June 27, 2005

Fire On The Mountain

No; not The Marshall Tucker Band song.

There was a made for T.V. movie that debuted in 1981 on NBC. Buddy Ebson played John Vogelin, who had property that the government wanted but he refused to sell. The government told him that he'd be put off his property one way or the other & he told them to go to hell. The movie was called Fire on the Mountain.

I watched it twice (it was re-ran a few years later) when I was a kid but haven't seen it since. It stuck with me though. It struck me deeply at the time & I'm sure I'd feel the same if I saw it again. I recall everyone who watched it with me feeling the same way to one extent or another. In fact I know very few people who wouldn't have been rooting for "ol' Jed Clampett" when the gub'mint tried to kick him off his land. But it was simply a story about an old man who wanted to spend the few years that he had left on his own property & an uncaring government trying to force him off.

It was a good movie. Damn shame I can't find a copy of it now, especially in light of recent events.

I assume that you're heard the sorted details of Kelo v. New London. I also assume that you've seen the reactions. Say Uncle has been following the eminent domain issue for some time & he took things pretty hard (as we all should have). Others had a more defiant way of expressing their disapproval with the notion that all property belongs to the government. Still others are just plain pissed.

Me? I'm disappointed in the courts as I am every time they screw something up. I wasn't surprised though. None of us should have been. This particular part of the path started a long time ago; roughly the time when it was societally accepted that the government can charge you rent impose protection money taxes on your property annually & force you to seek permission for any changes you want made to your property through various zoning laws & building permit schemes. Pissed off at SCOTUS? Ya damn skippy. But no one should be surprised at this. It's just the next logical step in the path we've taken.

Now let's look at some other steps that should be obvious. They're not ideal steps for anyone involved, but I fear they're unavoidable. There will be someone, perhaps several someones at different locations in different times, who simply refuse to give up their homes for whatever reason. The papers will portray them (posthumously of course) as extremists or criminals or in some other negative light. About ten of us will remember them for a few months then forget they ever existed. Kevin pointed out that society is just too apathetic to make a stand.

Mr. du Toit spoke a while back of what it'd take to push people into action. I think he put it correctly that it's not just one thing but several that usually get people off their asses. He also makes the point that property rights are usually at the heart of such actions. but Say Uncle makes an equally valid point:

"...Sure, I made a half-hearted comment about sending guns to Connecticut but its pointless because I can’t send them balls."

Which brings us back to a comment Kevin made to one of his posts:

" 'I wonder how many Carl Dregas it'll take.'
A lot more than there will be.
Remember Marvin Heemeyer?
Pretty much nobody else does either."

I've got another name for you: Andrew Mickel. Ring a bell? He was just convicted in April of killing a cop in 2002. He killed the cop to make a political statement about the infringement of our civil liberties by the government. He issn't right wing though; he seems to be a left leaning anti-corporation type libertarian. & that is probably why you didn't hear much about him in the press - he was too close to being one of theirs.

I don't condone what Mickel did even though I understand the frustration which led to his actions. But Mickel being wrong isn't the point; the point is that someone acted against government (albeit wrongfully) & very few people took enough notice to remember his name let alone consider the merits or lack thereof in his actions.

Randy Weaver. A lot of gun nuts remember him for much the same reason Harry Potter was famous before he even attended the Wizarding School; he was the one who lived. He was attacked by the federal government & he survived (although his son & wife were murdered during the ordeal).

David Koresh & Elian Gonzales also come to mind when we think of heavy handedness by the government, but Koresh was the one who fought back, so we remember him posthumously. & honestly the press carried so many stories filled with allegations of child molestation that many gun nuts don't want to remember him as they think he's a bad mark on us all.

Of course there's also Timothy McVeigh. He's remembered, but as a definite bad example. His actions put the government in the role of the victim with the individual in the role of villain.

But how many folks remember the Bonus Army? Hell, how many people have ever even heard of the Bonus Army? At the time it generated enough public sentiment to be a factor in electing the Great Socialist to office but now I doubt 1 in 100 people would know anything about them.

So any examples of people taking on the government are forgotten, unless they put the government in a desirable role. Let's face it - individuals are losing the PR war. The press is too sympathetic to government expansion as long as it's in line with their way of thinking. If a person who kills a cop or two gets caught with Marx's work in his home then he barely gets mentioned, but if that same person were caught with Randy Weaver's books then he's a right wing extremist.

