OPINION – For most people, the term “outlaw” brings to mind the gritty image of a cigar-chomping Clint Eastwood Western character.
Here in Southern Utah, the term has special significance thanks to a man from just up the road in Beaver named Robert Leroy Parker. We know him best as the notorious thief and robber Butch Cassidy.
Thanks to the negative connotation, few people would aspire to be remembered as an outlaw. But the truth is that not all outlaws are bad guys.
Be warned, we’re about to venture outside the boundaries of approved opinion. Individuals that pride themselves on being perfectly obedient may wish to stop and go no further. On the other hand, if you can handle the discomfort of having certain assumptions challenged, feel free to read on.
If freedom is to survive in modern America, we need more of the right kind of outlaws. We don’t need more perfectly obedient heel-clickers.
What is the right kind of outlaw? This is a question that writer Claire Wolfe answered several years ago when she described “freedom outlaws.” Wolfe explained:
A Freedom Outlaw is (loosely) somebody who cares so much about freedom that he or she will go after it regardless of any laws or regulations blocking the way. Will go after it personally. Not petition for it. Not write letters for it. Not vote for it. But GO for it.
This is not a call to be lawless, but the law-and-order types often try to characterize it as such. It is simply the recognition that we are buried in so many incomprehensible laws that it is impossible for any of us to avoid being a lawbreaker, no matter how careful we are.
The thought that every single one of us is a lawbreaker in some manner is terrifying to those who think they’re perfectly compliant. It robs them of their sense of superiority to realize that they too are guilty at some level of criminality. This doesn’t mean that they’re bad people, it means that they too are exposed to the risk of criminality by counterfeit laws.
Counterfeit laws are those that seek to control something other than actual aggression, theft, or fraud. Kent McManigal puts it this way:
Counterfeit “laws” sound like real laws. They are written in legal language by lawyers. They are backed by the threat of death if you disregard them. They have no foundation in reality, but are based only upon the wishes of people who want to control your behavior.
Far more important than what some politician has put onto a piece of paper is to possess the personal capacity to distinguish between right and wrong.
Our legal system distinguishes between acts which violate the rights of others and those that are mere administrative rules. The first type of laws is known as mala en se, referring to wrongs such as murder, rape, assault, or theft that result in an actual victim. The second type is known as mala prohibita and it is these spurious laws that seek to create criminals out of otherwise innocent men.
Historically, the greatest injustices visited upon mankind are those that were carried out in the name of the law. When the people in power write laws giving themselves permission to steal, kidnap, assault, rape, or murder us, the nature of right and wrong has not changed.
The most effective remedy to this type of institutionalized wrongdoing is for courageous men and women to stand and resist official injustice—first by words, then by actions. Making this stand places such individuals outside the protection of the law. But it doesn’t mean they aren’t doing the right thing.
As Claire Wolfe points out, breaking laws that are intended to intimidate us, silence us, fleece us, or control us is no cause for shame. Free people understand that the law is supposed to protect us and will embrace their outlaw status knowing they are standing for the right.
The perfectly obedient, on the other hand, are infuriated by the noncompliance of the right kind of outlaws. They allowed themselves to become trained not to question, much less defy, the dictates of those who rule them. Ask them if there is such a thing as a bad law and they do a pretty solid impression of a brook trout. At least we know where they stand.
As for those who choose to simply play it safe by not getting involved at all, there is no honor in remaining aloof. Consider the words of Desmond Tutu, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”
Bryan Hyde is a news commentator and co-host of the Perspectives talk show on Fox News 1450 AM 93.1 FM. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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