Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The Hearts of Men

By Will Moul

Snow silently fell around the two dark silhouettes, standing motionless on the hillside in the dead of night. The forest around them was still, as if awaiting a sudden blizzard or wind storm. Yet there was a storm brewing, one never before anticipated.

One of the figures moved stiffly, stretching his arms and moving his feet in the slowly rising snow. The rifle on his shoulder had become heavy now, the leather sling digging and making his shoulder raw, even through the heavy coat.

"I wish I had changed out this sling with a more comfortable one. My shoulder feels like hamburger," the figure said as he removed the rifle from his shoulder and planted it on the other. "I never thought I’d be doing this."

"Me neither," the other man concurred. The clouds sank lower in the night sky, obstructing their vision of the snow-covered plain stretched out below them. A small town, lit like a candle in the darkness, quietly sat at the bottom of the steep hill. The occupants were asleep now, unaware of the coming storm.

"Look at those people down there, all warm and cozy in their homes. They’re happy," one of the men started. "They are sheep, unaware and unwilling to be uncomfortable. Look at us, up here, keeping watch by night. And why? We are fugitives because we own mere objects, and not just any objects. Objects seen by some, those now in power, as dangerous, evil, unjust." He shifted his weight from one leg to another and continued. "How can mere objects be inherently evil? Or inherently good for that matter?" He turned to his friend who was still concentrating on the little town below. A gentle breeze stirred the air, perking the mens’ sense of urgency.

"I wonder how everyone else is doing. Have there been any pushes on us by the National Guard? Any last stands? Fights to the last man?" Their concentration on the town below shifted to the sky as a small break in the clouds appeared. The stars beyond were bright and constant, the cold atmosphere crisp and clear. After a minute the break dissipated, returning the open sky to clouds.

"Heck, I wonder how many people are actually resisting. Are we the only two up here, running from an unjust law? Is everyone else down there, resting in their warm beds?" The two men, now becoming chilled to the bone, slowly trudged through the shin-deep snow, their boots filling with snow with each step. The low clouds turned to fog, further impeding the already poor visibility. Trees emerged from the fog as the men continued on, creating an eery sense of being alone but also of being watched at the same time. Knowing not what to expect the men scanned the thickening fog as they moved at a snails pace. Where they were going was unknown to them; keeping on the move just seemed like the right thing to do.

"How long do you think this will last?" one of them asked with the sound of pain in his voice. "Do you think they’ll see that the law is unpopular? Will our resistance and that of the others show them that we don’t like it and will fight it?"

"I don’t know. It could last weeks, months, even years. It could last as long as we make it last, at least as long as we live. If they are unwilling to change it and we are unwilling to succumb to it then it could last indefinitely." Coming to an evergreen tree and seeing the ground below it void of snow, the two men took cover beneath it, enjoying the shelter from the snow. "This’d be a heck of a way to live for the rest of our lives. I’m sure many will stop resisting, surrender their freedom and go back to the way things use to be. But they won’t be the same. No longer are the people feared by those powerful men in leadership but rather the people fear them. If you ask me that isn’t freedom, no. This, what we have here and now, is freedom," he said, gesturing toward the fog covered forest around them. "It don’t seem like much, it may even be crazy, that having practically nothing like we do is freedom while having almost everything isn’t, but that’s the way I see it." One of the men patted his rifle, now wet from the snow. The damp walnut wood reflected the little light available as did the black plastic and metal of the other man’s rifle. The rifles were relics, a testament to freer times. They had been built and legally owned with peace in mind, now they were being used to obtain freedom once again. They were illegal; banned in the name of safety by men greedy for power.

"Do those people down there even have a sense of worth, of accomplishment, a want for something more? Or are they satisfied with what they have, complacent because they have it better than most? Yeah, though we two have little we still have enough. Unfortunately I can’t say that about those people below." The other man nodded his head slightly.
The two figures blankly gazed at the opaque wall surrounding them and wondered what had built walls in men’s hearts and souls so that they, two peaceful and freedom-loving citizens, should be forced to run from such dangerous and loose power, the only check and balance being armed men like themselves. Such are the hearts of men.

A Fable

Once upon a time a good shepherd named Sam lived in a lush green valley. He tended a small flock of sheep and protected them and cared for them and took their wool for himself. And his herd would grow, for all the sheep nearby heard that his charges need not fear the I was saying, Sam was a kindly shepherd.
And so Sam would take in sheep that ran away from other farms, where butcher's knife awaited them. Naturally, he would return the kind he didn't like...sheep with fleece that resembled dreadlocks or funny looking eyes or other undesirable traits. Still, all the animals around knew his place to be best.
The safety of the sheep and Sam's prosperity were further enhanced by Sam's long shotgun. The jackals soon learned to pick other prey and the sheep were content, though often cold for lack of fleece.
Over time, however, the happy sheep began to notice that something was amiss. For instance, when the jackals slinked by, Sam would no longer chase them. He would simply blast them from the porch of his spare but neat white house. The problem with that was simple: most of the pellets ended up in the sheep, with a distinct minority inconveniencing the jackals.
Moreover, whether because of myopia or a drinking problem, Sam would often fire upon black sheep of the herd, as if confusing them with the jackals. When the sheep complained, the herder would look puzzled and go home to enjoy fine mutton.
The situation grew intolerable, yet everyone knew that other ranches had the same problems, and worse. The most active of the herd had finally come up with a good idea. Next time the jackals came in to try their luck they were able to get right next to the sheep -- and then the rams and the ewes charged, giving hell with horn and hoof.
No sooner that the predators retreated, leaving mangled comrades in their wake, than did rancher Sam come out, shotgun at the ready. He surveyed the battleground and addressed the sheep. --"Sheep," he said "I am impressed! Who did this fine work?" Several planners of the ambush came forward, baaaing proudly.
Sam raised his shotgun and blasted the animal closest to him. The rest stood dumbfounded, not sure what to do. The shepherd quickly shot the others who came forward.
--"That" he declared "is the end to which all who employ violence against fellow animal will come." One ewe began to say that jackals were not exactly fellow animals, but the gaping muzzle of Sam's shotgun restored quiet.
Sam knew he was right, for if the dumb beasts learned to fend for themselves, he and his shotgun would be unemployed. Worse yet, fleecing would become outright perilous.
And so life goes on as before. Jackals eat better, and so does Sam. Stray pellets have a commendable ability to find sheep while seeking jackals. And the herd is content, for they know that the other sheep have it even worse.