Dangerous Old Men
Everybody knows a Walt Kowalski. He is the grizzled Korean War veteran Clint Eastwood played in the movie Gran Torino. A man who spends his days sitting on the porch, keeping his house and yard immaculate, satisfied to drink his cheap beer while watching his neighborhood and country go to hell around him. He is an anachronism, a dinosaur -- part of the old America where you worked hard, took pride in your work and where you lived, and fought for your country and what it stood for when called upon. Armed with his M1 Garand rifle and 1911 .45 pistol he brought back from the war, he put new meaning in "Get off my lawn."
(Warning: spoilers follow.)
As anyone who has seen the movie knows, Kowalski is recently widowed and terminally ill. He does not have much to live for until he befriends his young Hmong neighbors. After teaching them what honor and self-reliance are, he eventually gives his life for them.
Fewer have heard of Ben Mitchell, who features in the book Enemies Foreign and Domestic. Mitchell is a former Vietnam-era Green Beret operative who paralyzes Washington, D.C. by crippling the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. (Again, spoilers follow.) Though not terminally ill -- yet -- Mitchell does not see much of a future ahead of him and is angered about his friend being set up by the federal government during an unconstitutional gun-grab passed in the heat of the moment by legislators after a tragedy. Before losing his life, however, he manages to take out most of the federal law enforcement team sent against him.
Both of these men are fictional characters, but is it just fantasy? Let us look back at Samuel Whittemore. Samuel was an old man -- seventy-eight years old, to be exact -- on April 19, 1775. After many years of service bearing arms for the British Crown, surely he was too old to fight, and his wife even told him so. On that fateful morning, though, he gathered up his musket, two pistols, and a cavalry saber that he acquired from a French officer who "died suddenly" and took his place to meet the British Regulars in Menotomy. When it was over, the British thought they were fired upon by a whole company and sent the same to subdue him. After dispatching some British Regulars by emptying his musket and pistols and drawing his sword, he had half his face shot off and was bayoneted thirteen times and left for dead. Samuel did indeed die -- ten years later.
There is also David Lamson, a mulatto voted by his peers to take charge of a group of gray-haired old men. On that same morning, they surprised one of General Percy's supply columns, asking them to surrender. Seeing just a few old men, the British refused, leading to Lamson's men shooting the officer, the sergeant, and the horses in their traces. The remaining grenadiers fled, finally surrendering to old Mother Batherick after throwing their arms away. Hearing about this, a British paper printed, "If one old Yankee woman can take six grenadiers, how many soldiers will it require to conquer America?"
There are over twenty-five million veterans in the United States -- among them many Walt Kowalskis -- and most of them are gun owners. Some of them remember the horrors of the concentration camps and of communism. Others are from the Vietnam era and remember what awaited them when they came home. They see John Kerry, the same man who threw his medals over the White House fence and was photographed with Jane Fonda and the North Vietnamese, nominated as secretary of state. They remember. ObamaCare, where you get painkillers instead of treatment because you are old? They have heard this. They have been spat at and vilified before, and now, with time running out for them, and the America that they knew seemingly fading away, many will say, "At one time, I was asked to write a check to my country for up to and including my life. Do I need to do it again?"
You would be surprised at what you can overhear at the VFW, or even the "early bird dinner," for that matter. Thanks to the "War on Terror," there are also many younger combat veterans, many from a lineage of soldiers. They know that old people can be stubborn, and "the government threw grandpa in jail because he didn't turn in his guns" will not go over well. As an older friend of mine whom I see at Denny's on occasion tells me, "I'm just sayin'."
Ebben Raves is a veteran, constitutional activist, and speaker who teaches American history and has been a guest on several talk radio shows. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.