In the aftermath of the lethal Arizona shootings by Jared Loughner, the media have been caught up in an emotional orgy of sanctimonious worship of the state and its representatives. We have seen the ritual calls for more gun bans, the requisite quotes from the freedom-hating Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, and Republican Rep. Peter King has even announced plans for new legislation creating an anointed class of legal aristocrats, in whose presence no weapons shall be tolerated.
Or presumably, as we have already seen in the arrest of Ms. Theresa Cao, verbal dissent.
It seems Rep. King is still debating whether the full Byzantine proskynesis will be required when American plebs are so honored as to find themselves in the vicinity of the sacred patrician presence or whether a mere kowtow in the Chinese imperial fashion will be sufficient.
King is the modern personification of the ancient Greek political tradition, which believes that morality resides in the polis rather than the person and that the individual is therefore subservient in all respects to the state. As a representative of the state and its honor rather than of the people who elected him to office, King views himself and his colleagues as elite guardians whose primary responsibility is to keep the unruly people from unduly exercising their will in any manner that might contradict the greater glory of their government.
This is very different than the Roman and medieval traditions of individual morality, which the Founding Fathers preferred to the Greek one. It is also unwise, for as even the pro-Optimate Cicero recognized, “It is not easy to oppose the power of the people if you give them little or nothing in the way of legal rights.” The Founding Fathers further expanded upon the Roman tradition and asserted that sovereignty was vested in the people and their rights were endowed by their Creator God. The people gave the power to the government. The government did not give power to the people.
Rep. King has forgotten this basic fact of American history. If his claims of widespread Republican support for his mobile gun-free zones are true, so have many of his colleagues. It appears that many common Americans have forgotten it as well. CBS News announced a poll last week in which “three in four Americans say violence against the government is never justified, 16 percent say it can be justified – the same percentage that said as much in April.”
The tone of the report suggested that CBS was disturbed that 16 percent of Americans say that violence against the government can be justified, but what is actually disturbing is that 84 percent of Americans say that it never can be. This is a belief that is absolutely antithetical to the letter, the spirit and the actions of the men who founded the nation. It was, after all, the author of the Declaration of Independence who wrote the following:
“[W]hat country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to facts, pardon & pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots & tyrants.”
Now, it is important to note that this should not be interpreted as an assertion that Jared Loughner was a patriot or that Rep. Giffords was a tyrant, much less as a defense of Loughner’s attack on innocent Americans, most of whom did not belong to Rep. King’s proposed legal aristocracy and had nothing to do with any level of government. As even the hyper-reactive left is beginning to understand to its dismay, the shootings at the Arizona Safeway were the act of a seriously disturbed young man with mental health problems. They were not the act of a political revolutionary. Loughner’s lethal actions had far more in common with Klebold and Harris at Columbine than John Wilkes Booth at the Ford Theater.
But it is even more vital to point out that Rep. King and others are attempting to use the tragedy in Arizona to increase the power of the state at the expense of the citizenry and to deny their efforts to attack the liberties of the American people. Violence against government is not always justified, but it is always justifiable in certain specific circumstances. To insist otherwise is not only a contemptible insult to the American revolutionaries who founded the nation and its government, it is an insult to the brave American soldiers who committed vast quantities of violence against the royal government of England, the National Socialist government of Germany, the military government of Imperial Japan and the murderous Baathist government of Saddam Hussein, among others.
It is impossible to assert that violence against the government can never be justified and still legitimately call oneself an American. For America is founded upon ideas, not geography, and one of those core ideas is that the healthy fear of violent retribution from the people forces governments to respect their rights and prevents them from descending into tyranny. This idea has been a quintessential and foundational principle of America from its very beginning as a violent revolution, and it is one that no genuine American can ever reject or forget.