Stray Thoughts: American Ronin, Part 1

One of the key things to remember if you’re trying to understand America, is that we were to a large extent populated by people who looked at where they were in Europe – or Asia, or Africa, or what have you – and said Screw This I’m Outta Here.

Church of England? Too secular. Thirty Years’ War? You’ve raided over our farms for grain and livestock three times in as many years, we’ve had it. Jacobite Rebellion? A murrain seize ye all, Scots an’ Sassenach alike. Irish Potato Famine? Mary bless us, we’ll risk the coffin ships. Sicilian Mafia and vendetta? Ciao, baby.

Anyone and everyone heading for the New World sized up their chances in the Old, weighed the pros and cons, and decided to risk everything.

To put it another way, if Door #1 is “live within the system” and Door #2 is “die horribly”, we found a way to Take a Third Option.

It leaves a mark.

Specifically, three marks, all of which need to be considered if you want to grasp how American history and Americans turned out the way they did. First, if you got here, cleared land and worked it, or built a business from the ground up, anything from weaving shop to a printed newspaper – it was yours.

Not owed to a noble. Not obligated to support a family that might extend over several generations and as many petty fiefdoms. Yours, to own, improve, profit from, or lose if fortune and your own skills weren’t up to the task.

Second, if you’re caught in an impossible situation, leaving is always an option. Americans aren’t serfs, servants, or peasants. We may own land, but it doesn’t own us. If things aren’t working out, if someone somewhere is determined to make your life a living hell, and for some reason you can’t just shoot them – you can leave. Pick up what resources you can, and move on.

Is it risky? Of course! You could lose everything. Your friends. Your family. Your social support network. Your life. Especially if whoever’s been making your life hell doesn’t want to let you leave, because watching you suffer and squirm is what they live for.

Which leads to the third mark, that freaks out a lot of non-Americans: Shooting your way out is an option.

To be American is to believe you have not only the right, but often the responsibility, to initiate violence in defense of yourself, your loved ones, your property, and any incidental innocent bystanders who can’t defend themselves. Bluntly put: If I see you trying to drown a kitten, I’m not waiting for the cops. I’m going to bust something over your head and let the jury sort it out later.

In most societies the right to initiate violence is a jealously guarded privilege of the elite. After all, the whole point of being on the top of the noble heap is there’s so few of you, lording it over swarms of peasants. Why, if they ever got the idea that they could turn against you as a group… no, no, make sure they never think of it. Even better if they think of violence and bloodshed as something awful and spiritually polluting; if the noble is taking that horrible burden on themselves, the peasants can live humble and pure lives. And all it costs them is everything they have, supporting the nobles who sacrifice so much for them….

(What, did you think the crybully was a new phenomenon? Nope. Humans have been manipulating others in that particularly disgusting way for a long time.)

But moving to America, that just didn’t work. Most nobles stayed across the sea, raking in any profits with less risk to themselves; after all, the Atlantic crossing was risky, and who knew who’d riot on your estates if you turned your back? While most American threats were local and required an immediate response. When someone’s trying to scalp you, you can’t wait months for a letter to get to England and back. You have to do something, now.

Note, the first stable settlements in North America were in the 1500s. Meaning by the time of the American Revolution, we had almost three centuries of “you’re the one who has to do something.” Including the French and Indian Wars, which were 1) extremely nasty and 2) later seen as a betrayal by the colonists – we fought and died to win them, and then the British Parliament decided to give everything west of the Mississippi to Spain. The colonies were finally considered civilized enough to let lords move over here in numbers; best to seal the borders, take the guns, keep everyone in their appointed place, and make the colonies just another England. (With, of course, always less rights than true Englishmen. Because true citizens would never have left!)

We didn’t want to be England. We expressed that. Pointedly.

(A number of lead statues of King George III were melted down and used as ammunition. Americans love adding injury to insult.)

…The rest of this tomorrow. 😉

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43 thoughts on “Stray Thoughts: American Ronin, Part 1

  1. I always love the way you express what most non-liberal Americans think about history and current views of America. This is exactly how I’ve always felt about the colonists, I just didn’t put it in these words.

    Liked by 5 people

  2. Reblogged this on Head Noises and commented:
    Quote:
    One of the key things to remember if you’re trying to understand America, is that we were to a large extent populated by people who looked at where they were in Europe – or Asia, or Africa, or what have you – and said Screw This I’m Outta Here.

    Church of England? Too secular. Thirty Years’ War? You’ve raided over our farms for grain and livestock three times in as many years, we’ve had it. Jacobite Rebellion? A murrain seize ye all, Scots an’ Sassenach alike. Irish Potato Famine? Mary bless us, we’ll risk the coffin ships. Sicilian Mafia and vendetta? Ciao, baby.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Bluntly put: If I see you trying to drown a kitten, I’m not waiting for the cops. I’m going to bust something over your head and let the jury sort it out later.

