I learned a long time ago that it is one thing to see a ghost. It is yet another when a ghost sees you. But you don't truly understand a thing until a ghost reaches out and taps you on the shoulder.
As I noted in Part One of this series, "Unum Necessarium," there are decided differences between the situation the Founders faced in the years 1774-1775 and that which we face as 2014 gives way to 2015. There are also striking similarities.
I have been in this fight against the growing collectivist tyranny in this country for more than 20 years now. So, too, have some of my oldest surviving friends -- men like Bob Wright and Cope Reynolds. One thing that longevity gives us old farts is some perspective of history, that the struggle for liberty is a long game, and only successfully played by the those with resolute patience. Nothing demonstrates this so clearly as the timeline of the American Revolution.
The seminal event that educated, instructed and matured the Founding generation and ultimately produced the Revolution was the French and Indian War that raged from 1754 to 1763. In it, the colonists got an up-close look at the British Empire, at the follies and corruptions of an arbitrary government and an arrogant military that had prior to that event been distant and seemed not so important to the New World. Colonists who had been reared in the moral revival of the Great Awakening, who had learned to appreciate the British Constitution as practiced after the Glorious Revolution of 1688, colonists who had imbibed the lessons of the English Civil War and the philosophy of John Locke, were shocked at the contrasts between what they had been raised to appreciate as ostensibly freemen of Britain and the harsh reality.
Used to governing themselves and making provisions for their own security through their militias, the war which brought imperial excesses and abuses right in front of their noses was shocking to the colonists. It also had the effect of training an entire generation of colonial yeoman farmers and tradesmen to the art and practice of war and illustrated to them the strengths, and more importantly, the weaknesses, of the greatest army on the planet. Men who lost friends and loved ones to British military arrogance were not likely to come out the other side of that experience with increased love for the distant monarchy and the military that seemed heedless of the reality of their world.
When the British tied Daniel Morgan to a wagon wheel and lashed him, by Morgan's own count, 499 times (a sentence that killed many lesser men), they made a permanent enemy who paid them back many times over during the Revolution. One wonders today what unintended lessons our own veterans of the long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have learned from their politician-squandered bloody sacrifices. In this alone, those wars and the French and Indian War are eerily parallel, having both created generations of demobilized soldiers, but now members of the armed citizenry, who are well familiar with the two-way shooting range.
The French and Indian War also darn near bankrupted the British Empire and lead first to the taxes and then to the repressive measures to enforce those taxes that laid the groundwork for the Revolution. These in turn led to a political movement that eventually morphed into a fully-developed armed civil disobedience and then, to war.
It is not necessary to dwell on the details here. The timeline alone tells all. From the Stamp Act to Lexington and Concord, this was a long game, this fight for liberty, and the Founders understood that intimately. They played it with skill and with patience, but also with determination. At each step they out-thought their royal oppressors, out maneuvered them, goaded them into stupidities which brought even more support to the side of revolution. They did this long before they out-fought them and they did it by patience and forbearance -- the essence of holding the moral high ground. Yet with each incident they pushed the liberty cause a little further down the field, learning as they went.
They were capable of quite sophisticated gambits as well. When the Boston Massacre happened (probably at the instigation of Samuel Adams) in 1770, it was his patriot cousin John Adams who DEFENDED the British soldiers in court. And got most of them off. Paul Revere's timely propaganda made the case of royal tyranny and John Adams proved colonial rectitude and "fair mindedness." It was a huge win-win for the patriot cause.
But what of our own "long game"? What parallels, if any, are there to the Founding generation's learning experiences with resistance to tyranny? More, I think, than many appreciate.
For most of us, this part of our lives began with Waco, Ruby Ridge and the constitutional militia movement. For those of you who have no memory of that period, I would refer you to Professor Robert Churchill's work To Shake Their Guns in the Tyrant's Face.
We learned a lot back then, but most of the wisdom is distilled in an anecdote of the period around the time of the Freeman standoff. My friend Bob Wright, leader of the 1st Brigade New Mexico Militia, had this to say when the FBI SAC in Albuquerque NM asked Bob if he would take his men out of state to the site of another potential Waco: "Why would I want to do that? There's plenty of you federal sonsabitches around here."
