Opinions are Like Machine Guns…
You might have one, but not everyone wants to see it or hear it.
Okay, I paraphrased and readapted what my dad used to say about opinions — this is a family-oriented blog, after all! However, Dad’s favorite saying about opinions seems to fit in with a recent Jeep/machine gun controversy.
Last June, Kansas Secretary of State and Republican gubernatorial candidate, Kris Kobach, entered a parade in Shawnee, Kansas, riding on the back of modern Jeep in a patriotic red-white-and-blue wrap that sported a dummy machine gun on the roll bar.
By now, most of us in the hobby are pretty sensitive to the publics’ (sometimes over-) reaction to the public display of dummy weaponry on historic military vehicles. Ever since 9/11, it has become increasingly unwise to drive around town in a jeep or deuce mounting a .50-caliber machine. And yet, there seems to be at least one or two enthusiasts who want to push the boundaries of this “new normal.” The most recent such occurrence involved Kansas Secretary of State and Republican gubernatorial candidate, Kris Kobach.
Kobach entered to participate in the Old Shawnee Days parade. His parade unit consisted of him and his patriotic Jeep (a modern, red-white-and-blue wrapped Jeep…not a historic military vehicle) that has a dummy MG on the rollbar,
Despite my dad's favorite saying about opinions, in this day and age, everyone DOES share his opinion whether asked to do so or not. Following the parade through which Kobach and his Jeep impressed viewers, social media surrounding the event became a bit unhinged. In fact, a lot of the response reminded me of the wife of Reverend Lovejoy in the Simpson cartoon who ran around screaming, “The children! Won’t SOMEONE think of the children?” In fact, John Lewis, a local pastor in Shawnee echoed Mrs Lovejoy’s sentiment when he told the Kansas City Star, “It was pretty shocking. There were audible gasps from the folks we were sitting by.”
Audible gasps? At a parade? Well, I never…
Okay, whether he was right or wrong, Kobach was trying to make an impression. In fact, soon after the parade, he tweeted (where everyone shows their … I mean, shares their opinion, these days), “The outrage over the replica gun on the back of a patriotic jeep is the left trying to attack guns and your #2A rights. I will not back down in the face of a snowflake meltdown and outrage culture.”
And like most folks who share their opinion in recent times, he doubled down on it, the next day in an interview with Breitbart, where he is a columnist: “For centuries in America, most parades have featured men with guns, whether it be the color guard carrying the flag, or military equipment old and new,” he said. “The snowflakes now want to erase this American tradition because someone might be offended.”
Statements like that seem to indicate that he wasn't displaying the MG so much out of a love for firearms, but rather, using the firearm to create a reaction…from his supporters and detractors.
That’s his right too, I guess. But, I am reminded of how Dad used to lace me down from time-to-time,“Everyone has the right to be stupid…that doesn’t mean you have to display YOUR right to be stupid.”
But I suspect Kansas Secretary of State Kobach didn't feel that his displaying a machine gun in a parade was stupid. Likewise, I suspect, if he had access to a historic military vehicle, he wouldn’t have wrapped a modern jeep in the red-white-and-blue.
I am not going to rant about Kobach’s choice of Jeep or whether he should or should not have incorporated a dummy machine gun in his display. Like I said earlier, most of us in the hobby understand what’s at stake when someone drives around with a live or dummy weapon on their historic military vehicle. But what really chars my timber is the lack of responsibility that anyone seems willing to take any more.
While it may be difficult to interpret Kobach's intention, that of City of Shawnee’s Communication Manager, Julie Breithaupt, became obvious in a statement about his display in the parade: “In no way does this or any parade entry or float directly reflect the views and values of the City, the Old Shawnee Days Board, or the Old Shawnee Days Society.”
What a load of total BS! It was YOUR parade, Julie Just who is responsible for what the entrants display if it isn’t the City, the Old Shawnee Days Board, or the Old Shawnee Days Society? ONLY you had the ability to say “yay” or “nay” to any entrant in the parade. Kobach didn’t crash your parade. He entered it with all the same protocol as any other to march in your parade, so I would say, “Yes, he probably DOES reflect the views and values of the City, the Old Shawnee Days Board, or the Old Shawnee Days Society.
While I understand Kobach's right to display his weapon, I have to question his judgment. I wonder if he understands why he was doing what he was doing? Was he unaware that the display of a machine gun in a decidedly non-historic setting could incite fear among some? It appears he displayed the MG to get a reaction…from his base of supporters as well as his detractors (In my days of conceal carry coursework we would have classified his action as “brandishing.”)
That sort of stuff might play well in politics, but it hurts our hobby. If you have access to Kobach, you might explain that, while we appreciate his passion, he might consider the ramifications of his actions. Or, if nothing else, volunteer a historic military vehicle for him to ride in his next parade!
But, before this rant closes, let me remind you once again of the namby-pamby statement from Julie Breithaupt who declared, that Kobach’s entry doesn't “represents the views and values of the City, the Old Shawnee Days Board, or the Old Shawnee Days Society.” If you have access to Ms. Breithaupt, perhaps you can ask her just why do those groups sponsor the parade if it isn’t to represent their values and views? It seems to me, that is the whole point of a parade.
But, that’s just my opinion. And like Dad used to say, “Opinions are like…er… ‘machine guns’...”
Keep ‘em rolling,
Editor, Military Vehicles Magazine and Military Trader