Most of our neighbors -- those who hadn't rushed straight into government office upon their arrival in town -- turned out to be pretty decent people once we actually started talking with them -- and once they got over wondering whose business the local madmen were going to demolish next. That did take a while, I admit. But we overcame.
Yes, we had our differences. And in time I expect you'll be hearing a lot about those. But many newcomers really had arrived seeking freedom. Some just didn't know how to walk the walk after a life of creeping and cowering and complying with "the authorities" in the real world. Many other newcomers might not have agreed with every part of the Hardyville Way, but they didn't mean to disrupt it, either. Things had just gotten out of hand when one smallish group decided a place couldn't be a place unless it officially had "officials."
Once a core group of ordinary citizens on each side had established a tiny beachhead of trust, Carty called a planning meeting in the big back room of the Hog Trough. Even Dora made an appearance, though she sat silently against the back wall surrounded by a group of newcomers.
"Some of you may think you like our new government," Carty told the assembled mini-multitude. "And some of you know for damnsure you don't. But there's one thing we should all agree on. Pretty soon those cops of theirs are gonna get tired of freezing their butts off guarding city hall. The city council is gonna get tired of the cops always bein' on the verge of a 'major breakthrough' in the militia case. And just to prove they're worth something, those cops are gonna come gunnin' for you. And you. And you. And me. Ordinary citizens of Hardyville."
He gazed around. Some of his audience nodded; others -- newbies, mostly -- looked skeptical.
"Here's what you can expect. They'll find all kinds of ways to hassle you -- from tryin' to force you off the road for some harmless traffic 'infraction' to bustin' you for perfectly legal guns, pot, sex, or gambling. When they come after us -- and they will -- we all need to be ready to handle things right."
"I'm ready," Marty Harbibi snorted, leaning back in his chair and patting his holster.
"Yeah, we may need those, too," Carty agreed. "A person's got a right, mebbe even a duty, to resist unlawful arrest. Remember: cops got no more rights than anybody else. Even outside of Hardyville, cops probably aren't even constitutional."
He looked as if he wanted to spit. "Settin' up a government-supremacist paramilitary unit in every damn berg in the country -- hell, that's just askin' for trouble."
"Yeah," somebody barked from the back of the room, "well we already got trouble and so far we're haven't handled it real smart. So now what?"
"Now," said Carty calmly, "We let them know who's boss. But first we need to remind ourselves who's boss."
In the days that followed, we buffed up on dealing with cops. Old-timers and newbies alike watched "Busted: A Citizen's Guide to Surviving Police Encounters." Then we practiced role-playing, taking turns being the cop and the cops' targets. Many more sessions than usual were held out at the range, with some n00bs getting the thrill of puncturing their first paper targets and popping at poppers. The snipers nests on the roofs of several local buildings were repaired after many years of disuse. We held Bill of Rights Enforcement education. And jury rights education. And in general, we prepared.
Believe it or not, even long-time Hardyvillians needed some of these lessons. Yeah, we're tough and independent. But face it, here in The Town the Government Forgot (or vice versa) we're not used to having beefy shave-headed paramilitaries try to force us to obey their every bark. So these preps were good for us, too. (Although Marty just shook his head, patted his holster, and said all that yakkety-yak wasn't necessary.)
Many of the newcomers joined the rest of us in taking "that yakkety-yak" to heart. Mostly these were the folk who'd found Hardyville the old-fashioned way -- by setting themselves in the direction of freedom. They understood the danger we faced. It's just that most of them were so used to cringing and obeying out there in the Land of the Free that they didn't quite have the hang of saying NO to cops yet.
Other newbies ignored the whole business. They knew that cops might hassle lowlifes. And minorities. But they just as blindly "knew" that cops would never hassle their lily-white middle-class selves.
Some -- like Dora, no surprise -- felt that certain forms of resistance were appropriate, but meeting force with force was not. "Better to be tried by 12 than carried by six," she said to some of her new friends, not realizing how sadly she was fracturing the meaning of that good old phrase. She figured it meant, "Don't fight back; it's better to argue against the cop in court than it is for him to kill you for resisting him." When of course it really means, "Fight like hell against any aggressive attack and worry about legal consequences later."
So of course, the gentle and disbelieving folk were the ones who suffered, when it all came down to it.
