Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The Battle Of Athens: A History Lesson On Guns

In the wake of the tragedy in Florida there's been a lot of talk about gun rights in the United States, as there always is after a tragedy like this. Most of this is uninformed and philosophically and morally bankrupt, and we have several examples demonstrating why this is a fact and not mere conjecture or opinion on my part. So in the interest of facilitating a better discussion on gun rights, I'm going to tell you a true story as well as I can manage. This actually did happen, and here's the wikipedia page for anyone who'd like to check my accounting or do independent research.

Remember, Wikipedia is not a source, but they list their sources, so you can do further reading if you want. On that note, though, the wikipedia page is actually a pretty balanced and faithful accounting. I'm going to be taking a little poetic license with my retelling. I'm not Howard, or even Tolkien, but I'll try to keep this more interesting than reading a history book. I should also mention that I'm not a credentialed historian, I'm just an enthusiastic student of history, so anything I say can and should be independently corroborated by interested parties who don't want to just take my word for it, hence the linking of where I'm getting my information from. I'll keep it as factual as possible, with no embellishments or taking one conflicting account over another, but this is a blog post, not an article in a historical academic journal, so I reserve the right to inject invective when I see fit.

All that said, let's get on with it.

We're going to have to go back to the late 1930's to start with, and this story starts slow, but picks up towards the end, and I have a larger point, so bear with me here. In the state of Tennessee in the late 30's, a political machine was making the rounds attempting to install toadies into positions of power in various counties and towns, even to the point of gerrymandering districts to improve their chances for election. These people were horribly corrupt to start with, and it only got worse as the years went on.

Eventually, in 1936, a man named Cantrell was elected Sheriff of McMinn County, Tennessee, where the town of Athens lies. In the years of '38 and '40 he was re-elected, and there is speculation this was due to dishonest tabulation of votes, among other methods. However in '42 he was elected to the Senate, and one of his cronies was put in his place, Pat Mansfield. 

Mansfield delivered an unprecedented level of corruption to McMinn County. This is when the gerrymandering of voting precincts occurred, as well as fiddling with the legal system to reduce the numbers of justices of the peace to a more manageable number that the Cantrell side of things could control effectively. Moreover the Sheriff and his deputies worked on a fee system, where they made money not on salary but on the amount of people they arrested and processed, guilty or not. 

During this time the United States Department of Justice investigated allegations of voter fraud in the elections of the years listed, but took no action against anybody. Because of the refusal of the DOJ to act on this egregious situation, vote control and fraud kept the situation largely in the pocket of Cantrell and his higher-ups. But something happened that they did not intend or plan for.

Now if you're not a student of history, or even mildly familiar with the timeline we're discussing here, you might not know that a fairly large conflagration was going on overseas that went by the name of World War II. Many of the boys of McMinn County were out fighting that war in several theaters, including the African and Pacific. Well, the war ended and these veterans came home to find their county and town under the grip of this tyrannical tinpot dictator that was extorting the citizens of their beloved home for money and power. The GI's were also well paid at the end of the war, and had quite a bit of cash on them.

You can see where this is going, but I'll continue.

The deputies and Sheriff began shaking down the GI's and essentially stealing money from them for crimes real or imagined. It was extortion, plain and simple, and it went on for a while before the veterans got sick of this treatment and decided to do something about it. This, however, is not where things got violent. They attempted to use the system to correct these abuses of power first. 

McMinn county had about 3,000 returning GI's, 10% of the total county population, and around 400 of them got together in a bi-partisan coalition to oust these criminals and thieves from power and install a Sheriff that would enforce the law as it was meant to be enforced. They nominated people for offices, campaigned, and at last it came down to the election. But how did the current Sheriff and his deputies react?

They went full dictatorship on the county, hiring 200 thugs from neighboring counties and towns as deputies to enforce their will, and paid them a princely sum to do so. It adds up to about $630 a day in 2017 dollars, so of course these men were eager to take the job and do whatever the Sheriff told them. These men, some of them ex-convicts, patrolled voting stations and poll locations to prevent certain people from voting, control the votes of those they allowed to vote, and attempted to steal the ballots to count them in secret. 

What this led up to was the execution of an elderly black farmer, Tom Gillespie, for the crime of attempting to vote while black.

Let me say that again, for emphasis.

These men executed an American citizen for attempting to exercise his civil liberties and vote in what should have been a free election, because he was black.

They shot him in the back as he was fleeing the polling station, and he died from this wound.

