A Tale of Americana, Part II: Sgt. William Ponce

When you see that trading is done, not by consent, but by compulsion – when you see that in order to produce, you need to obtain permission from men who produce nothing – when you see that money is flowing to those who deal, not in goods, but in favors – when you see that men get richer by graft and by pull than by work, and your laws don’t protect you against them, but protect them against you – when you see corruption being rewarded and honesty becoming a self-sacrifice – you may know that your society is doomed.” – Ayn Rand

There was a time in my life when I would have said that they were all bad; that even if they started out good the sense of power acquired by holding a monopoly on force must corrupt by it’s very own nature.  At 31 years old, I had never experienced a positive exchange with an officer of the law.  Even small attempts I’d made to reach out such as a smile or kind word never seemed to have much effect with them.  I figured that it was me, that some intrinsic element of mischievousness in my personality must simply make me always appear as if I’m up to no good, or that perhaps my negative experiences were unconsciously causing me to appear as if I wasn’t really being genuine.  Whatever it was, my experiences with police had consistently left me with the feeling that we each regarded the other as somehow less than human and so, although my meeting with Sgt. William Ponce was under a slightly different set of circumstances, I wasn’t quite sure how he would react to me.

With this in mind, I called him ten minutes before our meeting to ask exactly when he would be at our designated meeting place because, as usual, I was running late and was concerned that he wouldn’t react well at being made to wait.  He had gotten a bit lost and I could tell that the tone in his voice was apologetic as he thought I was calling because I was waiting on him.  I had to laugh as I reassured him this wasn’t the case simply because I could already tell that he wasn’t what I had expected; I’m pretty sure he didn’t realize that he had just attained the status of an iconoclast in his own right.

Proper ethics dictate that government employees avoid political involvement while on duty and policy of the Qtown PD reflects the same.  “Internally we’ve been battling with the chief for quite some time” Ponce explains. “We’re not supposed to get involved in politics in any way”.  Unfortunately, this didn’t stop Police Chief Jeff Gilbert from using his officers to target his political enemies.  He claimed it was their responsibility because such people were trying to destroy the town.  Ponce and his officers were explicitly ordered to harass these particular individuals and either cite or arrest them for any and all possible infractions, but much to Gilbert’s dissatisfaction, they refused.

“I feel like I have that obligation…and the day I retire I want to be proud of my service.  I have two little girls and I want them to know what it is to do the right thing”.  Ponce candidly recants how he had wanted to become a police officer since experiencing the effects of domestic violence during his childhood and that it inspired him to want to make a difference.  Originally from Parker, another small town in Arizona located north of Quartzsite, he started his career in law enforcement thirteen years ago at the Maricopa County Madison Street Jail.  Fresh out of the military at the time, he enjoyed that experience and credits it with opening his eyes to certain nuances of human behavior he hadn’t yet seen.  “That’s where I learned about people.  You encounter so many different people and I was honestly still a little naive…You realize that there’s all types and how they each carry themselves” he confides.  He wasn’t kidding, as a graduate of the same school of hard knocks I could sense his artful mastery of the subject matter; the fact that not much gets past him doesn’t make it past me and I’d hazard a guess that Sgt. Ponce is damned good at being a cop.

And what a shame it is when the good are punished for being the good.  Sgt. Ponce and the Quartzsite 10 are now fighting not only corruption but suspension and possible termination from their positions.

“Look where we’re at.  We decided we were going to do this because it’s the right thing, not because we wanted anything….As you know, our careers are on the line, and that’s the sad part.  But we decided that we have to do this because it is the right thing to do.  Not only is Jennifer affected, but the funny thing is the way he [Gilbert] treats the citizens is exactly the way he treats us, and that’s not right.  You can’t treat people that way.  We wanted everyone to know that, hey, he’s doing the same thing to us; we aren’t going to stand for it and neither should you.”

The message of freedom coming from Quartzsite seems to be reaching everyone except the higher ups in the Arizona government who ought to be doing something about it.  In an advanced case of moral agnosticism, everyone from the governor to the attorney general are acting as though it is not their place to intercede.  Perhaps they think if they ignore it it will simply cease to exist.  Or perhaps they mistakenly believe A is B and that there is any excuse at all for government employees to be suspended because they exposed government corruption.  Granted, to any halfway intelligent person, such a concept completely defies rationality,  Therefore this leaves two options: one, that Arizona’s leaders are idiots, or two, that something more insidious is at play.  Although I never estimate the underlying and necessary stupidity of politicians I must unfortunately choose option two.

