UPDATE 1500 EST 5 FEBRUARY 2013: Many thanks to our panelists and our audience. To accommodate folks, we are going to keep the comments going through tomorrow at least and the end of this week at the latest. Moderation will be as frequent as we can make it.
Please make sure to consider purchasing our participants’ books (if you haven’t already). You will find them all well worth your time and study.
I am deeply indebted to our panelists today, who have taken time from their busy lives to share their thoughts on America, circa 2013, with the WRSA readership. Comments are enabled through midnight tonight and will be moderated as quickly as possible during the interactive portion of this exercise, which will end at approximately 3 pm est today. Folks on East Coast time should remember that some of our panel is in different time zones.
They are (in utterly random order):
– David Codrea (DC): David is a Field Editor for GUNS Magazine, writes the National Gun Rights Examiner column and blogs at The War on Guns: Notes from the Resistance. He is a twenty-plus year veteran gun rights advocate. If he wanted to be successful, he’d be writing about Justin Bieber and Kim Kardashian.
– Mike Garand (MG) and Jack Lawson (JL) are former Special Operations unit combat veterans who were involved with rapid response Airborne and Heliborne Counter Insurgency Units, overseeing perimeter protection, training and providing bodyguard services in conflicts of Africa, Iraq and Afghanistan. They are the authors of “A Failure Of Civility”, a “how to” guide to protecting you, your family, your neighborhood, your community, and America in time of disaster and civil unrest.
Mike Garand holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree and a Master of Science Degree in Urban Studies with an emphasis on Criminal Justice. He has spent much of his life in the U.S. Military as a Marine and Special Forces Soldier and is retired from the U.S. Army Reserve. He is also a retired Detective from a major metropolitan police department. He has worked for years as a Contractor for the largest and most well known of the American private military companies, providing training and security services worldwide. He has seen service numerous times during the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Mike is a member of a U.S. Army Special Forces Association chapter.
Jack Lawson served in the United States Air Force and was also a member of a Foreign Legion counter insurgency unit during an anti-communist guerilla war in Africa. He was trained by British Commonwealth SAS and Israeli commando instructors and took part in counter insurgency operations and commando raids on communist training camps in a number of African countries. While there he became a bodyguard for a farmer’s association in his off duty time. Jack is an Honorary Member of a U.S. Army Special Forces Association chapter and for seven years served on a metropolitan police department Review Board that judged Officer Involved Shootings and use of deadly force incidents. He was also a consultant to the United States Marine Corps on heliborne vertical envelopment and anti-terrorist tactics. He has authored two other books. “Slaver’s Wheel” is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and all major bookstores. “A Question of Time” is available on Kindle.
– T.L. Davis (TL) is the author of “The Constitutionalist” and publishes the “TL In Exile” liberty blog. He is a proud descendant of Kentucky pioneers.
– Claire Wolfe (CW) is a free-market anarchist author and columnist. She blogs at Backwoods Home Magazine, and is a contributor at SWAT Magazine. Some of her favored topics are gulching or homesteading, firearms, homeschooling, open source technology, and opposition to national ID and the surveillance state or nanny state. She is the author of “The Freedom Outlaw’s Handbook – 179 Things To Do ‘Til The Revolution“, “Don’t Shoot The Bastards (Yet)“, “The Bad Attitude Guide To Good Citizenship“, and “Think Free To Live Free“, among other classics.
Matt Bracken (MB) is a self-described freedom addict who loves ocean sailing above all for the pure freedom it often permits. He lives with his family in North Florida and longs for the wide blue ocean. Matt is a constitutional hardliner (and frequent WRSA contributor) who believes in the original intent of the founding fathers of our country, and is the author of the Enemies Foreign And Domestic trilogy, along with his latest novel, Castigo Cay. Matt was born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1957 and graduated from the University of Virginia in 1979 with a degree in Russian Studies. He was commissioned in the US Navy through the NROTC program at UVA, and then graduated from Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training class 105 in Coronado California. Matt served on east coast UDT and SEAL teams, taking a Naval Special Warfare detachment to Beirut in 1983. Matt left active duty after Lebanon, upon completion of his obligated military service, but he remained in an active reserve status through the remainder of the 1980s. Since then he has lived in Florida, Virginia, South Carolina, Guam, and California. In 1993, Matt finished building a 48-foot steel sailing cutter of his own design, on which he has done extensive ocean cruising, including a solo voyage 9,000 miles from Panama to Guam and two Panama Canal transits.
With intros out of the way, we’ll turn to the questions. For simplicity, I have taken each panelist’s initial response and placed it under each question, using their initials. From there, we’ll go to moderated comments between the panelists and the audience:
1) Where are the citizens of the United States today — not just in terms of guns, but all personal freedoms and their relationship with government at all levels?
DC: We are slaves. The advantage the poor bastards being driven with whips to build pyramids and pick cotton had over us is they at least knew they were slaves. Most of our countrymen operate under the illusion they are “free.” Our freedoms and comforts are what are tolerated and the restraints are what can be placed on us without rupturing the illusion and risking a rebellion.
