Saturday, May 18, 2013

Buy a Sword

The best bumper stickers are the ones that take you up short with a glimpse - brief yet trenchant - into the wierd and faintly toxic bath of your own cultural surroundings. I can hardly describe my quasi-cognitive glee when, driving along a street in some American city where I must have been recently, I spied this specimen of popular wisdom.

Background check? No problemo, pal. Think Obama wants to take away your  . . . sword? Bwahahahaha, if you'll pardon a bit of unseemly mirth. No, think about it: no waiting for background checks, no need to register it, it's perfectly legal, probably permissible to carry into schools theaters, malls, airports, the Kentucky Derby (particularly if it's the old "cavalry" model) . . .  

. . . possibly something that could pass as an antique, one of those heirlooms that's been in your family since the days of Uncle Anaximander . . .

What came to mind when I saw that bumper sticker was how passing strange is our fixation on guns, as though they must be the only arms we have a constitutional right to bear. I mean to say, a sword is an arm in any accepted sense of the term, and yet nary a National Sword Association (NSA) protecting that right; no legislative agendas to introduce concealed carry for swords; no modern-day member of Congress striding into that august chamber with a sabre strapped to his side. And no bumper stickers portraying a particularly lethal blade and the challenge to "Come and Take It."

Come and Take It

Admittedly not a compelling bumper sticker, but my point stands. If carrying a gun is a right granted by God to all God-fearing American patriots, then a fortiori it would seem that carrying a sword is an equivalent right, since God also carries a sword.

But where are the swordsman's (swordsperson's) Wayne La Pierres? Where our intrepid Sarah Palins, those airborne scourges of unoffending wildlife? Of course it's harder than Chinese arithmetic to hunt moose with a sword from a helicopter, but I think you see my point - our voice is silent, our brand gets no shelf space in the great constitutional hue and cry for the protections and assurances of arms-bearing citizens everywhere.

The sword has a more venerable and more universal history than the firearm, requires both greater expertise and greater courage to wield, has figured in more battles and for a longer period of history than guns. A swordsman is a mean piece of work, swordsmanship is an art, its passes have names like the gambits in chess, the care and sharpening of a blade is a skill difficult to learn.

 Sharpening a Sword (Haung Ji)

The hefty halberds of medieval European battlefields could lop off an arm or a leg as easily as drawing a breath. The recently discovered remains of Richard II, England's hunchbacked king, found in an excavation beneath a parking garage, show that he was dispatched by a halberd cut to the base of his skull during the Battle of Bosworth Field. And if all of those Japanses samurai movies are to be credited, a keen polished blade in the right hands could halve a grown man and leave him standing with a strange smile on his face for a solid ten minutes before he collapsed in a sudden heap of carnage. Swordsmen were romantic figures, initiates, experts wedded to their discipline, solitary paladins wandering across the land, heroes and knights errant.

Admittedly they sometimes dressed oddly, but then gun owners don't set a high mark either . . .

This sartorially questionable young gunman seems overly pleased with his carry permit and his trampling of social convention. Still, there's something Sunday-schoolish about him. He's worrisome, not because he has a gun but because he has a puce shirt and a gun. He's not serious.

These guys, on the other hand, didn't wear puce shirts. And when they were done with each other there were arms and legs everywhere.

1 comment:

  1. They still won't let it on the plane, though...