In The Land of the Red Queen

Illustration by Carol Nicklaus from Out of Order, by Dale Carlson, published by Bick Publishing, 2014

Illustration by Carol Nicklaus from Out of Order, by Dale Carlson, Bick Publishing, 2014

“We are all mad here.”
The Cheshire Cat, from Alice in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll

I woke up this morning with my mind in the strangest place… It was “curiouser and curiouser”… A real wonderland of confusion, and I was quite astonished that I’d never really noticed some of this strangeness before.

It went kind of like this:

Many people have said – and more so, recently – that they feel they need weapons, and lots of them, not only for sport or self-defense, but to stand against “the government,” should our government decide to take over the country. And I thought, “But isn’t the government already sort of in charge of the country? And, if we’re patriots, and we love our democracy, isn’t one of the things we love most is the fact that We, The People, actually choose our government? Isn’t the fact that our government has been designed to represent us the very thing that makes our country so special? And, if that’s the case, why would anyone think we might need to protect ourselves against that very thing?”

“Well, yes,” I then thought, trying to make some sense of this line of thinking, to myself, “There are certainly some things that ‘the government’ does that we don’t particularly like, but isn’t that what’s so unique about our democracy – the ability of citizens to change what the government does, in a peaceful and democratic way? Isn’t that what makes us different from Mali, or Iraq, or Syria, and one of the primary reasons we are always so sure that we need to convince other countries that our way is better, even if we have to blast them into oblivion while doing that convincing?”

Our way is better, isn’t it? If it is, how could anyone think our government is going to turn against us? Isn’t that very thought kind of – you know – unpatriotic? And if our system really isn’t better than other systems, then we’d have to become a country full of heavily armed paramilitary cells, fueled by paranoia, ever ready for armed combat with genuine or imagined enemies… OMG! We’d be Afghanistan! That would be awful! Then the government really would have to take over…

And then I thought… “Uh-oh…”

And then I got even more confused… What about our flag? Doesn’t that flag symbolize our government – the government we choose to represent us? If that flag doesn’t represent us, and our government, why are some people waving it, with special fervor, over their personal, and secret, arsenals that they’ve accumulated in order to protect themselves from… The government?

And isn’t the Second Amendment itself part of the foundation of that government? If so, why are some people “defending” just that one part, and not the whole thing? And, if we all have the right to bear arms, why would anyone be worried that the government might find out how vigorously he or she is exercising that right, and object to documenting, openly, the extent to which he or she is doing so? Are there any other rights we feel we are granted, but must exercise only in secret, lest the government sweep in and take them away from us?

This was all making less and less sense to me, but it just wouldn’t go away…

“Okay,” I thought, still trying to figure it all out, “Maybe the government is secretly being taken over by liberals or Jews or commies or fascists or Hispanics or Asians or blacks or bankers or homosexuals who want to take away all of our guns so only they will have them, and we’ll be helpless.” (And then, for a moment, I got somewhat distracted by the image of a bunch of LGBT activists in full camo, carrying assault weapons, roaming the streets and menacing our children and pets and the American Way of Life… And then I was brought back to this seemingly growing-ever-more-strange confusion of the morning, by the realization that not everybody finds that image as unlikely as I do. I also think the idea of a “zombie apocalypse” is equally remote, but, by this time, I thought I might be losing my grip…)

Still, it didn’t stop there. Next, I thought, “Well, if the government really decides to take over, how would they do that? They would use American troops, wouldn’t they? And wouldn’t these be the same troops we all support, especially if we’re Real American Patriots? And don’t our troops pledge to support… the United States of America…? Isn’t that what they fight and die to protect? If that’s not us, who is it?”

If American soldiers came to our front doors, to enforce the “government takeover”… What would Real Americans do then – try to kill them? Our own troops!? And I wondered how many of the people stocking up on weapons and freeze-dried food packets and batteries and toilet paper, against the possibility of that “government takeover,” are veterans themselves, who swore to uphold that very pledge…

And I wondered how anybody could think that he or she, even with dozens of hand-held “assault weapons” and endless ammunition, would last very long if seriously attacked by the full force of the United States military machine, the most powerful in the world – with planes and ships and ground-to-air missiles and drones and tanks and chemicals and nuclear weapons… As well, apparently, as possibly having to fend off tens of thousands of their less-prepared fellow Americans, who would be clamoring desperately at their doors for food and shelter… Fellow Americans who had obviously been less than sufficiently Patriotic and prepared, and therefore must also be considered “enemies”…

It was right about then that I realized that my mistake was probably looking for reason, where only conviction exists.

And that’s when I thought of the Land of the Red Queen, and the Cheshire Cat.