You Have to Wonder…

I haven’t commented on Marvin Heemeyer’s bulldozer rampage in Granby, Colorado. Reader Matthew wrote a piece on Triggerfinger.org entitled The Canaries are Dying that he linked to in the comments to Are We Headed for Another Civil War? that I recommend you read.

Back in December when I wrote Pressing the “RESET” Button I said:

I think a lot of people are getting fed up with ever-increasing government intrusion into our lives. With our ever-shrinking individual rights. More than one of Jay’s respondents noted the apathy of the majority, though, and I agree. Government interferes lightly on a wholesale basis, but it does its really offensive intrusions strictly retail. So long as the majority gets its bread and circuses, it will remain content.

But not everyone.

I found this editorial today from The Rocky Mountain News that I think illustrates this very well.

Heemeyer’s ire understood, but not his act (Tina Griego)

Since 2001 – Sept. 7, 2001, to be precise – Ted Mascarenas, of Brighton, has fought with his homeowners association and/or with the city zoning department over his roof, his gate, his fence.

“Even the driveway, if you can believe that,” Ted says.

Then there was the trailer. “I used to have a trailer parked out front, I don’t anymore, but they thought I was living in it. I wasn’t. But there were three guys down the road living in theirs. ‘How about them?’ I asked. ‘You can’t be throwing rocks,’ they said.”

It didn’t end there. Don’t even get him started on the barn.

“I finally finished my barn; it’d burned. One of the HOA board members, he inspected it after it was done. But then we had a falling-out over the gate because I built my fence and then they wouldn’t approve my gate and I put it up anyway.

“So, they told me, ‘You don’t have 12-inch soffits on the barn roof’ – you know where the roof overhangs, the flat part underneath, that’s the soffit. They wanted me to redo it. That’d cost me roughly around $8,000. So, I pointed out 10 other detached barns like mine, identical. I said, ‘What about them? They don’t have soffits.’ You know what their ruling was? ‘They’re grandfathered.’ And I said, ‘Well, my barn was one of the first put up here. I built it in 1997.’ I said, ‘If anybody has a right to be grandfathered, it’s me.’

“I can’t win, I tell you, I just can’t win. They have different rules for different people.”

Which brings us to Marvin Heemeyer.

Heemeyer, as you know, is the muffler shop owner who took out his frustration with Granby officials by bulldozing several buildings and then apparently killing himself. I’m not saying Ted Mascarenas thinks Marvin Heemeyer is some kind of a hero who took on government – he doesn’t – though it’s pretty clear from a quick look online that Heemeyer is already being mythologized as such.

“Colorado MAN has had enough of their crap,” begins one news group entry. “Good for him.”

My, how short the journey from maniac to martyr. I doubt the “attaboy” cheerleading would be heard if Heemeyer had killed anyone other than himself.

Ted doesn’t condone what Heemeyer did, either. No, what Ted feels is a certain amount of understanding.

“I know what he’s going through,” he told his wife as they watched the news.

Ted keeps pages of letters and papers documenting his various squabbles. His voice climbs in outrage when he describes his disputes. Leave it alone, his wife tells him, maybe they’ll leave you alone. “I’m not built that way,” he says. When he saw footage of the bulldozer biting into a building, he said: “Boy, I wish I had the guts to do that.”

“No, you didn’t,” I say.

“I did,” he says.

“You’re not building a tank in your barn, are you?” I ask.

He laughs and says no, he likes living. “What a price to pay. It’s crazy.”

I keep wondering if at any point Heemeyer fired up the blowtorch, studied the flame and thought, “What am I doing?”

“He just had enough,” I hear, as if this were a reasonable explanation for the rampage. Most adults are able to work out their differences without welding themselves into a bulldozer and punching the gas. But, there is some germ of truth here.

I’ve met plenty of people, decent and, by all appearances, sane, who feel powerless in the face of government, who believe they have been jerked around, dismissed. What part of public servant don’t these bureaucrats understand, these people say.

Their ire usually zeroes in on a zoning inspector or parking enforcement officer or cop, on rules arbitrarily enforced, on someone in some office saying one thing and someone else in the same office saying just the opposite, leaving Joe Taxpayer red-faced and shouting, “Aaargh! Why didn’t you tell me this before?”

Several people called the office Sunday to make this point.

One said he doesn’t understand why more people don’t go off the way Heemeyer did, what “with the cities and the land-taking and their condemnation and their closed-door politics. They just run over all the small people all the time.”

A woman tells me of several frustrating experiences she had with Denver’s zoning office. She spent a lot of time trying to get the problem worked out.

It never did happen.

“You can’t fight City Hall and win,” she said.

The whole thing was causing too much stress, so she and her husband decided to let it go.

After Granby, you have to wonder how many Marvin Heemeyers are out there who can’t.

Yes, you do. And perhaps more government officials should, before they pass the next ordinance or enforce the next niggling little regulation, or confiscate the next chunk of property.

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