The original idea I had for this space was a kind of history tour of the places I was, and am going to visit on tour. I'm a big history buff and I thought it'd be cool to sort of give new life to some of the important historical places I am going to pass through, and to be maybe put them into perspective here for 2016 and beyond—an interesting idea to me as a writer.
The second show we did on this first run here this past summer was in Washington D.C. (great crowd at Fed-Ex, by the way!), and my wife and two teenage daughters came along for some good old sightseeing. We got a cool behind-the scenes White House tour. We went to the Smithsonian American History Museum and the National Archives. We went to the Lincoln Memorial and the WWII Memorial, and lastly, we arrived at the top of the steps of the Jefferson Memorial. Looking at Jefferson's words writ HUGE behind his statue, I kinda stopped with my mouth open. Has nobody read this lately? It's right here! From the guy who wrote the damn Declaration Of Independence, and had major influence on the writing on the Constitution!
The huge words behind Jefferson's massive statue at his memorial say-
'…but laws and institution must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind as that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered, and manners and opinions change. With the change in circumstances, institutions must also advance to keep with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat that fitted him when a boy, as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.'
Hmmm… 'new discoveries are made, new truths discovered, and manners and opinions change…'
Let me explain just a couple of things here:
My name is Duff McKagan. I play bass guitar for Guns N' Roses, sure, and that truly does kick major ass. But I also write, and have written a bunch for different outlets over the past seven or so years…a lot actually. I did a five-year stint at The Seattle Weekly, and year-long gigs at both Playboy and ESPN. I have had a little time off of writing since the release of my second book last year, and now Noisey has graciously given me a platform to write again.
There is some super heavy shit going down in the world right now. I don't need to pile-on and write some piece of shit article to create another snazzy social media "headline" for people to click on and fucking "like." I'd like to address some issues there are happening right now, and to create a place for us all to have discourse….true discourse. And by "true discourse" I mean: If you reply to this column, please use your real name, as I am doing the same.I think we all have the ability to be super smart and use critical thinking, and I think right now it is of utmost importance for us all to take a breath and talk some shit out. Use our heads and turn off all of the screaming on TV. It really seems to be just de-sensitizing us all, putting us into separate corners, and dumbing us the hell down.
So, I'm going to do my best to write about some issues that are happening right now, and my hope is to bring a bunch of us back to a place where we can talk and hopefully—in a small way—start to make this country and world, a much better place for us all. Deal?
I am an ardent armchair historian. When I get on to a subject—whether it be the American Civil War, Ottoman history as it relates to the Middle East in the past 40 years, polar exploration, World War II (every arena and Front), The American West, American Revolution, ISIS and Al-Queda, Slavery and Jim Crow and LBJ/MLK, Mountaineering, Indians, and myriad biographies, etc., etc.—I always seem to go all in, and voraciously read from every aspect I can find on the topic.
In planning this past Summer's routing of our Guns N' Roses tour, I was pleased to find that I'd have time between a bunch of the gigs to build in a parallel history tour for myself. The tour meandered through the Midwest and Northeast and swung down through the South, up again through the Great Plains and back down into Texas, before the final West Coast swing.
Reading and learning about history is fascinating to me. You see again and again how history really does repeat itself. I cringed in horror as we invaded Iraq in 2004, simply because I'd just read The World Is Flat and Longtitudes and Attitudes by Thomas Friedman—books that were readily available for everyone to read at that time, and on bestseller lists! The ancient tribal conflicts in that area are so well known and divisive, that the formation of an ISIS-like army was so totally pre-destined if Sadam was just taken out (I certainly don't advocate for some bloodthirsty narcissistic asshole dictator, but that is a subject for another thesis).
The political climate right now is beyond embarrassing for any of us who actually study political and social issues of yore. For instance, when President Obama came out with his announcement of trying to procure background checks for online sales and at gun shows, I was slightly stunned that this practice hadn't been in use since the, uh, the advent of modern-day gun sales. But after this announcement, American TV media went absolutely wild.
I received texts from two friends (one a cop, the other an Alaskan crab fisher). The texts said the same thing, and they both came on the day Obama made that announcement on TV (I was actually at home in front of television listening to the words he said). Both texts read "Obama is taking away our guns and the 2nd Amendment." Er, well, actually…NO. There was nothing in what he said in that announcement that was challenging ANY amendment to the Constitution, nor did he say anything about some new-formed posse that was going to storm Americans' houses and …take their guns.
