Tar and Feathers

by Jefferson Adams

Many years ago, in a more reasonable and less technological time, folks by and large knew the difference between right and wrong. Not only that, they had a tendency to live by moral standards that today are considered by many to be quaint and outdated.
It was a time when men married women, when people who stole things were tried and hung, and, around the time of the American colonies’ War for Independence, it was a time where people who strongly disagreed with the idea of freedom from an oppressive government were likely to find themselves out on the edge of town being tarred and feathered for their support of what was essentially becoming a police state.
It occurs to me that today we’re so far beyond what the founders considered "oppressive" that it pretty much boggles the mind that we tolerate it. The American people of 200+ years ago wouldn’t have put up with our current state of affairs--for long--and they had some interesting ways of dealing with individuals who stepped over the line.
As I write this, a woman named Shirley Allen is into her fifth week of being surrounded at her farm house by armed state police officers who shot CS tear gas into her house at one point (yes, that’s CS--the stuff that our military is forbidden to use in war, the stuff that the FBI poured into the church at Waco by the 55-gallon drum full and which no doubt suffocated many of the children and probably was responsible for the fire that eventually killed most of the up-til-then-survivors).
At another point in the siege, Illinois’ finest coaxed Shirley out of her house and then blasted her several times in the chest with a 12-guage shotgun which was loaded with metal "beanbag" rounds designed to knock down but not seriously injure their target.
Shirley’s crime? Well, um, actually there isn’t one. She did run a stop light, apparently, many years ago, but other than that her record’s clean.
No, she’s committed no crime; she simply has some relatives in another state who contacted the authorities in Illinois and said that Shirley needed psychiatric evaluation. It seems that Shirley’s husband passed away several years ago, and Shirley has at times been a bit depressed. And that’s all it takes in the great state of Illinois for a judge to issue a court order to haul someone off to a mental institution for "evaluation," from which that someone just might not return for a long, long time.
Shirley said "No."
Matter of fact, she met the Sheriff who went to pick her up for her "evaluation" at her door with a shotgun in her hand and said "No." She didn’t, apparently, point the gun at any one. She was just letting them know that she knew that legally, short of a warrant being written for her arrest, she is not required by law to have to go with the fine gentleman to the local mental institution.
So, they shot her house full of tear gas, at which point she fired back a couple of warning shots from her shotgun. And now, it’s five weeks later, and this woman who, according to the court order, needed to be evaluated because she potentially wasn’t able to survive on her own, is surviving just fine, thank you, after having her water and electricity cut off for five weeks and being surrounded 24 hours a day by jackbooted thugs who, a la Waco, for several days played loud music through bullhorns at her house all day and all night.
Barry Manilow music at that. Cruel and unusual.
Apparently, she has sufficient food and water to keep going, as she cans her own food; remarkable forethought for a woman who is allegedly possibly not capable of caring for herself and in need of a psychiatric evaluation.
Of course, the two producing oil wells on her 47 acres of farmland might have something to do with her distant family members wanting to see her committed. Or the large sum of money that’s in her bank account, left to her by her late husband, who, allegedly, wasn’t fond of those distant relatives.
Makes a guy wonder.
Now here’s where the tar and the feathers come in: Two-hundred years ago, folks had a way of dealing with out of control folks like the people behind this atrocity; they might have taken the judge who wrote the court order to have Shirley Allen committed and quite possibly the state police officers who have been harassing Shirley Allen to the edge of town, covered their naked bodies with excruciatingly hot liquid tar, and then dumped a pillowfull of feathers on their screaming bodies. Maybe they’d get the point, at that point.
Maybe they’d start to understand that you just don’t treat innocent people the way they’ve treated Shirley Allen.
Maybe it’s time we, in the interest of diversity in our American culture of course, start bringing back some old traditions. I’m not sure there’s enough tar between our shining seas to deal properly with all the politicians and bureaucrats that are deserving, but it’s certainly worth a try, isn’t it?
Isn’t it about time that We the People stood up for something? Like Right and Wrong, maybe? The reason our jackbooted, out of control government and its lackeys behave as they do is because We the People are allowing them to; it’s really that simple. We haven’t told them "No" strongly enough, particularly on an individual basis.
Tar and feathers; an idea whose time has come (again)?

© 1997 The Idaho Observer