I ran across a quotation a few days ago that struck me pretty hard. I don't really know why. It isn't, in content, any different from many others I'm familiar with. Then this evening I read a post at No Quarters that reminded me afresh. Gunner posted the entire "Give me Liberty" speech by Patrick Henry which was certainly apropos, and I'll repost it here:
No man thinks more highly than I do of the patriotism, as well as abilities, of the very worthy gentlemen who have just addressed the House. But different men often see the same subject in different lights; and, therefore, I hope it will not be thought disrespectful to those gentlemen if, entertaining as I do opinions of a character very opposite to theirs, I shall speak forth my sentiments freely and without reserve. This is no time for ceremony. The questing before the House is one of awful moment to this country. For my own part, I consider it as nothing less than a question of freedom or slavery; and in proportion to the magnitude of the subject ought to be the freedom of the debate. It is only in this way that we can hope to arrive at truth, and fulfill the great responsibility which we hold to God and our country. Should I keep back my opinions at such a time, through fear of giving offense, I should consider myself as guilty of treason towards my country, and of an act of disloyalty toward the Majesty of Heaven, which I revere above all earthly kings.Strong words, spoken at the end of hope for any peaceful resolution.
Mr. President, it is natural to man to indulge in the illusions of hope. We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth, and listen to the song of that siren till she transforms us into beasts. Is this the part of wise men, engaged in a great and arduous struggle for liberty? Are we disposed to be of the number of those who, having eyes, see not, and, having ears, hear not, the things which so nearly concern their temporal salvation? For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I am willing to know the whole truth; to know the worst, and to provide for it.
I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided, and that is the lamp of experience. I know of no way of judging of the future but by the past. And judging by the past, I wish to know what there has been in the conduct of the British ministry for the last ten years to justify those hopes with which gentlemen have been pleased to solace themselves and the House. Is it that insidious smile with which our petition has been lately received? Trust it not, sir; it will prove a snare to your feet. Suffer not yourselves to be betrayed with a kiss. Ask yourselves how this gracious reception of our petition comports with those warlike preparations which cover our waters and darken our land. Are fleets and armies necessary to a work of love and reconciliation? Have we shown ourselves so unwilling to be reconciled that force must be called in to win back our love? Let us not deceive ourselves, sir. These are the implements of war and subjugation; the last arguments to which kings resort. I ask gentlemen, sir, what means this martial array, if its purpose be not to force us to submission? Can gentlemen assign any other possible motive for it? Has Great Britain any enemy, in this quarter of the world, to call for all this accumulation of navies and armies? No, sir, she has none. They are meant for us: they can be meant for no other. They are sent over to bind and rivet upon us those chains which the British ministry have been so long forging. And what have we to oppose to them? Shall we try argument? Sir, we have been trying that for the last ten years. Have we anything new to offer upon the subject? Nothing. We have held the subject up in every light of which it is capable; but it has been all in vain. Shall we resort to entreaty and humble supplication? What terms shall we find which have not been already exhausted? Let us not, I beseech you, sir, deceive ourselves. Sir, we have done everything that could be done to avert the storm which is now coming on. We have petitioned; we have remonstrated; we have supplicated; we have prostrated ourselves before the throne, and have implored its interposition to arrest the tyrannical hands of the ministry and Parliament. Our petitions have been slighted; our remonstrances have produced additional violence and insult; our supplications have been disregarded; and we have been spurned, with contempt, from the foot of the throne! In vain, after these things, may we indulge the fond hope of peace and reconciliation. There is no longer any room for hope. If we wish to be free-- if we mean to preserve inviolate those inestimable privileges for which we have been so long contending--if we mean not basely to abandon the noble struggle in which we have been so long engaged, and which we have pledged ourselves never to abandon until the glorious object of our contest shall be obtained--we must fight! I repeat it, sir, we must fight! An appeal to arms and to the God of hosts is all that is left us!
They tell us, sir, that we are weak; unable to cope with so formidable an adversary. But when shall we be stronger? Will it be the next week, or the next year? Will it be when we are totally disarmed, and when a British guard shall be stationed in every house? Shall we gather strength by irresolution and inaction? Shall we acquire the means of effectual resistance by lying supinely on our backs and hugging the delusive phantom of hope, until our enemies shall have bound us hand and foot? Sir, we are not weak if we make a proper use of those means which the God of nature hath placed in our power. The millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us. Besides, sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations, and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us. The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave. Besides, sir, we have no election. If we were base enough to desire it, it is now too late to retire from the contest. There is no retreat but in submission and slavery! Our chains are forged! Their clanking may be heard on the plains of Boston! The war is inevitable--and let it come! I repeat it, sir, let it come.
It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace-- but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!