    Exactly.

    So we do a lot of stupid stuff, but it stops a lot of stupid stuff.

    If anybody needs advice on moving across the country– I’ve done it several times. With and without family help. With a horde of kids. You can do it, I can help you on the details! FEAR NOT! (and yes it’s terrifying)

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I’ve done it, too. I’m still trying to climb back up from the rock-bottom I landed on ten years ago, but hey. I’m alive, which is more than I thought I would be able to say at some points. (My old house having had its breaker box explode courtesy of leaky roof plus worst rainstorm in several years kinda forced my hand.)

      Liked by 2 people

  4. A cultural point that I recently saw mentioned and realized I hadn’t noticed-
    Yeah, Spain got here first, and yes, they had settlements and stuff…but they didn’t work because if you were Spanish, you weren’t armed. Only the soldiers were armed

    Which is why Mexico was able to quit Spain, and why Mexico then couldn’t manage to beat a bunch of freakin’ dry-land farmers that had outlived their usefulness. Because their use had been “hey, you are actually armed as a matter of course.”

    We’re Sparta without the nasty culture.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. An interesting analysis of America…
    I wonder, what would you say about the nation that seems to be the closest thing to its opposite, for the last hundred years, Russia …

    Liked by 2 people

      1. From family history? Bad. My mother’s family came out of Latvia–fleeing the Nazis, to be specific, but the Russians did the family dirty long before Hitler ever got any ideas. My… great-great-grandmother, I think it was–I’m a bit fuzzy on the generations–was shipped out to Siberia. As a slave.

        The Soviets were very bad, yes, very probably worse than what they replaced, but the Tsars were not exactly the finest people, either.

        Liked by 3 people

    1. It was talking to a Russian on the internet that was my hard break from thinking that Americans could potentially live in peace with all of the other peoples of the world.

      This was after a bunch of time immersed in the nineties era post Cold War “okay, now maybe we can all get along”.

      Nope, some cultures are simply too alien to comprehend what behaviors the other culture will not be able to bring itself to tolerate.

      More recently…

      There’s a fic on Royal Road, ‘Daybreak on Hyperion’, that I started and dropped recently. I had read some of it elsewhere some years back, lost interest. It is an original heavily inspired by ZNT/Familiar of Zero. I was a little uncomfortable with it, because the two MCs are technocrats, and I had a feeling that the author was pandering to that perspective, and cheating on the world building. Some other stuff also that rubbed me the wrong way. Big deal breaker for me was timing, unpleasant stuff going on in my personal life, and the author being effective enough at writing a culturally Russian MC that my emotional reactions were a bit extreme.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Caveat, on forums where I talk about my politics in detail, I am considered a bit of a lunatic. Jokes and serious comments about how disturbing it is when I say something correct.

        I have extremely heterodox views on foreign policy, outside of the usual schools of thinking or feeling Americans have tended to use for foreign policy.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. The problem with the attitude is that it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re correct.

    Somebody is trying to drown a kitten, stop them!
    Oh wait, they were just trying to wash a stuffed kitten, and I just put an innocent person in the hospital…
    Now I could admit my mistake, beg for forgiveness and pay for their hospital…
    Or I could declare that they deserved it and the kitten got away…

    People are also very vulnerable to made up problems and made up solutions.

    “Those people are drowning kittens! We need a wall around the river, give me money!”

    “They’re trying to take away our kittens! Vote for me so I can block all kitten-related regulations, including the one against drowning kittens!”

    There have been some appallingly brazen con artists, and it can be difficult to stop and check your own beliefs.

    Like

    1. Right up there with the “but we can’t allow concealed carry, they’ll shoot people.”

      Which is…. significantly less common than cops accidentally shooting the wrong people in non-combat situations.

      Liked by 6 people

      1. Which is why it annoys me when we get laws and regulations like “you can’t study gun violence” or “police don’t have to provide information on their actions.”

        There’s plenty of times when something designed to help makes things worse instead, so you have to double-check.

        Like

      2. Which is why it annoys me when we get laws and regulations like “you can’t study gun violence”

        K, minor rage button: there was no such rule, suggestion, law or regulation.

        The rule was against open political activist activity. Which should have been a no brainer, because government agencies should not do political activism.

        Studies of gun violence have been nearly constant since the rule went in– there was just the risk that you might be charged if you did the malicious abuse of science and stealing gov’t funds for activist activity if you did the kind of open, obvious and malicious flat out falsehoods that triggered the response.