TL: I think a majority, even if a thin one, sees the government as a threat to their freedoms and liberties. I think because of TSA they feel bullied a little bit and discouraged, but I don’t think they really know what to do about it.
CW: There are no more citizens.
We are, at best, subjects. At worst, we are enemies — and not enemies by our own choice, but by the choice of the state. The federal government chose to spy on us without warrants. They chose to decree their right to kill us or lock us up without due process. They chose to send militarized police to kick down our doors. They chose to destroy the Bill of Rights. They chose to enable and coddle the Wall Street looters who destroyed (and are continuing to destroy) the country’s economy. And now they’re choosing, once again, to push their same-old-same-old agenda to disarm us.
A “government of the people” doesn’t do any of that to citizens. Only to subjects or enemies.
At the same time, of course, the government choses to grant various boons — everything from food stamps to giving people official consent to relationships that are none of the government’s business in the first place.
So for the moment, I’d say the country is becoming more deeply divided between three factions: government and its cronies; pampered but vulnerable subjects; and an increasingly angry minority who see to the heart of all this.
2) How did we get there?
DC: We gave others power over ourselves and did not watch them. So they started abusing the trust, pretty much from Day One. Thing is, the clock really wasn’t reset at “0” after the War of the Rebellion–they had players back then who knew how to game the system. It’s always been that way.
TL: I think while there are a lot of historical avenues to this condition that go back as far as the Civil War, or War Between the States, it started to come to a head in the mid-90’s with Clinton and HW Bush, but the confrontation with fedgov was dulled by the over-reaching of Timothy McVeigh and as he was part of the resistance of the time distancing the militia orgs from him took a long toll.
In more recent times, however, was the passing of the Patriot Act and the economic collapse have led us to a point where the Constitution has been subverted consistently over a condensed period of time. First to keep us safe from terrorists that never seem to get the attention they deserve and then to “violate the free market to save it,” in George Bush’s words.
CW: Boy, how many volumes do you want to publish?
But if I had to give a simple summation, I’d say two things: 1) the normal human tendency to think everything is okay (until it’s seriously not) and 2) government schooling.
Very handy, being able to plant exactly what you want in the minds of the young and impressionable. “We’re the freest country in the world” and all that. “Your government is good and just and will always take care of you,” etc.
3) Why did citizens allow American government — be it local/state/national — to grow the way it has?
DC: Because they had farms to work, trades to ply, shops to tend and bellies to fill, and because the average moral person who doesn’t look to control anyone but himself finds the desire to tell others what to do alien. Society specializes–we can’t all be dentists and plumbers and engineers or administrators. So the specialists do it and we do our thing and it’s all supposed to work with checks and balances, except we come back to those with ambition who specialize in gaming the system and working it to their advantage– no individual can possibly keep tabs on it, and those we trust to monitor things have agendas of their own. Plus, most people just don’t give a damn about things that are outside their sphere.
TL: Fear. Also, so many things seem out of our reach. The only options seem to be to take it or die trying to resist it, so it grew and grew as we took every abuse they had to dish out. I think the fear of drug gangs put some people on the back seat, thinking the police needed the material and expanded powers to deal with the threat of drugs and gangs, but those things never seem to get addressed. I don’t remember the last time the government went after any of the national gangs, or even the local ones in inner cities.
CW: Wrong question. It’s a fallacy to say that citizens allowed it.
Of course, millions of people bear some fault — maybe a lot of fault. People wanted the goodies dangled before us. People believed that the federal government, being “the best in the world” (see government schooling, earlier answer) would never do anything seriously wrong. And of course, millions of people v*te based not on real knowledge, but on impressions.
But look at how many of the really cancerous parts of government grew in secret. How many spy agencies and evil programs existed for years before their deeds were uncovered? What power do any of us have over bureaucracies? How many people cast reasonably educated v*tes — merely to find that the people they voted for acted differently in office than they promised on the campaign trail?
I know that “the price of liberty is eternal vigilance.” But frankly, that’s insane.
People have personal lives. We have our own interests. And we SHOULD. Those things should be our first priorities. If the only way to prevent government abuse was really to spend our entire lives peering intently at governments and fighting, fighting, fighting every wrong that some sneaky, scabrous bastard in a vast class of sneaky, scabrous bastards might be planning … well, that would be ridiculous! How free would we actually be if we felt compelled to live like that? We would be slaves to the governing class even more than we are now, just in a different way.
The fact is that government, like any institution, serves its own interests. Centralized government will keep growing until it can’t grow any more. And citizens aren’t going to prevent that growth by wasting their entire lives believing that somehow, if everybody could just be more vigilant, government would become “good.”
The only way in which “we” really are responsible for the growth of government is in our failure to grok that any institution that functions by stealing our money and threatening us with violence could ever be “good.”
4) What’s next — for government leaders, government workers, private sector companies, and individual citizens?
