The Lost Country

I was born to the nobility, which is to say I was born an American Citizen. When we had our revolution there were two ways to go. We could demote everyone to the peasantry under the kingship of an all powerful state in the manner of Hobbes’ leviathan. Or we could promote everyone to the status of an English peer. The Magna Charta and the English Bill of Rights had not applied to everyone, but our rights did.

When I was born, I could speak my mind freely. [ After a few months.] I could say any dang foolish thing that popped into my head. The government could do nothing. Other people could, but that was their right. If I walked down to the corner to say foolish things about the government I would be thought odd. The police would just make sure I wasn’t blocking anyone’s way. If I was convinced of the strangest religion – and from the outside many are peculiar – all I risked was social opprobrium. This directly contradicted the national system set up by the Peace of Westphalia. We didn’t care. In sixth grade the Gideons gave me a copy of the New Testament. I was free to accept it, cherish it, refuse it, or burn it. As it stands, It is thirty feet from me as I write this. If I, as an adult, slapped a holstered pistol to my hip and walked downtown, I was free to do so. Admittedly people would wonder why I would do so in such a peaceful place. If the police thought I was doing something wrong they had to convince a jury. If they didn’t it was over. Period.

Such freedom is a thing of the past. I have seen people stopped and searched without probable cause. Often times as a way of intimidating them. At a traffic stop I once asked a policeman why he needed my employers name and address and had a pistol drawn on me. The officer said I was obstructing justice. I’ve seen public officials commit perjury with impunity. We allow the federal government to stop us and search us with neither warrant nor probable cause in direct violation of the Bill of Rights. And make us wait in line for the pleasure. If one is carrying more money than the searchers like, they can arrest and seize the money. You must prove your innocence to get it back. Civil forfeiture is a bit more complicated in theory. But not in practice.

Americans are allowed to have weapons. Throughout most of history the difference between the free and the slave is that the free can possess weapons, travel freely, and pass his possessions on to his children or others. In fact for much of history a free man was defined as one who could carry weapons. The Saxons and the Franks were named after theirs. In fact weapons were less for fighting than for claiming a legal status. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

Perhaps the most egregious recent phenomenon is the ‘Free Speech Zone.’ As though one’s inalienable right is only to be practiced inside painted lines.

We have too many rules. They are enforced in a brutally mechanical way.

3 comments on “The Lost Country

  1. Dan Granot says:

    I love the post and I want to comment at length, but it has been a tremendously long day and I just don’t have it in me. That said, one thing I want to jot down now before my tired mind lets it slip through the cracks, is the idea that Americans are allowed to carry guns because it is the carrot in front of the stick.

    The genesis of this idea comes from the last 4 years or so of nearly constant wailing about the government coming for our guns. One law and treaty after another, one more vote in support of the current administration, one more manifesto on the Internet; all these things point to the culmination of a decades long conspiracy in which our government will come and seize our guns. And yet, they haven’t done so. The NRA, bless its heart!, is certainly trying to convince us they will, one donation at a time, but nothing has happened so far…

    And why should the government come for our guns? The government is far more well armed than its citizens, has less manpower, and very little incentive to fight a pitched battle on its own turf. More importantly, I suspect that the government realizes it doesn’t need to fight that battle at all. We already allow more known surveillance now than at any time in our past. We’re stripped, searched, ramrodded, accused, persecuted, cajoled, lied to, defrauded, taxed and otherwise treated as voting cattle more now than anytime since the founding or our country. But hey, we’re armed, and as we all know, as long as we’re armed then the government has no real power over us… as long as good men do nothing, indeed.

    • feralplum says:

      This isn’t about guns, Dan. You say we are surveilled. We are. This is new. We are stripped and searched for the effrontery to travel. We are. This is new. We are ramrodded, accused, persecuted, cajoled, lied to, defrauded…. We are. [ By the way, very nice diction, Dan.]

      This is about the loss of rights. I simply don’t decry the loss of all our rights except the right to be armed. And armed doesn’t exactly equal guns. A weapon is anything that causes your opponent to change his behavior. Strategy and tactics are much better weapons than guns. Recently I was confronted by two armed men pointing guns between my eyes in a robbery. I had no gun. Had I, it would have been useless and perhaps escalated the situation beyond control. As it was the weapons I had – logic, tactics, and the control not to panic – proved better weapons. Conley and Harwood are now serving the next 14 to 24 years in custody.

      In opposing governments soft weapons are more useful. One soft weapon is to demand that our government live up to its written social contact. To demand that that when the Constitution says “A” that it means “A.” Our social contract is written down in the constitution. Alas, half the country believes that the plain meaning of the words is nonsense and that the true meaning is contained in an undefined, changing, and ineffable Rosseauian “General Will” as decided by nine magically determined legal priests in Black Gowns.

      We who can own guns should consider it so that the right does not fall into abeyance. We should when stopped by the police deny permission for a search. A valedictorian who is forbidden to mention God in her speech at a public school should darned well consider invoking God. When police record us. We should record the politicians and the police. If the officials decided that recording is intrusive and improper, we’ll make them treat us properly. If a public university established a speech code that contradicts the constitution, we should mock it. We should be wary of secret laws and forbid convictions based on them. The renewed rise of secret laws is a scandal of the XXIst Century. Many actions to demand our rights require the concerted work of many people. But some rights may be maintained by the actions of individuals.

      We must.

      • Dan Granot says:

        I didn’t think it was strictly about gun rights, hence the line about good men doing nothing. I just found guns to be the easiest example of determined non-action because we are a nation known for its guns. Bluster and cry havoc about the non-issue, commit to the appearance of determined action in defense of that which is not really threatened and then… succeed vigorously at doing nothing. That is the carrot, or rather, a carrot, as there are many of them leading to the same result. The stick of course, is fear, as it usually is. Fear of terror, fear of security, fear of conformity, fear of religion, fear of having to do something for yourself. The last 12 years have been a perfect modern example of using fear as a weapon for enslavement. I understand weapons, too.

        Your response is right on the money, of course, and a great addition to your original piece. I will say this, though, The scope of surveillance is new. The degree to which we are accosted is new. I think, however, that the will and the desire to do these things to this degree has resided with our government for a long time, but the state of technology has allowed it to finally happen.

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