This needs particular emphasis because it needs to be made clear that in American history the attempt to restrict the right to bear arms has been used against black people to restrict their ability to defend themselves. It is not, at its fundamentals, a racist policy, but it has absolutely and frequently been used for racist ends, primarily against black people in America. So if you truly do care about the rights of minorities, you will stop trying to disarm them. Because then they will be unable to defend themselves against people like these evil men trying to cement power for themselves, and will prevent the murder of more people like Tom Gillespie.

Now the murder in cold blood of Tom Gillespie for the crime of attempting to vote while black ignited a firestorm that lasted the rest of the night and well into the morning of the next day. The veterans, along with some citizens, armed themselves and decided to fix this problem once and for all. Polling places were raided by the GI's, deputies were detained and beaten, ballot boxes were collected, and votes were tallied. There was an overwhelming majority for the bi-partisan coalition of the GI's.

The Sheriff's boys, meanwhile, had absconded with several of these ballot boxes and taken them to the jail, where they were intending on counting out the votes to their benefit, regardless of what the actual count was. This didn't sit right with the GI's, who were mainly armed with pistols at the time, which they'd legally purchased and personally owned. They laid siege to the prison, but were unable to get inside and liberate the ballots. The Sheriff and his men were also not amenable to surrender or negotiation. 

This was when the GI's, who were well and truly coordinating things on their side now, hit upon a wonderful idea.

They raided the National Guard Armory, in force, took the key from the watchman, and distributed the weapons there among themselves. This included 60 .30-06 Enfield rifles, two Thompson sub-machine guns, ammunition for all of them, and dynamite. With these they set up in a bank across the street from the jail, as well as in the Post Office, and laid proper siege to the building full of tyrants and thugs. However, they did not kill by choice.

They gave them hourly notice that if they surrendered the Sheriff and his men would not be killed, and at one point an ambulance showed up which they did not molest in any way because they thought it was to carry away the wounded. It turned out that this was a ruse to allow the Sheriff and Cantrell to flee to safety as they abandoned their men to save their own hides, like true dictators, who are always craven and cowardly sons of bitches. But fight they did, and many people were wounded, and the fighting went on into the early morning of the next day.

The GI's knew that if they did not finish this by morning, they would all be arrested, for they had indeed broken the law. If this were not finished before the National Guard and the State Troopers were deployed, they would have nothing to show for it and all their work would be for nothing. This was when they hit upon the use of the dynamite.

They made many bombs, and blew up several cars with them, until one man who had been in charge of a group of GI's this whole time, name of Bill White, a true hero, sneaked up to the jail and planted a bomb on the front porch. This bomb exploded, blew off the front of the building, and broke the will of the Sheriff's forces. Many of these thugs escaped out the back door, the rest were captured and many of them were beaten. The escapees phoned the neighboring town for help, but this was denied. 

The Battle of Athens was well and truly over at this time, and in the aftermath only one person was charged with a crime. This person was C.M. "Windy" Wise, the man who shot and killed Tom Gillespie.

After the battle, they tallied the votes up properly, and it was a clear landslide for the GI's bi-partisan coalition. They had broken the back of the corrupt Sheriff and Senator's forces, and rescued their town and county from the tyranny that had been forced upon them. This is one of the most significant and important events in American history, and now I'm going to explain why.

Something that people don't seem to understand is that "Tyranny", as a concept, does not have to be large to be tyrannical. Tyrants come in many forms, at all levels of power. I'm sure we've all been on websites that have tyrannical moderators that abuse their power. We've all been subject to unjust laws on the local, state, and federal level that were instituted by tyrannical politicians attempting to increase their own level of power. This is something we should all be familiar with by now, but at higher levels such as the federal it becomes too abstract to feel, and at lower levels like moderators of a subreddit (or other forum online) it's too small to really matter because you can always find or create another forum. 

This example of the Battle of Athens should hit literally every single American right where they live. Because we're all familiar with stories of police brutality. We've all heard the tales of unjust cops doing things they shouldn't. Many of us have even experienced it ourselves. The issues behind the Battle of Athens are, to be quite honest, what many on both the left and right side of politics complain about on a daily basis. Corrupt politicians in a feedback loop with corrupt police to parasite and prey on the "helpless" citizens of their districts and jurisdictions. 

But because this is America, and we have the right to bear arms in this country, "helpless" will always be in quotation marks. 

Because we are not helpless.

Understand that government is a monopolization on force. That's what it is, that's what it does, that's what it always has been and always will be. Because of this basic, fundamental truth, if the government is not checked by a comparable force, it is open to doing the most horrific and unconscionable things to its citizens. Demographically homogeneous or full of majorities and minorities, none of these people are safe if the power of government is not checked. But because the relationship that we have with government is that we accord it a certain level of power to arbitrate things, this makes it more powerful than any one citizen or small coalition of citizens. So how do you check that power when it has become so great?

