As soon as Americans hear a single stanza of DUELING BANJOS, they cannot avoid the Pavlovian reflex of imagining Burt Reynolds and his friends canoeing down a remote Georgia river. I challenge you NOT to think about Ned Beatty struggling to crawl up a muddy hillside near the river's edge. Like it or not, that movie has left an indelible mark on the American psyche. Wikipedia says, Deliverance was well received by critics and is widely regarded as one of the best films of 1972. The film was selected by The New York Times as one of The Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made, while the viewers of Channel 4 in the United Kingdom voted it no. 45 in a list of The 100 Greatest Films. By the time this movie hit the big screen, I was too old to remain a Boy Scout, but I confess that I often wore a sleeveless vest over my bare chest whenever I went camping. But I digress.
Unless this is the first time you've read my writing, you know that I'm not invoking these images for simply prurient motives. I am hoping to draw your attention to the irrefutable law of survival demonstrated moments later in the movie. As a terrified Jon Voight is belted to a tree across his throat, he notices his guide and mentor (Burt Reynolds) standing at the river with his powerful hunting bow pulled to full draw. The audience takes a collective gasp as the evil mountain man is struck through the heart by an arrow, and dramatically breathes his last. The relief they feel that the danger is over is soon replaced by an overwhelming sense of societal guilt, played skillfully by Ronny Cox (Drew). The following script excerpt concludes with the topic of this newsletter in highlight.
Drew: Now you listen, Lewis. I don't know what you got in mind, but if you try to conceal this body, you're settin' yourself up for a murder charge. Now that much law I do know! This ain't one of your f----' games. You killed somebody. There he is!
Lewis: I see him, Drew. That's right, I killed somebody. But you're wrong if you don't see this as a game...Dammit, we can get out of this thing without any questions asked. We get connected up with that body and the law, this thing gonna be hangin' over us the rest of our lives. We gotta get rid of that guy!...Anywhere, everywhere, nowhere.
Drew: How do you know that other guy hasn't already gone for the police?
Lewis: And what in the hell is he gonna tell 'em, Drew, what he did to Bobby?
Drew: Now why couldn't he go get some other mountain men? Now why isn't he gonna do that? You look around you, Lewis. He could be out there anywhere, watchin' us right now. We ain't gonna be so god-damned hard to follow draggin' a corpse.
Lewis: You let me worry about that, Drew. You let me take care of that. You know what's gonna be here? Right here? A lake - as far as you can see hundreds of feet deep. Hundreds of feet deep. Did you ever look out over a lake, think about something buried underneath it? Buried underneath it. Man, that's about as buried as you can get.
Drew: Well, I am tellin' you, Lewis, I don't want any part of it.
Lewis: Well, you are part of it!
Drew: IT IS A MATTER OF THE LAW!
Lewis: The law? Ha! The law?! What law?! Where's the law, Drew? Huh?
Most people consider themselves law abiding, but what law? The law that pretended to justify the Holocaust? The 23,000 laws that pretend to place conditions on my right to keep and bear arms? The pretended laws perpetrated by Homeland Security and the TSA? What laws are you willing to follow? Are there any laws that you refuse to follow?
The type of law demonstrated in this memorable scene is the law of survival. When the discussion remains philosophical, everyone agrees that violent force can be used legitimately to defend your own life. Far more equivocation (ie. whimpering) happens when people are forced to confront this issue in real life - or even in a dramatic movie. Though few people are willing to exercise their right to survival and self-defense, it remains a universal motivation for all living creatures.
Of course, very few people would ever find themselves canoeing down a rural river into a primative, sexual ambush, therefore the chances of requiring excellent archery skills is infinitesimally small. But there are more realistic dangers in the common, urban lifestyle that most people take for granted. The Indiana Supreme Court has ruled that it is against the law to defend yourself against renegade police officers in the Hoosier State. (Read my previous article, Indiana's Surpremely Arrogant Court) I insist that Indiana has as much authority to overrule your right to self-defense, as they do to exempt themselves from the law of gravity. However, if we are to live in a civilized and peaceful society, where marksmanship and hand-to-hand combat are just hobbies, we must come to a common understanding of what legitimate, justifiable law actually is.
I now direct your attention to Fredric Bastiat's The Law
Written in 1850, The Law, in my opinion, is the best and most succinct explanation of what legitimate law should be. Starting with the "obvious" (in quotes because nothing is obvious), he states, "We hold from God the gift which includes all others. This gift is life - physical, intellectual, and moral life. And in spite of the cunning of artful political leaders, these three gifts from God precede all human legislation, and are superior to it." This fundamental precept is clearly NOT obvious to the rulers and politicians who assiduously pass legislation to steal our property and violate our unalienable rights.
Bastiat logically concludes that "If every person has the right to defend - even by force - his person, his liberty, and his property, then it follows that a group of men have the right to organize and support a common force to protect these rights constantly. Thus, since an individual cannot lawfully use force against the person, liberty, or property of another individual, then the common force - for the same reason - cannot lawfully be used to destroy the person, liberty,or property of individuals or groups."
I cannot urge you too strongly to READ THIS BOOK!, but perhaps you'll listen to Walter E. Williams who wrote the foreword to this printing of the book. He says, "After reading the book I was convinced that a liberal-arts education without an encounter with Bastiat is incomplete. Reading Bastiat made me keenly aware of all the time wasted, along with the frustrations of going down one blind alley after another, organizing my philosophy of life. The Law did not produce a philosophical conversion for me as much as it created order in my thinking about liberty and just human conduct."
For those of you supporting Ron Paul's campaign, these are the very principles that he courageously defends every time he steps up to the microphone. If Ron Paul is your hero, you should not consider yourself a true supporter if you haven't read The Law.