Alexis de Tocqueville once observed, "Americans are so enamored of equality, they would rather be equal in slavery than unequal in freedom." Gee, was the man a mere observer of contemporary 18th century values, or a prophet?
With the pending impeachment of a United States president, global economic catastrophe, crises in the Mideast, Korea, Russia, Y2K threats around the corner and a myriad of other assorted annoyances looming, it is easy to overlook the impact of incrementalism and government abuse of power under the color of authority on we the people. It is far too easy to focus on the macro-disorders and overlook the impact of bad/unconstitutional policy on individuals. In other words, the individuals -- people, like you and yours, me and mine -- are vulnerable to the myopia of those to whom we entrust our safety.
Saturday morning I received an email from a victim of incrementalism. He noted, "Up until this week, I was only an observer as the government turned the Constitution on its head in its effort to crack down on what it perceives to be dangerous weapons. Now, this insanity has caught up and engulfed me."
This self-described "average hard working stiff" who has been married to the same woman for 28 years and raised two sons to adulthood, now finds the same government he and his sons served, says he should be labeled a criminal -- a felon. He is at risk of a year in state prison. He could be denied the right to vote, to possess a firearm, or have his wife own a firearm.
What did this husband and father do to become entangled in the criminal justice morass? He broke the law. First, he failed to buckle his seat belt. That started the chain of events which put him in handcuffs and earned him a court date. The young female California Highway Patrol officer who stopped him saw and seized what she said was a "billy club" from inside his car. He tried (unsuccessfully) to explain it was a "Tire Thumper." In fact the name of the tool was stamped on the handle. He told the young officer that 32 years ago he had driven trucks and had kept his tire thumper as "both a still useful tool and a reminder of my experiences."
"The officer claimed that unless I possessed a valid class A truck driver's license, that it was a felony to carry such a tool."
I need to search the criminal code for that exemption. When he asked her if it would be a felony to carry a hammer instead, it approached absurdity. "She replied that, yes, if I wasn't a carpenter (apparently without sufficient documentation of trade), I would have some serious explaining to do!"
He was arrested for "possession of a deadly weapon" (PC 12020, a felony). He was handcuffed and taken to jail. His court date is Oct. 21.
What bothers me most is not the aggressive interpretation and enforcement of a stupid law, or even the lack of common sense in assessing the situation. It is the arbitrary and capricious application of power and authority. There were alternatives to arresting this man. The officer could have explained the offense, and told the suspect to keep the "tire thumper" in the trunk until needed for its intended purpose. Rather she chose to exert (some might argue "abuse") her authority.
What if you leave a tire iron on the floor after changing a tire? What if you leave a hammer or a screwdriver on the back seat after fixing something? Hell, virtually any tool can be used as a "deadly weapon" if complemented with intent. I routinely carry several deadly weapons: a briar pipe, pens, pencils, necktie, pocket knife (legal), silver cigar case, assorted keys. Any of the preceding list could be used as a deadly weapon, as well as a silk scarf, and certainly that anti-theft device (The Club) I use to secure my Jeep.
Now I guess some might argue "ignorance of the law is no excuse." However, ignorance of the Constitution, to which officials swear an oath, doesn't seem to impede them from incrementally eroding OUR liberty. Thomas Jefferson noted, "Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add 'within the limits of the law,' because law is often but the tyrant's will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual."
"The law is often but the tyrant's will. ..." What is the tyrant's will? To marginalize? To diminish? To control? The tyrant requires absolute and total control to dictate what the individual can or cannot do. In order to accomplish this objective, the tyrant requires absolute control over the oppressed. It is now, as it always has been, necessary for tyrants to disarm would-be dissenters. Remember, please, the first three battles of the Revolution were fought not over taxes, or representation, but over guns. The British sought to disarm the revolutionary colonists. Chinese warlords did it. Stalin did it. Hitler did it. Clinton, Reno and Sarah Brady want to do it. We the people need to be disarmed in order for the power elite to fully control us. The American people must not be permitted to own firearms, or knives, or pens, pencils, anti-theft devices which can be used as bludgeons, silk scarves, walking sticks, or "tire thumpers."
Tocqueville also noted, "America is great because America is good. When
America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great." When a
good husband and father is converted into a potential felon, by a myopic
and arrogant abuse of power, we as a country have ceased to be good. Following
Alexis' syllogism, by extension, we have ceased to be great.