        Liked by 3 people

      3. I’m sorry, I have looked at it again, and it is true that the Dickey Amendment doesn’t prevent gathering data, it prevents any funds being used to advocate for or against gun control.

        The CDC interprets this as saying that any study which could gather data that could potentially be used to make an argument by anybody will be stripped of funding.

        As such it has massively reduced all data gathering and Senator Dickey later said he regrets the amendment and wishes it didn’t block so much research.

        Like

      4. I’m sorry, I have looked at it again, and it is true that the Dickey Amendment doesn’t prevent gathering data, it prevents any funds being used to advocate for or against gun control.

        ::silly anime gif of glomming::

        Thank you for actually looking. You wouldn’t believe how much I was not wanting to go dig it up and do a bunch of one-link posts.

        The CDC interprets this as saying that any study which could gather data that could potentially be used to make an argument by anybody will be stripped of funding.

        They say that, yes; however multiple studies that were funded, and published (but had the “wrong” results) show that the claim is false. The claim is from the assumption that the stuff that triggered the response was not inherently wrong.

        Liked by 3 people

      5. Those who possess guns legally are very likely the most law-abiding people around. But of course, whenever someone with an illegally-obtained weapon opens up, there’s an immediate rush to disarm the law-abiding people who had nothing to do with it, as if somehow disarming the good guys will disarm the bad.

        Naturally, it never works that way. There is a reason for the expression “If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.” Just take a look at Chicago, to name America’s most obvious example.

        Liked by 5 people

      6. One of my boot-camp fellows spent his entire first paycheck to buy his mom a Saturday Night special.

        Two weeks later, she killed one of his classmates with it.

        …as he was climbing through her apartment window, with a knife, rope and duct tape. In the middle of the night.

        The reason he’d spent his paycheck to buy the gun was that he wasn’t there to protect her anymore, and was afraid that the bad people he KNEW were around would go for her.

        Thank God, he was fast enough that she wasn’t dead first.

        Liked by 6 people

      7. That tries to count the “they noticed I was armed and ran away” uses, but can’t count stuff like the nonsense where I was going on a walk, ran into a rather obnoxious old lady that was even smaller in all dimensions than I am also on a walk, and then a very obviously high dude started screaming at us about “making” the dogs bark (by walking on the road) and doing the monkey-dance to attack,

        If I had turned my back, he WOULD have charged. IT’s… I can’t even describe how obvious it was. He WANTED a victim.

        I had my gun, because my husband (God bless him) insisted. I wouldn’t have gotten a clean shot at that range, but probably could’ve shot through the holster and coat. And there was a mildly demented old lady next to me.

        So I screamed back that he was nuts, and hey I’m calling the cops on HIM. And did.

        They did actually come, although it was a time waster call because he wasn’t trying to attack us when they came…but he never did it again.

        …and I just realized that it was the last house next to the park, where all the kids play. Which means I may have accidentally done a Good Thing….

        Liked by 4 people

      8. I should probably note that the story I shared is the HAPPY version of stuff that gets misreported in the news.

        The bad one is when my mom went to be certified for Artificial Insemination for cattle, where she met a gorgeous young lady (mom was mid 40s at the time) and a sweet elder-ish couple, made life long friends.

        …the pretty lady mentioned her crazy ex, who was in jail for trying to kill her.

        He was released, without her being told, about a year later.

        Her beaten to death corpse was found roughly six feet from her purse, with the restraining order and the “you can pick up your gun in a few days” paper.

        Because fire arm waiting orders prevent violence.

        Moses Lake, WA,, area– of anyone wants to dig in.

        Liked by 2 people

      9. “The CDC interprets this as saying that any study which could gather data that could potentially be used to make an argument by anybody will be stripped of funding.”

        The Center for *Disease* Control has no business funding studies of gun violence. They have a mandate; when they direct their resources to issues outside of their mandate … they are impairing their ability to fulfill that mandate.

        Liked by 4 people

    2. Be careful, Blafaix, because that is extremely close to being a strawman argument. There is no mistaking a screaming kitten/s fighting and in fear, versus one who is just unhappy with being soggy and wet. There is no calling 911 in some situations, because by the time you finish the call, and they want you to stay on the line, by the time anyone gets there it’s often too late.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. Fortunately I didn’t have to actually hit someone; I was a scared (I think) 10 year old dealing with a sneering teenager. But I got the kitten out and back with its mother. Then the teenager’s mother showed up and gave what-for.

        And no, there’s no mistaking the screaming.

        Liked by 3 people

      2. Yes, it’s true, I’ve never been in anywhere near a kitten drowning.

        My argument was purely a statement that sometimes people can be wrong.

