When we look back on the future history of freedom, I think last weekend’s “tear down the Barrycades” march in DC will be remembered as a watershed. A few thousand veterans and friends (including Oath Keepers members) not only ripped down those absurd metal walls while DC and Park Service cops stood by, but they delivered them right to the heavily guarded, paranoia-enhanced White House fence: Return to Sender. And nobody even tried to stop them.
Yes, the march was a political event with neocon figureheads like (ugh) Sarah Palin. Yes, it’s probably also true that if George W. Bush had put up the same silly barriers some of these same people would probably have shown up to defend the fences against “terrorists and anarchists who might harm our national treasures during this vital shudown.” But it’s now and they didn’t. And it’s pretty clear that the politicians who tried to make the event their own failed miserably. This was as close as it gets to a real, spontaneous “of the people” action.
Naturally, the dying MSM did their best to ignore both the teardown and the arrogant folly of Obama’s closure not only of open-air monuments but even the view of open-air monuments like Mt. Rushmore. But every reasonable person who heard about such things surely recognized the Barrycades for exactly what they were: silly, spiteful political gestures aimed at the American people; absurdies, and costly ones at that.
The Barrycades and their peaceful teardown exemplified the contempt for government that’s been growing for lo these many years in the same way that the Boston Tea Party did against the British government back in 1773.
When National Park Service director Jonathan Jarvis admitted he’d consulted closely with the White House on the closures, then tried to claim terrorism as the excuse, he was resoundingly laughed at. Several headlines even used the term “cries terrorism,” as in “cries wolf,” when reporting on it.
Some of these same publications would have taken any “terrorism” claim as gospel 10 years ago and called for more Draconian laws to “protect” us. Now they sneer. Yes, they’re a little late to the wisdom of skepticism, and maybe this, too, is another “bad when Obama does it, good when a patriotic, Christian Texan does it” thing.
But it reminded me of another tiny moment in American history. This one happened at the very end of the Salem witch hunts, in 1692 or early 1693.
You know the story of the witch hunts. A bunch of pubescent and pre-pubescent girls, excited by a domestic slave’s tales of dark forces, all decided to become hysterical together in the same way their modern counterparts decide to go screaming crazy over the same small-talent-but-good-haircut singer. In wildly theatrical frenzies, they flung themselves to the ground, screaming and carrying on while making accusations that witches were present and doing all manner of evil things.
The first person the “afflicted” girls accused was the very slave, Tituba, who filled their heads with scary stuff in the first place. This brought the little drama-queens a delectable amount of attention. Never mind that it also put the hapless Tituba’s life in jeopardy. Being the center of attention was fun! And having fits was quite a pleasant diversion from stodgy, strict Puritan living.
Looking around for more victims, a growing pack of girls began to pick out the Usual Suspects — poor, ugly, unpopular, marginalized women. (And as things went on, women and men who may have been engaged in feuds with their families.)
Eventually, 20 innocent people were executed, 19 by hanging and one fiercely principled 80-year-old man by being “prest to death” under rocks for refusing to even honor the court by entering a plea to something so absurd. Five more of the accused died in prison.
Time and the sheer insanity of what was going on eventually drove the community to its senses and some of the later accused were found not guilty. One factor in that awakening was that the ever-growing mob of “afflicted” girls eventually ran out of marginal characters to accuse. They began pointing fingers at obviously blameless souls, some prosperous and prominent. That helped put an end to the catastrophe.
One incident, right at the end (which I don’t think is mentioned in the Wikipedia entry linked above), is what Jarvis’s claim reminded me of. A pack of the “afflicted” girls encountered a group of other citizens on a road or a bridge. The girls flung themselves to earth, screaming, writhing, claiming demon torment, and making accusations as usual. But this time, their audience was unimpressed. They simply tsk-tsked and walked around the girls — who picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and (no doubt quite chastened) presumably behaved themselves better in the future.
Now, I certainly don’t expect the “cry terrorism” crowd to dust themselves off and go away so nicely. They’ve had a good 20 years or so of claiming that everything they do — from studying our cute-cat-video habits to trying to keep people from looking at a mountainside — is to “protect” us from terrorism. It’s paid off well for them and they’ve benefited so much by that paradigm that it’ll take them a while (perhaps forever) to realize that reasonable people aren’t buying it any more.
And of course, there are real terrorists in the world and the fedgov can always breathe power back into the word “terrorism.” Reichstag fires are easy to come by when governments are in need of new powers.
So I’m not saying we won’t have bad times, bad claims, and more bad law ahead in the name of “terrorism” or some other bogey-man.
But frankly, the whole “terrorism” thing jumped the shark when Jarvis made that ridiculous claim this week. Yes, it jumped the shark as plainly, and almost as literally, as Fonzie did on Happy Days.
And while there will, no doubt, be some future protest where agents of the state don’t stand down, but turn on a crowd in a murderous drive to reclaim authority, for now, the fedgov’s back is broken. It is without authority. And millions of reasonable, rational, ordinary people know this. It’s not just we the marginalized any more.
This was another one of those essays that went off in its own direction. Tiny bits of the above were supposed to serve as mere intro to a follow-up post to Wednesday’s “That feeling small feeling.” My original intention was to talk more about we the not-so-small and we the brave. But forgive me; that’ll have to wait for yet another day.