When I say that I am not alone in thinking sometimes violence is a necessary response to our own government, I am referring to the Founders of the United States of America. We may not like to think about it, but if they had not violently responded to what was then “our government,” the United States of America would not exist today; would never have existed.
But the words and actions of the Founders are instructive for us today not because they violently overthrew the government in place at the time. Or maybe not “just because.”
The Founders did not arbitrarily attack. They did not suddenly come of age and say, “Today would be a good day to kill government officials.” It was something which developed over time — in fact, it was many years in the making.
During that time, the Founders tried. They tried hard to work within the government, to right the wrongs being done against them, to entreat both the government and their fellow countrymen, to change things through then-legal means.
When they realized there was no longer any hope of this happening, then they began to take to the path of violent resistance. Even then, there was something of a slow burn. They took to the path of violence with great reluctance.
When I read this I was reminded of what Brad Spangler at the Center for a Stateless Society wrote a couple days ago (before the shootings in Tucson), in a post titled “Hope, Reason and Discipline — Not Terrorism”:
Terrorism can not defend anyone from tyranny. As the label “police state” becomes a more and more apt description of the United States, people who apparently perceive undisciplined insurrection as the only hope for a free society will, unfortunately, lash out. Such appears to be the case with regard to incendiary packages and envelopes found in Maryland and Washington, D.C. today and yesterday. A more careful and sophisticated understanding of how to achieve revolutionary social change reveals the folly of such an approach. One can not blow up a set of dysfunctional social relationships. Ours is a war of ideas. Spreading those ideas and the hope they offer is lifesaving work.
What I really have to take exception to in Rick’s post are the words I’ve italicized in this paragraph:
The arbitrary “targeting” — is that now a loaded (oh crap!) word, or what? — of individual representatives of the government by madmen unhinged by Faux News commentators’ drumbeat of raucous and rotten rhetoric is not a Revolution. It is the senseless violence of criminals and their ethically-challenged sponsors, such as Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin who, frankly, bear every bit as much guilt.
Rick goes on to write:
You say you want a Revolution, you need to be clear what you say, what you mean, and why you want it. We all want to change the world. You say you’ve got a real solution? Well, you know…we’d all love to see the plan.
If all you want to talk about is destruction, you can count me out.
Ditto when you say you want to change the Constitution.
. . .
What a lot of people want — what I want — is to see the Constitution — not changed, and not just read, but followed. I want a government that recognizes that the ideals delineated in the Constitution have allowed this Nation — once-great — to survive for two-and-one-quarter centuries now. The recent reading of the Constitution by Congress is a good start. Reading the Constitution is something we should all do.
One of the things you’ll learn if you read the Constitution is that the government is supposed to have certain limited powers. The government is not — to use a phrase Bunny Chafowitz loves — “the be all and the end all.” It serves a particular purpose, which is mentioned in the Preamble. And it is supposed to have only so much power as it needs to accomplish those ends.
As a counterpoint to Rick’s reverence for the Constitution I offer the words of Lysander Spooner:
Inasmuch as the Constitution was never signed, nor agreed to, by anybody, as a contract, and therefore never bound anybody, and is now binding upon nobody; and is, moreover, such an one as no people can ever hereafter be expected to consent to, except as they may be forced to do so at the point of the bayonet, it is perhaps of no importance what its true legal meaning, as a contract, is. Nevertheless, the writer thinks it proper to say that, in his opinion, the Constitution is no such instrument as it has generally been assumed to be; but that by false interpretations, and naked usurpations, the government has been made in practice a very widely, and almost wholly, different thing from what the Constitution itself purports to authorize. He has heretofore written much, and could write much more, to prove that such is the truth. But whether the Constitution really be one thing, or another, this much is certain — that it has either authorized such a government as we have had, or has been powerless to prevent it. In either case, it is unfit to exist.
Before the Civil War, Spooner, with lawyerly optimism, had written his exhaustively-researched and tightly-reasoned The Unconstitutionality of Slavery to prove that the Constitution was “no such instrument” as it had “generally been assumed to be,” and that contrary to such widely-held assumptions the Constitution as then written did not authorize slavery. The above paragraph was written after the Civil War. Whether Spooner’s interpretation of the Constitution was right or wrong, the Constitution had been powerless to prevent slavery or the aggrandizement of federal power following the bloody conflict which finally ended it, and was therefore “unfit to exist.”
In more recent times the Constitution has either authorized or been been powerless to prevent, inter alia, the government-mandated taxpayer bailout of Big Banking and the lie-fueled prosecution of unjustified wars, and is still unfit to exist.
I don’t watch Faux News or Glenn Beck or listen to anything Sarah Palin has to say, so I can’t be sure of the basis of Rick’s charges against them. But I’m absolutely sure that none of them have said, as Spooner did and I have, that the Constitution is unfit to exist.