L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 268, April 25, 2004
Thermopylae, the Alamo, and Election Season
Exclusive to TLE
I can already hear the question: What do these three things have in common?
In 480 BC, Leonidas of Sparta, with 300 Spartans, and a few hundred Thebans and volunteers from other city states, held the pass at Thermopylae against overwhelming odds. Xerxes of Persia (modern day Iran) had an army consisting of well over 100,000 men, possibly as many as 600,000. Leonidas knew that there was absolutely no chance for an ultimate victory at Thermopylae, but he held the pass anyway. Why? He was buying time for the rest of the Greek city-states to arm, to organize, to prepare to resist the oncoming forces of oppression.
At the beginning of the battle, Xerxes offered to let the defenders of the pass live if they laid down their weapons and surrendered. Legend has it that Leonidas shouted back, "Molon Labe!" This means "Come and get them!" We all know what happened after that. The Greek defenders held the pass for three days, then Leonidas, sensing that the end was near, sent his allies away, while he held the pass with the Spartan contingent. Finally, betrayed by a Greek collaborator, the Persians managed to get behind the Spartans, surrounded and massacred them.
In 1835, Mexico began to make systematic efforts to disarm the Texans. In September, the local governor tried to repossess a brass cannon from the town of Gonzalez. The locals resisted, sending the message "Come and take it!"
Less than six months later, at San Antonio de Bexar, in a little mission fort called the Alamo, approximately 200 Texans were faced with thousands of Santa Anna's regular troops. No one knows precisely how many Mexican troops were there. Estimates range from 1,500 to over 6000. As with all legends, the truth is probably somewhere in the middle. In any case, the Texans were badly outnumbered. At the start of the battle, the Mexicans offered surrender terms to Travis, Bowie, Crockett, and their men. The reply was a shot from a cannon, and legend has it that one of the flags flown from the Alamo was the "Come and take it" flag, designed to honor the courage and commitment of the brave citizens of Gonzales. For thirteen days, the Alamo held out against overwhelming odds. Finally, a last desperate assault took the mission. All of the defenders were killed, their bodies burned. To this day, no one is sure where the remains were disposed of.
Why did the men of the Alamo stay to die in the little mission fort, especially since they had been specifically ordered to destroy the fort and leave the area? For the same reason Leonidas of Sparta and the immortal 300 died, to buy time for the forces of freedom.
But what does all this have to do with this election season?
Simple, really. Just like these brave men, we are faced with grave threats to our freedom, to our very way of life. Just like these brave men, we are vastly outnumbered by the forces of oppression, of ignorance, and of apathy.
In this election season, all lovers of freedom face a choice. We can vote for the "lesser of the evils", even though I am not really sure there IS a lesser evil in this election, or we can stand up for what we believe in, and vote our concience. True, our lives may not be immediately at risk, depending on how we vote, but can anyone deny the mind-numbing propaganda spewed forth by both branches of the National Socialist Party? We know that no matter what they say, both parties want American citizens to be defenseless, unable to resist the whims and dictates of those in power. Is this really any different than what Leonidas, Travis, Bowie and Crockett faced?
So what are our choices, really? We can be like Ephilates, the Greek traitor who condemned the Spartans, and say, "Well, we can't win, we might as well vote for one of the jerks from the major parties." To do this is to be a traitor, a traitor to all we claim to believe in and to be. I don't know about you, but I really don't want my name to live for centuries, or even millenia, as a traitor. Another prime example of this point of view is Vidkun Quisling, the infamous Norwegian collaborator, whose very name has become a synonym for treason and collusion with oppression.
Our other choice is simple. We can vote for a libertarian candidate. We can try to make our voices heard. We can make the oppressors, of either party, stand back and say, "Whoa! We'd better start paying attention to these freedom nuts, or we're gonna face major problems!"
In each election, for the last twenty years, the winning candidate has won with only about one quarter of the potential voters voting for that candidate, sometimes less. On average, only about 50 per cent of Americans vote, many of them having given up on the political process. If we can motivate even just some of that 50 percent back to the polls, to a libertarian ideal, then we can shake up the political picture in America for decades, possibly centuries to come. If we can't, each single election could potentially be our Thermopylae, our Alamo, our Goliad, but with a far less satisfactory long-term result.
Will we wait until it is too late, until it is literally time to die for our beliefs, or will we say "Come and take them!" in a way that might possibly prevent anyone having to die in another war for freedom?
I know what my choice is.
Is America becoming a police state? Friends of liberty need to know.
Some say the U.S. is already a police state. Others watch the news for signs that their country is about to cross an indefinable line. Since September 11, 2001, the question has become more urgent. When do roving wiretaps, random checkpoints, mysterious "detentions," and military tribunals cross over from being emergency measures to being the tools of a government permanently and irrevocably out of control?
The State vs. the People examines these crucial issues. But first, it answers this fundamental question: "What is a police state?"
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