I was not born in this country. My mother tongue was Nazi. Yet I am, body and soul, American and if there were more parts to me, these would be American too. But for you to understand what it means to me to be American and how the Second Amendment has governed my life, I need to visit with you some of the more poignant moments of Americas history.
On October 17, 1777, British General Burgoyne surrendered his entire army to general Gates at Saratoga, having suffered defeat at nearby Freemans Farm ten days prior, at the hands of Benedict Arnold. During the surrender ceremony, the Colonials were unable to watch. So distraught with compassion for their fallen foe were they that they had to avert their tear-filled eyes. Imagine this! Compassion for a fallen foe! How different these proceedings would have been, had the outcome of that battle been otherwise. With unmitigated joy the British would have taken the last still standing American to the gallows. One of the British soldiers saw this and wrote in his memoirs, writing for the majority if not everyone: we were wondering if we were not looking at a new species of humans.
He was absolutely right. These were indeed a new species of humans. For there is something so sublime, so euphoric about a person, a people, exuding freedom that it staggers the imagination. There is no rancor, no vituperation, no vindictiveness, no viciousness, and no vengeance. There is only gentility, only pure graciousness. It is so beyond description that I almost hesitate to attempt it. But I must. For you see, I saw it with my own eyes!
My hometown is Cologne. When, early in World War II, the British were able to penetrate German air defenses and began to bomb Cologne and other cities in northern Germany, we, my mother, my three sisters all younger than I, and I (my father was fighting the Russians) came to be evacuated to a little town on the Oder River, just a little south of the city of Breslau, then in eastern Germany but now a part of Poland. The reprieve was short lived. Beginning in 1943, German arms began to lose their potency and that predator nation began to go up in flames. Only nine years and nine days old at wars end, May 9th, it was, however, the only world I knew. With the Russian hordes coming ever closer, I became preoccupied with the notion that I would become somebodys slave. And worse, so would my mother! And if so, would I be allowed to be a slave where she would have to be a slave!
Then that flickering light at the end of that terribly dark tunnel. We will flee west to where the Americans are. They dont do that. I did not know how they who spoke these comforting words could be certain that the Americans didnt do that, but the hope was overpowering. And so we fled. Somehow my father had found us and was now guiding us to what I hoped was deliverance. Four weeks later, most of it on foot, carrying our remaining belongings on our backs, we arrived at the Elbe River, near the town of Tangermnde, where the Americans were, albeit on the other side.
The nightmare of being submerged in a sea of hundreds of thousands, perhaps even millions, of refugees, all questing for safety amidst bursting bombs, howling grenades, whining bullets, and mangled body parts, with what was left of the once mighty German army between us and the Russian slave masters providing an illusion of some reprieve, is a horror story all in itself. What little holding fire the German army was able to provide, however, was sufficient to allow some of us to reach safety. I do not know how He worked it, but by the Almightys grace, we, my father, my mother, my three sisters, I and eight others, fourteen all together, in a small fishing boat my father had found, were the very last ever to cross the river and to safety.
Then I saw them! Americans! In a trench on top of the levee, some twenty feet above. At first all I saw was their helmets. Not the steel helmets of today, so eerily reminiscent of Nazi helmets, but those unique, jaunty ones exuding fearlessness and independence, both born of freedom. Apprehensive if my hope was justified, I was prepared to see their scowling faces. Then the shelling stopped and I watched them spill out of that trench, down the slope toward us, smiling. Not the condescending kind, not the artificial kind, not the ostentatious kind, nor the kind designed to impress God, but the gracious kind, friendly and helpful beyond comprehension.
One each lifted my two youngest sisters and carried them to the top of the levee and then across. Two others, one each, took the oldest of my sisters and me by the hand and helped us to the top of that levee, then across and there offered us chocolate. A gift to me, who, just a scant few days before, had cursed the fact that I was not big enough to fight them all, because I would have killed them all. When I recall that picture of utter graciousness, a picture now fifty-four years old, I still stand in total awe of those Americans, then truly still a new species of humans, and find it incomprehensible.
It was then, I think, that I became resolved, if they would let me, that I would go to America someday and become an American. My father decided the issue for me. Two years after he sought permission to immigrate to America, his application was granted and two more years after that, on March 4th, 1953, at 5 oclock in the afternoon, now nearly seventeen years old, I set foot onto the Promised Land. And this is what she is still to me today in spite of the awesome problems that have now engulfed my Eden. And so I came. Not to take, not to be safe, but to give and, above all, to be free. Having pursued anything American, I had read many accounts, both fiction and non-fiction, about America, her magnificent history, about cowboys and Indians, and that incredible experiment in human freedom, nowhere else ever practiced. I had always wondered how it might feel to hold a gun. I had come to know there was a Second Amendment, but I had no idea then how it worked or how it felt. No one with my background could ever know without experiencing it just like no one could know, without having lived it, the abject sense of slavery that comes from an awareness when guns are FORBIDDEN!
