Feedback from LRC readers has taught me a few things. One is that most adults who write to me are gracious, literate, thoughtful, and as worried as I am about the future of civilization. They seem to be immune to the propaganda spread from the District of Criminals like the Black Plague; maybe it’s their healthy sense of humor that protects them. But while we all have a good laugh at Colin Powell’s angry insistence that they WILL find those cleverly concealed WMDs in Iraq, nobody laughs at the ancient tyrant’s threat, "you’re either with us, or you’re against us." Obey, or die, they tell us, and then, it’s your choice.
Sadly, we must take this kind of juvenile paranoia seriously when it comes from the men who possess the power to carry out their threats. Arguing with the goons on the SWAT team that arrives to pick you up as a "material witness" will accomplish nothing, they don’t care, and once you are locked away in a military prison without communications, your choice doesn’t matter anymore. And just to enhance their threats, they speculate that torture is permissible again. Ivan the Terrible wouldn’t have it any other way.
A few folks dwell on this scenario, and then criticize me for not addressing it. Further, they tell me what to think about it, and what to do about it as well. I appreciate these good intentions, and while I’m open to sensible arguments from observational facts, nobody has convinced me to think the way they do because they said I should, not even John Ashcroft. But what really troubles me is the action recommended.
I don’t know if it’s the movies, or the television dramas, or the niche magazines, or the historical novels, or the nightly news that inspire this approach to the problem, but there seem to be some people who believe in personal violent resistance to the State. As a fiction writer, prodded by email that I have received, I began to give careful thought to this two years ago, and I have plotted two novels on the subject and written several trial chapters for each. They don’t work.
Mel Gibson did a magnificent portrayal of a reluctant landowner-turned-warrior in The Patriot. The story was true, and the guerilla fighters did much to save Washington’s bacon from the British army, not to mention the French fleet that finished the job. Inspiring movie, yes, but the colonial rebellion was not a high-tech war, and the countryside was not clogged with millions of suburban homes, so the message hardly applies to our circumstances today.
Here’s the point: the SWAT team can pick us up one at a time from our suburban home, or our urban apartment, or our beach cabin, at three o’clock in the morning when we’re sound asleep, and even if we sleep with a loaded assault rifle and a couple of grenades, we’re dead meat. Now I may not be the brightest bulb in the chandelier, but I cannot see any way around this plain fact of life today; SWAT teams were created for this purpose, and they’ve had plenty of practice in the fraudulent War on Drugs to perfect breaking and entering and abduction. They will do what they’re told.
Chicken, coward, worthless old man, I’ve been called all of these things, and worse. The people will rise up! We’ll have rebellion! Sure. People have to get to work in the morning, they don’t have time for this foolishness. Besides, who are we supposed to fight, exactly? The enforcers are not the problem, the problem comes from the king-makers behind the throne, the people who create the domestic and foreign policy that the political puppets shove down our throats. We, the people, their servants, their slaves, cannot touch them. Yet.
So what CAN we do? Repeal the Patriot Act. Restore the Bill of Rights. Free political prisoners, or bring them to public trial. Demand the truth from media. And here’s an idea, insist on a Constitutional Amendment to repeal Article One, Section Eight, paragraph three, that authorizes Congress "To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes; …" That will take care of the king-makers.