(They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore: Isaiah 2:4)
The only thing that both my New York and Texas grandparents shared in common was the fact that both suffered confiscation of property at the hands of government agencies.
Eminent Domain is the furtively nasty legal device by which the government can take a citizens property by declaring it a necessity for the benefit of the “Common Good.”
The State government in Texas took Arthur Cooper’s farm to build a munitions factory. This was a necessity to help win what would eventually be billed as the world’s final war. He had no recourse but to get out and let them have it. The irony is that the same state government, which had gratefully given land to Samuel Evetts for kicking Santa Anna’s sorry little ass back to Mexico; turned around one hundred years later and took his land away from Arthur Cooper and Nora Evetts.
In Texas this type of displacement and forced mechanization helped lead to the urbanized modernization of the State, while Arthur being a man of no particular consequence nor means and whose only sin was standing in the way, simply became one of the first of the many to come displaced small American farmers.
In fact, World War II changed the face of the planet in so many ways, ranging from the relatively inconsequential displacement of my grandfather off his farm, to the larger issues of the Atomic Bomb, the Cold War, the exploration of outer space, and the computer age; so much so that the globe can never possibly ever recover from it.
In New York, the City of White Plains decided that it required greater municipal parking facilities for the modernized area at its South end where my grandmother lived, and that the homes on her block were ideally suited to this plan. She and her neighbors were told they had to sell their houses to the city at an arbitrarily defined sub-market price; then leave as soon as they could possibly get out.
My grandmother was an old lady by this time and the family vehemently protested to the point that the city finally capitulated by letting her stay in the house until she died. Apparently they did not care to see a newspaper story highlighting an old, fat doddering Italian lady, dressed in black, sitting in the sidewalk on her plastic covered sofa, staring vacantly into space, next to a small black suitcase and a barrel full of baccala; while a bulldozer leveled her home in the back drop of the accompanying photo.
The television interview would not have gone down very well either:
- So Mrs. DeCarlo. What is actually going on here?
- Some no good pitz-a shit big shot-a bum wants-a park-a-his-a car inside-a-my house.
The houses on either side of hers were razed while the City Father’s sat back in their leather chairs waiting for the grim reaper come and take her away.
The downstairs dental office then had to be moved and my father’s share of the profit went into furnishing a new office. Also despite the fact that siblings Rose, Kay and Mike got cash, while my father got a new high speed dental drill, for years Rose still prattled and passively complained about having come up short in the long run. You see my father had become a competent dentist, while she had sacrificed herself to stay at home only to become a simple housewife.
Eminent Domain has a number of close relatives. If a troop of baboons invades another troop’s area it called the Territorial Imperative.
In the 1400s and 1500s, after the so-called Age of Discovery and Exploration and the initial Western European migration to the Americas, it went by the name of Expropriation. Planting a flag and claiming land in the name of the King or Queen was an emphatic way of letting the native American Indian know he had suddenly become discounted and disinherited.
The great explorers never remotely gave a second thought to the fact that the land already belonged to someone else. In this case, and not to even mention the deadly accidental genocidal introduction of Smallpox, Measles, Hepatitis and Influenza, the issue was decided by the operative principle of who had the better weapons. In the grand scale version of the child’s game: paper, rocks and scissors, mounted horse soldiers with guns and sabers will always beat barefoot natives bearing sticks, stones, bows and arrows.
Expropriation was then followed by the Translocation and then by the Transmogrification of the entire native race of the Americas; not as a trend isolated to only one, but encompassing the whole of two entire continents.
As a logical consequence then, Eminent Domain also becomes the great substrate for the rationalization of Genocide:
- In the name of the King, the Queen, the President, the Emperor, the Fuehrer, the Pope or the general Common Good we think it will become a necessity to eliminate the American Indian, the Aztec, the Armenian, the Saracen, the Mau Mau, the Watusi, the Jew, the Croatian, the Palestinian, and anyone one else on the list who does not happen to be one of us at the time we happen to be whoever we are.
