As readers will remember, I’ve covered the case of Army Master Sergeant Christopher “CJ” Grisham, who was arrested, tried, re-tried, and finally convicted of a misdemeanor charge of “interfering with a public servant,” in Bell County, Texas. The case arose out of a ridiculous case of officer over-reaction in a rural area of Temple, Texas, where Grisham and his son were on a hike for a merit badge for the boy’s scouting pursuits. What bothers me most about this case is a circumstance that should cause every American to recoil in anger: Here was a man committing no crime, threatening no person, but an officer showed up and made a criminal of him by acting in outrageous fashion. I’m not going to re-argue the case, as it is currently under appeal, but there is a subtext to this story that makes me ill. Persons in the community claiming to be conservative, yet taking the side of the law enforcement officer in this case are cowardly fools. There should have been no case. There should have been no arrest. There should have been no initial call from a passerby who observed the “armed subject.” We live in a nation of cowards, and some of them claim to be “conservatives.” This wretched, skulking view of liberty sickens me. We have now supposed “conservatives” who pose as advocates of liberties they would rather you not exercise, and of all places, in Texas.
Let me assert from the outset that an armed person hiking along the rural roadways of Texas really ought not be a matter for law enforcement. There is no law in Texas against openly carrying a long gun, whether rifle or shotgun, and Grisham was not threatening any person. He wasn’t brandishing the firearm, or waving it around, or otherwise doing anything that would indicate any aggressive action. Sadly, the mere presence of the firearm suggests to some very dim-witted persons a threat that does not exist. These same nit-wits do not flinch at the presence of firearms on the persons of law enforcement officers, but slung from the neck of a citizen, it’s another matter. It is either cowardice or malice that leads to such calls to law enforcement.
On the side of malice, there are those in every community who hate firearms, largely because they live in fear. They are participants in a nonsensical agenda aimed at disarming the country, believing that some Utopia is possible absent guns. These are the same dolts who supported the enactment of Obama-care, or who are happy to vote for every statist that promises them a paradise on Earth, free of want and fear. These are the overt enemies of liberty, and Texans, of all the people in America, should shun them as reprobates. They fear liberty as they fear life itself. They are not fit to live among civilized people, and therefore seek to reduce civilization to a world of mandates and dicta from on high.
As bad as the open enemies of liberty may be, there is another group I estimate to be perhaps worse. There are those who proclaim themselves “conservative,” but who are no less fearful or debauched in their thinking. Actual conservatives do not live in fear of bogey-men. They do not live in fear of inanimate objects or tools. They do not pretend to themselves that a society in which guns are forbidden from public view, or forbidden altogether will be somehow safe from harm. All the evidence gathered about crime and guns over the last half-century demonstrates convincingly that the more citizens are armed, the safer their communities will be. In stark contrast, the fewer citizens who are armed, the more common it will be for people to fall prey to monsters and madmen. Those claiming “conservatism” as their general ideology should know better, and reason should be their guide, but what we really have is a number of people who don’t really believe anything except that “liberals are bad.” They don’t adhere to principles, and they don’t really know why they’re “conservatives.”
One of the arguments you hear from this crowd is that “Grisham was only carrying to prove a point.” This bizarre logic would have you believe that somehow, if only for the sake of doing what the law permits, Grisham would be guilty of some crime. What they are too cowardly to understand is that to retain our freedoms, we ought to exercise them openly and in full light of day as the means by which to reinforce their validity. What they mistakenly believe is that we ought to have rights, but never to exercise them. This bastardized view of liberty has led nation after nation, and civilizations from time immemorial to utter collapse and tyranny. A right not exercised out of a fear of persecution is no right at all. What one can learn from the Grisham case is that while many politicians and persons in Bell County Texas may claim to support liberty and gun rights, the truth is that they don’t support their exercise. In much the same fashion, Phil Robertson is being persecuted for his beliefs. None will dare say that he isn’t entitled to them, but too many will shrink from his right to state them. So goes “free speech” or “free exercise of religion” in modern America.
There exists also some abiding but misplaced sense of fealty to local law enforcement. I love the people who earnestly take up the defense of our lives and liberties, but I strenuously oppose any who would abuse citizens under color of law. More, those who speak out about this subject are often ostracized for what boils down to simple boat-rocking. Speaking out in a Texas community against the actions of law enforcement officers in some particular cases is tantamount to becoming a leper in the community. It is the preposterous proclamation of the idea that “we have rights, but we ought never exercise them” that emboldens those with tyrannical mindsets to such actions. Why did the officer in this case seek to disarm Grisham, who was doing nothing illegal, threatening no one, and harming not a soul? Why did he do so without warning? Why did he take on the power of the state as an aggressor? The reason is simple: He believed he would be safe in so doing. He believed he would get away with it, and thus far, the legal farce in Bell County courtrooms stage-managed by visiting judge Neal Richardson have borne out his belief.
