I enjoyed the extra days off, except for having to forego my Jim Rockford-level pay rate for nearly half the week.1
From the top floor of my apartment complex, I watched three simultaneous fireworks shows above the neon skyline of north Travis County, where warehouses, pawn shops and auto dealers, with five-digit street addresses, vie with scrub and two-lane highways for the landscape.2Yet the triple pyrotechnics failed to convey excitement. In that, the most dispirited celebration I can recall, they perfectly represented the holiday spirit in the Bush-Clinton era.3
This season, the mainstream minded must attend the local multiplex for a dose of patriotism.
"The Patriot" as art is acceptable, though a tad too Spielbergian for my tastes.10 Of course, this being Hollywood product, the animating principles get less screen time than the swordplay. However, I applaud Mel Gibson for using his clout to create a blockbuster about the American Revolution, a theme rarely filmed and occasionally prosecuted.11
Even rarer, the movie favorably depicts the Revolution's rank-and-file patriots, who are not only "religious nuts with guns" (to paraphrase P.J. O'Rourke),12 but even Southerners,13 still blood libeled14 by the nation's "anointed"15 six score and 15 years into a "prolonged celebration of a terrible victory."16
In other words, the movie's heroes are akin17 to those slain at Ruby Ridge18 and Waco19 by federal minions, who in turn are closer to the invading units of His Majesty's royal forces.20 (The real-life model for the movie's lead villain was the subject of gushing poetry.21 His modern federal successors have to settle for promotion.)22
Likewise, eminencies of the conservative movement have joined the ranks of critics objecting to the movie: its depictions, themes and assumptions.23 Prominently, William F. Buckley Jr.'s review, in a characteristically tortuous attempt at a column,24 proves yet again that conservatives and socialists have more in common than not.25 Therefore, Pat Buchanan's temporary alliance26 with Marxists27 to control the Reform Party28 is more theoretically compatible than his Beltway brethren can admit.29 The majority of Buchanan's stances remain appalling, though.30
The pundits and policy analysts under the conservative banner who have assailed Buchanan since he left the GOP last year are actually more corrupt than the Republican politicians they advise.31 For example, last year the House of Representatives actually voted to abolish Selective Service, over the objections of their "brain trust."32
Unfortunately, many contemporary patriots have regarded the Republican Party as their vehicle for resisting tyranny. A cursory examination will show the ideals of the American Revolution are as unlikely to be advanced through the GOP's presidential nominee, George W. Bush, as they have been during that party's control of Congress.33
Viable, radical, principled alternatives against the slide into the abyss do exist, however.34 Accordingly, Austin Dispatches proudly endorses Libertarian Party nominee Harry Browne for president.35 A free society is still worth fighting for after 224 years.
1 Robertson, Ed. "This is Jim Rockford ...": The Rockford
Files. Emeryville, Calif.: Pomegranate Press, 1995.
2 Smith, Cheryl. "No Man's Land." AC 9 June 2000: 24+.
3 "Bill Clinton, the George Bush of Our Time." Time 24 May 1993: 21; "Business at the Old Stand." The Progressive March 1993: 9; Lind, Michael. "The Out-of-Control Presidency." TNR 14 Aug. 1995: 18; Moore, Stephen. "The Lean Years: The Mediocre Performance of the 1990s is the Depressing Result of Clintonomics." NR 1 Jul. 1996: 38; Reiland, Ralph R. "Working Families Starve on Bush-Clinton Diet." Insight on the News 26 Aug. 1996: 28; Tumin, Marc-Yves. "Dependence Day." New York Resident. 26 June 2000, online ed.
4 "Review and Outlook." WSJ 28 Jul. 2000: A14. Refers to Fund, John. "How to Read the Polls." Online edition idem.
5 Ferguson, Andrew. "Voice of America." TWS 5 Feb. 2001: 31-33; Rothbard, Murray N. Conceived in Liberty. 1975. Rpt. Auburn, Ala.: Ludwig von Mises Institute, 2000: II, Ch. 33.
6 Casey, Douglas. "Class Is in Session -- Will They Learn?" Liberty April 1993: 23-26; Casey. "The New Praetorians." Liberty March 1996: 49+; Moss, Laurence S. "The Power Elite Revisited." LAR Spring-Autumn 1967: 39-44; "Variety Box Office." Variety 17 Jul. 2000: 14.
7 On the Persian Gulf War: Bradford, R.W. et. al. "Victory in the Gulf: What it Means." Liberty May 1991: 19-34; Bush, George, and Brent Scowcroft. A World Transformed. New York City: Alfred A Knopf, 1998: Ch. 13-19; Hersh, Seymour. "Overwhelming Force: What Happened in the Final Days of the Gulf War?" The New Yorker 22 May 2000: 49-82; Schlesinger, Stephen. "A World Transformed." The Nation. 26 Oct. 1998: 25; Walker, Jesse. "A Splendid Little War." Liberty Nov. 1996: 29+
On Somalia: Walker. "Operation No Hope." Liberty Aug. 1993: 34-38.
8 On Ruby Ridge: Bock, Alan W. Ambush at Ruby Ridge: How Govrnment Agents Set Randy Weaver Up and Took His Family Down. Irvine, Calif.: Dickens Press, 1995.
On the Davidian Massacre: Spence, Gerry. From Freedom to Slavery: The Rebirth of Tyranny in America. New York City: St. Martin's Press, 1993; Wattenberg, Daniel. "Gunning for Koresh." TAS Aug. 1993: 31-40.
