Saturday, December 20, 2014

Unpleasant Necessities Dept.

It saddens me to need to take up cudgels against a stance taken by a dear friend. Yet intellectual honesty and loyalty to my own convictions has made it necessary.

Before going any further, please read this piece at Adrienne’s Corner. Settle yourself and your own opinions about the incident described and the reactions to it you’ve just read.

I hold no brief for Alex Jones – in fact, I’ve never read his site or his writings – so I’m coming at this without any personal allegiances to defend. My quarrel is over:

  1. Local police departments possessing and deploying military-grade hardware that private citizens are forbidden to have;
  2. A law enforcement officer disparaging “well armed” “constitutionalists” to an arbitrary audience;
  3. Treating the rule of law, a critically important and almost wholly misunderstood principle of ethical and constitutional theory, as if it requires each of us to submit to any and every “law” some legislature hurls at us without resistance.

In my opinion, all three of the above matters are despicable. If what I’ve read here has been accurately reported, then this sheriff has displayed an unacceptable degree of contempt for one of the most important developments of our time: the formation of militias of private citizens in the hope of curbing the rampant overreaching and lawlessness that characterizes contemporary American governments.

The MRAP vehicle itself is of little concern, but we may legitimately ask: What other weapons of war, forbidden by “law” to the general public, are in the hands of the Spokane police department? Is it not clear that the whole point of the Second Amendment is to insure that citizens must always be able to arm themselves well enough to resist tyranny – that the people shall always be capable of putting down an abusive government? Yet there are a myriad “laws” that forbid the general public to own the very weapons of war being distributed to local police!

As to this deputy sheriff who refers offhandedly to “well armed” “constitutionalists” as a threat to him and his, that’s what they’re supposed to be: A force that can punish tyranny, that can react to abuses by the organs of the State with sufficient power to redress officially perpetrated injustice! If they were no threat, what other influence would exist to curb the excesses of agents of the State? What point would there be to citizen ownership of weaponry? Deer hunting? Alongside that, a man whose overriding concern is his personal safety does not deserve to wear a badge of office – especially not that of a lawman.

Finally, that paramount, widely misunderstood conception of American governance: the rule of law: That principle does not mean that we must all submit meekly to whatever “laws” are imposed upon us. Consider the Fugitive Slave Act for one example; consider New York’s “SAFE” Act for another. It means that agents of the State are compelled to obey the laws to the same extent as the citizenry – that a “law” that creates a legal distinction between private citizens and government agents is therefore invalid. That’s constitutional theory in a nutshell – the very reason we have a Constitution in the first place!

The critical question is and has always been:

Does an agent of the State have the privilege of breaking one law to enforce another, without penalty?

Because if he does:

  • The slaughter of Randy Weaver’s family was perfectly acceptable;
  • The slaughter of the Branch Davidians in Waco was perfectly acceptable;
  • The murder of John Singer to enforce a law against home schooling was perfectly acceptable;
  • Indeed, any deed by any agent of the State, at any time and place and under the color of any “law” whatsoever, is perfectly acceptable; the agent cannot be penalized for it.

Now, as to some of the other observations made in support of this sheriff and his deputies:

  • Yes, it is unwise to confuse local law enforcement with the federal government: You are in more danger from a government near to you than from one far away.
  • Concerning “psychotic nutjob Alex Jones:” As I said, I hold no brief for the man and have no acquaintance with his writings. But remember always that the strengths and weaknesses of the speaker cannot be transferred uncritically to the subjects and arguments he addresses. (Alternately, “even a stopped clock is right twice a day.”) It is essential to divorce arguments and observations from the personalities of those who make them.
  • Having joined (or not) the military, a police force, or any other agency of the State has no bearing on one’s rights as a citizen, nor on the freedoms to which he is entitled. Inversely: Does honorable military service or voluntarism confer extra rights on an individual? Would you excuse a man of a serious crime, for example armed robbery, on the grounds that he had a sterling record in the military and was a volunteer to the local fire department?
  • The term “right-wing fringe lunatics” is merely a slander of unnamed persons whose stances could well be exactly the one stated here. It is not a refutation of that stance.
  • That other lands suffer even worse governments, and even worse abuses, is irrelevant to abuses of power here in the United States. Foreign tyranny cannot excuse the excesses and lawlessness of our own. If it were so, we would be required to reform the entire world before acting on events in our own domain.

Food for thought.

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