Monday, November 14, 2011

Braggin' rights (Out of the closet)

Having gotten my hot little hands on the recently released DVD of Atlas Shrugged, I’ve been tripping on it like a junkie in a police evidence room. I came to a drastic realization the other day: I’m not in hibernation mode, or suffering from early-onset Alzheimer’s because I haven’t blogged in over a month. I’m on strike.

Although my intellectual contributions to the cacophony of civilization don’t split enough atoms to light a 40 watt bulb, I’m so tired of the BS coming from both sides of the political spectrum, and so freaked out by the general insanity engulfing everything else, I’ve begun withholding my two cents’ worth of commentary. A PBS documentary about the late, great Steve Jobs led to a long discussion with Ms. Possum, wherein I babbled something semi-profound about feeling a compulsion to inspire others to think, examine their premises, and question the motives of those who, in Jobs’s words, “tell you the world is a certain way, like a box, and that you should live comfortably within that box.” I also acknowledged that I’m somewhat exhausted by the struggle. I likened trying to talk sense to liberals to trying to teach a pig to sing; it wastes your time and annoys the pig.

Nevertheless, the urge to speak out is like the insatiable thirst of an alcoholic, so earlier this month I wrote a letter to the editor of our local weekly community-booster-rag, i.e., what passes for the local newspaper. The letter was over the stated word-count limit for submissions, and a bit too erudite for the usual bitching and moaning of the op-ed page, so there was no real optimism that it would get beyond giving the editor a chuckle before he deleted it from his e-mail and got back to the important business of making our county commissioner look good.

So, imagine my surprise when I opened up last week’s edition of the North Georgia News and found my letter at the top of the “Letters to the Editor” column. Ol’ Norm printed it word-for-word, and gave me the lead on the jump-page.

Our weekly rag also has a “Viewpoints” column on the op-ed page, where terse anonymous comments—often humorous or sarcastic—are printed. Since I was already signed onto the newspaper’s website, I tossed off a wise-ass crack about starting my own “Occupy Wherever” movement. As if seeing my letter published as #1 on the hit parade wasn’t enough of a shock, I was floored that my off-the-cuff joke led the “Viewpoints” column.

Our little weekly is widely read in the area, since it’s—mostly—free; one of those rags that relies on advertising and large quantities of coupon and super-saver inserts. I guess I’m out of the closet now; my neighbors and an unknown quantity of hillbillies are aware that there is an unabashed Libertarian living quietly in their midst. I shudder to think of what the local tax commissioner thought when he read my letter; I have some problems with back taxes, and as you will see, what follows here was not exactly complimentary to the issue.

Still, I had bragging rights for a week, and my head inflated like a helium balloon with a big, stupid Happy Face printed on it. I’m just glad my phone number is unlisted. I didn’t want any annoyed pigs calling at 0300, taking me to task for singing on key and advising them to follow suit. What follows is the full content of the letter, and my throw-away remark, as printed in the North Georgia News, 9 November 2011 print edition, page 6A. It’s nothing you haven’t read here in the past, only more succinct:

The recent editorial by Norm Cooper about “Does Anybody Really ‘Own’ Property” was a spot-on, bold declaration of fact. A “View Points” commenter attempted to draw a moral equivalency between the US and Russia and Cuba with a rhetorical question to the effect of “it can’t happen here!”

In fact, governmental appropriation of private property has been taking place in America for the past six years. See: Kelo v. City of New London, 545 U.S. 469 (2005). In that case, the Supreme Court ruled that under the law of eminent domain, a local government may seize the privately owned property of anyone, and turn it over to a private developer for “the greater good of the community.” There is an upcoming referendum in Mississippi to pass a law specifically prohibiting this kind of governmental fiat within that state. Mr. Cooper’s point, and the fact is, that it can happen here.

Taxes are taken from you at the point of a gun. If you think this is melodramatic, write a letter to the IRS and tell them you aren’t paying this year, because you disapprove of the way they spend your money. When the Men in Black show up at your door, tell them to go away, and slam the door in their faces. They’ll be back with a SWAT team, and burn you down like the Branch Davidians in Waco or shoot you like Randy Weaver’s wife on Ruby Ridge. Once you’re dead or in federal prison for the next forty years, they’ll confiscate everything you own.

Governments normally don’t have to be that dramatic, though. If you own the crest of one of our local hills, and a governmental star chamber decides your property would contribute more revenue to the local tax base if there was a nice lodge and restaurant located there, they are within the law of eminent domain to seize your property with minimal compensation, bulldoze your dream home, and turn your property over to a developer.

Those who would believe that “it can’t happen here” simply because this is America are in for a rude awakening. For the past thirty years, we’ve sacrificed freedom for security, and obtained neither. A government powerful enough to give you anything you want is powerful enough to take everything you have.

(My full name)

And then there was my sarcastic comment:

I tried to start an “Occupy Blairsville” movement last week. I Tweeted and FaceBooked for a flash mob, then went and sat around on the square for a few hours. About sunset, when it got cold, and nobody showed up, I got hungry and went home. Take that, you evil, greedy capitalists!

I once asked a pioneering journalist—Celestine Sibley—how I might gauge the effect of my writing on others. She laughed and said that the best measure of thoughtful outreach is the amount of hate mail one receives in response. She pointed out that the writers might vehemently disagree with you, to the degree that they’ll respond with hateful rhetoric, ad hominem attacks, and even overt threats, but the fact that they do so indicates they read what was written, and there’s always the offhand chance that they paused to think about what was said.

That’s always been good enough for me. This week’s “Viewpoints” column, with its anonymous responses, will tell the tale.