OPINION – The best leaders aren’t the ones who generate the most followers, they’re the ones who inspire others to step up and lead.
I thought about this adage when I heard that Mike Vanderboegh had died last week following a prolonged battle with cancer. He was as close to a modern day Patrick Henry as anyone could be.
Vanderboegh was an uncompromising and clarion voice in the pro-freedom conspiracy.
Among his most remarkable achievements was the exposure of the so-called “Fast and Furious” gun-walking scandal. This was a program begun under George W. Bush in which the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms deliberately allowed thousands of firearms to be smuggled to Mexican drug cartels.
Ostensibly, the illegal firearms purchases were allowed to be made so authorities could follow them across the border to the upper echelons of the cartels. In reality, the secretive operation resulted in an unknown number of deaths including Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry.
It was the tireless efforts of Vanderboegh, along with fellow blogger David Codrea, that brought this highly illegal and deadly scheme to light in 2010. The men were contacted by ATF insiders and persisted in publicizing the program until the media could no longer ignore them.
Initially, the feds denied that gun-walking was taking place but later came clean when the story would not go away.
Sharyl Attkisson was the courageous investigative journalist who finally broke the story in the mass media and went on to win an Emmy and an Edward R. Murrow award for her reporting.
When we hear journalists mewling about the lack of respect they’re getting and railing against bloggers for daring to disseminate information, remember that it was Vanderboegh and Codrea who showed the greater integrity.
Mike Vanderboegh was also a tireless and outspoken advocate against the tyranny of gun control.
In the wake of the Newtown, Connecticut, school shooting, a number of states passed various knee-jerk gun control measures limiting magazine capacity, certain types of firearms or imposing background checks on private purchases. Vanderboegh became an electrifying voice of defiance against such laws.
He encouraged freedom-minded gun owners in the various affected states to nullify draconian gun laws through quiet campaigns of deliberate non-compliance. He very publicly defied politicians by smuggling forbidden items such as standard capacity magazines and ammunition into their states and then dared them to do something about it.
He mailed 30-round magazines to many of the ban-state politicians and invited them to arrest themselves since they were now in possession of a forbidden item. Predictably, not one of them did anything.
For everyone who was paying attention, his actions demonstrated the lack of will on the part of the government and strengthened the resolve of those citizens who still have the will to resist.
Vanderboegh’s opposition to the tyranny of citizen disarmament stemmed from his understanding that some principles cannot be compromised, under any circumstances.
In explaining his outspoken defiance of these laws, Vanderboegh boldly explained:
We have declared that our God-given, natural, and inalienable rights to liberty and property are not subject to negotiation.
One reason that Vanderboegh’s words carry considerable moral authority is that he was once a true blue communist in his younger years. This gave him deep insights into the goals and practices of dedicated leftists of all flavors.
Like many of us, his journey toward clear and independent thinking involved patient mentors and a willingness to expose himself to new ideas. He became a dedicated student of history and a top notch public speaker.
As an effective countervoice to collectivism, Vanderboegh has been a favorite target of the most shrill left-wing advocacy organizations. Contrary to what some might think, it is a serious testament to his effectiveness to be vilified by the professional alarmists at the Southern Poverty Law Center.
There’s something to be said for those whose tangible impact on the world causes even those who despise them to continue to write about them. For this reason, Vanderboegh was fond of quoting his friend Kurt Hoffman who said:
I believe that being despised by the despicable is as good as being admired by the admirable.
If more people would adopt a similar attitude, genuine courage would be far more commonplace. After all, should a lion really care what the sheep are saying about it?
Vanderboegh understood that a determined minority of people with indomitable will can advance the cause of freedom; even in the face of seemingly overwhelming odds. Rather than setting himself up as a leader for others to follow, he invoked a worthy cause and invited others to lead out.
While Vanderboegh’s critics continue to fear him posthumously, the rest of us would be wise to get to know him in his own words.
Bryan Hyde is a news commentator, radio host and opinion columnist in Southern Utah. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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