Day's Inn Talk
Citizens' Rights Meeting
December 11, 2001
By Nathan Lapp
Marcella and I sometimes feel as though we would just like to silently disappear. Just shake the dust off our feet and book out of here. But we do have a lot of attachments and friendships here and I guess we owe our friends an explanation.
Most people I know are pretty happy with the way things are because they have plenty to eat, a good car, home and good friends. I have all of these things, too, and for this I must give my country a little credit. But I'm not blinded by the fact there is an awful lot wrong in this country....and that there is much to fear here if you are a person to stand on principles.
Four years ago, we were informed by a phone call from our milk company that the IRS was going to take a large sum of money from us due to false information about workers that they claimed we were hiring. Many of you (and I will remember this for a long time) came to our defense and even helped us pay the fine. A lot of people came out and helped us plead our cause before the people and to the government via an organized march at the Federal building in Jamestown and via petition that begged the government to leave us alone.
But after all of that happened, we decided that if they came after us again we would sell our cows and find something else to do for a living. That happened this spring. We were again faced with a heavy penalty from the IRS and New York State Workman's Compensation Board (because we could not conscientiously comply with their demands), so we had our cows auctioned off. We paid our fines and got a fresh start, but with a bad flavor in our mouths about doing business in this country.
In the meantime, I began to think seriously about a safer place to raise a family and this is the main reason we have decided to leave the country. Make no mistake about it. I FEAR MY GOVERNMENT. I have seen enough of what our government does to know that our safety is at risk. There are too many unreasonable, immoral and dishonest things that my government wants people to comply with. I have no desire to continue subjecting myself to this, much less to raise a family in this environment.
But I have many fond memories of the people and places that have been near to me for the last thirty years. We have experienced both good and bad things, and both have been part of my learning. I guess it's not until one is preparing to leave one's homeland that one realizes what an important role others have played in your life. The environment that we all are placed in becomes the testing ground for our conduct, our growth, and our faith.
I can't help reflecting on the things I've accomplished, and wanted to do but failed to accomplish, during the last ten or fifteen years. I have a lot of respect for the people I've come to know who cared enough to come to these meetings, who were compelled to gather with us at various events, court hearings or public demonstrations. We had in common a certain passion for justice that compelled us to act on behalf of fellow citizens. And that is how we were able to accomplish what we did. I have a lot of respect, too, for those who helped us during the times when my own family was put down by certain government authorities.
But we cannot let fondness of people and places get in the way of a rational and timely decision. And that decision for me is: it's time to move on.
I am not sorry about leaving a society where so many people have become empowered to rule the lives of others. I am not sorry about leaving a society where so many people feed on false accusations and the accused have no reasonable recourse. I am not sorry about leaving a society where mistrust and polarization of classes and races is endorsed by the powers that be. I do not blame everything on government. The people are to blame. Americans have chosen to become a "sanitized" society as a friend of mine recently pointed out. The weak, the infants, the elderly, the different have been placed in institutions, and thus removed from usual, healthy interaction with the rest of the society. The people in this country should have known that many a curse would follow. I think this is a despicable thing and I am not sorry that I am leaving a society infested with this problem.
A thought came to me while preparing this talk. And that is: How much freedom is there in America? I believe that is best answered with a question. Do you fit the mold that the government wants you and your children to fit into? Do you vigorously defend the government when it engages in, say, the war on drugs or the war on poverty or the war for peace, peace when there is no peace? Do you say, "Daddy may I?" wherever you go? Do you willingly relinquish your honesty for security? If these are true, you will have lots of freedom, perhaps even the freedom to rule others.
Friends, I know that a lot of people get excited about this kind of freedom. But I am not excited. I believe there is a better way to live, and as long as God gives me life I am going to look for a better way.
I have seen a lot of signs recently that proclaim boldly, "God Bless America!"
But, friends, the God I believe in doesn't condone the shedding of innocent blood. The God I believe in never mentioned that government was instituted so that some elites would go around the world meddling in the disputes of other governments. The God I believe in explicitly condemns a lot of what America is doing.
So, I do not share the fervent patriotism that most Americans are expressing these days.
Some years ago my father and I and a group of other farmers were sitting around a lunch table talking about the benefits of returning to a free enterprise system in agricultural production. These were farmers who disapproved of the government price supports and farm subsidies. These were a very small minority of farm business people who agreed that it is immoral to receive handouts from the government. And I remember one of them saying that if someone dropped a bomb in our gathering that nothing else would ever be heard about free market farming because we were the last few people on earth to believe this way. I recall that someone else said, you know, all we are asking the government policy makers to do is to leave us alone. Anyway, one of the comments from one of the farmers stuck with me. He realized that no matter how right we are, we are up against a very powerful government bureaucracy and no matter how much we try to change a bad situation there is not a lot we can accomplish, given the circumstances.
What this farmer said is what we CAN do is, leave a mark, a good mark.
There are many things I would have liked to have done to improve the peaceful coexistence and prosperity of the people in this country, and there are many people whom I would have liked to help, and, if at all possible, even bring to God. But it's time to move on. And sometimes all it seems that one can accomplish is leave a mark.
Thank you for your presence here this evening and thank you for your friendship.
By Nathan Lapp
Citizens' Rights Meeting December 11, 2001