L. Neil Smith's
Number 363, April 16, 2006

April is the cruelest month

Cruel April—"Waco" Seeds
by Pat Hartman

Special to TLE

Every year the weeks between February 28 and April 19 are a kind of secular Lent for me, a period of being particularly conscious of everything that's wrong with the world. This span of time corresponds to the 51-day siege imposed by federal troops on a religious community near Waco, Texas.

Critics try to justify the raid and firestorm on the grounds that the murdered people were cult members, victims of brainwashing. Of course, defining a "cult" is a bit tricky. Maybe David Koresh and his followers had laughable beliefs - but hey, check out what kind of stuff the more popular denominations believe. Most churches are equal opportunity indoctrinators of very peculiar illogic. To pretend that one has cornered the market on validity is nonsense. We have a thing called freedom of religion, and wrong-headedness is not a capital offense. The people of Mount Carmel didn't deserve to be turned into crispy critters because they were spiritual zealots. None of our country's founders intended that the government - no, not even the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms or the FBI - should protect Americans from false messiahs. Especially not by killing them. The notion that the troops carried out some kind of duty at Mount Carmel is the flimsiest defense since Nuremberg.

Basically, the Branch Davidians were exterminated like cockroaches for belonging to a non-mainstream Christian community. What institution is next in line to be raided and incinerated? A Quaker meeting house? A yoga retreat? An artists' colony? The Buddhist colony up in the hills? A convent? A group home for at-risk adolescents? An Amish farm? Vacation Bible School?

Demonization is a Dictator's Best Friend
As he did with so many other aspects of modern life, George Orwell nailed this one in his novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. The best way to control a populace is to name a bogeyman and keep the sheeple scared spitless. Make hatred of a designated demon into the national creed, and promote rituals to reinforce the continuing flow of negative emotion. Only the rare individual, like Winston Smith, realizes that something is out of whack. When the government switches the official enemy, he's the only one who even notices.

To speak of witch-hunts is an unavoidable cliché, because the witch is the quintessential example of what we're talking about here. Travel back in time and imagine living in a little village of huts, on just about any land mass in the world. Nobody knows jack about microbiology, genetics, astronomy, meteorology, or any other area of science. When the crops fail or the cow dies or the village leader's wife gives birth to a stillborn child, the blame must land somewhere. Everything that goes wrong is whose fault? The widow who lives at the edge of the settlement and messes around with herbs. The solution to everybody's problems could not be more obvious. Kill the witch, and the troubles will end.

Except, of course, the troubles never go away. Killing the witch doesn't make everything all better. It didn't work a thousand years ago or four hundred years ago. But it's always a reliable recipe for dictatorship: pick a scapegoat and crank up the propaganda machine. When Hitler demonized the Jews, the ploy succeeded in unifying the Germans for a while, but it certainly didn't make everything all better.

Home Sweet H.U.A.C
When McCarthy and Cohn and the House Un-American Activities Committee ran the country, locking up a bunch of Communists didn't cure what ailed us. In the Vietnam War era, peace activists were chosen to be gotten rid of. Several recent administrations have profited from demonizing marijuana users, but no matter how many million pot-heads fill the nations prisons, still everything is not all right.

If only all the [insert name of group here] were wiped out, life would be rosy: what an enchanting fantasy that is! And the potential fillers of that blank are endless: homosexuals; gang members; uppity women; illegal immigrants; Catholics; and on and on. Many people sincerely believe it could be that simple: target a group, eliminate its members, and our country will be strong and prosperous, safe and free. Believe it or not, there are even those who think life would be rosy if all the politicians were wiped out.

Alas, even that extreme measure, satisfying as it might be in the short run, wouldn't make everything all right.

You know what's really un-American? Intolerance. Tolerance, on the other hand, is American to the bone, albeit something we see precious little of these days. The average American's definition of tolerance covers a very narrow spectrum. Usually it means that the tolerant person, even though he's a Republican, would not refuse to sit down in a nice restaurant and eat dinner with a Democrat. Or vice-versa, as the case may be.

Well, nuts to that. Political tolerance means if your daughter's intended spouse is a card-carrying Communist , you're okay with it. Otherwise, don't use the word. True tolerance is not attempting to pass laws that will prevent people from doing things, just because they are things that you yourself don't feel any inclination to do. Some people are so intolerant, they not only want to lock up people who have different preferences, they want to incarcerate others with the same preferences: people much like themselves, who give in to the same temptations and commit the same follies, but who are unfortunate enough to get caught. Today's level of national hypocrisy would astonish history's most accomplished manipulators, if only they were around to enjoy it.

One-track Dirty Minds
We have a country full of self-proclaimed morality mongerers whose tunnel vision focuses solely on who is putting what organ into which orifice. When it comes to the ripoffs and repression practiced by the most egregiously immoral administration in living memory, they are silent. If decent human behavior comprises more dimensions than sexual continence, it's news to them.