What we really have here is a simpler question, truth be told: Was Grisham out to “interfere with a public servant,” or was a public servant out to interfere with a citizen’s free exercise of liberty? I would conclude in this case that it had been the latter, but so many of my fellow citizens seem to fear such a “revolutionary” idea. Each year, Texans celebrate their own independence, and remember the Alamo, but then quietly and meekly ignore the meaning of those things they claim to hold dear. Each and every time they participate in one of these sham trials against a citizen who had really done nothing but exercise the liberties they claim to support, they mark themselves as frauds and pretenders. “Don’t mess with Texas,” they’ll say in imitation of the state’s anti-littering campaign, but “go ahead and mess with Texans,” they’ll meekly admit.
When I decided with my family to remain in Texas after my military service, it was based on the idea that we would become Texans. We wouldn’t try to re-shape the state or its people into the form or image of what we had escaped, but instead adopt to ourselves the history and culture of a freedom-loving place. I believed that meant something special, which is to say that I believed at the time that Texans were fiercely protective of their freedoms. Nowadays, seeing what passes for “conservatism” in so much of the Lone Star State, I’m no longer certain my assessment had been correct. Texans may like the imagery of prideful independence, but slowly and surely, they are joining many of their fellow Americans in the slide into servitude. I know there are still a number of Texans of the sort I had hoped to become, but their number is dwindling fast, much too fast, as it becomes increasingly fashionable to spout about liberty but never to exercise it. It is this sort of cowardice that is uncharacteristically un-Texan, and yet it seems to grow like a cancer, metastasizing through the entire body of the state, undermining the appearance of independence still claimed by its residents.
Supposed “conservatives” in Texas who enable this decline are the more objectionable to me. On the federal level, we have one conservative Senator, Ted Cruz, and one cowardly Senator, John Cornyn. Cruz actually fights to the limits of his ability. Cornyn pretends to fight for us, but all too often fights against conservatism, joining with the left in their various plots and plans. At the state level, it’s much the same. We have a number of crony capitalists who claim conservatism, but only a few hands-full of actual conservatives. You might wonder how this could be the case in Texas, of all places, but the answer is clear: Too many supposed conservatives among the voting populace are similarly opposed to boat-rocking because too few really want freedom complete with its ups and downs; its rewards and risks. We’re losing our culture, and it’s sad that having discovered the freedoms of Texas at twenty-five years of age, and having the courage to make of it our new home, I now find that the courage that had attracted me to the people and places of Texas is slowly bleeding away. When I see shoddy argumentation demanding a surrender of rights while claiming to possess them, I know that this is not the Texas with which I had become so enamored in my youth.
Texas needs new leaders, and it needs them soon, but to get the sort of men and women who can save the state, we will need citizens with the courage and will to do so. Texans invest a lot of time proclaiming their pride in this state, and what it purports to be, but the truth is that nowadays, that’s more boast than fact. From the statehouse to the local governments, Texans are yielding liberty at an astonishing pace, as our “independent school districts” run wild, spending outrageous sums on unnecessary things, our local governments grow and become more reliant on the state, that in its turn becomes merely a localized, branch establishment of the federal leviathan. CJ Grisham’s case is just one among many, as the cowardice of too many alleged conservatives comes to dominate our polity. Everywhere, government entities are clamping down on liberties long-enjoyed but less and less frequently exercised. We’re told by our neighbors and friends that we should not exercise them, for fear of retribution or rocking the boat, but one must ask what sort of sinking ship of freedom we’re aboard, that we no longer dare evince these rights by carrying them into execution. Don’t speak out, or you will be ostracized. Don’t walk in public with a firearm lest you be arrested for contrived causes. Don’t be a Texan, whatever you may claim, because real Texans are going extinct, like the dinosaurs, and good riddance, it seems.
All hope is not lost, but it’s time to re-evaluate our position. Christians now hide their faith lest they be publicly pilloried for it. Conservatives refuse to be conservative, lest their noncommittal acquaintances think the less of them. Men and women are now chastised for speaking of freedom, never mind exercising it. Over the last several years, there has been talk of “the wussification of America,” but no place in the country has it become more evident of late than in Texas, perhaps precisely because of the contrast provided by its peoples’ former strengths. Where once dwelt a vast majority of rugged individuals among the blue-bonnets, we now find a population increasingly composed of shrinking violets who dare not stand for the right. Any right. We must endeavor to fight this slide, and we must do so in the city council meetings, the counties’ commissioners courts, and in the legislature. Time for a resurgence of liberty in Texas is growing short. The most important places in which we must make a stand are among our friends, families, and neighbors, among whom the number of gone-wobbly seems to increase daily. It’s time for the voices of freeborn men and women to be heard, and if not in Texas, one must wonder where those voices will resound again. It’s a damnable shame that as Texas begins the approach to its bicentennial, we may find ourselves in a state where our claims to liberty are all hat but no cattle. Stand up Texans! You have a famous heritage based on the bold and courageous, but so must your children and their progeny beyond. We must exercise our rights, or yield them, surrendering them forever more. One new Texan’s final diary entry must be our guide:
“No time for memorandums now. Go ahead! Liberty and Independence forever. “– David Crockett, March 5th, 1836