One possibility has to do with the fact that Quartzsite is smack dab in the middle of something called BLM land.  BLM of course stands for the Bureau of Land Management, the government entity responsible for collecting monies for land sales, maintaining land records, issuing land grants and patents, and other land related bureaucratic activities.  Considering that the BLM is responsible for land patents, which are at the root of what just may be the worst act of fraud ever committed by the United States Government, anything under BLM management is definitely suspect.  Despite inconsistencies in the color coding of this map and legend showing the allocation of land in Arizona, we can narrow the status of Quartzsite down to two possible options.  Along with Parker, it is one of two very small towns that a) consist of BLM land in the middle of a relatively large geographical area made up of nothing else but BLM land or b) are not BLM land but are completely surrounded by BLM land and qualified as “other”.

Either way, the philosophical, sociological, and economic consequences are the same.  There are people who live in Quartzsite, people who have not violated any individual’s rights; good, kind people…are they now relegated to a dismal black abyss as the latest sacrifice to the dark altar of the common good because they just so happen to live on land that the Federal Bureau of Land Management of the United States of America has designated for their own nefarious purposes?  What exactly, whom exactly, is the BLM?  Like any corporation, the BLM is nothing, a zero entity with no rights of its own.  So what on God’s green earth gives them the right to grab land?  Most importantly, since the violation of one individual’s rights equals the violation of all individual rights, are we simply going to stand by and allow the individual citizens of Quartzsite to suffer the indignity of their rights being tread on like dirt, as if they mean nothing at all?

Obviously, the persecution of certain inconvenient individuals began with more than just Police Chief Jeff Gilbert.  According to Sgt. Ponce: “One of my officers told me that during a meeting with a council member he and several other officers explained how they were being directed to target people and the council member stated that the chief had been directed to do so by certain council members because those people were a problem and needed to be dealt with.  Last time I checked I don’t work for the city council.  I work for the police chief and I don’t take my orders from the city council”.  Another sergeant in the Quartzsite PD so happens to be married to the town magistrate who for all intents and purposes serves as town judge; even trying misdemeanor and litigation cases with no actual background in law.   The corruption in Quartzsite is seemingly endless with completely unethical individuals playing positions of power like musical chairs.

“I’m not going to play these games, I’m out here trying to make a difference.  I’m not going to order my officers to do things that I don’t believe are constitutional or lawful….This guy [Gilbert] is tarnishing my honor and the entire reason I became a cop” Ponce tells me.  And despite my negative personal experiences, my years of advocating against police brutality, and even despite the thousands of horrible stories I hear and read about bad cops on a daily basis, I could tell by the tone in his voice that this particular cop is genuinely a good man.

What is it that defines good?  According to Webster’s dictionary, it is defined as “being positive or desirable in nature “.  Is good then a subjective value to be determined by each individual according to what they find desirable?  If that were the case it would mean that there is no such thing as good or evil, that man’s life has no meaning, that there is no existence outside of consciousness; that the world is nothing but an accidental playground of pure, unbridled nihilism and that we are the devil’s children with empty, cackling, infinite nothingness as our total sanction and final purpose.  While looking to any form of mainstream media at various interludes might depict this to be the case, rationality tells us quite differently; and although my overall faith in the human race is sometimes lacking I highly doubt that such a concept accounts for the inner beliefs of anyone but a psychopath.

If good is not subjective – determined by the consciousness of whomever one is asking – is it then intrinsic?  Are certain things simply good in and of themselves, requiring no sanction?  The intrinsic theory of values unfortunately is responsible for almost as many horrors as the ridiculous concept of “public interest” (social theory of ethics).  The intrinsic theory of values provides the logical base for the idea that since certain things are simply good and certain things are simply bad, it doesn’t matter how they are achieved.  For instance: terrorism is bad and safety is good, thus whatever must be done to combat terrorism and guarantee safety must be moral.  According to the intrinsic theory of values, the internment of thousands of Japanese-Americans during World War II was perfectly moral, and according to the intrinsic theory of values it would also be perfectly moral to throw every Muslim on earth in front of a firing squad…or in a gas chamber.

Value cannot be characterized independently of reality nor of consciousness.  It must as fact of matter be a seamless integration of both, using total rational consciousness to build its meaning with the building blocks of reality; primary axioms which exist and their logical corollaries.  This is objective value.  Existence exists, consciousness exists, life exists, and man’s life exists.  As such man’s purpose is to live free, to thrive, and above all, to create.  Good is what forewords life; evil is what spins life out of control to its demise, the concept of irrationality, the idea that life and its corollaries, including principles of non-aggression and self -ownership, do not matter and are not subject to the laws of existence.

What a shame it truly is to punish the good for being the good, and how unfathomably twisted society has become when corruption is rewarded and virtue equals self sacrifice.   Look around, because this is the point at which we have now arrived.  Sgt. Ponce and I chatted about this for awhile before parting ways, each in full agreement that the status quo is completely unacceptable; both ready, albeit from opposite sides of the fence, to do whatever it takes to change it.


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