Julie doesn’t like me to wear a gun. I’ll take it off when I can—until then
it will be necessary for the men of peace to have guns,
as long as men of violence do.
We can’t put all the force in the hands of evil.
“How the West Was Won”
By Sam Fadala
John Steinbeck (1902–1968) is one of America’s most noted authors. His books remain readily available today in one venue or another. “The Grapes of Wrath,” which is about the Oklahoma Dust Bowl), with employers taking advantage of the downtrodden, won a Pulitzer Prize and was later made into a film starring Henry Fonda. Some of his works generated other films: “East of Eden,” “Of Mice and Men,” “Tortilla Flat,” “Cannery Row,” “The Pearl,” and more.
“The Moon is Down,” also a book turned into a film, depicts what happens when, as Louie L’Amour wrote in “How the West Was Won,” all force is in the hands of evil. By 10:45, it was all over. The town was occupied. With help from local traitors, Nazi forces prevailed in no time to reduce the population to obey-or-die subjects. Gray-helmeted men carrying submachine guns marched in the streets. A few armed citizens attempted to fight, but they were gunned down. Another traitor had arranged for a shooting match on the day of the invasion. At the match, the Nazis captured all the guns.
On a visit to the mayor of the town, a Nazi captain said, “Our military regulations prescribe that we search for weapons before the commanding officer enters a room. I believe there are some firearms here?” He opened a book containing information about guns among the townspeople. “Your Excellency,” he said to the mayor, “I think you have firearms here. Two items, I believe.” The mayor said yes, “a shotgun and a sporting rifle.” A sergeant was ordered to immediately confiscate both. Guns removed, the Nazi colonel entered the room, instructing the mayor to order citizens of the town to mine coal for the Nazi invaders. The mayor explained that the people would not like that. “Always the people! The people are disarmed. The people have no say,” the colonel promised. The Nazis had all the fine weapons and best planning against unarmed people.
Two characters in the book discuss “what right” the Nazis have invading their town, then forcing the men to work coal against their will. “I see it like they have no right at all, but they do it, with their guns and their parachutes, they do it.” The people want to be free again, but it is asked, “Do they know how to go about it? Do they know the method to use against an armed enemy? They have no chance to fight. It’s no fight to go against machine guns.” The Nazi invaders failed to remember the frantic retreat from Moscow, every peasant’s pitchfork tasting blood, snow rotten with Nazi bodies.
So the people of the town, unarmed, did what they could, such as enabling lights to appear when the English bombers came over, breaking the Nazi rule that night must remain totally black. The town doctor spoke of killing instead of healing. He said, “We are disarmed; our spirits sink and bodies aren’t enough. The spirit of a disarmed man sinks.” A few townsmen left for England. They were told, You boys are sailing for England. Maybe nobody will listen to you, but tell them from us—from a small town—to give us weapons. “You want guns?” the men ask. “Guns or grenades, explosives, poison. Whatever to repel the enemy.”
The Nazi invaders complain, “Always before, it was possible to disarm the people and keep them in ignorance. Now they listen to their radios and we can’t stop them. We can’t even find their radios. So it is a new kind of conquest.” The Nazis cannot break the spirit of the town. They rule, but in fear. Weapons fall from the sky as English bombers fly over the town. The townspeople do what they can with them.
Steinbeck makes it clear that “only dangerous people are free.” Had these people a Second Amendment right to protect themselves, the story would have been different when the bullies invaded the town in “The Moon is Down.” Gestapo and thugs in the World War II era who came to the doors of unarmed Jewish and anti-Nazi citizens feared no danger from within. Had these people the right to bear arms, the story would have been written in different ink.