But that's nothing, compared to America's twisted, perverse relationship with terrorists. Here's a country that trains, funds, and sells (or gives) arms and ammunition to terrorists all over the world and then conducts a War on Terrorism. That goes way beyond hypocrisy and far into insanity. If America were a person, it would be a paranoid schizophrenic.

All in the Same Sinking Boat
"They first came for the Communists and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn't speak up because I was Protestant. Then they came for me.... and by that time no one was left to speak up." This sounds great at first hearing, but breaks down on further scrutiny. Let's face it, "I could be next" is a pretty lame reason for caring. It's better than indifference, but still grounded in self-interest. The purer motive for objection would be, even if you are beyond reproach and there's absolutely no chance of storm troopers ever breaking down your door, what they did to those other people is still wrong.

By the way, that part about nobody ever busting you at 4 a.m. to take you away in a car with no headlights... don't count on it. The sad thing is, when a society's totalitarianism quotient reaches the level displayed at Mount Carmel, anybody could be next. It's no longer a matter of whether they will come for you, only when.

There's nobody with such a high approval rating that he can't be broken. Ever heard of the Knights Templar? Immensely powerful in the 12th century, they wrapped up in one far-reaching institution the power of the Church and the military. As if the political clout wielded by those two pillars of society weren't enough, this holy crusader brotherhood established the modern banking system. For decades the Knights Templar had everything their way, but King Phillip of France brought them down. It's been estimated that 90% percent of American adults have done something that could put them behind bars, if they were caught and charged. Nobody's righteousness is unassailable enough to preclude the chance that some day their own personal ass could be up for grabs.

The Crime Wave
The government has gotten away with a whole series of crimes over the years. None of the Colorado militia who carried out the Ludlow Massacre were punished. Nobody served jail time after the Sand Creek Massacre. We had the disgrace of Ruby Ridge, and a whole block burned down when the police went after the MOVE organization in Philadelphia. When there are no consequences, it encourages them, and they are emboldened by each success. When la migra showed up to grab Elian Gonzalez, toting enough firepower to invade a small country, it was only dumb luck that there wasn't a bloodbath. In California, fourteen government agencies ganged up to kill Donald Scott (and even then didn't succeed in seizing his property). If an individual carried on this way, he'd be defined as a mass murderer. Only a government can get away, so to speak, scott-free.

The history of our nation encompasses quite a few shameful incidents, but even with so many to choose from, the massacre at Mount Carmel stands out. What ever happened to the Posse Comitatus Act, which forbade the use of military troops in domestic law enforcement? Presidents Reagan and Clinton both overrode it, that's what. Even the laws that were still in place didn't matter. After "Waco," how many of those responsible were penalized with even so much as administrative leave, the paid vacation cops get while their shootings are investigated? Janet Jackson caught more heat for flashing a tit at the Superbowl than the entire administration did for the Mount Carmel fiasco.

Mike McNulty gave the world two films about "Waco" and was instrumental in making the official investigations happen. In a phone interview several years ago he told how the event set off alarm bells in a mind already sensitized to government violence

"I had been involved in the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints for a number of years and become familiar with the history of an incident that occurred in October of 1838. A group of Mormons had been entrapped by a group of state militiamen from Missouri, where the governor had issued an extermination order. Any Mormons found within the boundaries of the state of Missouri after such and such a date were to be killed on sight."

McNulty went on to say,

"This group of people, forty or fifty of them, were rounded up by men on horseback and herded into a grist mill and the doors were closed. The men dismounted and put their muskets to the chinks in the logs of the grist mill and fired until everyone inside was wounded or dead. That was called the Haun's Mill Massacre. That kind of conflict between government and religion has always been an interesting point of history for me. When I saw the Branch Davidians' church being burned to the ground on April 19, it struck a resonant chord."

Actions have consequences: this is supposed to be one of the first things we learn, and one of the first things we teach our kids. The government knows it. Not everyone will sit still for outrages against our basic rights, and that might be part of the long-range plan. Add a few more episodes to the crime wave, and there could be extreme reactions from people who still think they live in America - people whose motto is "It's time to shoot back." Which would be the perfect excuse for the cabal of pseudo-humans in charge to bring on complete martial law, which they've been sneaking up on in increments for so long. The whole ruling establishment is one big agent provocateur, trying to tempt us into violence so it can show its true colors at last. It's an ugly situation.

If an event from more than a century and a half in the past could reach forward in history and turn McNulty into an obsessive researcher and whistle-blower, who knows what will happen when the seeds sown at Mount Carmel come to fruition? Well, we already know one thing that happened: young Timothy McVeigh saw it as his mission to blow up a federal building in Oklahoma City. I'm not in favor of that kind of thing, and neither is anyone I know. But someone was. Hopefully, the people who can't forget "Waco" will all be peaceful historians, and not misguided souls who believe themselves fierce angels sent to avenge the Mount Carmel dead. Among those who remember, may there be more McNultys than McVeighs.

Originally published on earthblog.net, http://earthblog.net/eb-articles/hartman9.html
Reprinted with permission.
©2006 earthblog.net. All rights reserved


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