One of the most powerful acts of quiet resistance in 21st century America is simply to love your own place. Hang the television, the internet, the corporate monoculture, the federal behemoth, and the priorities of distant capitols and rediscover your own backyard. Cultivate those regional loyalties and affections without which it is impossible to fulfill the commandment "love your neighbor".
Towards that end, things are really heating up in northern California. On October 22 a new organization called "Defend Rural America" hosted an unprecedented panel of eight local sheriffs who proclaimed their loyalty to the people who elected them - and to the Constitution - over and above the destructive encroachments of federal and state governments. According to one report:
The evening's main event: a panel featuring eight county sheriffs (seven from California, one from Oregon) who billed themselves as "Constitution sheriffs." They vowed to stand up for the residents of their communities against what they say is an unconstitutional onslaught from regulators in Sacramento and Washington, D.C. In particular, they took issue with the federal government's misnamed Travel Management Plan, which actually is designed to shut down public travel in the forests.
Plumas County Sheriff Greg Hagwood related the stir he caused when he said he "will not criminalize citizens for just accessing public lands." Siskiyou County Sheriff Jon Lopey reminded the crowd that county sheriffs are sworn to uphold the Constitution "against all enemies, foreign and domestic." These are fighting words.
Sheriff Dean Wilson of Del Norte County said he was "ignorant and naïve about the terrible condition our state was in." He came to believe that people were being assaulted by their own government. "I spent a good part of my life enforcing the penal code but not understanding my oath." Wilson and other sheriffs said it is their role to defend the liberties of the people against any encroachments – even if those encroachments come from other branches of government.
As someone who has covered law-enforcement issues in urban Southern California, it's refreshing to hear peace officers enunciate the proper relationship between themselves and the people. Increasingly, law enforcement is based on an authoritarian model, whereby police have nearly unlimited power, and citizens must obey, period. It's rare to hear peace officers who are willing to stand up against more powerful arms of the government in service to their oath to their state and county and who affirm that their job is to protect their citizens' inherent rights. It's even rarer to hear sheriffs complain about the excessive use of force by fellow officers, which was a theme on the panel when referencing federal agents.
The State of Jefferson movement is definitely picking up steam with new enthusiasm, new leadership, and even a new print magazine. There are many reasons for this, but chief among them seems to be a direct assault on rural civilization in the form of environmental regulations that threaten to shut down the region's economic lifeblood - ranching and timber. Resentment against Sacramento and Washington has been growing for decades, but the government-led destruction of jobs in an already depressed rural economy seems to have been a wake-up call for many.
Although carving a new state out of southern Oregon and northern California is politically non-viable (for the time being), the Jefferson movement is part of a larger movement towards partitioning California that is gaining momentum. The project seems to be developing quickly and it's hard to tell what may come of it all.
One understands that all kinds of motives, good and bad, are involved in movements like these, and that general support for state partition or secession does not equate to particular support for the motives of one's allies. There is, for example, a strong libertarian contingent amongst my neighbors who advocate for the state of Jefferson - a tolerable evil under the circumstances. Nevertheless a resurgence of regional identity in this age of the mass man ought to be welcomed by conservatives everywhere.