Prison Radio
Mumia Abu-Jamal

Historian Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz is known best for her award-winning work, An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States (Beacon:2014), but lovers and readers of history know that she is a prodigious writer, who has penned a considerable amount of history, much of it about what Americans have come to call “Indian Country”. But her newest work is also ground breaking, for she dares to tackle the ‘sacred text’ of the Holy Constitution, and breaks down the forces and sources that has brought its Second Amendment (the weapons and firearms clause) into being. By so doing, she challenges her colleagues and the bright lights of history written before, to make points that illumine how and why we consider the 2nd so special. She engages in the hidden history that made the second so desirable, and so powerful that it had to be hidden.

From European landfall to today, she recounts that which is indisputable: that America is a creation of genocide, slavery and mass death. From the first days of the emergence of Euro-America, Europeans sought to “extinguish” non-European life: ‘Indians’, Africans, Others.

The gun, far more than the Bible, made this so.

Using archival and published sources, she excavated texts and tables to reveal the sources of something I’d never heard of before that is a distinguishing mark of America’s deep martial roots: “gun-love”.

As a young woman, Dunbar Ortiz writes, she was a member of a political collective that, during the ‘60s, armed themselves for self-defense. Soon, it became the central concern of her collective. Ortiz writes:

It seems that our group, and others, during the years that the Vietnam War was playing out live on our televisions, was in the vanguard of a trend of owning multiple weapons, Army and Navy surplus clothing accompanied the trend, which was soon replaced by sweatshop-produced camouflage garb to meet consumer demand. Something else was also at work…{fr.Ortiz,Introduction}

In Loaded: A Disarming History of the Second Amendment (City Lights/Open Media, forthcoming), Ortiz journeys into untrodden ground, identifying that ‘something else’, and the deep social forces that gave Americans that special hunger for “Indian’ lands; what Hitler and Co. called lebensraum — living space. This land hunger was accompanied by and intense hatred against Indian people; and further, the monstrous African slave trade, all of which was done to enrich the wallets of white America.

Loaded is a work of brilliance, of intense historical engagement, and of revelation of how America came to be. She smashes the idols of mass worship (the gun) and our idolatry of it, by showing what truly lies beneath. She desacralizes the 2nd Amendment, casts it from the vault of heaven and leaves it lying in the muck and mire, the blood, the hatreds that truly formed America.