I write this from aboard the Celebrity Millennium as we approach the end of the WND Tea Party at Sea conference/cruise. We’ve spent almost a week now in and about the great state of Alaska alternating between activities that bring to mind the greatness of our country’s heritage and the infinitely more impressive greatness of God, our creator; and presentations and discussions that focus our minds on the crisis that currently afflicts our nation’s material well-being, and the much greater crisis that affects its moral judgment and character.

Yesterday we visited Skagway, Alaska (the childhood home of Sarah Palin), a town whose historic role in Alaska’s gold rush years reflects the gritty admixture of decent aspiration and downright wickedness characteristic of the historical drama of America’s frontier life. Where there’s gold, there’s greed. But where ambition must proceed through hardship, the imperatives of survival can also produce a natural inclination to remember the golden rule and a grateful appreciation for the company of unadorned humanity.

We listened to the saga of the gangster “Soapy Smith,” whose nine-month reign of terror and extortion ended with a bullet through his heart once townsfolk developed the backbone to stand up to his thugs. By the time his end came, most of his ruffians had scattered to the cold winds, startled into flight by the mere prospect of regular folk who overcame their fear (and their distrust of one another) to unite against their criminal overlords.

For those nine months “Soapy Smith” and his henchmen and hangers-on were Skagway’s “ruling class.” They imposed a hefty tax on the inhabitants of Skagway, in exchange for promises of “protection.” It was taken out in servility and fear as well as money. His usurpation of sovereignty succeeded so well that he occupied a seat of honor during a visit to Skagway by the president of the United States.

As I listened to the account of this violent con artist’s briefly triumphant career, I couldn’t help but think of the more pristine elitists who have in our day consummated a far more vast, more cunning and more successful con against the whole American people. In exchange for promises that they would protect people from sickness, poverty and all kinds of discrimination, they have imposed a tax that now consumes a lion’s share of the money the nation works for now; and of the credit established by the good faith efforts it has made in the past. The shadow of their extortion projects loom far forward into the future, promising to make all our posterity the wage slaves of these new “Soapy Smiths.”

Today they call themselves Democrats, Republicans, liberals, socialists and even conservatives. They’ve split themselves into ostensibly rival gangs to engage in the mock combats that now pass for political campaigns and competitions. But their alternate victories and defeats are like the rivalry of the feet as the body goes through its paces. When the right moves forward, the left suffers a setback. When the left moves forward, the right falls behind. Their competition seems real enough, until and unless you lift your eyes to the horizon long enough to realize that we are always moving in the same direction: toward great government control, greater elite power and domination, greater destruction of the institutions America’s founders put in place to encourage the effective participation of regular folk, the sovereignty of “we, the people.”

All the signs indicate that the historic elitist con that somewhere along the way replaced representative politics in America is close to the final payoff. That’s the moment when they roll up the con, leaving the hapless mark to realize that he’s been skinned. People who still think that this or that candidate from one of the “major” parties will turn out to be the real thing are pitiably destined to play out that forlorn scene. Some people already talk of America as an historic artifact, so sure are they that the American people have passed the point of no return.

There are days when I am tempted to think like them. But then I remember that the tormented people of Skagway, Alaska, eventually signaled their willingness to unite against the little gang that for a time frighted them with the totem of threats and violence. Then I remember that their story is just one of many, repeated again and again in frontier villages and towns from the far north to the far south, from the colonial east to the golden west as America’s character found itself in the midst of hope and hardship, in the competition between decent aspiration and elitist greed for power.

Ours is just another episode in the drama. We’ve reached the point at which the bad guys feel threatened and start to slander and bad-mouth the people who dare to speak out against them. Some shrink back. But even more resent their arrogant slurs and resolve to swell the ranks of the townsfolk gathering to take their stand. Sometime between now and election day in 2012, the gavel will fall that calls them to order. If they respond, ballots, not bullets, will end the pretensions of this generation’s Soapy Smiths. And as they fall, Americans will hustle past them, toward the future liberty their decent hope is still determined to preserve.

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