Foreign Policy" from the Hoover Review, but it's a good piece. It explains, in a fair-minded way, the three main streams of thought in American foreign policy debates, and why an honorable person can hold any of them as predominant.

As the piece notes, there are bad actors in all schools: pure politicans of no principles who assert whatever happens to be of party or personal benefit. This is not that useful in understanding those scoundrels -- rather, it is a chart to understanding the good-hearted people who are suckered into voting for them.

That's highly useful in itself. One thing America needs is more of a sense that most of us are decent, for whom the Federal Government is at best a parasite, and at worst a common foe. The politicians are the problem. Those other Americans who seem so alienated are still trying to do something right, according to their own understanding.

The end of milblogging

The End of MilBlogging:

At least for the Army -- BlackFive reports.

New Poem

New Poem:

Russ Vaughn has turned his imagination to the current impasse over military funding. Russ isn't trying to be nice, so if you're easily offended by slaps at the Democratic leadership, you probably won't enjoy his poem.

On the other hand, if you're easily offended by the Democratic leadership, you'll probably enjoy it a lot.

Can't sleep?

Apparently their Patrons were Having Trouble Sleeping:

Or so I'd guess:

Visitors to the Gaia Napa Valley Hotel and Spa won't find the Gideon Bible in the nightstand drawer. Instead, on the bureau will be a copy of ``An Inconvenient Truth,'' former Vice President Al Gore's book about global warming.

They'll also find the Gaia equipped with waterless urinals...
Isn't the correct way to say that, "They'll also find that the Gaia isn't equipped with working urinals"? Having stayed in a place like that in China, let me assure you, the environment does not benefit.



Over at Arts and Letters Daily a note has been posted about a new book from the Tolkien estate.

Ostensibly, the tale of the Children of Hurin was written by J.R.R. Tolkien during his lifetime. Like many of the stories hinted at in the text of the Lord of the Rings, the tale of Hurin and his children was set in Middle Earth. Tolkien penned many versions, revisions, and emendations of these tales as he worked on his mythology.

After the death of J.R.R. Tolkien, his son Christopher took up the task of gathering and publishing what he could of these writings. Some tales were published in the collection titled The Silmarillion. Other tales (and fragments, and original versions, and emendations) were published in a multi-volume History of Middle Earth series. This series read more like a scholarly study of Tolkien's work than a novel.

Now one of the major elements of Tolkien's mythology has been published as a complete book. It is the tale of The Children of Hurin.

The tale does promise much of what we saw in the Lord of the Rings: a focus on a few individuals caught in the middle of a titanic struggle between good and evil. Like in the epic war against Sauron, the evil side has the stronger army. However, in this story (set in what would be ancient history to the hobbits who saw the War of the Ring), the hope of victory is scant.

The tale that unfolds around the family of Hurin is a tale of curses, fate, courageous resistance against evil, murders, attempts to hide from fate, and the evil will of the Dark Lord--primarily manifested through one of his servants, a malicious dragon.

Other tragedies can be found in the vast mythological world that Tolkien created. However, this tragedy was the one that Tolkien poured most of his thought and energy into. The story that resulted contains many elements which can be found in other tragedies--especially the Norse stories which Tolkien loved. But The Children of Hurin also contains many elements which are the result of long thought about the nature of evil, the virtuous response to evil, and the multifarious ways in which evil presents itself in the world.

Like Tolkien's other writings, this book is one that is worth reading, and reading again.