I was a city manager in a fair sized city (170,000) in Arizona for 7 years and as I reflect back on those years (I’ve been retired for 3 and a half years), my memories of that time period are fading fast.
What do I remember most? I suppose it’s natural that my clearest recollections are of the anti-government folks who were all convinced that there was an evil government conspiracy aimed directly at them personally.
There was the elderly woman who felt she was being invaded by aliens (no, not illegal immigrants; aliens from outer space) whom the government was directing to her back yard. She was easy to deal with. I told her to rotate her outdoor t.v. antenna 180 degrees. That did the trick, and I became one of the good guys.
Then there was the guy with major dental work. Somewhere along the line he decided that his dentist was working with the government to keep tabs on him. He claimed that there was some kind of a homing device inside one of his crowns. This pooh of little brain was also easy to work with. I told him to always carry a magnet in his shirt pocket. This would disorient the electromagnetic waves being transmitted by the homing device.
Then there was the woman who was convinced that the grounds around her newly built tract home had been improperly graded (per the instructions of an unnamed government inspector) , and that she was soon to be flooded out ( yes, folks flooded out in the desert). Eventually she moved to another community and another city manager.
Oh, and I’ll never forget the golfer who called me one peaceful afternoon to complain about the fact that he had been delayed for 45 minutes at the 16th tee due to an emergency medical situation ( heart attack) on the 16th fairway. “Sir,” I said, “the man died.” “That’s my point,” he retorted. “He was dead. We could have played around him. You people are obviously out to get me.” This little kerfuffle went away when I promised the man that from now on dead golfers would be considered fairway hazards.
The scariest of all, however, was the man who came in and complained every single week about our library. Was the book collection too small? No, that was not the problem. Were there not enough computers? No that was not the problem. Was the staff unhelpful? No, that was not the problem. He was upset because we did not provide gun lockers where he could store his arsenal of guns and rifles while he used the library. You see, we had a no firearms policy in our library, which he felt put him at risk. If he were attacked in the library, he did not want to have to go all the way out to his pick- up truck to get his weaponry. He felt that our policy was part of a conspiracy to deny him of his second amendment rights. Speaking of gun rights and libraries, please check out this story in Library Journal: New State Gun Law Leaves Librarians Confused, Anxious.
Throughout American history there has been a strong thread of anti government sentiment. It basically runs from Nathaniel Bacon (of Bacon’s Rebellion of 1642) into the American Revolution through the Civil War and on up to the Presidency of Ronald (“Government is not the Solution; It is the Problem”) Reagan. For better or worse, many Americans simply do not like government. Jefferson said it best with his pronouncement: “That government governs best, which governs least.”
There is also a strong thread of personal gun rights advocacy running through American history. It is so strong today that there are some states where any candidate who even whispers the words “gun control” commits instant political suicide.
Unfortunately these two threads often intertwine with tragic results. I am scared for our country. All of the new modes of communication and social networking in our world give the anti- government extremists new and powerful forums to spew their hatred, their fears, and their misinformation. This makes for a very dangerous situation. Ideas have great power and when you put them behind the crosshairs of a gun the results can be beyond awful.
The crosshairs of a gun… isn’t that the very symbol that the committee of a prominent anti government politician and best selling author used to highlight Congressional Districts that she wanted the Republican Party to win? I don’t think I need to tell you what districts in AZ the Palin committee targeted.
PS….in the interest of fairness, I think it is important to include a link sent to me by Unwinder Mick about the target symbols used by the Democratic National Committee to focus on Republican Congressional seats. Clearly neither party is immune from using gun oriented images.