What Will You Do When They Come for You?
By Douglas Herman
"Wherever a man goes, men will pursue and paw him with their dirty institutions, and, if they can, constrain him to belong to their desperate odd-fellow society. It is true, I might have resisted forcibly with more or less effect, might have run 'amok' against society; but I preferred that society should run 'amok' against me, it being the desperate party." ~ Henry David Thoreau, Walden
Ask yourself this question: Who do you fear more, Al Qaeda or the state? Ask yourself, who caused the Al Qaeda problem to begin with, you or representatives of state? And lastly ask yourself, who never once consulted you about foreign policy in the Middle East, that crucible of the problem? If you answered the state to any or all of these simple questions, then you realize "terror" is always a manufactured crisis invented by the state. What happened on 911 was simply a spectacular reaction, as was Madrid. Terror has always been an integral part of the state and did not begin nor will it end with 911.
When Henry David Thoreau refused to "pay a tax to, or recognize the authority of, the State, which buys and sells men, women, and children, like cattle, at the door of its senate-house," he was arrested for this minor act of resistance. Had every citizen done the same, there would have been no Civil War. There would have been no Reconstruction. Someone paid the tax and sprung him out of jail after one night of soul searching. Unfortunately, Thoreau's gesture carried little weight until literature immortalized it. The state, meanwhile, exhibited a collective madness then just as it does today.
Those who make policy that affects us all are immune from the ills they cause. There is no "cause and effect." They are the virus and you and I are the host, the lab rat, whether citizens of Angola, America or Zimbabwe. A citizen has more to fear from the idiocy of his own state than from invaders, because too often the very policy that prompted an invasion or act of "terror" like 911 began with an ill-conceived or oppressive policy, or an abuse of power. The rise of totalitarian states--the USSR in 1925 and Germany in 1932 readily come to mind - endangers citizens first and neighbors second. Let us not delude ourselves that we are somehow immune to history. Rust never sleeps and neither does tyranny. Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty or, as Edmund Burke remarked: "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."
A friend of mine used to write for that popular TV show, "Cops." If you never saw a single episode, you know the scenario of every show ever made, even if you only heard that goofy Reggae tune, Bad Boys, Bad Boys. You see, the only folks ever caught on that TV show appeared to be poor, dumb or drunk--or all three. Never apprehended in a single show were the well connected scofflaws, or as Roger Fredinburg calls them - Enron and the Corrupt-o-crats. Historically, in the decay of any state, those most immune to indictment, prosecution or imprisonment were not the powerless or poor but those super-criminals well connected to the state. The greater the decay, the greater the abuse. What Burke fears--"good men doing nothing"--may have already reached critical mass.
When the state eventually comes for you and me--for an outspoken word or act of moral courage - will we run like those fellows on "Cops," or will we confront the uniformed watchdogs of society like Randy Weaver at Ruby Ridge and cause an innocent death? Or will we conduct ourselves Like Henry David Thoreau? A righteous man, like any good fugitive, must consider the very real possibility of going to jail. Truly, the best and worst of any society are confined to jail. Jesus, Ghandi, and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn just to name a few among millions. If these good men could be jailed for speaking out against tyranny, what about pathetic examples like ourselves?
Thoreau, in jail for refusing to pay that poll tax, reportedly said to his close friend Ralph Waldo Emerson, when Emerson asked him: "What are you doing in there?" Thoreau responded: "What you are doing out there?" Thoreau could have resisted, as he wrote, but society was "the desperate party." One can only wonder whether the Constitution would have protected Henry if someone hadn't paid his tax? Has the Constitution ever achieved even a limited portion of the goals Jefferson envisioned? Achieving goals that safeguard citizens--not capturing evildoers--might one day save the Constitution. For now all that stands between Americans and indiscriminate, arbitrary arrest is an endangered scrap of parchment and the right to bear arms. When God is in the White House guarding oil wells, who is watching out for the rest of us?
We do not offer our wrists to the state willingly. Like the example of Daniel in the lionís den, opposition to the state is always Godly. It is the state that is heretical.
"Be of good cheer," naturalist Edward Abbey remarked, "the military-industrial state will soon collapse." Abbey conducted a whimsical, floating dialogue with the philosophic spirit of fellow naturalist Henry David Thoreau while rafting down the river. Riffling the currents were Henry's words: "Love virtue, and the people will be virtuous. The virtues of a superior man are like the wind; the virtues of a common man are like the grass; the grass, when the wind passes over it, bends."
Arrested once and handcuffed, the author realized, as Solzhenitsyn remarked, that the freest speech is often spoken while as a prisoner.
March 19, 2004
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