9 Frum, David. Dead Right. New York City: Basic Books, 1994.
10 Biskind, Peter. Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: How the Sex-Drugs-and-Rock 'n' Roll Generation Saved Hollywood. New York City: Simon & Schuster, 1998: 256, 331 and passim.
11 "Variety Box Office." Variety 17 July 2000: 14; Cheshire, Godfrey. Review of "The Patriot." NYPR 28 June 2000, online ed.; Kauffman, Bill. "Muskets and Misfires." WSJ 9 June 2000: W17; Spence, op. cit.
12 O'Rourke, P.J. "The Liberty Manifesto." TAS Jul. 1993: 38. Rpt. "Speech to Libertarians." Age and Guile Beat Youth, Innocence, and a Bad Haircut: Twenty-five Years of P.J. O'Rourke. New York City: Atlantic Monthly Press, 1995: 226-229.
13 Encyclopedia of Southern Culture. Ed. Charles Reagan Wilson et. al. Chapel Hill, N.C.: U of North Carolina P, 1989.
14 Roberts, Paul Craig. "South's History Going the Way of the Grim Reaper." AUSR May/June 2000: 4.
15 Sowell, Thomas. The Vision of the Annointed: Self-Congratulation as a Basis for Social Policy. New York City: Basic Books, 1995.
16 Quoted in Stromberg, Joseph. "José Martí: Cuban Nationalist, Critic of American Imperialism." Antiwar.com. 13 Mar. 2000. <http://www.antiwar.com/stromberg/s031300.html>.
17 Goad, Jim. The Redneck Manifesto. New York City: Simon & Schuster, 1997.
I believe I met Goad in Portland, Ore., in late 1992 or early 1993 at a libertarian social meeting where he ranted about European bankers controlling the Federal Reserve System. Goad later partially proved his point about rednecks when a judge sentenced him to three years in prison for beating his girlfriend. (AP. "Author, Publisher Pleads Guilty to Beating." Corvallis Gazette-Times. 9 Jan. 2000: A9.)
18 Bock, op. cit.
19 Spence, op. cit.; Wattenberg, op. cit.
20 Rothbard, Conceived in Liberty, Vol. III-IV. New Rochelle, N.Y.: Arlington House, 1976-79.
21 Robinson, Mary Darby. "Ode to Valour. Inscribed to Colonel Banastre Tarleton." Poems. London: J. Bell, 1791: 57-60.
22 Bryce, Robert. "Trial and Error." AC 18 Aug. 2000: 32-33+.
23 Bowman, James. "Patriot Games." TAS Sep. 2000: 64; Carson, Tom. "Free-dumb!" Esquire Nov. 2000: 90+; Young, Cathy. "Right Takes Wrong Turn on 'The Patriot.' " Detroit News 19 Jul. 2000: 15.
24 Buckley, William F. Jr. "Is 'The Patriot' Patriotic?" NR 14 Aug. 2000: 74-75.
25 Brooks, David. "Ralph Nader, Conservative Wannabe." TWS 31 Jul. 2000: 26-29; Judis, John B. "Confessions of a Socialist Conservative." New Oxford Review Oct. 1987. Rpt. UR March/April 1988: 34; Moulton, William P. "Conservatism Redux." Liberty Aug. 1987: 33-35; Rothbard. "Left and Right: The Prospects for Liberty." LAR Spring 1965: 4-22.
26 Sweet, Lynn. "Reformers Split Over Buchanan." CST 11 Aug. 2000, late sports ed.: 31.
27 Grann, David. "Coming Soon to a Presidential Election Near You." TNR 13 Dec. 1999: 20.
28 Kirn, Walter. " 'Turn Right at the Orange Dumpster.' " GQ August 2000: 79-82+.
29 Postrel, Virginia I. "Laissez Fear." Reason Apr. 1997: 4-5.
30 Buchanan, Pat. "The Dispossession of Christian Americans." 27 Nov. 1998 column. Rpt. Conservative Chronicle 9 Dec. 1998: 11.
31 Baden, John. "A Gathering of the Tribes: Reflections of a Social Anthropologist." Liberty Jul. 1990: 21-22; Frum, op. cit.; Karlgaard, Rich. "Slouching Toward Phoenix." Reason Apr. 1997: 37-40; Lamb, Brian. Interview with Robert Novak. Transcript. Booknotes. C-SPAN. 2 March 2000; Novak. Completing the Revolution: A Vision for Victory in 2000. New York City: The Free Press, 2000; Postrel. "Race to the Bottom." Reason Dec. 1995: 4+.
32 Ambrose, Stephen. "The End of the Draft, and More." NR 9 Aug. 1999: 35; Broder, David S. "Cheap Insurance: Selective Service, America, and Me." WP 22 Sep. 1999: A33.
33 Barnes, Fred. "Me-Too Republicans." TAS July 1994: 20-24; Caldwell, Christopher. "Clinton but Crazier." NYPR 19 Apr. 2000, online ed.; Caldwell. "Clintonite Savagery, Politicians' Hypocrisy." Idem. 26 April 2000; Pitney, John J. "The Many Faces of Newt Gingrich." Reason Feb. 1997: 40-44; Potts, Stephen. "Two Political Parties but Little Choice." San Diego Union Tribune 30 July 2000: G3.
34 Himmelfarb, Gertrude. On Looking Into the Abyss: Untimely Thoughts on Culture and Society. New York City: Alfred A. Knopf, 1994.
35 Browne, Harry. Why Government Doesn't Work. New York City: St. Martin's Press, 1995; Nolen, Julie. "Libertarian Candidate Campaigns in Austin." DT 18 Aug. 2000: 1-2.