DC: Beats the hell out of me. And I’m skeptical of anyone who is certain a scenario will unfold just like they’ve predicted. I’ve never met an oracle.
TL: For the large majority of these people it will be business as usual. The government will impose laws and everyone will figure out somehow to comply with them.
CW: Pain and struggle. Creativity. Outlaw networks developing and growing, online and off. Free markets developing alongside tightly controlled ones. Interesting times — in the sense of the Chinese curse.
5) When do these issues come to a head?
DC: I don’t think there will be one head–there will be tripwires/flashpoints for individuals. Everyone has different tolerance levels and different motivating factors. I see a bunch of little rivulets joining together to form a stream and then a torrent as they happen more or less simultaneously. I also think that the more common the catalyst, the quicker and more forcefully that will happen.
TL: I think it is when we find out a way to resist without our message being lost. When one action can can be identified by others as consistent with the overall goal of restoring the Constitution, or at least the rights recognized and codified by it.
CW: When Joe or Josie Average — or at least the more aware among the J. Average segment of the population — feels more pain than he or she is willing to bear.
I suspect the trigger will be economic. But certainly firearms issues will drive millions of otherwise complacent individuals away from any love of government. The current push to disarm us is laying the groundwork for broader, stronger resistance to government tyranny, in whatever form it comes.
And you never know what could serve as a trigger. The whole Arab world burst into flame when one obscure fruit vendor set himself on fire. Right now, the hacker world is on the verge of rounding on the government because one of their own — young, promising, brilliant Aaron Swartz — was driven to suicide by a maniacal federal prosecutor. There’s a lot of crossover between hackers and gun owners. Interesting alliances could develop, creating movements no one can now guess at.
Are you looking for a date? My crystal ball doesn’t give those. The world is too complex. But if I had to guess, late 2014 seems possible.
6) Who wins, and why?
DC: I don’t know. Define “win.” Do we restore the Articles of Confederation? Do we end up with fractured regional tyrannies? Warlords? Who is authorized to negotiate a peace on your behalf? What if I don’t agree? I’m reminded of the “Table of Damascus” scene from the movie “Lawrence of Arabia”.
TL: The American people ultimately will win over this tyrannical government. How many lives are lost and how far the government is willing to go to provide that final point of revulsion that loses the support of the people is the real question.
CW: Nobody. That’s my glib answer.
A more thoughtful answer was provided in 1942 by John Steinbeck in his short novel (and play) “The Moon is Down.” One of his characters, who was about to die, told his murderer:
“The people don’t like to be conquered, sir, and so they will not be. Free men cannot start a war, but once it is started, they can fight on in defeat. Herd men, followers of a leader, cannot do that, and so it is always the herd men who win battles and the free men who win wars. You will find that is so, sir.”
I think that about says it. If tyrannical government “wins” any inevitable coming confrontation, the suffering for all of us will be intense. We may face years, decades, of hardship, oppression, and death. But free people always prevail over those who believe in central control.
7) What are your top 3 “next steps” suggestions for readers?
DC: 1. Take care of Number One. Put your own oxygen mask on first. I’m neither smart nor prescient enough to come up with 2 and 3. If you’ve done 1, hopefully you’ll be as adaptable as possible for whatever arises.
TL: Prepare your finances and conditions for your families to go on without you. Prepare yourself to take the necessary steps to resist, i.e. physical conditioning, mental preparation. Look for a way to strike back at the government in a way that directly opposes the illegal laws they have passed so that the purpose, to any rational individual, cannot be denied.
CW: 1. I’ll bet this is pretty much what everybody else will say: buy guns, gold, silver, and food. Be ready for hard times, for catastrophes large and small.
2. Even more important, develop a mindset of independence, even if your circumstances make you vulnerable or physically dependent. Be flexible and clever.
3. If you have kids, either get them away from government schools or help them develop skepticism about what they’re told in those schools.
4. (Because I’m an anarchist and don’t have to stop at three just because somebody else says so :-) ) — never give up your guns. And don’t just sit around posturing and boasting about how you won’t give them up. Think about how you’ll resist. How you’ll protect your firearms. How you’ll make or get new ones if the old get stolen. How you’ll pass your guns down to children or grandchildren. How you’ll ensure your ammo supplies. Whether you’re willing to shoot any thug who tries to take your “liberty’s teeth.” How you’ll live in a world that treats you as a criminal when you know you’re really one of the good guys. And BE FLEXIBLE. BE CLEVER about that as about all other things.
5. (Yep, anarchist.) Understand that you have to grant other people their freedom if you want them to respect yours.
Thanks to the panelists for those initial comments; others will be jumping in as the day continues.
Let’s start the interaction with a question to our speakers and audience alike:
What is your best advice for newbies to the fight for freedom in America?
UPDATE 1155 EST 5 FEB 2013: Moderation is been lightened (I think), and I am now able to keep more real-time approvals going. Be patient with your editor :-) and our participants, who are doing this task on top of everything else they are doing today. Thanks for your readership as always.