You fucking arm people.

This argument goes far beyond the right and ability of self protection and protection of loved ones and property. Indeed, the latter is the consequence of the former. By granting ourselves the ability to protect against government tyranny in this fashion, we also as a consequence grant ourselves personal protection against thieves, murderers, and the like. If you allow people to arm themselves, they will protect themselves from tinpot dictators like Cantrell and Mansfield, and will have the ability to protect themselves from more mundane dangers as well. 

But because government is what it is, it is always seeking more power for itself, more control over the citizens it is meant to protect, and more direct authority over the life of the individual. This is not mere conjecture, this is absolute fact. And to see that we merely have to look at the United States.

The United States began as the greatest experiment in liberty ever conducted by human beings. It had a small government that barely paid its officials and merely kept itself to basic infrastructure, law enforcement, and national defense. Over time it has grown into the bloated monstrosity we see before us today, despite the best efforts of the founders to write in contingency plans and preventions for that kind of thing. Because that is the nature of government. Once you give it a power, it never, ever gives it up, and that power must be taken from it by force.

And the entire history of the American founding is predicated on liberty from an overly controlling government. "No taxation without representation" wasn't just a pithy slogan for some colonists. They meant it, and they were willing to kill to get England off their backs. Because the government of England was overtly, evilly tyrannical at the time. It could be argued that it still is. If the Americans of that day had not had guns privately owned by individual citizens, they never would've stood a chance against the greater forces of the English army.

Because they did have guns privately owned by individual citizens, a bunch of backwoods-ass colonists in the ass-end of the world kicked the absolute shit out of the greatest military force in the world at the time.

This is why Americans know for a fact that private ownership of firearms as a right for every citizen is absolutely necessary for personal liberty and freedom, and the two concepts cannot be divorced from one another. Our country literally would not exist without it, and we are intimately familiar with the need for it. You will never be able to convince a proper American that he or she should give up the right to bear arms, whether or not they personally feel it necessary to own a gun. And, moreover, Americans are not stupid, regardless of what other countries think of us.

Especially in the day of the internet and social media, the world is more connected than ever. We know what's happening in other countries, and this is to the detriment of the gun control narrative. We see people like Count Dankula and 6oodfella being arrested over tweets and joke videos in the UK. We see Canada restricting the right of its citizens to speak as they please. We see people in Germany being arrested for expressing dissatisfaction with government immigration policy. We see France finding it necessary to deploy what piddly little military they have on their own streets to maintain order because the unruly migrants they've welcomed with open arms are running roughshod and killing French citizens.

We see this, and we know.

Tyranny is quite literally all around us, even here in the US. We have looped back around to banning books like To Kill A Mockingbird, not because it questions the racial dogma of the day, but because it has "bad words" in it that might hurt people's feelings. We see the gun grabbers telling us that they are willing to kill us to take our guns away because of the actions of crazy people that are in no way representative of your average gun owner. We see the people who want to make "hate speech" illegal so that we suffer the same fate of those poor Germans, Scots, Brits, and Irish toiling under the yoke of their speech codes.

And we, because we are Americans and our country is fundamentally founded on liberty, are not going to have it. 

We will not put up with this.

And we don't have to, because we are armed.

And if there is a single gun-grabber who has read this far and has not been inspired by the tale of the Battle of Athens to change, or at least think about, their position, I have bad news for you.

You are going to have to kill us. 

People love to ask the wonderfully emotive question, "How many children's deaths are worth your right to have guns?"

And the only proper answer to that is, "Of course it is sad whenever one of these tragedies happens, but all of them."

Because if we allow emotion to rule our reason, and give up our fundamental right to self protection not only from criminals but from government tyranny, we will inevitably put the yoke back on, and become slaves again. And, because we have tasted the sweet air of freedom, we are not going back to that without an incredibly serious fight.

So here's the standoff: We have our guns. You want us to give them up. We're not going to. Force is the only option you have left. And when you apply that force, we will apply greater force back until you stop. And this in and of itself proves my point. 

You want to restrict our liberty and must apply force to do so.

We have our liberty and merely want to be left alone because we're not hurting anybody.

You are the dictator, and if you go too far, we will stop you.

And you can count on that, because that is what Americans do. It's ingrained in our cultural DNA, and cannot be mewled away with sympathetic tales of tragedy or celebrities crying crocodile tears on television. 

So the gun grabbers have two options right now, and only two options.

