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Volume 8, Issue 1: Similitudes

The Last Straw

Douglas Wilson

I really don't go over to my neighbor's very much. Herb was always cheerful enough, but still, he always acted to me like he was a couple of sandwiches short of a full picnic. But our grass was getting long, the mower was going to be in the shop for three more days, and I promised the wife I'd do something .

I knocked on the screen door at the back, and heard Herb's ebullient yell. "Come in!"
I stepped into their kitchen, and it took my eyes half a second to adjust from the glare outside. Herb was seated at the kitchen table with the parts of multiple guns strewn all over the table.
"Herb, can I borrow your lawn mower?" I asked. "Ours will be . . ."
Herb waved a cleaning rod and said sure, it was in the garage. I turned to go, but curiosity had started to chew on my ankle. I turned back.
"So what's all this?"
Herb beamed. "This is quite a deal, that's what this is!"
"Uh huh." I said.
"I was down in the tri-cities last week-end, and I met this guy, a friend of my cousin, who was selling these puppies for 95 dollars each. And you should see the ammo I got in the basement!"
"And what are these, as you call them, puppies?"
Herb hid his scorn, unsuccessfully. He held up part of one of them. "This is an SKS semi-automatic, but not for long!" He held up a tool that I surmised was being used to remove the semi from the soon-to-be-illegal guns.
"Well, okay," I said. I counted the stocks. "Why do you need three of them?"
He chortled. "Cause everything's coming down, that's why. It's time to rock and roll, that's why. There are UN troops in Montana, that's why. Cause Clinton doesn't want me to have them, that's why. Neither does Hillary."
I stood quietly for a moment, and my thoughts started to drift back to the lawn mower. "Well, thanks for the use of the mower," I said and reached for the screen door. But Herb is kind of sharp, in his own way, and had picked up on my unwillingness to suspend my disbelief. He laughed. "You don't believe me, hey?"
"Well, no, not exactly," I said.
He waved at his coffee pot. "Pour yourself a cup, and tell me why, boyo."
I laughed myself and headed across the kitchen. Herb was a crackpot, but he sure was a jovial one. When I came back, Herb scratched his chin. "So," he said, "you don't think we're about to lose our constitutional liberties, huh?"
I shook my head. "I didn't mean it that way."
"So what did you mean then?"
"I think we lost them a long time ago -- over a century ago."
"What?"
"And this line in the sand that you militia guys are drawing -- 'we can't let them have our guns!' -- is entirely bogus."
"Okay. You lost me. Talk sense, guy -- you look like a free man. We can't let these bozo tyrants take our guns."
"Herb, where do your kids go to school?" I already knew the answer, but thought it would be best if he said it.
"Down at Germantown. Why?"
"It's a government school, right?"
"Well, okay."
"Have you ever looked at the cornerstone of the old building? When was it built?"
Herb shook his head.
"It was built in the last century -- 1879, to be exact."
He was being quiet, and a little more serious now, but not at all hostile. He seemed open. "So what's your point?"
"My point is that the government came in the last century and took our children away. And now, when they come to take away these little pieces of metal, you want to say it has suddenly become unendurable tyranny?"
Herb looked down to the table at his guns.
"But the public schools are our schools."
"Okay. So why isn't it our federal gun registration program? Why isn't it our crime bill? Why isn't it our BATF and FBI?"
"Um . . . you make an interesting point. I've never thought about it like this before." Herb scratched the back of his neck.
He looked up. "Is that why your kids are in that religious school?"
I nodded. "If we won't fight for our children, we deserve to lose our guns. If we let them have our children, we have no right to fight them over anything else." I smiled inside. The gun nut meets the religious nut. Hands across the water.
Herb was not used to thinking in these categories at all. He just sat there, shaking his head. "But this is tyranny," he said.
"Sure," I said. "But it is not new tyranny. When you were born it was already a century old. And it is not undeserved tyranny. It is a state of affairs we have approved through our acquiescence for over a century. Until we repent, we deserve to be slaves."
Herb looked up again, this time with real sadness in his eyes. "But the men I know in the militia love liberty. We need men like that to run our country -- men who will talk about individual liberties."
"Sure, they talk about liberty. But do their children love liberty? No. And who educated their children? And who let them do that ?"
"Yeah, you got me. You got me. You're going to have to let me think."
"Sure," I said. "Thanks again for the mower."

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