Friday, September 5, 2014

Showdown in Ely

High noon. Timber rattlers herald the jangling stomp of Councilman Setterstrom's boot-stomp just ahead of the last asthmatic rants of the dying sirocco hell-bent for licking the hem of the duly elected official's leather duster.

A groundhog chatters nervously.

Ely's mayor, one Melody Van Camp, glances at a filigreed pocketwatch, knowing that the appointed hour has come and gone. Rail Boss Mark Bassett has fled town, and it was time for a reckoning.

So they broke in.

At the coroner's a reedy Scot tapped the last nail into place for the coffin he'd just finished, took a swig of a dark liquid, wiped the corner of his mouth, narrowed his eyes, and asked the tumbleweeds: "people, if crap like this can happen, why do we even have a government at all?"

All was not quiet in Ely. The break-in had pitted honest folks' morals against each other. Some were saying the rail boss had it a-comin'. Some were saying the council had ought gotten a search warrant. Others were saying it was a breach of the rule of law.

Me? I'm a drifter in these parts, ma'am. I've got no sympathies one way or t'other. To me, it's a stretch to see how one part of the organization with a widely-recognized claim on the legitimate use of force in society can bully another part of the organization with a widely-recognized claim on the legitimate use of force in society and be any more or less obnoxious than they already are.

But then, I'm not the antihero of this little story. I'm sure from the point of view of the Seibei, the Ushitora and Yojimbo both were villains. And vice versa. What if life were more like a spaghetti western than a John Wayne morality play? To the city council, the railroad is naughty. To the railroad, the council is naughty. To the median constituent, you've really got to wonder if these public servants are really serving the public. If any duly constituted government has a hope of forming a euvoluntary institution, it should be local government. This is an illuminating test.

A sickly-looking carrion bird perches atop the saloon.

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Do you have suggestions on where we could find more examples of this phenomenon?