Friday, November 30, 2007

Rochester, NH: Visit My Grandma, Take Hostages at Hillary HQ


I can’t help but take something akin to hometown pride in seeing that the hostage situation being described on the news as I type this is occurring at Hillary Clinton campaign HQ in the cozy little New Hampshire town where my father grew up and where is located the house in which he did so, described fondly in an earlier blog entry and only recently sold by my ninetysomething grandmother as she moved into an apartment.

Needless to say, while I am pro-Grandma, I am opposed to hostage-taking, even at Hillary HQ (one man, who I hope will not turn out to be a part of the New Hampshire-focused libertarian movement called the Free State Project, claims to have a bomb strapped to him and is holding two people, from what I hear at this time). I am reminded, though, of an argument that Tom Wolfe (I think it was) once made about why people, whether New Hampshirite or Iranian, sane or insane, might do something as stupid as take hostages: not so much to have their specific demands met (in this case, a request for an audience with Hillary, as if she’s reluctant to speak to New Hampshire residents right now) but rather to assert their control over a little slice of the Earth, even for a short time, after what has often been years of feeling like they get pushed around all the time. For those few glorious hours until the SWAT snipers take you out, you’re in charge of your own little kingdom.

Those tax protesters who recently found themselves in a stand-off with police in that same state may have felt a similar rush, but of course tax-resisters (who feel taken hostage by withholding rather than feeling like holding hostages) have my sympathies in a way that hostage-takers, no matter their cause, never will.

More admirable is the simple, peaceful assertion, also popular with a variety of fringe characters of varying philosophies, that you are now a tiny sovereign nation. Jesse Walker of Reason magazine has an amusing review (fittingly, in Pat Buchanan’s decentralization-promoting nationalist magazine American Conservative) of a new Lonely Planet travel guide to Micronations, from the two-building independent nation of the Knights of Malta in (surrounded by?) Italy to a minuscule (and thus far not militarily-crushed) plot of land calling itself Molossia in Nevada (Walker also wrote the Reason article that alerted me to the existence of the neat documentary Off the Grid about other Americans who have decided to find their autonomy out in the southwestern desert — and I’m turning in an article partly about Scottish nanotech to him to edit within days, which I was thinking about calling “In a Big Country, Wee Particles,” which is a little ironic, since Scotland is itself a hotbed of secessionist sentiment, despite being bound to the rest of the UK by numerous common cultural practices, such as the deep-fried Mars Bar [brought to my attention by {CORRECTION: someone other than} Marcia Baczynski]).

Perhaps the most inspiring micronation of all, though, is Strong Badia, and one can never hear its rousing national anthem too many times.


Secession of any large parts of the U.S. seems unlikely these days, but I’d be happy, of course, with a much greater emphasis on governmental decentralization, which is one reason I like Constitution/federalism-stressing prez candidate Ron Paul so much (and indeed, more than Rudy Giuliani, as clarified in the comments thread of this recent blog entry, despite the fun item you may have seen about my Giuliani sympathies on — I was visible in its [physically] rightmost column dressed in anarchist black and somewhat hastily referred to as a Giuliani supporter).

Aiding the Paul cause with homemade video ads are people like my friend Bretigne Shaffer and a young comedy folk singer (the latter pointed out to me by Dimitri Cavalli). These videos may not seem as slick as some of the (currently) more popular candidates’ — but they are much more rational, despite a few similarly anarchic themes, than this clip of a very, very angry Tokyo mayoral candidate (also pointed out to me by Marcia Baczynski). “Give me your malicious vote” indeed. If only this guy were allowed to ask a question at the next debate between YouTube and the presidential candidates (I think YouTube is well ahead in the polls, by the way — thanks in part to oddities like this marionette video for the song “Hello Everyone and Welcome to the Earth,” pointed out to me during the last Manhattan Project gathering by DJ, music historian, and arbiter of taste Irwin Chusid).

I, of course, don’t agree with the common charge that Ron Paul supporters are crazy — any more than I think all Perot supporters (like my parents, for a short time in early 1992) were crazy — just less polished, predictable, mainstream, and “Establishment” than the supporters of the blander candidates. But my fellow Ron Paul supporters can be amusing in their outsiderness, as when one sent out an angry mass-e-mail this week about a small Ron Paul gathering being asked (in perfect accordance with property rights, it should be noted) to exit a Starbucks in Chattanooga even though it was very cold outside. If this is the start of the crackdown, it seems pretty mild — then again, one could raise interesting philosophical questions about whether people addicted to the mocha frappuccino are truly free to avoid Starbucks.

UPDATE 11/30/07 4:47pm: Just to tie it all together, Jesse Walker (the reviewer of Micronations) now tells me that Eric Dondero (the guy who declares me a Giuliani supporter) reported that some guy who knew the hostage-taker went on the air to explain that the hostage-taker has in fact been involved in the libertarian movement and is also mentally ill. Lowering my PR hopes, now I just ask that he not do a Ron Paul endorsement.


marcia B said...

I’ll happily take credit for pointing out the deep fried Mars Bar to you, although I can’t remember doing so.

Watching the Tokyo candidate for governor, on the other hand, is what the internet was made for. I have to say, it really puts the 2008 elections in perspective.

Todd Seavey said...

Oops. Co-worker, then, I think. Around the same time as the Tokyo clip. Got confused.

D------ said...

Maybe this experience will cause Mrs. Clinton and her supporters on the left to rethink their animus toward guns.

jenny said...

it is my belief that americans, as a whole, lack the courage of their convictions to actually blow themselves up – even if they claim to have bombs strapped to themselves. (yes, yes, there’s a whole courage v futility argument to be had there. but if nothing else, it makes a statement.)

as i cynically remarked to a friend while watching the SOFA takeover of university hall from my perch in a tree on the green, “how do they expect to be taken seriously? no one is burning himself in protest.”

Todd Seavey said...

Well, don’t encourage or doubledare them, obviously.

And Americans weren’t always so unwilling to blow themselves up, unfortunately — anarchists are now known (depending on whether they lean left or right, respectively) mainly for blocking traffic or hoarding gold, but a century ago they were a frequent source of terrorist incidents here and in Europe, and my friend Alice Bradley (who blogs at ) said, if I remember correctly, that her anarchist great-grandmother strapped dynamite to herself about a century ago and threatened to blow up New York City Hall.

More relevantly, NH guy sounds like he was crazy, and _truly_ crazy people might just do things Brown protesters won’t.

jenny said...

while i wouldn’t even double dog dare the bomb-packing crazies, i do think that americans would have a more realistic – and healthier – response to terrorism if they experienced it on a regular basis. perhaps then it would be possible to dial the response back down to where it should be – a law and order issue – and cease this counterproductive military-breaking, democracy-from-the-barrel-of-a-gun, us-against-the-world abortion of a foreign policy.

*sigh* i’ll get off the soap box now. it’s just that was at walter reed on wednesday, and it has become so very much worse than it was even just a year ago.

Todd Seavey said...

That has to be grim. If it’s any consolation at all, U.S. troops injured and killed have actually been half the monthly rate they were before the Surge, a few dozen killed and a few hundred injured vs. something like sixty killed a month and 700 or so injured each month for the four years prior.

But if that’s no consolation, know at least that we’ll debate the proper role of the military live on Wednesday:

jenny said...

todd, you’re one of my favorite people on the planet, but there are times i could throttle you. next time you’re in town you can come to wally world with me. then we’ll talk about “consolation.”