L. Neil Smith's
Number 303, January 23, 2005

"I am very serious about this offer."

That Kind of Uncle
by L. Neil Smith

Attribute to The Libertarian Enterprise

The other day, my lovely wife sent me one of those e-mail folk- messages that almost seem to propagate themselves all over the net from time to time. This one called itself "People Over 35 Should be Dead!"

At first I thought it was going to advocate the killing of people over 35, after the manner of Logan's Run or Wild in the Streets. I tried for hours to discover the author of the piece, which only led me around in a big circle to the brother of the woman who had sent it to my wife—and he informed me he'd tried to find the author, without success.

Don't you just hate it when that happens?

But no, the message listed fun things we all did as children—all of us who are over 35, that is—that the Safety Nazis would be aghast at today. Things like drinking from the garden hose, or not wearing helmets when we rode our bikes. According to those Nazis, says the message, we should all be dead by now. It was pretty funny, and I could have added a few more items, myself, most of them involving firecrackers.

Hell, I used to chew on my dad's split-shot fishing sinkers, cast of pure lead, which will surprise none of the people who don't like me.

Many of the items on the list amused me, as they were meant to do, taking me back to a bygone era (I'm way over 35) in which I grew up. One of them, however, seemed to leap off the page and slap me in the face:

"We would leave home in the morning and play all day," says the message, "as long as we were back when the street lights came on. No one was able to reach us all day." And it's completely true. Even my own mother, who was a nervous, overly-protective woman, expected my brother and me to be somewhere else most of the day, doing who knew what.

Probably something involving firecrackers.

My reaction to this item, however, was to write my wife and tell her, "But when I was growing up there were no goblins stealing little children off the street and taking them away to rape, murder, and eat them."

And I began to think about the reasons for that.

I was an Air Force brat, growing up in a series of small cities or tiny towns—like Gifford, Illinois and McQueenie, Texas—across the country as my dad went from one assignment to another. I commonly walked many blocks to school or the grocery store by myself. It was generally understood by society in those days that if anyone messed with little children, and the menfolk of the town happened to catch them, there wouldn't be enough of them left for the cops or sheriff to identify.

Even other prisoners would make life short for a convicted child molestor.

There were very few laws against owning or carrying guns in those days, and there was often a rifle behind the car seat (no window racks back then) or a handgun in the glove compartment. Because of that genteel custom, I got to handle my first large-frame revolver—under strict adult scrutiny, mind you—when I was only about five years old.

Most importantly, I believe, is that I didn't lead the kind of sheltered life that kids seem to do today. You see, I was exaggerating just little bit. There were times, even way back then, when little kids were stolen, abused, and killed. They were just extremely rare. My folks made certain that my brother and I knew about them, always ending with the usual advice about not talking to strangers and not getting into anybody else's car. It took, too. I once turned down a ride home from school offered by our next-door neighbor, who, far from being offended, approved of my refusal and told my parents all about it.

And so, protected by the community we lived in, and prepared to look out for ourselves, my generation survived and passed their genes on.

But gradually, protecting the children of the community was made unlawful. "Experts" hired by politicians said that was their job, and would even arrest and imprison individuals, in some jurisdictions, who didn't like depending on the so-called "authorities". Guns themselves became illegal, and where that didn't happen, carrying them did. People found themselves being arrested and imprisoned for defending themselves—often when the person or persons who had attacked them walked.

And as a direct result, the rate of violent crime in this country soared. During the 1960s, it was estimated that one person in three would wind up getting mugged, sooner or later. Nevertheless the "experts" screamed hysterically that nobody should ever get a gun for self-defense.

Happily, many Americans paid them no attention. A quiet revolution began sweeping across the country, impelled by phenomena like the Kitty Genovese murder (look her up), Clint Eastwood's Dirty Harry series, and the Death Wish movies made by Charles Bronson [1, 2, 3, 4, and 5], based on a hit novel by ultraliberal Brian Garfield in which, ironically, the poor author had meant to take the side of the hysterically screaming "experts".

While the nation's politicians, bureaucrats, police chiefs, and the mass media—all those who would cheerfully watch a woman being raped in an alley and strangled with her own pantyhose, rather than see her with a gun in her hand—continued trying, through incessant jawboning, vicious lying propaganda, and the passage of laws that were blatantly unconstitutional, to create what I've called "a culture of harmlessness", some Americans began arming themselves, and attending schools that taught various forms of self-defense, ceasing to rely on government, at any level, for the one thing even some libertarians (misguided as they are) believe government should do: protect people's lives.

And, hardly surprisingly, the violent crime rate began to recede. In some jurisdictions, where it was made microscopically easier to carry a weapon legally (concealed carry laws representing nothing more than a last, desperate attempt by the discredited establishment to retain control over people's lives) the crime rate dropped in double digits.

I happened to mention some of this—the part about stealing little children off the street and taking them away to rape, murder, and eat—after dinner at my brother's house the other night, and got a reaction I didn't expect. My niece-in-law's eyes got as big as the plates on the table and she would have slapped her hands over the tender ears of her four-year-old son, if only she could have reached him.

Stage-whispering in horror that I was going to give the child nightmares, she sent him to the living room to watch an endless series of wretched, irrational, horribly drawn and animated cartoons that are vastly more damaging to the little tyke than anything I might say to him.

The culture of harmlessness begins at home.

She also more or less demanded—not in actual words, of course—that I back down or apologize. Saying that these were things my daughter (of whom everyone approves) had grown up knowing, and that her own kid should know, I wouldn't do it. I guess I'm that kind of uncle—the kind your mother hated to have come visit when you were a kid.

I will stay that kind of uncle for as long as I live. Our culture has had an important lesson over the past fifty years that much of it is trying to ignore. It's dangerous out there. It always was. But it can be made safer, even while elected and appointed officials, with the help of the mass media, are working overtime to make it more dangerous.

Tell your children.

Tell your grandchildren.

Isn't it better to have nightmares (the fact is, I seriously doubt that that will happen as a result of being told the truth, but what the hell—such nightmares may serve the purpose of survival) than to get stolen off the street and taken away to be raped, murdered, and eaten?

Three-time Prometheus Award-winner L. Neil Smith is the author of 23 books, including The American Zone, Forge of the Elders, Pallas, The Probability Broach, Hope (with Aaron Zelman), and his collection of articles and speeches, Lever Action, all of which may be purchased through his website "The Webley Page" at www.lneilsmith.org. Autographed copies may be had from the author at lneil@lneilsmith.org.

Neil is presently at work on Ceres and Ares, two sequels to his 1993 novel, Pallas, a decensored and electronically published version of his 1984 novel, Tom Paine Maru, and on Roswell, Texas, with Rex F. "Baloo" May. A 185-page full-color graphic novel version of The Probability Broach has just been released by BigHead Press.


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