Educational, Explanations

Decline of a Nation

Reading Corin’s great post about her relationship with Canada really made me think about the state of our country.  In it, she says:     

I am almost giddy at the thought of being in a place where people treat each other with respect; where conversation, not bellowing and bawling, is the norm; where, when you’ve erred, you apologize; where diversity is to be celebrated, not reviled; where the banks didn’t succumb to their own insatiability and drag down the global economy with them; where the military is on loan to any number of UN humanitarian missions across the world; where your health and wellbeing are not a for-profit enterprise; and where folks accept that your freedoms and securities imply certain duties and sacrifices like paying taxes (imagine having to pay for what you buy!).   Is Canada perfect? I know that it is not.     

…But in the US, I missed looking at my surroundings and feeling the potential for great things. When you grow up in the States, you’re steeped in a tradition of righteousness, goodness, freedom, and honor – I miss believing. I miss not being afraid, disappointed, shocked, disgusted, hollered down, exhausted, or dismissed. I miss meritocracy and democracy. I struggle to identify in my own country the values it taught me to revere.     

Excellent post.  It got me thinking about our changing values here in the states and its future implications.  From where I stand I see people separated by deep, unnavigable divides.  People who want everything for themselves and nothing for the rest, not even an opportunity at something.  As stated in the most recent News with Nezua “They just want you to suffer, and them to succeed.”  Then I came across this article at Huffington Post:     

They call themselves sovereign citizens, U.S. residents who declare themselves above state and federal laws. Many don’t register children’s births, carry driver’s licenses or recognize the court system.     

As many as 300,000 people identify as sovereign citizens, the Southern Poverty Law Center found in a study to be published Thursday that was obtained by The Associated Press. Hate group monitors say their numbers have increased thanks to the recession, the foreclosure crisis, the growth of the Internet and the election of Barack Obama in 2008.     

Experts say sovereign citizens are the latest manifestation of anti-government activists going back to the Posse Comitatus movement of the 1970s, which recognized only local governments and no law enforcement official with more jurisdiction than a sheriff. In the 1980s, government protesters exploited the farm crisis by selling fraudulent debt relief programs.     

“In good times they focus on tax cheating, in bad times they focus on getting out of debt,” said JJ MacNab, an expert on tax and financial schemes and author of the SPLC report.     

This is what the Southern Poverty Law Center had to say:     

… hundreds of thousands of far-right extremists who believe that they — not judges, juries, law enforcement or elected officials — get to decide which laws to obey and which to ignore, and who don’t think they should have to pay taxes. While law enforcement officers may disagree on how to deal with or even label this extremist subculture, one thing is certain: it’s trouble. The sovereign movement is growing fast, and its partisans are clogging up the courts with their indecipherable filings. When cornered, many of them lash out in rage, frustration and, in the most extreme cases, acts of deadly violence.     

Why Do They Do it?
Newcomers drift into the movement in a variety of ways. Originally, the sovereign citizens movement mostly attracted white supremacists and anti-Semites, mainly because sovereign theories originated in groups who saw Jews as playing a behind-the-scenes role in manipulating financial institutions and controlling the government. Most early sovereigns, and some of those who are still on the scene, believed that being white was a prerequisite to becoming a sovereign citizen. They argued that the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, which gave blacks U.S. citizenship, also made black Americans permanently subject to federal and state governments, unlike themselves.     

In recent years, however, most new recruits are people who have found themselves in a desperate situation and are searching for a quick fix. Others are intrigued by the notions of easy money and living a lawless life, free from any unpleasant consequences. (Moreover, many self-identified sovereigns today are black and apparently completely unaware of the racist origins of their ideology.) When they experience some small success at using redemption techniques to battle minor traffic offenses or local licensing issues, they’re hooked.  For many, it’s a political issue. They don’t like taxes, traffic laws, child support obligations or making banks rich, but they are too impatient to try to change what they dislike by traditional, political means.     

SPLC goes on to describe a deadly May shootout involving sovereign citizens:     

Inside the white minivan, a 16-year-old boy named Joseph Kane remained in the passenger seat, while his father, Jerry, age 45, stood in front of the police SUV and argued with the officers. There was a tussle, and Jerry Kane pushed Officer Evans into a roadside ditch. The boy quickly emerged from the minivan with a loaded AK-47 and aimed at Evans. The officer put one hand on his pistol, and held the other up to the boy as if to signal “Stop.” The boy shot Evans several times and turned his attention to Paudert, who took cover behind the police vehicle.     

A package delivery man, exiting the highway at Marker 275, stopped his truck to witness the horrific scene. He called 911, and the alert went out: “Officer down!”     

While Paudert was able to fire his pistol seven times, he was outgunned and the police vehicle offered little protection from Joe Kane’s assault rifle. The boy chased Paudert around the police SUV, shooting him several times in the back of the head before returning to Evans in the ditch. There, he fired again. The Kanes then rushed to the minivan and pulled away, while Joe continued to shoot at the downed officers.     

Another alert went out: “Two officers down!”     

According to a preliminary investigation report, Brandon Paudert was struck 11 times and died at the scene; Evans was hit by 14 rounds and died at the hospital.     

In the next 90 minutes, there was a frenzy of activity around West Memphis. The highways were closed, law enforcement from various agencies converged on the area looking for the white minivan with odd Ohio plates, and calls started coming in from alert citizens. The van was spotted at a local country club, a commercial truck terminal, and an apartment building. One witness claimed that Jerry Kane had asked for directions to the nearest Walmart. As seen in Walmart security videotapes of the parking lot, Joe Kane walked into the store and made a purchase, while his father removed the license plates from the vehicle.     

The first to spot the van was an Arkansas wildlife officer who rammed into the Kanes’ vehicle to prevent it from leaving. The Kanes fired more than a dozen rounds at the officer’s truck, but he wasn’t hit. As police converged on the scene, two more officers were wounded in a frenzied shootout before the Kanes were both killed. Crittenden County Sheriff Dick Busby was shot once in the shoulder, and W.A. Wren, West Memphis’ chief of enforcement, was hit multiple times in the abdomen. Both men survived.     

The Huffington Post article describes the elder Kane’s 2003 filing of a court document stating that he     

was not a “Fourteen Amendment Citizen.” Many sovereign citizens believe the 14th Amendment created a new class of citizens, people who had no constitutional rights but were instead slaves to the government, according to Mark Pitcavage, investigative researcher for the Anti-Defamation League.     

This violent anarchy goes beyond taxes.  It is a disease of exceptionalism, arrogance, and a strange sense of privilege.    How long can one entity such as the United States continue if multiple fringe movements close in on the mainstream?     

Gratuitous Chocolate Raspberry Cupcake shot. I had no where else to put it. Anarchy! : )
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