In the post immediately below that one, Gunner discusses Claire Wolfe's much-repeated quotation:
America is at that awkward stage. It's too late to work within the system, but too early to shoot the bastards.He quotes Claire talking about that quip:
People have started using the expression "Claire Wolfe time" and "half past Claire Wolfe" to talk about how bad our loss of freedom is becoming. I can't tell you how strange it is to have my name becoming a metaphor for the moment a shooting war begins.I left a comment on Gunner's blog pointing to my conclusion that Claire was wrong. It's not too early, it's too late.
What's scarier is that I can no longer think of any moral reason not to "shoot the bastards." I can think of many, many pragmatic reasons not to attack government thugs and their bosses. I'm still not advocating that anyone commit violence (not even against TSA screeners, federal prosecutors, or cops at checkpoints -- though I understand the impulse).
But with freedom being sucked away and absolutely no one making any effective large-scale effort to restore it (but lots of people making effective large-scale efforts to destroy it), I can easily see how the next checkpoint or the next arbitrary detention or the next demand for biometric ID will simply be The Moment for some of us. Not just for the edgy Carl Drega people, either. But for good, solid, sensible people who must make the choice either to live with themselves or live as a cowed, obedient comrade of the Stalinist state being created around them.
Sometimes survival of freedom's soul requires uttering a big, fat, frickin' loud, emphatic, get-out-of-my-face right this minute, no doubt about it, this planet ain't big enough for the two of us NO.
And that "NO" -- as governments understand and dread -- is best enforced at the point of a gun in the hands of a determined citizen willing and ready to use it.
Why must anyone be squeezed into making that choice in America, of all places? Nothing is more heartbreaking. Why the hell can't governments just get out of our way and let ordinary people go about their business unmolested?
There's a discussion running over at AR15.com this evening about the Supreme Court's vacating the 9th Circuit's U.S. v Stewart decision and what it means. I'm sure there are discussions on many other boards about it. Here are a few example posts in reaction:
Exactly as I expected after the Raich ruling. The Feds can now legislate/regulate just about anything in your daily lives and to hell with what the states think.That last one was the most insightful, accurate post in the thread.
Knew it was going to happen, but it still sucks.
Raich and McCain-Feingold basically said that the Federal government has unlimited powers, and state's rights no longer exist. The United States of the Founders is gone, and the US Constitution can be ignored at will.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. US Declaration of Independence.
Time to do it again.
The very reason for the Supreme Court was to validate rulings using the Constitution as the final arbiter.
Now all the entire legal system does is base shitty and unconstitutional law on previous shitty and unconstitutional law using the bullshit excuse of "precedent".
The system was set up as a LIMITED Federal government GRANTED those powers not reserved to the States and the People. It's been totally flipped the other way. The Federal government has given themselves virtual control over EVERYTHING that is done in this country. The States are merely annoying political sub-divisions that are obstacles to get around (again through more "interpreted" laws). The ultimate tool is financial. The system has been rigged to give most of states citizen's tax monies to the Federal government and therefore if you don't comply with what the Feds want, we'll simply find one of those hundreds-of-thousands of laws we've created that say we can't give you any of YOUR money back. Too bad, so sad.
States rights were at the heart of the first Civil War. The ground work is being laid for the second one in exactly the same way.
I'm 48. I wonder if I'll see it happen before I die?
We are governed by tyrants and traitors. The Constitution is regarded by the government it created as a contemptible rag.
We, and our own fathers, allowed the Republic the Founding Fathers authored to be slowly digested by those who promise that intrusions are so small as to be meaningless, or shriek that transitory emergencies must be allowed to override ancient liberties.
We have a health care privacy law whose primary effect is to ensure the right of hospitals and insurers to sell your private health information. We lurch toward national ID cards; our anonymity when unoffending is not assured by the privacy right that allows us to kill unborn children and sodomize one another. Your 12 year-old daughter has a right to privacy that assures that she can undergo an invasive surgical procedure without your knowledge, but does not guarantee that she can walk down a public street without disclosing her identity to any interested minion of the law. The First Amendment protects pornography - even simulated child pronography - and flag-burning, but it does not guarantee the right to criticize a congressman in the 60 days before an election.
We begin to reap the consequences of the ill-considered forbearance that allowed Chief Justice Hughes to say "We are under a Constitution, but the Constitution is what the judges say it is," and escaped unhanged. What generations of lawyers and politicians have taken as elevated drollery or cynical realism was in fact civic blasphemy and open treason. We have for centuries said with pride that we are governed by laws rather than men; we have celebrated the rule of law. It is time we began to dig its grave. We are governed by men, by majoritarian whim, by horsetraders and whores in Congress, by judicial cowardice and caprice, by every vile, low, unworthy, ungodly, despicable artifice and trick that led to the rebellion of '76, lacking only a crown.
We draw closer and closer to the hell of totalitarianism or the hell of revolution. Wise men will contemplate their choice of poisons.
