By Jim Beers
I just finished reading an account of two young Christian women martyred in Carthage in the year 203 AD. By that time Carthage had been conquered by and was ruled by Rome. The Roman Emperor Septimus Severus had ordered the persecution and death of all Christians in one of many such periodic persecutions.
According to a witness, the two young women, Perpetua and Felicity, were thrown "down" into the amphitheater with other Christians where a leopard killed some and wounded others to the wild cheering of the crowd. One of the Christians so wounded was a man called Rusticus.
Those not killed by the leopard were forced into a separate part of the amphitheater where the crowd demanded that they be placed "in the middle" where they could watch them being killed by the gladiators.
Most would agree that the persecutions of Christians in the Roman Empire were motivated by many things from envy for their property, myths about their faith, resentments about certain individuals, and questions about whether they placed "their" God above the Roman Gods or the Emperor. These reasons are similar to those that crop up periodically today as Nazis targeted Jews; Cambodian, Russian, and Chinese Communists targeted educated or propertied people; and as urban Americans have "scapegoated" rural Americans for the past 4 decades.
Scapegoating is a term that describes how one person (or many or a government) can invent and spread all manner of lies to focus public attention on a class or group of persons as the reason why other things are going wrong. In that vein, the classic "scapegoating' by a Roman Emperor was Nero blaming Christians for setting fire to Rome when his misrule was the cause for so much grief and strife. Likewise Hitler blamed the Jews for Germany's defeat in WWI and the Communist Triumvirate of Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot blamed the property owners and the educated for the ills of their countries when these dictators seized power.
Today we see this sort of "scapegoating" by our government as we are told that Bankers, Insurance Companies, Automobile Company Executives, and Oil Companies are the reason for the economic ills of the day as government takes over these functions much like other recent "slight-of-hand" expansions of other all-powerful central governments have done through the ages. An example of this was the telling and secretly recorded remarks of the current President about rural Americans "clinging to their guns and religion" as indicative of the intransigent opposition of many rural segments to his candidacy and urban values.
The last 40 years have seen a procession of federal laws and programs ostensibly aimed at "saving" everything from certain species, landscapes, and "ecosystems" to even controlling the very nature of our "climate" to "change". Always the answer is a more powerful central government mollifying urban constituencies at the expense of and diminution of rural communities, rural culture, and the jurisdiction and power of state and local governments.
Consider the few following examples of this government-sponsored "scapegoating" of rural Americans, their families, their communities, and their very existence:
1. Property Rights are increasingly viewed and treated by government, not as a protected right under the 5th Amendment, but rather as a matter for government to take or grant as it sees fit. One need look no further than the history of The Endangered Species Act or the claims of government bureaucrats to such things as "viewsheds", water bodies of all descriptions, and private property "in-holdings" in the ever-expanding federal land estate.
2. Gun control, gun registration, and gun denial programs by federal politicians and federal government employees and appointees ostensibly hired and paid to "uphold the Constitution" that specifically states "the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed" is particularly devastating to rural residents isolated and hours from any law enforcement in their homes and hours more away from law enforcement when traversing the countryside. While the Supreme Court appears to be affirming this Constitutional right at this time, federal politicians and appointees are working to draft and sign a UN Treaty ostensibly to control international gun trafficking. Such a Treaty, when signed (by the President) and ratified (by the US Senate) "shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the contrary not-withstanding" (Article VI of the US Constitution). A rural America with the gun control found in urban enclaves will be a rural America both unsafe and not fit to live in.
3. The elimination of the management of renewable natural resources and the closure of any extraction of non-renewable on the ever-expanding public estate has increasingly devastated rural communities and the revenues necessary for local governments to exist, much less function in the interest of the local citizens. This is accomplished by simple bureaucratic chicanery that perverts the wording of initial and specific Congressional Authorizations for which the areas were initially acquired. The resulting "tumble-effect" throughout the rural economies is all downhill.
4. Similar urban thinking has given rise to the removal of dams and in combination with specious claims of wild animal "needs" and resulted in the closure of both private and public land-based timber industries, irrigation districts, and power production vital to rural communities.