This encapsulates what we learned: that an attack on one was an attack on all, even if we didn't sympathize or agree with the target of militarized federal police action, and -- most importantly -- that the response would be general, not local. Another way of putting it was our battle cry No more free Wacos! This then was the ultimate expression of our cold war with the militarized federal police of the Clinton era. And we later had evidence to confirm the fact that we scared them as much as they scared us. Based upon events, it was a credible deterrent.
And then we crossed the timeline into the 21st Century. Clinton left the stage, Bush entered. Not that we trusted Bush any more than we had Clinton, but it seemed that the pressure was off for a bit. The movement reflected this. Fewer people showed up for meetings and FTXs. But then came 11 September 2001, and shortly after the misbegotten and misnamed PATRIOT Act. To a man and woman, all of us old guys in the constitutional militia movement opposed it because we understood from our study of the Founders, especially the Alien and Sedition Acts, that you should never pass a law that you weren't willing to see enforced upon you by your own worst enemy.
Then in 2005 came the border crisis (again, without end, amen) Bush's drive for amnesty and the popular response of the armed citizenry, the Minutemen. As I wrote at the time, they were "the magnificent Minutemen."
But then it began to dawn on some of us: we few dozen volunteers were forcing the governments of two nations (as well as the minions of the largest economic enterprise on the planet) to dance to OUR tune. With this knowledge, we began to tailor our operations to take advantage of that fact. And while I am back in Alabama, the Minutemen volunteers are still interdicting that part of the border, mindful of their new power to call the tune.History, for good or ill, is made by determined minorities. Never was that truer than among that small band of New Mexico Minutemen. They were dirty, unshaven and exhausted on their best day. They didn't look like much more than a small convention of the homeless. But by their presence and their gritty determination they were calling the shots on the border. They were pitiful, they were magnificent. I am proud to have known them and to have served with them.
4 April 2005, Palominas AZ - New Mexico militiaman Bob Wright outside the Palominas Trading Post and Cafe, just before the first Minuteman Project patrol departed for the border.
This was no small accomplishment and it was no accident that seasoned veterans of the constitutional militia movement like Bob Wright were major leaders in that struggle. With each border interdiction we learned more about planning, logistics, rules of engagement and dealing successfully with the federal bureaucracy while maintaining our own principles and ability to carry out the mission. Being armed, we were condemned as "vigilantes." But no incidence of violence was ever traced to the Minutemen. It was empowering for us, and we relearned a simple truth that some of us had forgotten from the 90s -- bureaucrats, even armed bureaucrats, are not interested in messing with the armed citizenry when in sufficient numbers and displaying martial competence and intimate knowledge of what they are about. It was heady stuff, which is why we were denounced so fiercely by the SPLC and others, including the GOP elites. The issues today are the same, but we stopped the drive for amnesty in 2005. We bought time. A decade's worth of time -- until a lame-duck president empowered by nothing left to lose is going to go all dictatorial on us to achieve it.
And as the 21st Century progressed we began to understand also that if the standard political means of defending ourselves and our liberty could not be trusted to the jellied-backbones of politicians such as the GOP that an acceptable, functional substitute could be crafted as a local expedient as well as a national one. Some anecdotes:
August 2011, Quartzsite, AZ. Oath Keepers, led by Stewart Rhodes, sponsors “The Quartzsite Liberty Festival," which supported "the concerned citizenry of Quartzsite, local activists such as grass-roots journalist Jennifer ‘Jade’ Jones, and the town Mayor, the Honorable Ed Foster (a Marine veteran), who have stood up for the free speech rights of the citizens” against a tyrannical police chief. Although forbidden to do so and threatened with deadly force, several hundred armed citizens, including Bob Wright, Cope Reynolds and others, marched through town. One recalled, "Our actions along with a diligent local citizenry there ultimately resulted in the formal dismissal of the Police Chief Jeff Gilbert.
