Must the Tree of Liberty be Watered with Blood?
“The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots & tyrants.” — Thomas Jefferson to William Smith
1000 rounds of 9mm, 115-grain ammunition: Check. 500 rounds of 12 gage, double 00 buckshot: Check. 1000 rounds of 55 grain, 5.56 NATO ammunition: Check. Guns cleaned and stored. Check. Bugout back ready: Check. Food stores, garden plots, and emergency water rations: All check.
I am not a gun loving-Willy ready to start a revolution. I am a progressive intellectual prepared to defend myself against one, and I’m alone.
All over this country, in liberal states and conservative havens, individuals wait in lines to pick up a couple of boxes of ammo a week, to tuck away in their gun safes. Local and chain sporting good stores limit ammunition sales to around 100 rounds per day; when they have it in stock. Not because the feds have put restrictions on it and not because COVID put any massive restraint on resources.
There is a shortage of ammunition in the United States retail market for two reasons: First, the Trump Administration executive order to increase military readiness by ensuring our armed forces are well stocked. The second is the unprecedented increase in gun and ammo sales in the United States since the election of the first black president in 2008.
So, why the massive change in gun and ammo sales in the new Millennium? The culture wars took a significant shift after the election of Barack Obama, but we can trace the line in the sand back to September 11th, 2001.
A president is only a barometer for the larger scope of cultural attitudes and paradigms in our country. For decades, before the turn of the new millennium, presidents came and went with little sudden change in fanfare or collective rage. In the post-Vietnam world, the country found itself back on track economically and socially. Reaganomics set a trajectory for white, middle-class American’s to continue to feel the benefits of a robust gross domestic product while slipping the moorings free from the new American flagship of globalization.
The policies and attitudes outlined in the Reagan years were further solidified in the single Bush term with a war in the middle east to establish a significant and ongoing military presence in the allied-Arab nation of Saudi Arabia. Thus setting the trajectory for our return 20 years later. The Clinton administration’s domestic and foreign economic policies put the great barge of cross-border prosperity at full speed ahead. NAFTA and other trade agreements established the groundwork for labor, materials, and manufacturing infrastructure to begin to slip away from American shores and into the laps of eager nations. It was a suitable win for a while.
When the second reign of the Bush family came into office, they further enhanced these various policies. Making way for countries such as India and China to become boom-nations on the backs of outsourced customer service, scrap & recycling imports, and lumber production from wood harvested by our Great Northern neighbor. All of which would later be sold back to the US in plywood and construction-ready products. These nations utilized this boon to fund massive infrastructure projects and spur unheard-of economic growth. The world stage was set to foster tremendous success for all our once rivals and provide cheap goods and services to the new consumer economy of the United States.
Then, 9/11 struck at the heart of our economic center and inspired a generational fear. Like the fictional Project Mayhem of the 1996 book Fight Club, a specter arose in the shadows. It swept the stage clean and ready for the second act.
The collapse of 200,000 tons of concrete and steel masked the covert disintegration of financial ties, debt obligations, and black budgets to off-book military contracts and elite families. In tower 7, the doomed building, never struck by an aircraft and collapsing 7 hours after the towers, was an esteemed list of tenants — a mix of elite financial institutions, local CIA offices, and an office for the IRS. Many of the records stored there were not digitized, surely an incredible coincidence of circumstance.
That is neither here nor there. I don’t even know why I mention it. I mean, I do but you probably don’t. The relavant point for you is, 9/11 marked the beginning of a new age of collective fear, anxiety, and paranoia in the American psyche. An all encompassing PTSD event for every man, woman and child who watched those planes collide into the gleaming twin towers over and over and over and over and over and over and over again. The cable news networks drilled the horror of the event into our heads and hearts. We changed as a nation that day.
Bush 2.0 took us into two illegal wars and set the globalized world system into rapid motion. After eight years of blatant lies and manipulation, many US citizens were ready for change, which they got. A smooth-talking diplomat the likes the world has never seen. Obama was the sugar to the previous administration’s salt. Love him or hate him; there is no denying that he made many of us feel better about the world we lived in.
Did things change all that much? Nope. Things got harder. The collapse of the world economy on the back of policies laid down by bipartisan politicians during the Clinton era finally came to roost. Things didn’t get better, but it didn’t matter that much either. The Obama administration exuded confidence and class in a way that few presidents ever have. The fact that he was a Black man with a white mother, Ivy-League educated, and could code-switch between the cultural enigma’s of our juvenile nation’s classes and races made it all the better; for some.