1. You can do what we want, which is leave us the hell alone, and go about your lives unmolested because you are not molesting anybody else. Or,

2. You can initiate a conflict that will end in rivers of blood with a death toll you cannot imagine, because we will not bow to your tyranny.

And before you make your choice, remember what #1 is conditional on.

Leaving us alone and minding your own god damned business.

If I were to give friendly advice, I'd suggest you learn how to do so. Because something you have to understand is that liberty, freedom, rights, come with risk. One risk of an armed populace is that occasionally a madman will get his hands on a gun and kill a few people. This is, of course, horrible beyond imagining.

But even worse is the horror of a tyrannical government, because that doesn't effect random small numbers of citizens. It effects quite literally all of them, by definition. And this is what gun grabbers don't get. Their side of the argument is, by its very nature, evil beyond description or the limits of the human imagination. It's putting unprecedented power into the hands of uncaring politicians who are fundamentally flawed human beings that will abuse it. People like to pretend that the U.S. government would never become tyrannical, that it will always be a benevolent government.

There is no such thing as a benevolent government.

If the government and the governing officials are not deathly afraid of the citizens, that government will abuse those citizens. History bears this out, it shows it time and time again, even in our modern era in countries like Canada and the U.K. And these are facts that I would encourage every gun control advocate to absorb and chew on.

Because the gun rights advocates have been giving and giving for over 100 years now, and we're reaching the end of our patience. You people are about to go one step too far in infringing on our personal liberties, and it is not going to end well for you if history is any indication. The rivers of blood in the streets I mentioned earlier is not a joke, nor is it any kind of hyperbole.

So think very hard about how far you want to take this kind of thing. Because unfortunately, it looks to me like shit is about to get violent, and I don't want that. As I said, the incredibly vast majority of lawful gun owners, we're talking upwards of 98%, just want to be left alone. We just want you to stop trying to fuck with us.

But you can only poke a bear with a stick so many times before it turns around, rips you shreds, and eats you.

Food for thought, as I continue my habits of peaceful gun ownership. 

For further food for thought, I recommend the YouTube channel of Justicar. He's former military and police, and one of the most knowledgeable gun rights advocates I know of. He's also where I found out about the Battle of Athens, wherein as you can see a dictator was stopped before he could really get going. He has a lot of videos about guns and gun rights, and I recommend the entire channel for those interested. He also deals with other topics, but if you're looking for honest gun talk, he's one of the best on the entire site, and is criminally undersubscribed. 


  1. Pristine here. Jim this was amazing (and I read the whole thing too). I am a Texan and while I don't own a gun nor have the desire to ever use one (sensitive hearing and I grew up fearing them honestly), I do support the 2nd Amendment a lot. We have the right to defend ourselves. Do you remember that shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, it actually happened less then 5 minutes away from where I lived (my brother, who is stationed in Florida, actually called my parents to see if we were okay after hearing the news). As sad as the tragedy was, it could have been worse if it wasn't for a few law abiding locals, the first actually armed himself, which caused the shooter to drop his gun, everyone in the Church might have been killed. It really shook the community. I am a La Vernia citizen but the two towns are closely knitted together (and I am connected to a few of the victims, plus my cousin is a volunteer EMT and was the first on the scene. I can't imagine how he felt going into that church). Thank God we live in a country where citizens are able to protect themselves. The bad guys will always find a way to get guns, no matter how many laws ya'll want to add.

  2. Jim,

    Agree. I remember very well the Polytechnique massacre and the hysterical aftermath. This allowed the feds to start the biggest illegal seizure of constitutional powers (i.e. the regulation of private property is an exclusive provincial matter) via the gun registry and to squander 1,8 billion$. Yup the federal gun registry was supposed to only cost 18 000$.
    It got so bad that the auditor general basically refused to accept any testimony from the bureaucrats in charge because they were basically liars (though she didn't use the word it was soooo obvious)
    Thanks to Harper it was killed off.

    Quebec was so huffed that it wanted to recreate it. Fine as it should've been in the beginning. However, the last I heard, there was no Quebec gun registry (because it was super expensive; a bureaucratic nightmare that makes the new cadastre a model of streamlined efficency and hunting is quite popular in Quebec and the remote areas need it for self protection against bears, moose and caribou)

    Since the Polytechnique massacre, there was one more attempt (McGill or Dawson college) but the local SWAT cops reacted so quickly that they killed the scumbag in less than 30 minutes chasing him through the campus). Ever since then NO MASSACRES have occurred even with the country's onerous and useless gun control laws.

    So yeah, I'm really exasperated about how our betters(tm) think so little of us that they want us dead so they can show off how peaceloving they are in contrast to the Americans.
    Europe is an even more tragic example of gun free zone