Accounting for some marvelous exceptions, Americans have become again a new species of humans. Now whimperers, whiners, wailers, and weepers! Born in the beggar position with hands already in the gimme posture, and screaming for Uncle Sam to come over to kiss their ouie to make their pain go away. Why did it happen? How could it happen? How could a people, once the greatest people on earth, degenerate from such lofty greatness to such abysmal depravity in less than a generation?
I know why and I know how. Let me deal with the how first. It was simplicity itself. Gun owners were attacked at the secondary issue of the Second Amendment rather than the primary issue. It worked! Because man has the tendency to defend and retaliate at the point where he is attacked, we never noticed this subtle diversionary tactic. I have talked with literally hundreds of gun owners and it is frightful to me to realize that no one knows how the second amendment works and what its primary function is. By focussing on the secondary issue of the Second Amendment, gun ownership, self-defense, hunting, and target practicing, they, the proverbial they, shrewdly neutralized more than half of the American people, simply because they do not own guns and feel, therefore, unaffected by all infringements on the Second Amendment. But the true issue of the Second Amendment is not gun ownership, it is also not freedom or defense against our own government should it ever become tyrannical, it is SOVEREIGNTY.
This government was formed NOT to be a democracy, the most horrible form of government, but to be a republic, specifically a representative republic, in which the people were to rule their government. And here we discover how the Second Amendment works. Not through the actual act of owning arms, that only helps to reinforce our sovereignty, that does not even make us free, but through the right of being fully armed. Had we understood this now more than thirty years ago and remained focussed on the primary issue of the Second, those who do not own firearms would have realized they also stood to lose everything and we would not be at the brink of oblivion today. If, therefore, we hope to ever restore the Republic, if we hope to ever regain our sovereignty, we must understand how we came to lose both.
We will not sway every one. Like the young man who recently assured me, his face contorted with sexual ecstasy, that he would see me and all my 80 million decent fellow gun owners in prison, if we did not surrender our guns. One of them might wind up in some ones hands who might use it to kill Mrs. McGillitycottys five-year-old daughter. He showed no anguish toward the would-be killer - although strangely enough he seemed to acknowledge that a person and not a gun would be responsible - but was able to generate this intense hatred toward me based on a contrived event, real only as a figment of his imagination. What debauchery!
Focussing on arms ownership allowed the classifying all arms into two categories by actually defining only one. In classifying a certain category of arms as assault weapons, government simultaneously classified the remainder as non-assault weapons. Then, by usurping the power to ban, or better, the power to forbid, government also usurped the power to permit. The power to forbid goes hand in hand with the power to permit. You cannot forbid a portion of a whole without permitting the remainder. By wresting the power for either without constitutional prerogative, government has transferred sovereignty from you and me, the people, to itself and has reversed that for which the founding fathers pledged their sacred honor, their fortunes, and their lives to secure not only for themselves, but also for their progeny. In the State of California, beginning with the new year, the people will no longer be sovereign, will no longer be in charge of their government. Voting politicians into or out of office does not make you sovereign any more than voting for Stalin made the people of Russia sovereign. Voting merely changes the instrument by which government decides what is best for you.
In this State government will remain benign for a while. But not because of self-constraint. No! Only because her contiguous states are not similarly restraint and this always poses an incredible debility on any governments natural proclivity to plunge its people into total dependency. This then is the true nature of socialism, a monster of truly unimaginable proportions. I know this monster. I felt its clammy touch. I heard its awesome roar and I smelt its foul breath.
Socialism, we must understand, comes in four versions. When it engulfs a single people, we call it Nazism, derived from the first two syllables of the way the Germans pronounce the word national. When socialism engulfs more than one people, it becomes international and we then call it communism. A hybrid of the two is fascism and when socialism is mixed with altruism or do-goodism we have democracy. Of these four, democracy is by far the worst, because it works through incrementalism. It deludes people into confusing safety with freedom, then entices them to embrace the former and to reject the latter, and thus begin the path to enslavement. This monster then has its origin in altruism, in do-goodism, and once having come to life it becomes independent of its creator. Often those who gave it birth are stunned by what has happened, so much so that many enter a state of denial denying the very monstrosity to which they had given birth. And well they should. For sooner or later the free will of man and the rapacity of government collide igniting a firestorm which, when reaching crescendo, will consume everything in its path, including those who spawned unrest and were not content with the delight of tranquility.
Why, then, is ownership by governmental permission so horrid? To understand the full impact of this terror, look, for example, at your favorite single action frontier colt and realize that it is yours not by a decision you have made, but by permission of your government and that only until it decides that you should not be allowed to keep it any longer. Ownership by permission rather than personal volition is the most horrifying, the most debilitating, the most demeaning form of ownership. Realize this also that the most precious property you can own is not life, is not freedom, it is arms when derived from the inalienable right to keep and bear them. In proscribing arms, the most, government can proscribe the least. Your toilet paper, your forks and knives, your candlesticks, and your matchbooks. All these are now subject to censure.