Even though many Americans were taking “it” in the ass by the now-bankrupt and corrupt financial system, the other half just smiled. It was all going to be ok. Sure, people were thrown out of their homes. Yes! The trajectory was locked for the largest transition of wealth in American history. Absolutely! The wars overseas continued to rage with greater intensity than the previous administration even attempted to push, but hey! We were going to be ok. We were moving toward hope and change, and that was enough. Sorta.
After eight years of the dynamic-dynamo administration, another group of American’s were ready for real change. The kind of change that rocks a nation to its core and cracks its foundation. If intelligence and guile can’t get you what you want, then go for gusto and greed. Trump.
All the while, the sale of guns and ammo kept creeping ever higher, year over year. Not by those who voted for intellect, civility, and honest talk about the racist nature of American culture at large. By all means, no! Guns terrify this segment of America. They represent the horror of mass shootings, the unfortunate depravity of inner cities, and the ever-present disappointment of crime. After all, a bit of education and a lot of regulation can fix these things lickety-split. right?
Despite all their talk of the numerous “ism” plaguing our country, this group of the well-educated, upper-middle class can only see such demonstrous evils outside of themselves. There is no need for further questions. They have the answers. The few. The knowing. The intellectual class.
They write policy, toute legal doctrine, set the social agenda, and remain armchair advocates for the poor, the impoverished, and the working classes. Woefully, there is no real change in the hearts of educated America. That would require changing their paradigm and circumstances, and frankly, they have it too good.
In contrast, as the white under-educated, lower classes struggle to pay their mounting mortgages or rents, live paycheck to paycheck, grapple against addiction, and are buried under debt, they are rapidly arming themselves. They prepare for the day their cultural saviors call them to lay down their lives with the slaughter of yours to warrant the watering of the tree of liberty.
These two groups have been desperately pitted against each other: One for financial and social survival while the other apathetically snubs their collective-nose at the ignorant and provide lip service to the starving. As all of this plays out in the dawn of day, right under each of our gaze, the elite class of billionaires and political potentates aim both sides at each other with great precision.
As America’s progressive and educated segment calls for the dismantling of the police, the downsizing of the US military, and the reduction of gun access for the average citizen, the opposite is happening. Police unions are readying themselves for a fight they are sure to win. The US military is shifting to the private sector, shrinking the overall personnel in the US Armed forces. The very personnel who swore to protect our nation and uphold our constitution. In turn, a megalith grows ever deeper and wider that is known as the Military-Industrial Complex: Another word for private militarization that can be bought and sold to the highest bidder.
As previously mentioned, gun and ammo sales continue to increase year over year by the same folks who ally with this hero class. You will know them by their revisionist American Flags adhered to the backs of their gas-guzzling beasts of burden.
So I ask you, fellow liberal progressives, where exactly do you think this newfound vigor for speaking truth to power leads? The cultural cold-war certainly seems to lean towards “justice.” Corporations are hiring equity managers at a dizzying pace, and the newly established positions are filled with individuals with no uniformed epistemology, touting a plan with no formal methodology. In many cases, it is call-out culture run amok.
The tone of corporations, education, and culture at large is changing and struggling to lean towards righting the wrongs of the past, but if it does so by not looking within, it is simply creating a new “other.” How exactly does ostracizing, attriting, and canceling those not ready to see the light make for a greater good? Suppose a massive segment of America is both armed, ignorant, and unemployed. How long do you think it will take for their favorite political candidate and cable news network to start calling for open revolt?
History tells us that when revolutions arise, the educated hang. Mao Tse Tung, Pol Pot, Kim Il Sung, Joseph Stalin all led uprisings that massacred the educated at the hands of the ignorant. Imprisoned and murdered are the doctors, professors, philosophers, and clergy. How long do you think you will last barricaded in your four-car garage?
Probably not long. Are you willing to take that risk? They are better armed than you. They have the sturdy network of the hero-class behind them, ready and waiting. The same ones you want to defund, downsize and delete. Who do you think will win when the cultural cold war turns into a ground war?
Perhaps it is time to start calling in rather than calling out. Maybe we need to begin the process of healing from our racism, trauma, and anxiety driven soceity. It is my belief that equity directors with a heart for healing rather than an intent for reckoning are the key to change in our organizational world.
Oh wait! Or you could start queuing up at your local sporting goods store on Tuesdays and Thursdays to build your own ammo stockpile.
Jeremy Tunnell & Gerry Ebalaroza-Tunnell are authors, presenters and consultants with Co3 Consutling. Jeremy writes and presents on dismantling whiteness, personal and organizational resilience and our reality in the Unified Field. Gerry leads teams and organizations in equity and inclusion work as the Director of Equity for the Mukilteo School District. She is the principle consultant for Co3 Consulting and author of the upcoming book Evolution of Aloha. Together, they host The Plowline Podcast.