David Manning Liars of the Month for December 2005

The Sovereign Nation of Gregory Ignatius Armstrong

John Donne told us long ago that "no man is an island," and it would seem to follow that no man is a country either. Thus Marylander Gregory Ignatius Armstrong's contention, made on legal documents filed in federal court, that he was a sovereign nation ought to have been an example of the Scoreboard's favorite species of lie, the kind that nobody is expected to believe. But apparently when one is dealing with federal government bureaucracies there is no lie that won't be believed, at least for a while. So Greg Armstrong's declaration of nationhood was sufficient to support the involuntary bankruptcy proceedings he initiated against his former boss, Odell Johnson, who Armstrong claimed owed his self-ruled "nation" a million dollars for the transgression of using its copyrighted name ("Gregory Ignatius Armstrong") without official permission.

"Originally, I didn't take him seriously," said Johnson, of Clinton, Maryland, who had suspended Armstrong for poor attendance at work. "But then he filed a bankruptcy filing, and it started affecting my credit rating." At this point, the federal government figured out that Armstrong wasn't really a country, and indicted him for bankruptcy fraud.

According to the indictment, the bankruptcy proceeding was closed when it became obvious that Armstong was lying about being a country. The clincher, the indictment says, was the fact that he "was not a member of the United Nations."

I'm not making this up.

The clever federal debunking of Armstrong's claimed sovereign status is a shame in some ways, because it leaves so many fascinating questions unanswered. Is a nation of one a democracy or a dictatorship? Would it be possible for someone other than Armstrong…his wife, maybe…to be in power? If Gregory Armstrong goes across another country's borders, is this an invasion? Can a one person nation have separation of powers, or would that require Armstrong to have a multiple personality disorder? If he was taken over by demonic possession, like Linda Blair in "The Exorcist," would it really possession, or just illegal immigration? Could he apply to the U.S. for foreign aid? And what would it take to convince the Bush administration that he had weapons of mass destruction?

Alas, we will never know.

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