Self-styled patriots have seized a federal government building in Oregon to protest land use regulations they feel represent federal overreach. They're heavily armed and promising to defend themselves with deadly force if the government starts any trouble.
The substance of their grievance is not important. But it got me wondering what it might be like if they'd done it in the woods behind me, rather than in a small structure grandly and misleadingly described by the media as "a federal building."
Consensus among the many experts who fill social media and chat rooms, is that the authorities should simply turn off the water and electricity to the building and ignore the militia men until they give up and go home to hydrate and thaw out. But what if they didn't?
I imagined a patrol of armed men trooping out of the woods to request or requisition supplies from me.
My first move would be to politely refuse them any aid. They got themselves into this, they can put up with the hardships until they figure out how to get themselves out.
In response, they would probably claim to be a revolutionary army and say they would commandeer whatever they needed from me, an enemy combatant branded by my obvious sympathy to the tyrannical central government. Or they might go looking for better luck at a neighbor's house, but let's say my house is the only one convenient to their little revolution fantasy camp.
My next move might be to display, or even use, a weapon in response to their threat of physical force. Or I might already have called in law enforcement to do their job protecting peaceful citizens from armed hooligans.
This is a watershed. If I engage the militia in a firefight, I am acting more like they say they act, taking the law into my own hands to serve a higher cause. The fact that I am using my Second Amendment right to bear arms to shoot at them as they exercise theirs to try to coerce me puts us both strangely on both sides of the law at once. As the aggressors, they are more wrong than I am, but once the firefight starts it comes down to skill and accuracy, no matter who might be "right."
If law enforcement shows up and shots are exchanged, we have another skirmish for the militia set to add to their list of federal acts of tyranny. Remember Waco! Remember Ruby Ridge! Tyrants and Patriots! Win or lose, they've picked up another piece of propaganda to use later.
Once citizens decide that the threat or use of deadly force is acceptable as a routine part of conflict resolution, in accordance with the holy scripture of the United States Constitution, we make government law enforcement agencies an instrument of tyranny and vigilantes the real arbiters of dispute. The money we save on taxes that used to fund law enforcement can be spent on armament, personal fortifications, medical supplies and funerals.
Any quick skim of news outlets turns up plenty of misbehavior by law enforcement personnel as well as trouble made by gun-worshiping freedom fighters. You can't point at either side and say they're the bad guys or the good guys. All you can say is that they are incapable of expressing themselves in a less destructive way. You can be in the cross hairs or the cross fire, but either way you're neither free nor safe. The enemy of freedom is violence, no matter who instigates it.