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08/07/2006 Archived Entry: "Outlaw bikers/finding common ground"

YESTERDAY I SAID THAT A CERTAIN TROLL came across like "an outlaw biker up seven days and nights on meth." That prompted a friendly letter from retired Outlaw biker Willy, who wrote:

Claire that was no outlaw. That was a wannabe or a fed. I know you said acting like one, but have you met an Outlaw biker before? I never acted like they say we act, not if left alone and not messed with anyway. I'm now retired from the club and don't really ride much any more. They'll let anyone on a Harley these days!!

True, Willy. My apologies to outlaw (and Outlaw) bikers everywhere.

And thanks. You got me thinking. About feds, a bit. But mostly about outlaws, Outlaws, freedom, and finding common ground.

First random thought:

Several people noted that Voided37, the troll in question, might be a fed. His whole approach ("We must all commit violence right now -- and you guys, not me, should be the ones to start!") was classic fed. Yet he was so bizarre. Why would the feds pay somebody so unlikely to be capable of getting results?

But then ... the feds aren't exactly able to pick their agents provocateur from the top of the barrel, are they? And I suppose V37's crude, "If you don't kill people, you're chicken! Nyah, nyah, nyah!" approach might actually work with liquored-up, testosterone-high dumb-nuts.

Ah well, who can know? That's one way the feds control us; can't tell who's with them and who's really with us. And who's simply a garden-variety froot-loop.

Random thought #2:

Years ago -- when outlaw bikers were really outlaw bikers and Hell's Angels under Sonny Barger had a fearsome rep, I witnessed an encounter that forever changed my perceptions. There I was at a coffee shop in Modesto. Or Tracy. Or one of those central California armpits. I was on the road. And so were two motorcycle clubs.

In from the west came the Golden Bears. The Golden Bears were a group of senior-citizen motorcycle riders. They pulled up at the gas station next door on fancy, shiny Harley-Davidson Electra-Glides -- machines all tricked out for touring. (Very unusual in those days, as was the very idea of "respectable" motorcycle clubs.) The riders and their passengers pulled off the helmets that covered their silver hair, unzipped the jackets of their glossy, expensive leathers, and began fueling up.

In from the east came the Hells Angels. On Harley choppers, many with a home-workshop look. They were ugly. They were grubby. They were outlaw to the core. They wore dirty denim jackets with the sleeves crudely trimmed off. And they sure as hell didn't wear any helmets -- except perhaps for the occasional German WWI, spike-top.

My young boyfriend and young self watched in fascinated horror as the outlaws pulled up to the very same gas station as the respectable seniors. We expected the Angels, with their reputation for tearing up entire towns, to make short work of the elderly Bears. Sixty Harleys. Sixty bikers. Half of them middle-aged or beyond, prosperous, respectable, and riding expensive machines straight off the showroom floor. Half of them ... lord knows.

Well, more fool me. Within a minute, the Hell's Angels and Golden Bears were chatting and comparing notes. A minute later the bolder few of each group were riding each others' motorcycles around the big lot next to the station. Hell's Angels on pricey Electra-Glides, Golden Bears on chopped hawgs.

It was one of the nicest things I ever saw -- and a great lesson in not believing media stereotypes.

Nowadays, of course, motorcycle clubs are more diverse and many are better known for their fundraisers, fun days, and sometimes their alternative lifestyles than for tearing up towns. But back then ... well, it was a revelation. (And no, the Golden State Bears listed on that site aren't the same as the Golden Bears in my story.)

Random thought #3

When Willy asked if I'd ever met an outlaw biker it brought back a warm memory.

I've been "political" all my life, including libertarian and Libertarian-political. I've been interested in preparedness & similar stuff since my early 20s. But it was only in 1992 that I began the long process of really structuring my whole life around freedom. That was also the year I first went online (FidoNet back then, not the Internet, which hadn't yet become widely available). And it was online that I first discovered true freedom communities.

I don't remember quite how, but the first person I really connected with was an outlaw biker who ran a BBS. He gave my naive self a lot of pointers and took the time to save me from many newbie or outsider pitfalls, for which I'll be forever grateful.

Our acquaintance was short. Within a month or two of our (online and telephone) meetup, he died suddenly of a heart attack and a great, warm, bearlike presence left the world.

The thing I remember most vividly about him is how he came into the freedom movement. Not though Ayn Rand. Not through the LP. Not through the Weaver outrage. Not through any of the usual paths. He started out as an apolitical biker, just wanting to have himself a hell of a good time. Then along came helmet legislation. And he got mad. He joined ABATE, started agitating ... and the next thing anybody knew he'd gone far beyond opposing motorcycle helmets and was a full-blown agitator for freedom.

It's maddening (I think we've all seen it) when somebody believes in freedom on their particular issue but not for anybody else: "I should be able to get the chemicals I want for my model rocketry [my health, my farm work] but the government must -- absolutely must! -- prevent you from getting any chemicals you might actually have fun with!"

You know the type. Too comon, unfortunately.

Yet every once in a while, somebody gets hyped over a single issue -- and in delving into that one issue suddenly [cue violins and magenta sunrise] gets it -- gets that it's not merely about motorcycle helmets or nutritional supplements or whether gays are "allowed" to marry. Gets that it's about freedom vs. government. Individualism vs. central control.

My outlaw biker friend was a magnificent example. He's also one reason (among many) I like the idea of emphasizing common ground instead of beating people over the heads for their failure to give instant agreement on every nuance. There was a time when that guy would have scorned libertarian notions. But by the time he died, he was an influential and much loved anarcho-pagan outlaw Outlaw, a stone smacking the pond and sending freedom ripples outward.

Golden Bears and Hell's Angels alike -- we've got more in common and more potential connections with each other than either of us have with Big Brother or Big Nanny.

Posted by Claire @ 12:29 PM CST

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