Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Gangs Of New York

Back in our previous post- "Kung Fu Congressman", readers Hand2Hand and Scott are having a lively debate as to - believe it or not- the causes of the Civil War. H2H comments that "The average Yankee working stiff was forced to fight", which got me thinking about the movie "The Gangs of New York".
According to Wikipedia, the movie is based on Herbert Asbury's 1928 book by the same name. In it, we are introduced to "Bill The Butcher", played by knife-wielding Daniel Day-Lewis - Crime boss and political king-maker. The dark settings of poverty stricken immigrants scraping out a living in - literally "the underground", and the display of inner city violence reminds us that ghettos weren't just a modern social issue. The movie culminates in a bloody fight between "Nativists", those from old families born in the United States, against the mostly Irish immigrants. This happens at the same time that Draft Riots break out, protesting conscription into the Union Army. A huge three-way skirmish occurs, with Union Naval ships firing cannons into the crowds of knife and hatchet wielding gang fighters.
This is all based on actual draft riots that happened as depicted in the movie. There is a fantastic wikipedia entry about the riots which is very detailed at THIS LINK.
As in modern times, rich kids could either pay $300 to get out or get some other poor bastard to go fight for them. Kind of an early version of George Bush's "National Guard" service (flying martinis).
As in most out-of-control civic brawls, there was much looting and scapegoating, with poor blacks being targeted and killed also.
Can you imagine what would happen if a draft was proposed for an unpopular and likely illegal war/occupation such as today's Iraq debacle? And yet, with top Generals admiting that mismanagement has nearly destroyed the effectiveness of our fighting forces, Bush will dump the whole mess (occupation, economic recession, etc.) in the lap of the next administration.
Avoiding draft riots is one of the main reasons we are seeing the rise of private mercenary contractors such as those of Blackwater, which were already used in our country also, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina on the Gulf Coast.
"The Gangs of New York" is a dark and frightening movie with solid historical roots, and a whole lot of knife fights-- it's well worth watching.


Hand2Hand said...

Blackwater does more than just avoid draft riots.

Blackwater has the potential to be the administration's Praetorian Guard, which were the emperor's bully boys in the declining days of the Roman Empire.

Think about it - most of our armed forces are stationed in bases overseas or bogged down in Iraq. Prior to the Iraq War, the Louisiana National Guard had 28 helicopters in their squadron. When Katrina hit, there were only three of those helicopters available for emergencies.

So with no National Guard or armed forces to keep order in a domestic emergency or unrest, who will that job fall to? The bully boys at Blackwater.

Those guys scare the living fuck out of me.

One thing that has scared me most about the Republicans is their desire to privatize every government service, including police, firefighting, jails and military.

I was speaking to a probation officer a couple of years ago who said he never thought he'd be defending his job with the Florida state legislature to keep them from giving his job to Wackenhut and letting them handle the jobs of probation and parole officers.

He said "It's getting like that movie, 'Robocop.' "

I have to agree.

Hand2Hand said...

One more comment about a draft.

I've always been opposed to a draft just on the principle of it. The constitution forbids "conditions of involuntary servitude" and states quite clearly that no one "may be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law."

A draft fails on all counts.

Even without a National Guard for rich kids, do you think rich kids and kids of connected politicians will ever see combat? I doubt it.

Those kids will get cushy jobs far away from the fighting. The not-so-right Reverend Pat Robertson used his family's political connections to avoid combat in the Korean War to become a "liquor officer" in Tokyo.

There never has been a fair draft and there never will be.

Dojo Rat said...

I completely agree with you, you see where I was going re: Blackwater.
I did not mean to denegrate the National Guard however. Some are in it for a sense of National service, others to suppliment their income. I had a friend from Alaska that said people went in just to get cold weather gear up there in the past.
I don't believe the Guard is precieved the same as it was in the Vietnam era, especially as used by the Bush family.

Hand2Hand said...

No, we shouldn't denigrate the guard. They have an important job to do.

Unfortunately, they can't do it because they're being sent to a quagmire across the world and we have to fend for ourselves here in America.

I take what happened in New Orleans pretty seriously. My grandfather was from New Orleans and I live along the Gulf Coast. If we get hit with a major storm, I'd feel better knowing my National Guardsmen were here to help with the situation instead of being used and abused in Iraq.

Now, thanks to the Iraq War, people will avoid the guard like the plague because they don't want to wind up in a useless hell-hole like that.

And good Americans will be without a National Guard when the next hurricane, earthquake, tornado hits.

Sa Bum Nim Pieschala said...

I'm so speechless right now for a great many reasons. I can't even think of a witty retort.

Um, I liked "First Blood" the National Gaurd as I remember them. "Now C`mon you know I gotta get back to the Piggly Wiggly by five. Let's just shoot this guy and go home." But that was when I was in active duty.