        Like

      3. I may have lost the thread of this conversation?

        Turning it around returns to CCC’s original point.

        If you see someone drowning a kitten, you should prepare to intervene, attempt to confirm the situation to the extent that you can(due diligence), act on that information, and stand by that decision when the courts sort it out.

        “Yes sir, I did club that person over the head because I thought they were drowning a kitten.”

        If you were right: “-And I would do it again! Might I suggest a continuing program of ‘cognitive resets’ until that monster stops drowning kittens?”

        If you were wrong: “-And it was a mistake on my part. I accept full responsibility.”

        It’s that second case that people find tricky.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. The problem is you assumed your conclusion– that folks didn’t do even basic due diligence.

        This in spite of the way that folks who don’t do that, would probably just wrestle for the cat.

        Liked by 5 people

    3. Actually, comparing what was said, I’d argue that your examples of “problems with the attitude” are _not_ in fact problems with the attitude described (the individual making their own decisions _and dealing with the consequences_), but instead problems with people trying to disguise the opposing attitudes as the same attitude (the ones that America formed to escape from, of “the individual doesn’t get to make their own decisions, nor does the individual have to deal with the consequences of their decisions directly, instead the elite/group/etc makes decisions and the individual suffers the consequences of the group’s decisions instead of their own”). Every single example you gave is some variant of “the individual is avoiding dealing with the consequences of their own actions”, or “the individual is trying to become the elite that makes decisions for everyone else” or “the individual has to suffer the consequences of the elite/group making bad decisions for them”.

      Liked by 3 people

  7. /Shooting your way out is an option./
    An option yes, but one that people should always be careful about using.

    Because let’s face it; violence is very easy to do and something our species is quite good at.
    And while it’s the appropriate reaction in some situations; in others it might seem like the right choice, but it really isn’t.

    I’m not saying people don’t have the right to defend themselves or step in as needed, they have that right. But the more we use a given solution to problems, the more likely we are to default to it. And if you default to violence in a situation that doesn’t need it, you can end up hurting a lot more than you might help. I know I’ve done things when I got angry that made ‘sense’ at the time but really regretted later on.

    But to swing this post over to a lighter ending on the topic of violence being a solution to a situation, I ran into a youtube clip and was reminded that Vathara had posted about FGO Babylonia a while back.
    Said preview is of the second FGO Camelot movie where (partially spurred on by emotional leakage from Galahad) Mash gives her ‘response’ to Lancelot’s rants etc. Sometimes you just need to apply boot to head, on in this case; tower shield.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Definitely an option to be handled with care. But in too many cultures, it’s considered more moral to die in an alley than try to kill the guy beating your head in. I object to that.

      As they say, “If violence wasn’t your last resort, you didn’t resort to enough of it the first time.”

      Liked by 3 people

  8. I have some more energetic comments coming to mind, but I’m going to hold off, at least until I see what you have for us tomorrow.

    I will stick to expressing one of my views: Better to be thought a monster, considered immoral, etc… than to meekly concede to the views of those who are so much more sympathetic with foreign governments, foreign elites, and foreign populations.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. It’s not just American media that has this as a major theme. Although (traditional) American media certainly is the most blatant about it.

    If you were to ask me what one of the main differences between Japanese manga and Korean manwha themes is, it’s that Korean media is a lot more thematically okay with people coming up with 3rd (and 4th and 5th) Options to take rather than just choosing between the two main options they’re presented with. Same goes for taking on whatever everyone thought the status quo was, especially if that status quo is taking advantage of people in some way. And that’s enough to tweak a lot of narrative themes in a different direction compared to a lot of Japanese themes even when a lot of character tropes are shared between the two.

    Which… kinda isn’t too surprising given Korea’s long history of being invaded by people they really did not want to be invaded by…

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Korea also.has “the early medieval king who.tried to end slavery” and “when all else fails, let’s be proud of being part Mongol.” Obviously they have some different attitudes from.other Asian countries. Before we even get to “Let’s evangelize ourselves! Twice!”

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Yeah, Korea definetly has some interesting wrinkles in it’s history compared to some of the surrounding countries.

        Like, when the country leader decides “Okay seriously, written Chinese is a headache of a writing system to learn and is not helping our lower-class literacy rates. Let’s make our own phonetic alphabet that makes way more logical sense to *us*!” in… the 1400s… they’re… kind of looking at things a bit sideways compared to other people in the region… And that kind of doesn’t just come from one person coming up with that out of a vacuum.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. I think you take these rather admirable qualities and add the less admirable ones of “not understanding that other people getting more rights doesn’t mean you get less” “not minding your own business” and flat out greed and you can explain SO MUCH about the problems in America.

    Liked by 1 person

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