Ah, the Three Musketeers. Everybody loves the Three Musketeers. Oh, sorry, I meant the Mouseketeers of the Mickey Mouse Club. Pretty much everyone hates the Three Musketeers. And why shouldn’t we? Their very name is basically false advertising. Don’t you find it a little bit odd that the Three Musketeers are portrayed as a bunch of rakish, swashbuckling fellows carrying swords? Not, say, MUSKETS, for example? Hello? Last time I checked down at the local plumbing and late Renaissance infantryman supply store, a rapier was not a musket. It all just makes me want to find those Musketeers and shove their stupid rapiers right down their smug, fictional throats. It’s all the more frustrating to me because of the metaphysical challenges I encounter when trying to shove fictional items down fictional characters’ throats, especially when those fictional items are too big to fit in the first place. The other problem I encounter is the disconnect between my desire to harm the Three Musketeers and the contradictory imperatives of the Hippocratic Oath. My warrior’s blood cools when I pause to consider the primary medical ethical principle of nonmaleficence expressed in the phrase primum non nocere — first, do no harm. I realize that one can weasel out of that by just mumbling a bit and mispronouncing a few words when one takes the oath, or one can simply take the hypocritic oath, which has become very popular among doctors of the present day – and furthermore, I’m not actually a medical doctor, so the fact is that I am morally at liberty to harm others at will – but still, I can’t help but feel some moral qualms about fatally injuring innocent and helpless heavily-armed trained killers from 17th-century France. Now, on the other hand, the Mouseketeers had no such qualms as they fired rabid mice from their muskets at the hapless Three Musketeers. The French swordsmen’s rapiers were mostly useless against the barrage of vicious flying rodents. And that’s more or less how Walt Disney created his vast entertainment empire.
Due to a range of factors, including ever-accelerating advances in the twin fields of science and engineering, muskets eventually became obsolete. However, the most significant reason muskets were consigned to the dustbin of history is because of the cringing embarrassment soldiers had to put up with when using weapons with dorky names like ‘musket’ and ‘blunderbuss’. Similar fates have befallen other weapons such as the ‘scramsax’, the ‘nzappa zap’, the ‘mangonel’, the ‘flambard’, and the ‘Mameluke sword’. The unfortunate soldiers carrying these weapons were taunted mercilessly by their laughing enemies, who used playful rhyming verse to savagely mock their assailants, asking snidely if the Cat in Hat was attacking them, snickering and chanting in a schoolyard sing-song “I do not fear your blunderbuss, your strategies are structureless. I do not fear it on the plain, I fear it not in high terrain. Your blunderbuss is slow to load, it’s pow’rless as a nematode. Its flaring muzzle is a laugh, its name shall be your epitaph.” The truth, of course, was more prosaic, as the jeering enemies learned when they were struck by high-velocity lumps of metal. The sting of the hot lead was a small price to pay, though, for a taunt well-delivered, and without exception, the blunderbuss-shot victims died happily, shaking their heads and chuckling good-naturedly to themselves about how they had been gotten the better of. They could take additional comfort that at least they hadn’t been hoist by their own petard, a weapon whose name is etymologically related to the French word for ‘fart’. War is hell, partly because of all the horror, death, and senseless destruction, and partly because of the numerous opportunities for literally mortifying embarrassment.