You know, when a computer gets bogged down with too much shit floating around in it... memory leaks, orphaned processes... you need to do a CTRL-ALT-DEL to reboot, just to get a fresh start.
The gov't needs a CTRL-ALT-DEL every so often just to get rid of the accumulated shit that's built up.
And it doesn't need to be by force... the founders should have made a mandatory maximum sunset clause for every law that was passed, and each one must be be brought up for debate individually before renewing it. Eventually you would get to the point where all our elected officials would have time to do is renew laws. They wouldn't have the time to cram anything else down our throats.
Yes, all that is interesting but can you tell me when the next American Idol comes on please. All this talk of government wears me out. I need to know who: is voted off the island, or makes it too the next round, or can't control their kids, or will have a house built for them they can't afford thanks to lease payments to the federal and state government.
I fear the nation left to my daughter will be no better than any other socialist hell by the time I'm off this mortal coil. Sometimes I wish it would just come to a boil so we can get on with it.... slide down the sewer or pick a fight. My heart wants to think men will not stand for it. My head tells me only a very few will risk their middle-class home, 3 cars, and big screen for any ideal such as freedom. It makes me sad.
I hate to quote a movie but one of my favorite quotes from The Patriot: "Why would I trade one tyrant three thousand miles away for three thousand tyrants one mile away. An elected legislature can trample a man's rights as surely as a king". The real tyrant is an ignorant population. They are all around you and only 1 in 50 can correctly tell you what any portion of the Constitution means or why it's important.
Just yesterday I finished re-reading Heinlein's masterpiece The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. I can't tell you how many times I've read it. I know I, personally, have worn out three copies. It's a great read, and a sobering look into the mechanics of revolution. I am constantly in awe of the men and women who carried off our American revolution and then made the government that we, their descendants, have so badly mangled. Claire Wolfe asks "Why the hell can't governments just get out of our way and let ordinary people go about their business unmolested?" Heinlein has an answer:
Must be a yearning deep in human heart to stop other people from doing as they please. Rules, laws - always for other fellow. A murky part of us, something we had before we came down out of trees, and failed to shuck when we stood up.I'm beginning to believe that Edward O. Wilson's analysis of Marxism, "Wonderful theory. Wrong species." is applicable to self-government as well. It certainly appears to be.
So what was that quote? I found it a few days ago at American Digest. It's from a speech Alexander Solzhenitsyn gave at Harvard in 1978. It's taken out of context, but it really does stand alone:
In a state of psychological weakness, weapons become a burden for the capitulating side. To defend oneself, one must also be ready to die; there is little such readiness in a society raised in the cult of material well-being. Nothing is left, then, but concessions, attempts to gain time and betrayal.Claire Wolfe thinks that we'll individually reach some breaking point: "I can easily see how the next checkpoint or the next arbitrary detention or the next demand for biometric ID will simply be The Moment for some of us." I made that observation myself in Pressing the "RESET" Button:
I don't think you're going to see a widespread armed uprising. What you're going to see is individuals and small groups who've simply had enough arming and striking - and probably dying in the process. If you've read John Ross's Unintended Consequences you'll get the idea, but I don't expect anything like the level of response he writes of. Not enough people are pissed off enough to do that.Read that whole piece.
Of course the media will spin it as "lone deranged gun-nuts" or "anti-government militias," but if you pay attention you'll note an increase in the numbers over time.
Thomas Jefferson's greatest fear has come home to roost, "lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty." Many, but not most of us can see what's happening. Most, but not all of us who see it simply ignore it, shoving it into the recesses of our consciences. We have too much to lose. There's still some hope. It's not our responsibility. Who's getting booted off of Survivor tonight? Can you believe that Michael was acquitted?
For more and more of us, though, I think Claire's right. A few of us are going to reach our own individual Moments and those reactions will be used as excuses to further tighten the clamps, but for the majority the "cult of material well-being" has resulted in psychological weakness. "Give me liberty or give me death" is not a phrase they can embrace.
So as for me? I'm going to stick to my own advice:
(M)y life, my fortune, and my sacred honor stand ready to be sacrificed in the defense of my rights and the rights of those I love as I understand them. I am a citizen of this nation as much or as little as it protects and defends those rights under which it was founded, not as they are (mis)understood today. I will obey those laws with which I agree, follow those laws I am unwilling to suffer the penalty for, and I will disobey those laws I find egregious. This may mean that, at some time in the future, the State may decide to "selectively enforce" itself on me to make an example. At that time and at that place I will decide how to respond, for that choice is mine and always will be. In the mean time, I will agitate for those rights, making sure those in power remember that they swore oaths to defend them whether they understood them or not. I will continue trying to educate others so that they, too, understand what it is they are losing, what they are allowing others to throw away, and so they will hopefully not choose slavery.But I weep for the legacy they should be receiving.
That's what I owe my grandchildren.