the irony, she bites.

So I’m driving home from my customary Saturday morning bookstore vacation, when I come up on a minivan with Massachusetts plates, doing 50 on the 65-mile-per-hour I-91.  The rear of the van has the usual cornucopia of bumper stickers advocating fuzzy feel-good causes.  Underneath the right rear tail light, there’s a pair of stickers.  One of them proclaims that ARMS ARE FOR HUGGING, and the other one, right underneath, demands FREE TIBET.

Cognitive dissonance, ahoy, I think to myself with a chuckle as I pass.

The world is chock-full of bad rulers who basically take control of a country, and then bleed it dry, either to advance a wool-headed political or religious ideology, or to turn the country into their personal piggy bank.  These bad rulers get into power either by bamboozling the electorate (like Hugo Chavez or Herr Schickelgruber), overthrowing the previous generation of self-serving crooks via revolution (Fidel Castro), inheriting the post from a powerful parent (Kim Jong-Il), or riding on the reputation they obtained as a fighter for independence from the Western oppressors (Robert Mugabe).  Regardless of how they get into office, once they are firmly seated, they all have the same methods for staying in power.  They make sure they control the guns in the country, by making sure only the military and their cronies can own weapons, and that the regular peasantry doesn’t have the means to do to the ruler what he did to the previous ruler. They surround themselves with loyal followers who get privileges and posts in exchange for cracking the skulls of any opposition that might speak up, and they keep paying their army to keep them in line even when the rest of the country is eating sawdust flour sandwiches for dinner.

All of the rulers holding on to power by such methods have another thing in common: they never surrender power willingly.  (Witness Mugabe, who went from national liberation hero to election thief and tinpot dictator, all so that his First Lady can spend Zimbabwean treasury money on her shopping trips to Paris and Rome while the population suffers a 250,000,000% inflation.) The only thing that gets them out of office is force of arms–people with guns.  Those people can be the dictator’s formerly loyal subjects who want to install a new boss who promises them even better benefits, foreign soldiers under international mandate to remove General Tinpot from the throne, or the common population rising up and deciding they’ve had about all they can take.  In the history of nation-states, the vast majority of revolutions have involved naked force of arms.  (There have been some bloodless revolutions where no weapons were used either for killing or persuasion, but you can count those events on the fingers of one hand.)

If you truly believe that ARMS ARE FOR HUGGING, and you also want to see a FREE TIBET, how exactly do you propose that blessed event should come about?  The Chinese government has already demonstrated how much they can be swayed by peaceful protest, and any economic sanctions will just cut off your access to cheap shower flip-flops and, oh, four fifths of the inventory at your local MalWart.  (Besides, economic sanctions always hurt the people in charge least.  You’ll notice that the leaders of tinpot dictatorships never look like they miss many meals, even when their population is starving.)  Not everybody has a conscience, and anyone who’s come to power and wealth literally over the bodies of his opposition is not going to be shamed or touched in any way by any number of candlelight protests and bumper stickers.

The Chinese hold on Tibet is going to loosen at some point in the future, but I can pretty much guarantee you that guns will have a more decisive role in that process than all the pro-Tibet bumper stickers out there on the minivans of America…


14 thoughts on “the irony, she bites.

  1. might be the reason ol’ blogasonofabitch so cockily clings to power in ill. who said he wasn’t a visionary?


  2. ish says:

    Someone here on the East Lansing area – one assumes an MSU student – tools around town with a FREE TIBET sticker and an El Che sticker…

    Who they heck does he think Tibet needs freeing from!?

  3. ditto says:

    All those words to descibe an ignoramus.

    Some people don’t want a clue.

  4. BobG says:

    “If someone has a gun and is trying to kill you, it would be reasonable to shoot back with your own gun.”
    -The Dalai Lama

  5. Phil says:

    I always find amusement in people with the Free Tibet stickers for a few reasons. First, the reason you already pointed out- those people are usually the first to decry the private ownership of tools that would enable the oppressed peoples to fight back against their oppressors. Secondly, a nation that is willing to massacre its own people in the center of their own capital city is not likely to give a rip about the beliefs and desires of students and suburbanites a world away. Thirdly, I always wonder “What do you have to purchase to get a Free Tibet? Is shipping and handling charged?”

  6. NMM1AFan says:

    “Not everybody has a conscience.”

    Can’t be any more plain than that. Too bad most people don’t understand that.


  7. MarkHB says:

    Smells like the same mentality that what’s a disarmed populace, but is just fine with cops carrying guns.

    That is, one which fails to think things through logically.

  8. Windy Wilson says:

    “Free Tibet — Send Rifles”
    “End the Genocide in Darfur — Send Rifles”

    Allan, I’ll take “gives leftists coronaries” for $200.
    Somehow I doubt ol’ Jerry Peace Activist Rubin, who mysteriously makes enough money to support himself by sitting at a card table full of leftist bumper stickers on the Santa Monica Mall, would see that these two proposed slogans if followed would actually produce the result intended, unlike his whole table of Che stickers.

  9. Windy Wilson says:

    {insert photo of Josef Goebbels}
    Only the police and military should have guns.

  10. Tam says:

    I have made a point of saying, within earshot of an actual hippie wearing a “Free Tibet” shirt, “Did you hear? Bush announced that they’re deploying the 82nd Airborne to Tibet to free the country!

    Apparently “Free Tibet” doesn’t really mean, you know, “Free Tibet”…

  11. MarkHB says:

    You get a free Tibet with every free China. It’s easy when you think about it.

    I’ve been waging a quiet, subtle memetic war for about eight years now. How you guys doin’? 😉

  12. totwtytr says:

    I often wonder what these people think they are accomplishing with their T shirt and bumper sticker campaigns. Do they actually think that if they buy enough of them, Chinese will stop their occupation of Tibet or that the Jinjaweed will stop killing the people in Darfur?

    If so, then they are stupid, deranged, or maybe both.

  13. MarkHB says:


    It’s a way of feeling like you’re making a stand without actually having to do anything. I’m pretty sure that bumper-sticker types don’t think of it that way, and will talk on about “raising awareness” and the like – and I suppose that much is true – but I think the main effect is as a palliative for misplaced guilt.

    The person owning the bumper sticker has a nice enough life, and feels vaguely, indefinably guilty about it – so they buy a bumper sticker to tell themselves they’re doing something about it. Then they have as caramel moccacino latté and go about their business.

    Funny, really.

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