A hard choice, if it should come to that

The Supreme Court’s decisions regarding displays of the Ten Commandments was extensively covered this week. The public reacts to symbolism like toddlers respond to colorful toys. Meanwhile, I brooded over the eminent domain decision.

If I make my stand in the garage, I can die in the same spot my father died. My building preparations for the event would focus on two goals: (1) To hold out for a respectable amount of time, meaning sufficient time for the national media to take an interest; and (2) To insure that the police could not take me by surprise, preventing me from either killing myself or being killed by them.

Media coverage would be important because I would be giving my life so that my home could not be turned over to another person or group, and I would assume that most people would recognize I was in the right, and that my sacrifice would inspire others to take up where I left off. While I have no desire to die a martyr, I would choose such a course if the terms of my continuing to live were made untenable. I see myself as like those revolutionaries who started this country, for they were not men who were impoverished or enslaved. They were largely wealthy men who were unable to capture the loyalty of two-thirds of their fellow colonists until the war had been won. They were also men who had been pushed and refused to live with the indignity of being pushed farther. How can a life be worthwhile if it must be purchased at any price? What joy can there be in arising each morning and looking in the mirror at a man who will accept any degradation if only those who are stronger than he will permit him a groveling existence?

I have given much thought to whether I would actually attempt to kill a policeman, and have decided against it if possible. The people who I would like to kill, I could not kill if I decided to barricade myself inside my house, because I could not afford to risk being caught on the way home. This is how little confidence I have in my ability as an assassin. Such endeavors require a cooler head and steadier hands than mine.

As for my fortress, it would need to be reasonably sturdy (re-enforced concrete would be better, but multiple layers of plywood might have to suffice) to reduce my vulnerability to a direct assault after an attack with tear gas or concussion grenade. It would also need to have an upward angling door close to the floor (or even beneath the floor) just large enough that I could crawl through it and seal it, so it couldn’t be flattened with a battering ram or pulled away with machinery—at least not before I could kill myself. The walls would require closable apertures (wider at the back than at the front, to see through, shoot through, and get air through. Since I could not prevent gas from coming through these same apertures, I would need a gas mask. Naturally, I would need a supply of food and a toilet (maybe a narrow pipe leading to a wider hole beneath the floor.

When I consider my plans and whether I would really pursue them, I ever run into the obstacle of having a wife whose property and fate are so linked with mine that I could not bring danger to myself without bringing suffering to her. The heroes of the American Revolution had families, but this did not prevent them from risking their lives and fortunes, although I don’t know how they brought themselves to do so. The sentiment, “I could not love thee half so much loved I not honor more,” never held sway with me: I would feel damned either way if I was forced to choose between honor and family. If I elected the former, I would not live at all; if I chose the latter, I would have to live with anger and humiliation. I would anticipate choosing the latter as the only loving option, and also as the choice that would reflect the direction of my responsibility. If I were alone, I would react very differently, the choice not being whether to respond violently, but how to best use violence to avenge myself and to inspire others.

Another thought that comes to mind when I consider taking a violent stand is that I am unlikely to ever be faced with eminent domain. The hotel, if it is built, might go up on the other side of the fairgrounds; or an economic downturn might eliminate the possibility. It could even happen that years might pass before it was built, and we might actually want to move by then. On a scale of realistic fears, eminent domain is low, but the magnitude of a fear is determined not just by its likelihood, but by its horror.