September 2011, Ruidoso NM. The Alamagordo News reported it under the headline, "Protesters livid over gun ban." Bob Wright recalls,
We arrived at the village hall about an hour before the scheduled council meeting. On the front door of the village hall was a sign declaring the carrying of firearms was forbidden by mayoral decree. We mingled around the crowd and observed there was a police presence in the area of ten or so people in uniform. We visited with the Lieutenant for a bit and laughed at one young officer who was incredibly nervous. They even had the dog catcher there with a taser strapped on. As we neared time for the meeting top start we moved to the door. I put my hand on the door handle and in a loud and clear voice read the sign with the Mayors proclamation. I then turned while keeping my hand on the handle and looked the cops in the eye and said, "Well… What's it going to be?” My recollection is that the Police chief with a chagrined look and a go ahead gesture said “Go on in, Sir.” We entered the chambers and along with about a hundred other armed men we took seats and waited for the meeting to begin. We sat through the regular business of the meeting and when public comment began the freemen of New Mexico, with pistols on hips and ARs slung over shoulders laid out the case of freedom and adherence to the New Mexico constitution in Language both plain and eloquent.
Congressman Steve Pearce gets set to defy US Forest Service at armed civil disobedience rally in Cloudcroft NM
September 2011, Cloudcroft, NM. The same month, just after Ruidoso and also in New Mexico, came the Otero County "Chainsaw Rebellion.
Arizona firearms instructor and militiaman Cope Reynolds recalls:
Less than a month later (after the Quartzite confrontation), many of the same patriots including myself and Bob Wright found ourselves in Otero County, NM standing up to the tyrant again. This time, it was the feds in the form of the U.S. Forest service. About 400 or so armed patriots rallied for emergency logging operations that would help protect the scenic town of Cloudcroft. The USFS said "No" to logging so we, with the blessing of a constitutional sheriff, departed the rally and headed for the woods. NM 2nd District Congressman (R) Steve Pearce cut down the first tree after which many more were felled while the USFS stood helplessly by and watched.
My political attitude and activity took a bit of turn in 2009. I started being much more vocal and attending quite a few rallies that I thought were worthy spending the time and money on. It really began with the Tea Parties that year and grew from there. My travels were getting longer and more frequent so I began to be a little more picky about my causes. . .April of 2014 found us at Bundy Ranch in Nevada shoulder to shoulder with thousands of armed militia and supporters facing a militarized Bureau of Land Management SWAT team among others. The BLM wisely decided to back away from that confrontation.Fast forward past several other armed rallies to 13 December 2014 and Olympia, WA. A large rally with some 2000-2500 armed attendees stood up against the tyrant once again in opposition of draconian gun legislation which was Initiative 594. i594 made virtually all private firearms transfers illegal without a background check. The rally was organized in record time by Gavin Seim and a handful of die-hard, tireless patriots. We effectively nullified I594 by committing several thousand felony transfers during the rally. What a stunning and brilliant success this rally was! The following weekend saw a similar armed rally in Spokane.
(NOTE: It is significant that both Gavin Seim and Anthony Bosworth, two of the driving members of the I Will Not Comply Rally in Olympia, were also at Bundy Ranch. My intention starting out was to do a complete timeline of the armed civil disobedience actions during the recent past and I find that I don't really have enough space. There was the San Antonio rally at the Alamo on 19 October 2013 as well as the Temple, Texas march in defiance of very nervous local "authorities" in June of that year. There are others. Each time we do these actions, local leaders learn lessons that are applied in other places and at future times. This is something the Founders learned as well. It is a process that cannot be precisely taught in a classroom, nor can it be rushed, it must be learned by experience.)
The evening after the Olympia rally, as we were traveling in several cars headed to Yakima for a defensive handgun class that Cope was conducting the next day, we stopped and had dinner. Cope recalls, "I was suddenly struck with a thought that concerned me just a tad. I posed this question to Mike: 'We have been very successful in rubbing the nose of the tyrant in his piddle puddle time after time. Do you think its possible or even likely that they will tire of this and be waiting and ready to go to guns on unsuspecting patriots at one of these rallies?'"
I smiled, and said, "Good question." For the truth is that no infringement of liberty, which comes with its own implicit and explicit threat of state violence, is ever checked or rolled back except by a countervailing threat of defensive violence on the part of the armed citizenry. Ask the surviving veterans of of "the Battle of Athens" in 1946. Ask the Deacons for Defense and Justice. Indeed, ask the ghosts of the Founders.
This is a long game, this struggle for liberty. To avoid rash decisions and failure of means and ends you must have the patience of the Founders. I've been at this fight now for two decades. Others like Bob Wright have been longer in these trenches than I have. The parallels between the learning curve of the Founding generation and today are inexact, but they are there.
In part Three of this series, I will deal with two more.