I think it's safe to presume that any use of force against the government will not generate a public outcry on your behalf. Odds are you won't be remembered a week after you're dead; maybe less time if American Idol is having finals. If you are it'll be because the press succeeded in painting you as a horrible person.

There will be people who do resist government over eminent domain, gun control or a host of other issues. What will happen is when someone takes a stand the papers will run elaborate stories on the brave cop who was brutally murdered & left behind two small kids, & go on to mention how a John Ross novel ("a popular cult author amongst right wing extremists") was found on the same block as the person who senselessly murdered the cop. Just look closely at the news & you may catch a glimpse of them. There won't be detailed stories about the person's multi-year struggle with the government, or the questionable nature of the law being enforced or the method used to enforce them, just all the dirt that can possibly be found or implied on the person in question.

Gun owners don't have a good reputation. We own guns. That's usually enough to put us on the wrong foot with the press. There won't be any PR favors done on our account. So don't look for them. In fact expect the opposite. If you try to protect your life or your property by force against criminals you usually spend too much time reading negative critiques of your actions - & that's against habitual criminals. If the habitual criminal has a government badge then you can kiss your 10 minute spot on Oprah good-bye.

Why am I spending so much time talking about image & public perception? Because I think that half the gun nuts out there believe that if they barricade themselves in their house that word will spread & the Militia will come to their rescue. Hell, I'd like to believe that. I'd like to believe my bank account has several more zeros on the right side of the decimal point than I remember. But wishing does not make it so. The press will have any & all skeletons out of your closet so fast it'd make Paris Hilton look like a slow moving nun. What the press can't find it will allege. & any person who thinks about assisting you will have second thoughts when it hears the anonymous source recount how you told them about your secret desire to rape wounded puppies.

Still certain people will reach a point where they either make a stand or turn tail & flee. About 1 in 1,000,000 will make a stand. & I cannot say that I won't sympathize with them, I just know I probably won't be in a position to materially help them. If I ever reach that point I know it'll be my & my shadow. That's the grim reality we face; divide & conquer is the government's most effective strategy against us both philosophically & materially.

In Fire on the Mountain there was a sympathetic character. He was fighting an impossible battle against overwhelming odds with Right on his side. He died. Anyone making a stand against government would be lucky to generate a millionth of the sympathy that Ebson's character did. But they will most likely die, albeit not as nobly as Ebson's character.

I'm pissed about Kelo. It was a slap in the face to anyone who dared read the 5th amendment's Takings Clause. & there are some things I will take a stand over. But I rent. I rent because I see it as less pretentious. Paying yearly protection money to a government is not "owning" property to me. Neither is begging leave to build on said property & then having my work inspected. I rent because it's honest. It gives me no allusions. I do not own the property I live on just as I wouldn't really own the property I claimed to own. In my case the landlord owns the property I rent, whereas if I bought something I'd be in the landlord's position of thinking I owned it when in actuality the government is merely letting me tend its property for it.

So Kelo won't directly affect me. But it hurts just the same as it takes us one step closer to a Marxist view of property Rights. It's not a surprising step but it's not one I feel good about us taking.

"In this sense, the theory of the Communists may be summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of private property"

That's from Marx's The Communist Manifesto.

Here's another excerpt from that same piece which may put things into perspective:

"...Nevertheless, in most advanced countries, the following will be pretty generally applicable.

1. Abolition of property in land and application of all rents of land to public purposes." Check.

"2. A heavy progressive or graduated income tax." Check.

"3. Abolition of all rights of inheritance." Working on it.

"4. Confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels." Working on it; see Asset Forfeiture for more detail.

"5. Centralization of credit in the banks of the state, by means of a national bank with state capital and an exclusive monopoly." Let's call this one almost done with just some final tweaking left.

"6. Centralization of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the state." FCC, FAA & TSA have it under control.

"7. Extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the state; the bringing into cultivation of waste lands, and the improvement of the soil generally in accordance with a common plan." We've got our best people on that.

"8. Equal obligation of all to work. Establishment of industrial armies, especially for agriculture." Not yet, but we have some ideas about how best to approach those things. See Americorps.

"9. Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries; gradual abolition of all the distinction between town and country by a more equable distribution of the populace over the country." We like to call it "urban sprawl".

"10. Free education for all children in public schools. Abolition of children's factory labor in its present form. Combination of education with industrial production, etc." Check.

What SCOTUS did with Kelo was merely to reaffirm the goal of Marxism in relation to property while setting Locke into high rpm mode.

