Looking for a nexus of the cartoonish, the irresponsible and the absurd that helps sum up our current terrified-of-our-own-shadows American landscape? I give you Oakley, Michigan, a town of 290 souls, which is experiencing a strange series of events that is part guns gone wild, part police state and part Sharia Panic.
Now Oakley is probably a town no different than scores of others in most ways, with one glaring exception. Its police chief, Richard Reznick, for some reason thought it wise to create his very own posse of 100 open carry bandits, and they don’t need no stinkin’ badges! You see, Reznick has deputized these 100 or so individuals who can now open carry firearms pretty much wherever they want—some of who don’t even live in Oakley—and has refused to tell the public who they are.
Even the village council, which ostensibly governs Oakley, has been kept in the dark about exactly who comprises this small-town magnum force, because freedom! And also, apparently, ISIS would kill them. No, I didn’t make that up.
Recently, when The Saginaw News filed an open records request to get an idea who are among the illustrious membership of Oakley’s deputized little rascals, Police Chief Reznick did what anyone confident in their actions would do—he lawyered up. The Chief engaged the services of the appropriately named attorney Herschel P. Fink of Detroit, who promptly threatened the village council with a lawsuit if they made the names public:
"Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and online supporters call for attacks against law enforcement and government personnel,” he said. “To release identifying information about law enforcement personnel under such circumstances would not only result in damages against the Village, and everyone involved in such a release, it would likely be considered as having been done with malice, opening the door to punitive damages, as well. There is no governmental immunity for such acts, nor privilege for attorneys advising their clients to do so."
So to Fink, this "malicious act" of not wanting Oakley to operate like the Stasi in 1980s East Germany—with ISIS killers on the prowl!—means village council members, and their lawyers too, will be sued from his perch on the back of an ambulance in Detroit. What this means in practice is that even though this phantom force was shut down by the village council, first because it lacked insurance, and then again by a judge after it was briefly started up again with private donations, nobody can really know that it is indeed shut down. All because somewhere out there, Mujahideen II Electric Boogaloo has added Oakley to New York, Washington and Los Angeles as key targets for law-enforcement attacks in the United States.
If you are reading this and thinking this is completely crazy, that is probably because it's nuttier than a Snickers Bar. But there is a lot to be learned from Mr. Fink, as well as Reznick and his band of merry shadow men, who remain armed and nameless.
This whole post 9/11 mindset, one of government secrecy and gun-toting supermarket shoppers, governed by the irrational fears of an aging majority-turned-minority, needs to be renounced and reversed yesterday, because when this can happen it is clearly so far out of hand, and only empowers the most fearful and reactionary among us. We may not be able to stop Fox & Friends and Rush Limbaugh seeding paranoia among the most vulnerable of us, but we can and must answer it forcefully, before it spreads throughout the rest of the media, like a virus.
In the meantime, Chief Reznick needs to supply these names, forthwith, and explain what the hell he thought he was doing. We do still live in this thing called a constitutional republic, where we the people elect our representatives to carry out our will—not behind closed doors but with public votes on legislation under the heat of the klieg lights.
It is the job of police chiefs to carry out these laws. And neither he, nor his secret police squad or some lawyer from Detroit, get to change that unilaterally on a whim.