Ashley is a 27 year-old woman who inherited several acres of land around 11 years-old when her parents tragically died in a car crash.
Her grandparents lovingly raised her but didn’t have much in the way of wealth. This land is all her family was able to give her. They showed her how to care for it, how to safely use it, and rightly taught her that this is hers and hers, alone, but expressed hope that she would have the opportunity to share it with someone she really loved and build a house on it, someday.
Over the years, Ashley made sure to care for the land, learned about land regulations and taxes, built a fence, but also took time to enjoy the property. Every now and then, she would invite someone she was dating to have a picnic with her. Sometimes, she would drive out to her property and gaze at the stars. Life was good.
One day, a friend asked if he could drive her out there, so they could have a picnic. She usually saved something like this for men she knew well, but he came off as trustworthy and both were adults (and therefore, supposedly knew how to treat each other with respect), so she thought it would be fun.
The two friends hopped in a car and drove out there. They pulled into the driveway up to the gate to the property. Ashley got out of the car, walked over, took her keys out, and was about to unlock it when she started having second thoughts. For whatever reason, she wasn’t sure she wanted to have a picnic.
She walked back over to the car.
“Listen, I’m really sorry to do this to you, but I don’t feel good about having a picnic, today. It just doesn’t feel right.”
“Well, we drove all the way out here,” he responded, angrily. “You can’t have me drive this long and then decide you don’t want a picnic, after all.”
“Look, I understand you’re angry, but this *is* my property, and I’d rather you just take me home.”
Her friend fumed as he sat behind the steering wheel. After a few moments of silence, he pulled out a gun and ordered her out of the car.
“Stop! Please don’t shoot me!” she pleaded.
“Do exactly as I say, and you’ll live,” he replied.
He made her unlock the gate and then, get in the driver’s seat, keeping the gun aimed at her the whole time.
“Drive us into the property, and don’t say another word.”
Slowly, she drove down the gravel path about an acre into her property before he made her stop.
He had her get out and tied her to a nearby tree. He also decided that he wanted to do more than just have a picnic. He was going to build a house. It was an absolutely insane thought, but he wanted to make sure he left his mark and demonstrated the power he had over her.
But he also knew the people who knew her were going to wonder where she was, and he didn’t want to invite scrutiny. He figured he had only a day or so to do what he wanted before her friends filed a missing person’s report.
Inviting several of his friends over, they spent the next 24 hours working on this house: they laid the foundation, put up a frame, and started working on fleshing it out. Periodically, she would grow desperate in her binds and scream for help, and he or one of his friends would respond by smacking her across the face and telling her to be quiet, or they’d kill her.
They worked as fast they could and were enjoying themselves but came to the obvious realization that there was only so much they could do in 24 hours. The small, one-room house only had the concrete foundation and a scant frame in place.
He and his buddies said goodbye to each other, and he drove back to the town after forcing her into the trunk. Pulling up to her apartment, he opened up the trunk, and looked down at her.
“If you say anything about what happened, I’ll kill you. Besides, no one is going to believe I took you hostage and tried to build that house. My reputation is too good.”
He drove off into the night, leaving her soul crushed and dignity shattered. However, she pulled herself together enough and told a close friend what had happened. Her friend convinced her to report it to the police, and overcoming a great deal of obstacles in the justice system, she bravely managed to have him arrested and charged with kidnapping and invasion of property.
Because of the man’s reputation, no one outside the police believed her. The evidence was abundant, but it took a while for others to come to the conclusion that she was telling the truth.
Meanwhile, there was still that “house” on her property. She simply couldn’t keep it there because of the memory associated with it, and having it finished was just too costly and risky to her quality of life and health.
So, she decided to have it torn down. She couldn’t afford to do so, but fortunately, there was an organization dedicated to helping people who are taken advantage of and volunteered to help her in this hour of need by removing the entire “house” themselves.
However, before the organization could do this, a group of men heard about what was planned and drove over to her apartment to dissuade her from having this done: a politician, a pastor, and an “average joe type” who was respected in the community.
