The Canaries Are Dying

A man who lost two bitter battles with town officials plowed an armor-plated bulldozer into the town hall, a former mayor's home and at least five other buildings before the machine ground to a halt in the wreckage of a warehouse, authorities said.

No injuries were reported in the rampage Friday, but officials declined to comment on the condition of the bulldozer driver, identified by the town manager as muffler shop owner Marvin Heemeyer. He was still inside the bulldozer cab early Saturday.

Authorities detonated three explosions and fired at least 200 rounds against the heavy steel plates welded to the bulldozer. The first two detonations failed, but the results of the third were not immediately known.

The scene was reminiscent of a 1998 rampage in Alma, another town in the Colorado Rockies. Authorities said Tom Leask shot a man to death, then used a town-owned front-end loader to heavily damage the town's post office, fire department, water department and town hall.

This is a really bizarre event, there's no doubt about that. But it also tells us something more about the world. So let's stop a second, take a step back from the nutcase with the bulldozer, and think about it.

There are people in this country angry enough at the government to build homemade tanks, and use them, while remaining sane enough to deliberately avoid hurting anyone.

In other words, this person was certainly angry and frustrated by his interactions with government. But he wasn't homicidal. He wasn't out to hurt anyone. He was just pissed off at his government.

Worse, he's not the only one to have this idea. Others have done similar things; in fact, it's happening more and more often. Why? What does it mean? Some would have you believe that these incidents are just common criminals, engaging in an orgy of destruction. And on one level, maybe that's true. But there's another level to consider.

Low-tech mining operations have long used birds -- traditionally, canaries -- as a means to detect problems in the mine that aren't readily visible. Because the birds are smaller and have a much more rapid metabolism than humans, problems with the air in the mine shaft -- such as lack of oxygen, or poison gas -- would affect the bird much faster than it would affect any of the humans. This would give the miners time to sound an alarm and get back to the surface before they, too, died. The death of the canary served as a warning to everyone else.

Each time we have an incident like this, I can't help but think of those canaries. Human society has its canaries, too: people who have a little bit more trouble controlling their anger, people who deal with officials just a little bit more infuriating, people who just can't deal with being told what to do. And they do things like this, motivated not by race or religion, but by a simple, overpowering rage against government.

These are the people who are rising up in their own, personal revolt against the government. They are small, isolated incidents so far. But the canaries are dying -- and that means it's time to get out of the mine, while we can still breathe.

This entry was published Sat Sep 24 10:43:35 CDT 2005 by TriggerFinger and last updated 2005-09-24 10:43:35.0. [Tweet]

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