Monday, May 27, 2013
My Memorial Day Feeling
About a month ago a dentist over to a nearby town received a delinquent tax notice from the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration. Evidently, it pissed him off. According to the allegations in the Affidavit for Warrant of Arrest, he faxed a letter to the local DF&A office in which he threatened to kill the DF&A Division Manager and "any government tyrants, agents or such that tried to come and collect or such that tried to shut down his business." The Affidavit also alleges that our hero would "make (the Division Manager's)wife a widow in order to keep his business open."
This exercise of his 1st Amendment rights got him tagged with a charge of Terroristic Threatening which is a Class D felony. His lawyer entered a not guilty plea on his behalf and a trial date was set.
Although there is nothing remotely funny about this incident, I am frequently amused by such Tea Party rhetoric. And the following question comes to mind: What is the government? According to the comic book rhetoric of the NRA and the Tea Party it consists of "thugs in jackboots (always in jackboots)" that are hell bent on taking away our freedoms. Indeed, our hero referred to the employees in the local tax office as "tyrants." Which I suppose means that he interpreted their sending him a goddamn letter to be an act of tyranny.
Quite frankly, and as hurtful as this may sound, he ain't important enough to tyrannize.
But let us turn back to the question of what is the government?
It's not guys in jackboots although they got 'em. They are called Marines. It's the highway department. It's the lady that brings the mail. It's the public school teacher. It's the water works. It's the air traffic controller. It's the guy from the Soil Conservation Service who will help you figure out why your pond is leaking. It's the cop that answers the call from 911. It runs the Universities and the professional schools. It gave me my license to practice law and there is at least one dentist I know that probably ought to have his license suspended. Maybe it's just me but I view threatening to kill a public servant as inconsistent with the sound judgment required to prescribe Schedule II narcotics. What all this stacks up to criminally is for the Judge and Jury to decide. But I can't imagine what the Committee on Professional Responsibility would do to me if I committed such a damn fool act regardless of whether it constituted a criminal act. I just can't imagine.
The government is you and me and pissed off dentists even. Although suffice it to say a letter containing death threats is probably not what the Founding Fathers were contemplating when they put the right to petition the government for redress of grievances in the Constitution of the United States of America. The government is you and me when we vote. The government is you and me when we attend town hall meetings. It's you and me when we bid on public works jobs. You get the idea.
It sent my buddies John and Danny to the Middle East. It killed Osama Bin Laden. It invaded Normandy and subdued the Nazis. You want tyrants? You want thugs in jackboots? The Germans tried to eradicate an entire race of people from the planet. And damn near succeeded. There's you some tyranny,Son.
The government sent my father to the Pacific Theatre in World War II. It taught him how to be an electrician. It sent him to college on the GI Bill where he learned to be an engineer. And it buried him for free along with countless other men and women who wore the uniform. My father was a pretty conservative guy. He voted for Nixon and Ford. He owned guns for hunting and for self-defense. I guarandamntee you that Buck Bowen would consider the Tea Party's narcissistic and paranoid view of the government as juvenile and silly.
Sure, we can all find dealing with the government frustrating if not irritating at times. Of course, there is waste and inefficiency, although not as much as widely suspected. But anybody who took high school civics ought to know that the right to own a gun doesn't give you the right to threaten to blow somebody to Kingdom Come just because you get a tax bill.
Meanwhile, about the same time as our dentist friend was getting riled up, a lawyer over to Little Rock received a delinquent tax notice from the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration as well. It pissed him off too.
With an angry and defiant stride I swiftly went to the fax machine as well.
And I sent it to my accountant to deal with.
Happy Memorial Day. Thanks to all our Veterans for their sacrifice and service.