After she offered them coffee, the four sat around the coffee table in her living room, and the politician quickly cut to the chase.
“Look, Ashley, we’ve been getting a lot of complaints about you tearing down this house. Some have even called for me to get a law passed that would prevent this sort of thing from happening.”
Ashley was stunned.
“But this is my property! Shouldn’t I decide what to do with it?”
“We don’t believe you should have control over this house. It’s already been started and should be completed. To do otherwise would be a waste.”
“I didn’t even build it! I was kidnapped by these men and forced to watch while they did it. How is this fair?” Ashley cried.
“Hey, we know it’s not fair,” replied the pastor, “but this is your chance to turn something negative into a positive. To us, this seems to be God’s will.”
“It was God’s will that I was kidnapped and tied to a tree while these horrible men built this so-called “house” on my property?” she asked, incredulously.
“And we’re sorry about that,” the pastor replied, “but every house is precious to God.”
“This isn’t even a house; it’s one bedroom,” she said.
“A house is a house, no matter how small,” the pastor shot back.
The two glared at each other while the politician stepped in to calm everyone down.
“Relax, everybody. I’m sure there’s a way we can convince Ashley to keep the house,” he said.
“It’s not even a house! It has a rickety frame and a foundation!” she yelled.
“Houses begin at the foundation!” yelled the pastor.
“Oh, yeah? How old is your house?” she inquired.
“Well, it was completed in July of 2000, so we’ve had it for 12 years,” he said, calming down.
“You mean 13 years. It took you nine months to build it. I remember,” she said.
“We don’t count the time it takes to build the house,” he asserted.
“Why? Is that because it’s not a house at the time?” she asked, derisively.
The pastor sat there, pissed. The average joe jumped into the conversation.
“Ashley, you’re a good girl. Don’t you think—” he began
“I’m a woman, not a girl, and even if I was a girl and not good, it would still be my property and my choice to decide what to do with this house,” she said.
“It’s not the house’s fault, you know! If you hadn’t been wearing summery clothes, that guy would never have wanted to picnic with you,” said average joe.
“So, what then? Are you saying I deserve this because of what I was wearing?” she asked.
“You’re damn right you deserve it!” joe shouted. “If you’re not selling, then don’t advertise.”
The politician sought once again to calm everyone down.
“Ashley, we’re not even still sure someone can build a house on property that isn’t theirs,” said the politician.
“What the hell does that mean?” she asked.
“Well,” the politician said confidently, “land has a way of shutting down houses before they can be built in the case it’s someone who shouldn’t be building.”
“That makes absolutely no scientific sense,” she retorted.
“I disagree. After all, I am on the town’s science board,” he replied.
“I can’t even afford this house,” she said, emphatically.
“We’ll help you pay to complete the house,” said the politician, “but after that, you’re on your own. We’re only pro-house while it’s being built.”
Ashley rubbed her face in her hands, rubbing her forehead in frustration.
“I’m going to tear down the house, and you can’t force me to do otherwise,” she stated.
“Ashley, there are a lot of angry people who don’t want this to happen,” said the politician.
“Why do they care? Do they live in the area? It’ll be done in a few hours. There won’t be that much noise,” she said.
“Well, actually, no,” said the politican,”they don’t live in the area. They don’t even own land.”
“So, they have no idea what I’m going through?” she asked.
“Well, technically, you’re right, but–” he replied.
“But nothing. This is my land and my choice, and I’ll tell you something else: Even if I built the house and decided not to see it through completion, it would still be my choice because it’s my land. Not yours.”
Ashley, with a few friends who were there for emotional support, brought the helpful organization to her land to have the house torn down. Near the entrance were dozens of protesters, all of whom were holding signs and/or shouting insults.
She got out of the car and led the organization to the gate.
“House destroyer! Bitch!” cried the protesters as they held up signs with pictures of houses that had been destroyed.
“This is America,” said one of her friends as they walked to the gate. “How can they be okay with individual liberty and freedom from government intervention except when it comes to having personal autonomy over one’s land?”
“I don’t know,” replied Ashley. “I just don’t know.”