5. Public land closures due to such federal Declarations (by either Executive Order or Congressional action) as Wilderness, Roadless, Scenic, Historic, Monument, etc. result in not only the loss of access to those lands but also to all the ancillary benefits to rural communities such as Revenue Sharing from management practices (in lieu of taxes), recreation, grazing, hunting, fishing, trapping, firewood cutting, and road infrastructure in rural areas. Additionally such short-sighted pandering to unaffected urban voting constituencies has resulted in never-ending and enormously expensive uncontrollable catastrophic fires and even the teaching in government schools that such fires are desirable no matter their effect on rural Americans and their communities.
6. Add to all the above, the increasing reliance on and response to federal employees and federal programs by increasingly money-dependent state employees and state academicians and Universities as a result of sharing in an ever-expanding "pie" of federal funding in the form of grants and "partnerships" that increasingly provide salary stability and future remuneration and jobs. The result is lessened protection of rural America as the federal imposition of urban whims and desires generates votes and support for federal politicians.
7. The abandonment or rural America by state governments to federal agendas of destruction is nowhere more apparent than in the matter of the introduction, protection and spread of large deadly and destructive predators. Wolves have been re-introduced to and are protected in nearly a dozen (rural) states. Grizzly bears are expanding into several (rural) states where they have not been allowed to exist (by states formerly interested in stable rural communities and rural economies) for decades. Black bears in states like Florida are overpopulated and increasingly destructive (to rural people) but are unmanageable due to federal intervention. Cougars are expanding quickly and significantly into many (rural) states that they were extirpated from long ago and state employees deny their existence and keep legal responsibility "dodges" in state Laws and regulations that protect these large and deadly predators as "belonging" wherever they happen to go. The result?
- Attacks on and killing of rural inhabitants.
- Human health threats from deadly tapeworms to anthrax.
- Wildlife disease spread from rabies and distemper to chronic wasting disease.
- Livestock killing from cattle and sheep to goats and horses of all ages.
- Canine pets, watchdogs, and hunting dogs killed and maimed.
- Stressed livestock and wildlife that results in health deterioration and hidden effects.
- Wildlife like elk, deer, and moose disappearing due to increased predation.
- State revenue from hunting and trapping decreasing thus accelerating the urban agendas.
8. Add to all the above a federal government pursuing items such as:
- "Cap-and-Trade" intended to make electric bills "skyrocket" per the President.
- Increasing the price of gasoline to force urban commuters into tiny vehicles.
- Controlling two of three American auto (and truck) manufacturers while...
- Regulating all car (and truck) manufacturers??
- Touting small vehicles, small engines, and impractical (for rural uses) transportation.
- Rejecting the development of copious American energy sources.
- Touting limited and costly energy limited by the wind and waves.
- Discouraging the production and consumption of red meat.
- Increasing the costs of animal husbandry for everything from chickens to pork.
- Urban advocacy of a return to some mythic bucolic bygone day before European "pollution" of America.
Consider all of the foregoing in light of and how they diminish rural America to the cheers of unaffected urban constituencies.
Dare I compare our current politicians to those Roman Emperors "scapegoating" those evil (rural) rednecks that epitomize the "rape" of North America with their ranches, farms, guns, Constitutional beliefs and settlements? Dare I compare the enthusiastic environmentalists and animal rights advocates to those cheering (Roman) Carthaginians as they cheer on the shutdown of farms and ranches and towns and hunting and mining and all the things that support rural Americans and their way-of-life?
Last but certainly not least, I can't compare the impoverished rural families and communities to those martyrs in the amphitheater 1800 years ago because they are not being destroyed simply due to their profession of belief but rather because they are in the rural place at this time like Cambodian schoolteachers were in 1976 or Chinese farmers were in 1955. Further, they are not suffering a horrible death "in the middle" of the amphitheater but rather they are suffering a slow death of a thousand cuts out of sight and out of mind.
It was that name of that one martyr, "Rusticus", that seemed a link. A Carthaginian man named Rusticus and present-day American "rustics" (country persons, per the dictionary) have more in common over the span of 18 centuries and a great Ocean than one might have ever imagined.
Jim Beers 4 March 2010
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