Government may never intrude this deeply into your privacy. No National Socialist ever saw the need for such intrusion. But not because of benevolence, no, only because it is too costly and too cumbersome. Government, when unconstrained will, in time, naturally gravitate to total brutality and unmitigated tyranny. The combination of power lust and crusader lust leaves it no other choice. For no politician, including Stalin and Hitler of the past, thinks of himself as evil. In a bizarre, twisted sort of way he sees himself as a savior, providing and procuring goodness for those he defines to be unable to fend for themselves. The founders of this nation knew this. That is why they encoded the Second Amendment into our Bill of Rights. For they knew that the RIGHT alone, provided it would remain revered, would always be enough to prevent conflict with a predacious and disobedient government by expunging, long before it would ever begin, any compulsion to dominate.
It will not happen here! You have no idea how many times I have heard this. Or how many times those that disagreed pointed to England. People in England, they said, are free! No, I say, they are not! They are enslaved! For when a person cannot make the most important decision without governmental permission, he is not free. Remember slavery in this country. Some slave owners treated their slaves well others treated them brutally. Either way they still were slaves and no slaves decision was ever unencumbered. No slave owner may ever have insisted that he be asked for permission to go to the bathroom. But he had that sickening power to demand it. And so it is today in England and for that matter in the rest of the world.
Recapturing our heritage, therefore, must involve the full awareness of the interdependence of our sovereignty and the Second Amendment. It must in some way form the focal point of all our talks, all our complaints, all our presentations, and all our arguments. And then it must above all never exclude Him, Who gave this nation breath. We need to remember our flag. Thirteen stripes, six white and seven red. Seven, the number of perfection and red, the color of blood, thanks to mans depravity the only legal tender ever by which freedoms are purchased and secured. Together the perfect sacrifice so that by His death men could live. Six - the number of imperfection and white, the color of justice. Together, imperfect justice, requiring Divine approval. This the Founding Fathers sought. Hence, the encornered Jack, the canton. Blue, the color of heaven, the abode of God, to Whom they appealed for vindication of their cause. And the stars, related to heaven, therefore, the sons of God, the relationship by reason of which He, Christ the Redeemer, granted victory to their arms. Let me make this clear. Without Christ every effort WILL fail and we cannot succeed. Therefore, to those of you who claim such a relationship, let me make this special appeal. Reexamine that relationship, make sure it has you in a position where He can hear you, for if there are enough that can be heard, He will sanctify our appeal. Remember, once, for the sake of only three, He did not destroy the fledgling nation of Israel. And now we know why destruction overtakes a nation. Since time immemorial, the destruction of nations always has been Divine discipline, the natural result, when those living in them and called by His name choose to ignore Him. Those who do not have this relationship I challenge to reexamine His claims. All He wants to do is give you a gift. It costs you nothing, a free gift, acquired in less than a second, delivered to you and non-returnable. Perhaps you might become one of those invisible heroes on whose behalf He, the Author of Liberty, will deliver this nation just one more time.
I began this digression on the beauties of freedom and horrors of unconstrained government by alluding to a most stirring moment in this countrys history and I would like to conclude with one. During the Union retreat from besieging Richmond in 1862, Union General McClellans army of the Potomac was forced to fight a seven-day, often very bloody, rear guard action. One of these resulted in a decided Confederate defeat that should have been exploited and could have ended that war then. But the overcautious McClellan was determined to retreat. Then, at the last day, the bloody battle of Malvern Hill. Another stalemate. Some seven miles away, at Harrisons Landing, part of the Union line, darkness finally stilled the sound of battle. A Union captain, in one of the forward lines, became distraught over the many moans and cries for help of stricken soldiers, so much so that he decided, under cover of darkness, at the risk of his own life, crawling on his belly, to rescue the one nearest to him. Not knowing whether the fallen soldier was federate or confederate, he pulled him back toward his revetment where, in the faint light coming from his position, he realized that he was attempting to save a confederate soldier who just then breathed his last.
Undaunted, he pulled the now lifeless body across his line to safety and there, in the dim light of a lantern held by one of his soldiers, he received the shock of his life. He was looking into the face of his now dead son! (He had gone to the South to study music before the war began and, when it descended upon the nation, had embraced the confederate cause without telling his father.) The next morning, the grief stricken father sought permission for a full military honor funeral even though his son wore the uniform of the enemy. His request was denied. But because he had distinguished himself valorously many times during this retreat, he was granted a one-man band of his own choosing. He chose a trumpeter and asked him to play the notes scribbled on a piece of paper he had found in one of the pockets of his sons uniform. This is the story of taps. That mournful, stirring display when soldiers say goodbye to their fallen comrades. Let us then remember Him Who gave this nation life and blessed her beyond description, lest He should find in one of the pockets of this nations uniform notes scribbled on a piece of paper and sound taps in farewell to once the greatest country on earth.
Dieter H. Dahmen,
Body and soul an American
[ed. for the soul of another such American, see our essay The Greatest American Hero]