Case in point: Divorcee Charlotte Carolina, who'd just moved in with her brood of teenbrats, out on River Road, ended up face-down in the roadway for failure to wear a seat belt. Never mind that seat belts are a matter of personal choice in these parts. The cops needed something to do -- and the Democratic Government of Hardyville desperately needed revenue since hardly anybody was sending 'em any taxes. After she brushed the last bit of gravel out of her cheeks, she paid them for the privilege of getting back in her own car.
On the other hand, when Officer Bruto tried to pull over Doc, who ran the pharmacy and whose old Studebaker was usually chock full of drugs, Doc just calmly kept on driving. He also made a cell-phone call. And a few minutes later, two big old pickup trucks turned up and darned near ran the cop car off the road.
Case in point: The couple who owned the Bon Mot -- as if they hadn't already suffered enough -- ended up spending the night in jail for operating without a valid business license. Never mind that no such nonsense was necessary here. Mayor Pickle showed up at the jail the next morning and sold them a license his daughter Susan had just run off on her computer; he pocketed another $250. But the Bon Mots were happy. They hung their "official" license on the back wall -- the only undamaged wall -- of their store and returned to rebuilding. (Although between the government and the anti-government they must have wondered just exactly how they were going to make any money, .)
On the other hand, when a newly self-appointed "undercover vice squad" came snooping around Miss Fitz's Academy for Young Ladies, hoping to discover some whoring going on, Miss Fitz and the girls demonstrated to them (quite personally) that yes, indeed, there was some whoring going on. The girls sent the resulting photographs to the officers' wives. And the Hardyville Independent.
When the cops tried to bust Carty for open carry of a weapon ... well, they just didn't even try that, you understand?
Some newbs stood up for themselves, like the Goodins. But others took a non-resisting path, like Dora. Or they went on believing that the cops would never target them -- until the cops targeted them. Then they weren't ready. They let the cops into their homes and vehicles. They sputtered. They blurted. They got angry. They cited lists of the important people they knew. They pointed out that they hadn't broken any laws, since there weren't any to break. They protested their angelic innocence. And paid their fines or prepared for their court dates.
Now, our new federally financed rejects from the ATF may have been dumb. But they weren't dumb, if you know what I mean. Their lack of cogitation didn't interfere with their survival instincts. Yes, they definitely came to hate certain Hardyvillians for their resistance (and no doubt many names went down on many "get later" lists). But like hearty self-preservationists everywhere, they avoided the "hardened targets" and went after the easy marks first.
But that choice had an unexpected consequence. Which ended up making some people in high places most unhappy.
Call it Birkers' Law: The easier the target, the more likely he or she is to be picked on. In our case, the easier the target, the more it was likely to be a government-compliant newcomer. And then comes the consequence: the more government-compliant the newcomer, the more likely that person was to be connected to somebody in the Birker circle.
I mean, think about it. These are the people who believe in hiding behind barricades while sending other people out to do their dirty work. People who expect privilege and who imagine self-defense can be delegated -- which it never can be. So of course such attitudes also rub off on their sons and daughters and husbands and cousins.
The cops, being even newer than our governators, didn't know who was who, at first. They just knew who looked like an easy mark. Like somebody who might get huffy and and puffy make excuses, but who wouldn't kick gonads, pull a gun, or plot retribution.
Quicker than you could say "compliance," they were busting the chief Birker's nephew for underage smoking and a city councilman's mistress for driving without a license (another nonsensical item not actually required in Hardyville; but these cops didn't much care about that. They just knew their job was to bring in revenues and run up impressive arrest stats to justify their salaries).
The poor cops. You almost had to pity them. They tried to figure out which "miscreant" was connected with which VIP. They really did, those bumbling bullies. But when they hauled in the mayor's wife one day for jaywalking, the People's Democratic Government of Hardyville had had enough.
Straightening their spines, Our Glorious Leaders arose from behind the sandbags and concrete barriers around city hall and ordered their enforcing minions: "STOP THIS NONSENSE RIGHT NOW! If you can't keep Hardyville safe from the Whiskey Rebellion Militia, then at least do something to stop other real lawbreakers."
Epperson Chutney, aka the chief Birkenstocker and head of the city council, pointed his finger toward Goodins' Second Time Around and said, "It started with those people. They refuse to collect sales taxes. They're still refusing -- and they're still in business. I order you to stop messing with penny-ante offenders. Get those tax resisters and bring the taxpayers of this town into line."
And thus Hardyville got its first encounter with a SWAT team. It wasn't (do I even need to tell you?) pretty.