Now I have more respect. especially given Katrina.

My question is, why is it when this country has a problem, the military is the only government group that can get anything important done.

That's why I think our governments sucks. They need to learn "service before self".

Dojo Rat said...

There is also a good second amendment argument re: the National Guard:
If gun control groups say that the "well regulated militia" in the 2nd is actually represented by the Guard-- then the Guard is no longer a United States militia because it has been taken out of the control of the State Governors and Nationalized into the standing army.
Therefore, that argument no longer holds, and we once again look to a citizen militia as stated in the 2nd...

Hand2Hand said...

Hey DR,

I never thought of that, but you make a great point!!!


You've given me some great ammo (pun intended) in future arguments against anti-gunners.

Scott said...

The Book and the Movie Gangs of New York certainly show the rough and tumble ways Americans like to fight.

When the Constitution was written, they intended to make Drafts illegal. But I can hardly imagine that the Constitution would have been ratified at all if there hadn't been a consensus that we needed to build a Navy to go free 700 white slaves captured by Morocco while enroute to trade with the Ottoman empire. We got together to fight.

Obviously it's a good thing we don't need a draft, and we haven't needed one since WWII. But, Constitutional or not, I would have been one of the guys shoving bayonets into those "anti-draft" "pro-slavery" rioters. Poverty and bad hygiene is not a good excuse for being on the wrong side.

Hand2Hand said...

Hey Scott,

I would have been one of those throwing rocks right back at you.

Our founding fathers opposed military conscription and that was why it was never provided for in the Constitution.

Even as the British were marching on Washington D.C. in the War of 1812, one of congress' greatest orators, Daniel Webster, spoke out against a draft saying it was completely anthetical to what this country should stand for. He opposed slavery in all its forms, whether it was performed by a plantation owner or the government.

Personally, I think you're being hypocritical to call yourself anti-slavery while being pro-draft. At least Webster was consistent in that approach.

Lastly, how dare you assume that because someone was opposed to the draft that they were pro-slavery. I feel a draft is wrong under all circumstances, but if someone said that made me pro-nazi because I opposed a draft in WWII, they'd be in for a fight.

The fact is, if the government can't get the people behind a war or military action, then we have no damn business getting involved in it.

Scott said...

I don't like war or drafts and I agree the Founding Fathers rejected the idea of a draft.

However, without the draft the South, which started the war with more money, more guns, and a far superior military training tradition, would have won.

I fundamentally agree with John Brown and Harriet Tubman. We had to kill as many supporters of slavery as was necessary to end it; and bring about a nation where blacks and whites could be equal.

We needed the draft because we had to force people to take sides. Remember, there were three types of states: slave, free, and whites-only. We had to force the whites-only states to take sides or we would have lost.

You can talk all you want about sentimental draft dodgers, but those NYC rioters were on the wrong side. They needed to bleed in order to understand what is right and what is wrong.

Oh yeah, and we lost the war of 1812.

Hand2Hand said...

Hey Scott,

Two things.

First, I subscribe to the notion that no good ever came from ill-gotten gains.

Secondly, along the same vein, the end DOES NOT justify the means. Those who argue otherwise include all of history's greatest dictators and fascists.

I don't know about you, but I hate to be in the company of a Hitler, Stalin or Mussolini.

Your argument that we should use a form of slavery, i.e. a draft, to fight slavery is as stupid as the old Vietnam adage that "Sometimes, you must destroy a village in order to save it."

The fact of the matter is, the so-called draft dodgers are the true patriots because they took a stand in favor of the principles on which this country was founded.

NO citizen of these united states should ever be forced fight in a war in which he or she doesn't support. Those who support a draft are no better than the southern slave owners.

Those NYC rioters were on the right side. Lincoln was wrong to impose a draft.

Finally, we lost the War of 1812? Give me a break! The last I checked, we remained the United States of America and did not revert back to British Colonies.

Hand2Hand said...

Hey Scott,

I just wanted to be sure I was reading you right. You wrote:

"I fundamentally agree with John Brown and Harriet Tubman. We had to kill as many supporters of slavery as was necessary to end it; and bring about a nation where blacks and whites could be equal."

So in other words, you believe it's okay to kill someone, not because of a crime or an action, but merely because they hold an opinion that is contrary to yours.

You are scum. But don't worry. As much as I find that view completely fascist and repugnant, I would never call for your death.

Looking over your support for the draft and opposition to slavery, you have made yourself into the thing you claim to hate.

You have my sympathy.

Dojo Rat said...

Boys, boys, boys...
Do I have to stop this car and come back there?

Hand2Hand said...

Sorry DR,

I let me temper get the best of me. That guy really gets me, but I shouldn't use your bulletin board for a feud.

You don't have to stop the car or come back here.