It's been very gradual. Incremental is the popular phrase. But I fear that Marx has won. No; we're not completely communist or even completely socialist. But we have all the essential building blocks of such a system in place. We just need a push or two in a few instances to take us the rest of the way.

The main idea of Rand's Atlas Shrugged was that if the ones who society leeched off of the most would go on strike eventually society would become disarrayed. If you’re doing 90% of the work at a company but only getting 2% of the net, by going on strike you force the company to realize your value & hopefully they'll reflect that in their next offer. I feel that Rand was overly optimistic. While there's a desire on some level to say "to hell with it" & let the country get by without my efforts the truth is the government has too much reserve. For the attrition brought on by non-participation to take effect it'd have to be on a massive scale & even then it'd take decades. Similarly a John Ross style revolution would be ineffective. Achieving it on a large enough scale to be effective would prove impossible & ultimately it would just fuel the governments inclination to dissolve any pretense of liberty we have.

So what to do about Kelo? Part of me says to do what I do; rent. Stop playing the real estate game under such rules. But there simply wouldn't be enough people to make any sort of impact. The dozens or even hundreds that sold their homes to rent a place would be quickly replaced by people eager to buy into the illusion of owning something. & chances are with government assisted loans.

Passing laws on the local level has been suggested, but here's the problem: even if you do get an acceptable law passed, the very next legislative term could see it reversed. An acknowledgement of property rights in a constitution is the best bet we'd have against governmental disregard for our property. But that's been tried before. It'd be just as silly as England making confrontational crimes illegal again. If they couldn't read the parchment on the wall yesterday what makes you think they will read it tomorrow?

Go buy a couple hundred rounds of ammo. Then shoot it at a safe shooting range. Try to do this at least once a month if not once a week. While you're shooting I want you to do something that should be very unpleasant. Think about what it would take for you to say "no farther" & defend yourself against governmental intrusion. Don't think about killing some faceless jackbooted thug to protect your children; think about Joe Blow from two blocks over. You went to high school with him & heard he just had a baby girl. Now think about him with the badge on coming to take away your guns, your house, whatever that last straw would be for you. Not because he wants to but because that’s what his job is & he believes it’s proper. He just wants to get it over with quickly & peacefully & go home to see how his new daughter is doing. Now think about it just being you against this friend of yours with a newborn baby at home. Now think about him not just coming with the badge, but a court order & the full blessing of government on a state & federal level. & don't think it'd be just you & him; it'd be just you alright, but with about 5 to 25 others just like your old school chum. That's what you should think about before talking mightily about taking it to the streets. Think about it just once, & remember vividly any conclusions you came to. That's the position you'd be in if you did draw a final line around something. If more than one in ten could pull the trigger on a paper target while merely think about those things & the implications I'd be surprised.

Still, buy the ammo & practice. If for no other reason than it's an enjoyable way to not think about things like Kelo. Course I do have one idea; since prevention is one of the most important aspects of the 2nd amendment we should work with that.

April 15th is Buy A Gun day. November 19th is National Ammo day. Let's make June 23rd American Range Trip day. Bringing some ART into the world would be appropriate, especially on a date which 5 people so artfully dodged the plain text of their controlling document. There’s a catch though - since 2006 would be the 215th anniversary of the Bill of Rights (if they'd have survived that is) let’s say you must expend at least 215 rounds downrange. In 2007 it’d be 216 rounds & so on with each new year. Any firearm chambered for any cartridge is cool, but I'd be much happier if you had at least one .30 rifle (bolt or gas operated) on the line.

I'm pessimistic about this or any other action having any positive effect on the nation as a whole, but as with too many things in this world, sometimes it's preferable to do something, even if it's in vain, than to do nothing.

Course if anyone finds a copy of Fire on the Mountain on DVD for sale let me know. I could use a good movie right now. I think we all could.

Posted by Publicola at June 27, 2005 08:02 AM

Good post. Kind of depressing, isn't it?

Posted by: Thibodeaux at June 27, 2005 08:57 AM

I thought Fire On The Mountain was a Dead Song

Posted by: countertop at June 28, 2005 04:20 PM

Yes, depressing it was. I am left with answers I never wish to undertake.

I have high school friends that decided to become theives with badges. I can only say that was the option they willingly took. I have no doubt they will only do whatever the courts allow them to do and no more. But, that is already well too far over the line, (and being pushed even farther with many court decisions).

Posted by: Fish Or Man at June 28, 2005 05:06 PM
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