Last year, there was a big flap over this racist guy who didn’t want to pay the taxes he owed for using public land to graze his cattle. It turned into a massive battle about the right to bear arms as dozens of members of rather heavily armed militias descended on his ranch to protect him from the Bureau of Land Management, that oppressive occupying force that politely asked him for twenty years to pay the fees that everybody else was paying according to the (completely constitutional) law that had been passed ages ago.
It was a big deal. The militias were ready to stand up for his rights no matter what, and they had the (completely constitutional) heavy weaponry to back up their words with action. And they won! The BLM wound up backing down in the face of almost a thousand armed and angry freedom fighters. It must have been a proud moment for the libertarians to finally have a chance to prove that guns could be used to fight government heavy handedness, although admittedly a battle over letting a guy use public resources without contributing to the public good and following constitutional legislation may not have been the kind of flashpoint issue that the nation could rally around. But as one of the militia members said, "If we don’t show up everywhere, there is no reason to show up anywhere."
The thrilling conclusion after the fold....
Now, though, there’s an issue ready-made for the libertarian warriors; a case of active government oppression so clear, so brutal, that the nation has already recoiled in horror. Ferguson, Missouri, is a suburb under siege. After a young, unarmed man was shot to death by an unnamed police officer, the town reacted with protests that brought down the wrath of a faceless bureaucracy of heavily militarized agents of the state. Here it is! The government actively oppressing American citizens, literally slaughtering them in cold blood at whim and then laughing in the face of the Constitution as they shut down public roads for no reason and use their military-level gear to prevent freedom of assembly and freedom of speech, let alone the right to bear arms. The police won’t even release the name of the officer who triggered this whole thing. It’s leaps and bounds more oppressive than anything the BLM has ever done.
So… where are they?
Where are the militias ready to stand up for American citizens being corralled like cattle by agents of the government? Where are the libertarian freedom fighters ready to take a stand on the side of justice and individual liberty? Where are the crusaders of the Constitution ready to stand up for freedom of assembly in our own land?
"If we don’t show up everywhere, there is no reason to show up anywhere."
Perhaps there was a cattle grazing somewhere out West that needed an armed guard.
Whatever else comes out of Ferguson – and a lot needs to come out of this experience, and fast – we will always know that this was the time when the libertarian movement in the United States betrayed itself, and the rest of us, by betraying the truth of its principles in the face of real oppression. Maybe it’s racism; maybe it’s cowardice; maybe they’ve simply lost the faith. But treating American libertarianism seriously died alongside Michael Brown this weekend.