Like any true patriot, I despise the United States government. America is the greatest country in the world, our people are hardworking and good, and we could really accomplish something if all these laws and agencies weren't holding us back. As it is, I can barely keep up with HBO. Restoring our manufacturing sector or even holding a job is out of the question, what with this damned government.
I was therefore pleased to learn the Oath Keepers—a group of "patriots who believe the Constitution of the United States is the sole law of the land," according to spokesman Joseph Santoro—had traveled to Lincoln to oversee a mining dispute (see news story on page 8). At this moment, an Oath Keepers security team is patrolling the claim of miner George Kornec, who has received noncompliance letters from the U.S. Forest Service for building an unauthorized garage on his claim.
First they came for the noncompliant miners, and I said nothing, because I was not a mineral rights attorney. But by such letters does tyranny usurp freedom.
The Forest Service claims Kornec needed approval to build a garage on his claim, citing a law passed by Congress—another branch of the federal government—in 1955. The Oath Keepers say Kornec's claim predates that law and is subject only to the General Mining Act of 1872. But the Forest Service says he missed a deadline to file renewal paperwork in 1986, so technically his current claim originated then.
That's the kind of complicated legal disagreement only armed patriots can resolve. This isn't the first time the Oath Keepers have defended Lady Liberty against the groping hand of the government. You may remember them from 2014, when they supported rancher Cliven Bundy in his grazing dispute with the Bureau of Land Management.
For approximately 20 years, Bundy had refused to apply for a permit to graze his cattle on federal land. After the Oath Keepers and other groups descended on the area, the BLM released cattle it had confiscated from Bundy, who subsequently remarked to reporters, "I've often wondered, are [African-Americans] better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy?"
Score one for individual liberty. Now, over a year later, the Oath Keepers are once again protecting freedom by wandering around with guns—this time in Lincoln.
"We are not thugs," Santoro told a meeting of anxious residents and curious media. "We are not criminals. We ensure that the people we bring here into your community have been thoroughly vetted. If they are any type of a lunatic fringe, I swear to you they aren't coming here."
I'm relieved to hear there will be no lunatics—just patriotic Americans like you and me, who heard there was a mining dispute, packed up their weapons and traveled across the country to watch it. None of them are there to provoke violence. They're not thugs. They just want to ensure that, should violence erupt, they have enough armed veterans in the area to protect their understanding of everyone else's rights.
Thank God, the first American, that enough patriots care about the Constitution to protect it from federal legislation, the courts that interpret it and the Forest Service employees who enforce their decisions. Besides the Oath Keepers, doesn't anyone care about the law of the land?
The only way I can see this operation going badly is if retired Sgt. Major Santoro's interpretation of the General Mining Act of 1872 is wrong somehow, and the lawyers find against Kornec's garage. But I'm sure the Oath Keepers would abide by the court's decision in that case, and they only brought their guns in case something unconstitutional happens.
Barring that outlandish scenario, this mineral rights dispute will benefit from the sound guidance that only armed citizens who are not geologists or attorneys can provide. Kornec's conflict with the Forest Service isn't about mining rights or paperwork or land use regulations. It's about the Constitution—and who better to determine if the actions of the federal government are constitutional than a posse of volunteers?
Freedom isn't free. You have to lease it, and the rent payable is your interpretation of whether the last 60 years of mining law are constitutional. But rent isn't due once a month. No, it's due every time you hear about a dispute between an ordinary citizen and the unconstitutional government that stands athwart his right to build a garage.
That's when some people might give up. In France, probably, that's how they do it—just sit back and hope their king decides to fix matters for them. But we are Americans. We have a Constitution and the guns to interpret it. When a tyrannical Forest Service threatens our freedom, we do not stand down. We load up our weapons and stand around.
Dan Brooks writes about politics, culture and killing time at combatblog.net