Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Liberty Pub Revisited

In January of 2008 I spent the evening of the New Hampshire Republican primary in the Liberty Pub in Washington D.C. [See "Not All Pleased With McCain's N.H. Win" 1-10-08] I watched the results roll in with a group of regulars to the pub. The ten grizzled old friends, amendments to the Constitution collectively called "The Bill of Rights," provided a unique perspective on the election results that night and the direction of the country in general.

During a recent trip to D.C. I decided to stop by the pub to see how my ten amendment friends were getting along. I found them gathered around their usual table in a dark corner of the smokey bar and I pulled up a chair. After a round of greetings (and boilermakers), I counted noses and noticed that there were only nine of them at the table. I asked about the whereabouts of the Tenth Amendment (called "Ten" by his friends) and was answered only with awkward silence.

After a moment the Sixth Amendment answered, "He's... passed on." I noticed the lip of the Ninth Amendment (Ten's "longtime companion") begin to quiver.

"Here comes the waterworks," the Third Amendment said, leaning in to warn me. True to the warning, Nine burst into tears.

Ten, I had learned in my previous visit, had been unemployed since the Great Depression. His job had been to "tell the Federal Government to do their own friggin’ job and let the States and the People do theirs," he had told me at that time. And now he was gone.

"It was all too much for him, " Nine explained tearfully, putting down his mamosa. "The Feds taking over the banking industry, then the car industry, pretty soon the medical industry. Ten just felt so... violated. One morning he jumped in front of a metro bus on his way to the unemployment office."

"Don't criticize!" the First Amendment warned, looking nervously around the bar. "Do you want to end up on some terror watch-list?"

There were a few more beats of awkward silence, then I commented that it really makes you think. "You never know who might be next," I observed. I noticed that that comment caused several worried glances down at the Second Amendment, seated at the far end of the table, with his back to the wall. "Two" looked different than before.

He retained his snakeskin boots, leather chaps, and ten-gallon Stetson hat, but now over his shirt he wore a O.D. green Kevlar flak vest, festooned with ammo pouches. Last time we met, Two's pistol hip had been barren. Now, buoyed by some recent court victories, a brace of Kimber .45 auto pistols hung in tactical holsters, one on each hip. On his lap he cradled a new semi-automatic AR-10 battle rifle. He rested his right hand on the rifle's pistol grip, while he poured and drank his whisky with his left. He looked as if he could be equally at home in Deadwood orFallujah.

Besides different accessories, Two looked different physically too. His eyes were still full of life, but he looked tired and had bags under his eyes. I commented to him that he looked a little haggard.

"Son, I been sleepin' with one eye open," Two explained. "I been watching that Bareback Omaha fella, to see what his next move is."

Chuckling, the Fourth Amendment corrected his friend, speaking slowly, "Barack Obama."

Two, avoiding that tongue-twister all together, continued, "The President's been putting together a whole herd of some of the orneriest sidewinders I ever tangled with. Eric Holder, Hillary Clinton, Rahm Emanuel, Sonia Sotomayor. It's purdy obvious it's a hangin' posse. When they figger the time is right, they'll be coming after me."

I ask if that makes him nervous. Two shakes his head as he leans to spit tobacco juice into a spittoon three feet away. "Hell with um," he continues. "Ain't the first bunch of bushwhackers to try to send ME to Boot Hill. And I'm still here."

I ask how he can be so confident. He explains, "The President might have all the hired guns, but I got a lot of good folks on my side. You see, folks all around the country been armin' theirselves for a showdown. They got my back, I reckon."

He pours himself a shot and continues, "Tyrants tryin' to disarm folks ain't nothin' new. My pappy, the Virginia Declaration of Rights, used to tell me stories about this ol'boy named King George tryin' the same dang thing at Lexington and Concord."

Two's shot glass pauses in front of his mouth and the corners of his long mustache curl up a bit, the only sign of the toothy smile underneath it. He continued, "As I recall that didn't work out too well for the king." The shot disappears.

I said my goodbyes and thanked my friends.

Later, as my plane back to Des Moines climbed into the night sky, I watched the lights of D.C. disappear behind me and thought about the nine remaining amendments. They're old and showing their age. They seem increasingly lost and forgotten in the modern world. But that world is so much the richer for having them in it. I hope they'll be around for a long time to come, so my kids can get to know them as I have.


No taxation without representation said...

No more smoky bars in DC, my friend. Perhaps you meant Virginia, which would also explain the guns in the bar?

Ben said...

The pub is next door to Marion Barry's apartment and crack smoke was wafting in through an open window. I doubt if even Virginia allows you to sit in a bar swilling whisky with a battle rifle on your lap. Luckily, "Two" just doesn't give a crap anymore.