Major Major’s father

 

The latest Sagebrush rebels remind me of Major Major’s father, a fictional character in Joseph Heller’s classic novel Catch–22.

“Major Major’s father was a sober God-fearing man whose idea of a good joke was to lie about his age. He was a long-limbed farmer, a God-fearing, freedom-loving, law-abiding rugged individualist who held that federal aid to anyone but farmers was creeping socialism. He advocated thrift and hard work and disapproved of loose women who turned him down. His specialty was alfalfa, and he made a good thing out of not growing any. The government paid him well for every bushel of alfalfa he did not grow. The more alfalfa he did not grow, the more money the government gave him, and he spent every penny he didn’t earn on new land to increase the amount of alfalfa he did not produce. Major Major’s father worked without rest at not growing alfalfa. On long winter evenings he remained indoors and did not mend harness, and he sprang out of bed at the crack of noon every day just to make certain that the chores would not be done. He invested in land wisely and soon was not growing more alfalfa than any other man in the county. Neighbors sought him out for advice on all subjects, for he had made much money and was therefore wise. “As ye sow, so shall ye reap,” he counseled one and all, and everyone said, “Amen.”

Major Major’s father was an outspoken champion of economy in government, provided it did not interfere with the sacred duty of government to pay farmers as much as they could get for all the alfalfa they produced that no one else wanted or for not producing any alfalfa at all. He was a proud and independent man who was opposed to unemployment insurance and never hesitated to whine, whimper, wheedle and extort for as much as he could get from whomever he could.”

The anti-government protestors occupying Oregon’s Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, are hypocrites, like Major Major’s father. They complain about an oppressive government that takes their taxes and gives it to those people, but they are among the largest beneficiaries of federal programs. This is nothing new. Since reconstruction westerners have claimed the mantel of rugged individualism and cast freed slaves as “takers.”

The modern conservative movement has been a study in marshaling these sentiments. After all, the modern conservative movement is not so much about small government as it is about ensuring government programs only benefit them, and not those people.

Major Major’s father would have understood completely.

 

 

 

 

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