I did answer my friends' texts. I said simply "Huh?"
On CNN, FOX News, and MSNBC, things are presented to us as truths just because one person is yelling louder than the other, really, and rhetoric is presented at a fourth-grade level….because guess what America…that's how dumb or uneducated they think we are. This Republican/Democratic schism is so rank and divisive; I'm just not sure how any of us could pick one party or the other. I think I used to be a Democrat, but some Republican ideas work great too, and Socialism too, has done great things for the financial safety nets of this country. If we could just scrape up and pool all of the good ideas that work….that'd be my new party allegiance. No, I don't claim a party, because they are all mostly assholes at this point.
From traveling around and meeting so many people as much as I have over the last 30 years, I just know that we, as a nation, are way above all of this crap. We are WAY smarter than this, right?
And to my fellow Americans who somehow think one politician or another is going to single-handedly take away the 2nd Amendment: that just isn't going to happen. Don't believe the loud-yellers. Don't believe the NRA emails you get. It's pure hooey. If you are a gun owner in this country and you actually think somebody is gonna come to your house and take your gun away…uh….maybe you shouldn't be a gun owner (just my two cents). Educate yourselves on the Amendments and the Constitution to which they were added. An actual repeal of an Amendment would have to pass thru two-thirds of both Legislative bodies, and then have be ratified by two-thirds of the 50 states. It'll never be repealed simply because there is NO WAY 38 states will vote against guns.
Thomas Jefferson, the author of The Declaration Of Independence, and a guy in the room for those first bunch of amendments, assumed and hoped future generations would change and modify the Amendments and even the Constitution as newer and better thoughts and technology crept into view. It seems by just watching the news for the past few years, that we'd better adhere exactly to those words written in 1770s (Captain Cook had just discovered Hawaii, and, oh yea, slavery was legally enshrined in the Constitution, and a slave counted as three-fifths of a human being when calculating how many representatives a slave state got in congress, and women couldn't vote…my point is….is that was a long time ago!) or all hell will break loose. Everyone forgot the author's hopes for future American generation's to change and tweak it. That's fuckin' weird to me. All of these experts and politicians yammering on about what our forefathers wanted for this great nation, forget to include that our great forefathers were hoping we'd be smarter than them, and basically, do better than them!
So let's do some tweaking. Background checks for all gun sales? Hell yes, right? What's the argument against that? Banning AK-47's and the like? Probably a damn good idea, right? Who needs them? I'm just a regular guy, neither "pro" nor "anti" gun…and I understand and respect the right to bear arms, but do some of you actually think we maintain this right still for the sole purpose of the "in case" of our own government somehow taking over (as opposed to fighting off the English imperialistic monarchy in 1775). This all seems as basic to me, as banning sales of guns here for people who are on the no-fly list. Is there something I am missing here?
MORE FROM THOMAS JEFFERSON (extra credit reading you can find here)
"[The European] monarchs instead of wisely yielding to the gradual change of circumstances, of favoring progressive accommodation to progressive improvement, have clung to old abuses, entrenched themselves behind steady habits and obliged their subjects to seek through blood and violence rash and ruinous innovations which, had they been referred to the peaceful deliberations and collected wisdom of the nation, would have been put into acceptable and salutary forms. Let us follow no such examples nor weakly believe that one generation is not as capable as another of taking care of itself and of ordering its own affairs. Let us… avail ourselves of our reason and experience to correct the crude essays of our first and unexperienced although wise, virtuous, and well-meaning councils." --Thomas Jefferson to Samuel Kercheval, 1816. ME 15:41
Let us provide in our constitution for its revision at stated periods. What these periods should be nature herself indicates. By the European tables of mortality, of the adults living at any one moment of time, a majority will be dead in about nineteen years. At the end of that period, then, a new majority is come into place; or, in other words, a new generation. Each generation is as independent as the one preceding, as that was of all which had gone before. It has then, like them, a right to choose for itself the form of government it believes most promotive of its own happiness; consequently, to accommodate to the circumstances in which it finds itself that received from its predecessors; and it is for the peace and good of mankind that a solemn opportunity of doing this every nineteen or twenty years should be provided by the constitution, so that it may be handed on with periodical repairs from generation to generation to the end of time, if anything human can so long endure." --Thomas Jefferson to Samuel Kercheval, 1816. ME 15:42
Duff McKagan is the bass player in Guns 'N Roses, which kicks ass. He's also written some books, which also kicks ass. Follow him on Twitter.
Graphic by Taylor Lewis