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.

UPDATE: Here's still more on the subject from Eowyn.


Adrienne said...

You make some valid points and bring up some concerns that I think we all have. This proliferation of Swat attacks is very troubling.

I was lax in not posting the original video. Perhaps you should watch it and after you've watched it, watch it again.

After that, spend some time on InfoWars.

We can chat afterwards.

He explains to the woman that the only thing an MRAP would be used for is cover. At 1:14 he answers her concern about using the military against citizens as "unconstitutional."

When she brings up Obama he agrees with her.

At 1:33 he tells her they are there to take kids shopping for Christmas and the only reason they brought the MRAP was because (1:45) "kids like to see these things." She agrees that her son would love to see it.

These MRAP's are not armed and in fact the area to arm them has been removed.

She then asks if the area where the armament goes could be replaced. He tells her clearly they don't even have it anymore and have no plans to replace it. She continues to ask if it could be replaced if they had it. The only answer to that is, "Well, yeah - I guess so."

Both the Randy Weaver (which the local sheriff tried to stop) and Waco incidents were both led by the Feds.

Joseph said...

The really weird part of this is when law enforcement people wear camouflage uniforms. Maybe we should tell them that "It's a jungle out there." is only a metaphor.

David DeGerolamo said...

I will not debate the context of the officer's statement. No peace officer who has sworn to uphold the law would make the statement regarding the Constitution and the 2nd Amendment.

And that is exactly what he disparaged in his remarks. I live in Cherokee County, NC. Population 24,000 in a county that takes an hour to cross. The county has one MRAP and two helicopters (no pilot) from the government's 1033 program.

I met with the sheriff (who just lost the election) a few months back and asked if he would blow up the MRAP and I would film it. It would guarantee his reelection.

He said no. Although he had never used it, he said he may need it in the future to ram a house with a shooter inside or to cross a stream in a flood situation.

When he saw that I was not swayed, he said that he would use it to protect us if the federal government attacked us.

Any wonder why he lost the election?

Anonymous said...

Regarding MRAPs (admittedly just a symptom of the problem), the following story comes to mind. Josif Tito (later Marshal Tito, dictator of Yugoslavia) was a very influential partisan leader during WW2. Near the beginning of the war he was asked, "How are your men, armed with old rifles, going to defeat the Germans, armed with new Panzers?" His response is both funny and full of tactical/strategic wisdom: "When the Germans get out of their new Panzers to take a piss, my men will shoot them with their old rifles." The MRAP crew have to get out, and they have homes that they presumably go to each evening when done with work. They're not quite so well protected then. Even in the MRAP, Molotov cocktails can make the work environment just a little bit hazardous. The police advocating the use of such weapons against the American public should take a lesson from Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq, where relatively primitive people with relatively little knowledge were able to fight off superpowers using the principles and tactics of assymetric warfare.

Reg T said...

Additionally, look at photos of the SWAT teams which deploy all over the country, out of police departments _and_ Sheriff's Departments: have you seen any where the officers do NOT cover their faces with a balaclava? I believe it may have been Jeff Cooper who said that if he is approached by an armed individual who has chosen to cover his face, he will assume he is a criminal and deal with him accordingly.

MRAPs are simply the tip of the iceberg. They are indicative of a particular mindset. Departments which accept them - along with the grenade launchers and other military weapons provided by the Feds - will use them. On the citizens they are employed by, who have not yet been determined to be guilty of any crime.

When I was a peace officer (San Diego PD), we served our own warrants. SWAT was only called out for an active shooter or a suspect with hostages. When we served a warrant on a previously violent felon, we sent three or four officers. Not SWAT.

Radley Balko and others have documented the militarization of law enforcement. The mindset of officers who like MRAPs and the other toys is such that they actively seek opportunities to use those "neat" toys.

In my time we called them "felony cops" because they were the ones who would jump a call - out of their own area/beat - because it gave them a chance to use their firearm, to shoot a "bad guy".

These days that kind of officer seems to be far too common. Look at all the shaved heads, the fingerless "spec op" gloves, the ubiquitous dark glasses, the open scorn for the very citizens they were hired to serve and protect.

A man who openly states a dislike, a desire to dominate, other men simply because they own a number of firearms and the ammunition that is used in them, shouldn't be in law enforcement. To further disparage men who "cling" to the Constitution is to identify himself as a hypocrite who lied when he took his oath of office.