Assistant Opinions Editor
The American militiamen occupies a romantic ideal in the minds of modern Americans. They are venerated in statues of heroic young men bearing arms against the British invaders, being dubbed “minutemen” due to their rapid deployment to threats around the nation. However, the militia of yester years has little resemblance to the “militia” we have now. Starting in 1903, we now have the National Guard, a military formation under the official control of the states. They were amalgamated from various militia groups both official and unofficial at the time of their creation. But isn’t the point of an armed citizenry to protect against the government?
Before I follow up on that question, let me first state that I am not opposed to the idea of the National Guard, nor their existence. The nation needs organized units to protect both the nation as a whole and the states they represent. However, by creating the National Guard and erasing the idea of the militia, the people have given up protection not of their lives, but of their freedom. Without the militias, there is little standing in the way of the supremacy of the state.
Free militias should be organized in towns and communities across the nation. Their officer positions should be respected figures in the community who are elected, not appointed, by the people they represent. Furthermore, to enter the militia, one should be required to undergo medical, mental and extremist background checks. This would ensure the militia is composed of upstanding citizens of the community; not of extremist radicals and anyone who shouldn’t have a firearm in their possession. Lastly, the militia should not be funded by the state or government in any way; rather, they should be composed of a separate fund contributed by the community.
Many if not most Americans can believe that the state is a clunky apparatus that cannot respond to issues quickly enough. A free, community organized militia could assist local authorities in the event of natural disasters until more organized and better equipped state forces can assist. Undoubtedly, precious lives could be saved as a result of this. This militia could also assist in the capture of dangerous fugitives, especially in more rural areas of the nation. In many ways, these militias can be organized in the same ways volunteer firefighter units are. Additionally, the free militia could be a crucial way of uniting communities. With the demise of churches and fairs, New England communities especially are in dire need of a sense of community.
The fact of the matter is that the main reason for the need of free militias is the ever-increasing control of the state and Federal governments. With the state and Federal governments having access to all of the resources in the world, the citizenry is left to defend itself with the few armed individuals it has. After all, the state should fear the people.
There is also the question of the militia groups who already exist. Many of these are social pariahs who have little legitimacy and are subsequently a nest for radicalism. If we legitimized the militia and made it the concern of the community rather than a few hotheads, it would go a long way to cut off some of radicalism’s hydra heads.
Jean Rousseau, a Swiss philosopher of the 18th century, describes a curious scene in his life. Upon entering his hometown of Geneva, Switzerland, the city militia was practising military drill. After the drills were complete, the militia spontaneously broke out in dancing, with the onlooking citizens joining in soon after. This story captures the spirit of the free militia; they were not the thugs of kings and counts, but free, ordinary citizens, protecting the communities they loved.