“A revolution principle certainly is, and certainly should be taught as a principle of the Constitution of the United States, and of every State in the Union.” — James Wilson, Scottish lawyer, signer of the Declaration of Independence, a major force in the drafting of the Constitution, a leading legal theoretician and one of the six original justices appointed by George Washington to the Supreme Court of the United States.
Each time July 4th rolls around, whoever lives at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue makes speeches celebrating American freedom and some other stuff like baseball and apple pie. But the guy at that address never gets down to lauding what the 4th of July is really all about: It’s a celebration of violence to achieve what most would agree was a just political end.
Yes, that political end was the achievement of independence from what America’s mostly British-born founders considered English tyranny by its German king and Parliament. But let’s have an honesty moment: I seriously doubt many today would consider the British rule that so angered our Founding Fathers anything to fight about. I mean, didn’t Screen Actors Guild members recently vote some fellow thespians onto the SAG Board of Directors who believe in taxation without representation?
That was a platform plank Marcia Wallace, Bob Newhart’s TV-shrink office receptionist, pitched to me on the Director’s Guild steps when she was running for a SAG Hollywood board slot. Her idea and that of some others who got elected last go ’round is to bar actors who don’t make a certain amount of money from voting in SAG elections and on union issues while, at the same time, forcing them to pay dues and be SAG members if they want to work. Is there any real difference between that scheme and the plight of the colonists who had to pay taxes levied in London even though they had no representation in Parliament? Maybe Wallace and those who voted for her should share some time on Bob’s cognitive dissonance couch with Mr. Carlin.
Talk about violence.
Anyway, when violence is used for the reason George Washington and Baron von Gekko used it, violence, for lack of a better word, is good. Violence is right, violence works. Violence clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit.
But the man in the White House right now doesn’t believe in violence for just cause. He gave the order for the Navy SEALS to shoot the Somali pirates to save the American ship captain they were holding hostage, you say? No. My military sources say he equivocated and the SEALS took the initiative themselves just as they are trained to do. He boldly sent the USS John McCain to intercept that North Korean ship believed to be carrying ballistic missiles for Iran? No, my military sources say top Pentagon brass leaned on him behind closed doors until he acted. Against that record, his deployment of additional troops in Afghanistan appears to be an aberration.
I believe the real view of the man currently living in our presidential mansion was stated quite clearly last month while positioned in his classic Mussoliniesque uplifted chin, quarter shot pose: “Resistance through violence and killing is wrong and does not succeed.” The Borg could not have said it better. But why stop there? Our president then compounded the intellectual insult: “For centuries, black people in America suffered the lash of the whip as slaves and the humiliation of segregation. But it was not violence that won full and equal rights. It was a peaceful and determined insistence upon the ideals at the center of America’s founding.”
Those ideals embodied as rights in the American Constitution include equality before the law, rights of due process against the power of the state and the right to be left alone by the minions of government. But the paramount right is at all times the right to use violence against a government that violates those and other fundamental portions of its contract with the people — aka: the Constitution — when all lawful and peaceable remedies have failed. To say “it was not violence that won full and equal rights” may be literally true in the sense they were not won at the point of a gun, but the statement perpetuates a highly misleading myth about passive resistance in general.
The non-violence of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King are shibboleths among the urban elite and academic classes for the only moral way to challenge oppression and injustice. Fortunately, George Orwell understood the brutal reality of that game even if his fellow intellectuals didn’t: “Despotic governments can stand ‘moral force’ till the cows come home; what they fear is physical force.”
Gandhi’s and King’s non-violence only worked because they were not facing a Stalin or a Saddam or a Hitler or a Mao or a … Peaceful protest against those and like regimes is a guarantee of becoming worm food. Fact is, Gandhi and King protested the unjustness they saw within a fundamentally just system constructed by those aforementioned dead guys from Britain, and they didn’t just pull those principles out of their rear ends.
Those principles we take for granted that permit a balance between the sovereignty of the individual and that of the state we take are the accrued wisdom of centuries within an Anglo-Saxon-Norman-Viking alloy of cultures that valued personal freedom and its legitimate limits within the group that protected that freedom. Ya know, “The strength of the pack is the wolf and the strength of the wolf is the pack,” as Rudyard Kipling put it. There are other ways of being akin to the beehive, but if individuals want to remain individuals, the occasional sting of violence or its threat is the only thing that prevents it.