- And just what gives you that right may I ask?
- Superior weapons, a few potent deadly communicable germs, and a nonspecific generalized indifferent distain for you.
- Oh. OK then.
Then when an entire country decides to exercise the principled right of Eminent Domain in order to pursue its vested interests, Eminent Domain subtly changes its name and then becomes known as War. And when the war is finally over, the only thing that really counts is who won or who lost. Meanwhile the little people caught up in the process always suffer the most, often losing their property, homes or valuables, or worse their own lives or the lives of sons, daughters and loved ones.
There is an Armenian family living near my former home that owns hundreds of acres of land, which was not originally, but is now extremely valuable real estate.
The family patriarch came to the United States after escaping the Turkish pogrom of the early 1900s when over one million of his countrymen were stripped of their rights, then marched out into the desert to die of torrid heat exposure and dehydration. This method of purging was infinitely quieter, neater and cleaner than using gas or ovens and went largely ignored on the stage of world affairs. After all, it was simply an “internal affair.”
It also occurred in the fabled, mysterious and shadowy time before mass media could bring mass murder live to your dinner table with the six o’clock news and plop it down bloody rare right onto the center of your fine china dinner plate.
When this man came to America, he purchased as much property as he could afford; then adding to it slowly over time. He told his two sons that owning land was the only way to ensure their future safety and security. He said:
- No matter what, and even if you have nothing to eat, they can never take your land away from you.
He was wrong. “They” can take it away. It just really helps if you happen to own a lot of it, but even then, there is no bona fide guarantee.
Just ask the American Indian or spot-check some of the other hundreds of examples of Eminent Domain known to recorded history.
- Crusaders conquering the Holy Lands, to retrieve the Holy Grail and save the Temple of Solomon from heathen Saracens, whose god was false; and in so doing killed thousands of Jews along the way simply for practice or for sport.
- Spain cutting a swath through “godless” Mexico in a quest for gold, glory, and the religious conversion of any remaining Aztec they decided not to kill or infect with smallpox. You see, polytheism just did not sit well with the Pope, the King or the Queen.
- Caucasian America appropriating its entire continental domain by the genocide of its indigenous natives, and then later killing 200,000 Philippine citizens when it needed to further expand its overseas “interests.”
- Fighting the American Civil War, or any civil war for that matter. Bosnia, Somalia, Rwanda, Ukraine and Darfur. Or better yet, you name it.
- Hitler requiring Lebensraum for his new improved Master Race while simultaneously disposing of the discarded bodies of millions of mongrels, Gypsies, Jews or other genetically impure human beings; who inconveniently happened to be in the way.
- Turkey sending its Armenians into the dessert to die of thirst because naturally desiccating corpses in hot sand begs the issue of residual evidence; twisted bodies piled high in mass graves.
- South African Boers exporting White mineral diamonds while slaughtering their Black human jewels.
- Japan’s Master Race, raping China and lending credence to the fact that one should never being fooled into thinking that “all those little slant eyed gooks are just the same.” Obviously the “little gooks” themselves don’t think so.
- Vietnam as the killing field in a game of political and economic dominoes.
- Russia taking Afghanistan for no apparent reason, as nothing is really there but boulders, dust, and opium poppies.
- China then, not to be outdone by Russia or Japan, appropriating the larger and more uninhabitable rock pile known as Tibet.
- Israel coveting the heartland of Palestine because half the pie is not enough, justified because God choose them as being special, but nobody else.
- Iraq taking Kuwait because it needed access to the sea.
- And the U.S Government taking away my granddaddy’s farm:
When in 1943
That the great state of Texas
Needed a brand new gun factory
Grand dad’s filling station Farmer turned grease monkey
Hey farmer, farmer put away that D.D.T.
Give me spots on my apples but leave me the birds and the bees, please.
Don’t it always go to show
You never know what you got till it’s gone.
They paved Paradise; they put up a parking lot.
(Big Yellow Taxi: Joni Mitchell)