By Nathan Barton
The recent attack which killed nine people: three women and six children, in the middle of Sonora State in Mexico, brings the war on some drugs – and Mexico’s internal war – close to home. It is an opportunity to teach some lessons I think we all need as lovers of liberty.
The event reminds us of what Arizona and Sonora were like for several hundred years, up to the 1890s. Travelers attacked and brutally murdered by savages. And also very much like the last official Mexican Revolution, back in the 1910s.
I write this as a recent part-time resident of Utah, and as a permanent citizen of the Black Hills, as well as a historian with some longterm interest in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the “Salt Lake Corporation”) and its offshoots. If we do not learn from history (and we clearly do not), we are doomed to repeat it. Just as we have.
The family who lost so many is one of the so-called “fundamentalist” independent LDS groups: descendants of the polygamists who continued to believe in and practice the teachings of the first LDS Prophet and President, Joseph Smith, Junior. When the Salt Lake Corporation ended polygamy in 1890, these people rejected the authority of the General Authorities (as the LDS leadership is called) and fled to Mexico.
Congress had outlawed polygamy in a clear violation of the First Amendment, and had made statehood for Utah contingent on Utah and the LDS church also outlawing it. (Even though Utah, first known as Deseret, probably had enough residents to qualify the way most States did more than 40 years earlier.) These people (the LeBarons and other families) fled to Mexico to continue to practice their religion.
(Please note: I do not advocate or support polygamy any more than I do serial monogamy or adultery or fornication. I believe that such things are wrong, sinful, bad for society and people, and corrosive of society. I DO support the God-given right of people to decide for themselves, and do what they will as long as they do not harm others, with the understanding that they will have to accept the consequences of their actions. Now or later.
I also believe that what the First Amendment says about the freedom of belief AND exercise of religion. That Congress – or ANY State – is forbidden to abridge those freedoms. A prohibition ignored by Democrats and Republicans in the 1890s.)
For decades, the polygamists in Mexico were strangers in a strange land. I do not know if Mexico tried to enforce their own laws against polygamy, but the refugees found homes where they have been for nearly 130 years, while remaining Americans (with dual citizenship) and with close ties to family and co-religionists in the Fifty States. Including family in North Dakota as well as Arizona and Utah.
Like virtually everyone in Mexico, they have been affected and harmed by the fourteen-year-old war between the Mexican Federal Government, most State governments, and the drug cartels (both against the government and each other). Worse, they are forbidden by Mexican law, enforced by the border guards as they cross back and forth between Arizona and Sonora, from having firearms to defend themselves.
Why did this massacre happen? I don’t mean why was this family (on their way to a wedding) ambushed and killed in the Sonoran Desert. Rather, why were they sucked into a civil war/insurrection/rebellion in Mexico AND unable to defend themselves? Whether it was a drug cartel, a vigilance group, a government unit, or even mistaken identity (as Ciudad Mexico claims), this horror should not have happened.
Do not be surprised that I place the blame, much of the reason, squarely on the shoulders of “government.” Both American and Mexican governments – and especially the FedGovs of both unions.
Mexico, fearful of revolution and rebellion and revolt, and constantly growing the power of government, virtually outlaws guns for private citizens. (Not TOTALLY. There is exactly ONE legal gunshop in the entire United Mexican States: in Ciudad Mexico. And there are months of paperwork and review to buy one – IF the powers that be allow you too.) The ever-growing power of government is part of their heritage as a part of the Spanish Empire, and part of their political philosophy of socialism.
Mexico does not allow private groups or communities to obtain arms and defend themselves either. And since Mexico has NEVER been able to establish and maintain peace and prosperity for its people, despite its claims, it has not been successful against the power of the wealthy, lawless, and immoral drug cartels. The cartels’ actions are fully as evil as the Azteca from which they partially descend, AND the Spanish conquistadors, AND their cousins, the Inde (Apache) ever were from about 1350 to 1890 or so. If not worse: torture, rape, beheadings, crucifixion, and mass murder of enemy troops, prisoners, and innocent civilians. The Mexican government has much to answer for, in their nearly 200 years of rule.
BUT the other part is the Norte Americano DC FedGov. They perhaps have even more to answer for to a wrathful God, Not just their part in these, but tens of thousands of other deaths in Mexico, both in the last two decades and the last century plus.
And not just the actions of Congress back in the 1890s – without which no LDS would have fled to Mexico. But especially today, and for the last half-century of the War on Some Drugs. Without drug prohibition by the FedGov to the north, the cartels would not exist, and the makers, transporters, and sellers of those drugs would not use violence to compete with one another. And would not have the vast profits from their drug-running to fund their armies of murderers and torturers and rapists.
The one single thing that do most to prevent this in the future is the repeal of all of the War on Some Drugs by the FedGov and the Fifty States. Nothing less will do.
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Who in their right mind would go to Mexico. These people were dual citizen, which should not be legal in the US. BUT they were church goers, that made it right, RIGHT??? When I lived in CA in the 70’s, Mexico was unsafe then. I know people who went to the Bay of LA to go SCUBA diving, they had to pay off people going and coming.
A good question.
A partial answer is that these people’s ancestors fled to Sonora from Utah about 130 years ago, when the FedGov got Utah to go along with their persecution: prison, “accidental deaths and illness” during arrest, trial, and imprisonment, and similar things. Some did return to the States as soon as the end of WW1 (a lot of their descendants are found in the Four Corners area – and in essence hid out. And more returned to Arizona-Utah in the 1970s – where they are persecuted and sometimes killed.
But it a question I ask often when I run into people who are Americans but still live in Mexico – often for retirement and not religious reasons.