[Guest post by Aaron Worthing; if you have tips, please send them here.]
Now be careful, folks, because this is a scary one:
The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots & tyrants.
Oh my gosh, this writer is calling for bloodshed! Run for your lives! Lock up your children! The end is nigh!
Of course anyone modestly literate in history recognizes the quote and saw my “head fake” for what it was. It’s from Thomas Jefferson. Ah, but I am taking him out of context, right? Mmmm, except not really. Here’s the context. He was arguing that the Constitutional Convention was being inappropriately stampeded into founding a new constitution by fears of uprisings like Shay’s Rebellion in Massachusetts:
[W]hat country can preserve it’s 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. It is it’s natural manure. Our Convention has been too much impressed by the insurrection of Massachusetts: and in the spur of the moment they are setting up a kite to keep the hen-yard in order. I hope in God this article will be rectified before the new constitution is accepted.
So to him a little rebellion now and then is a good thing.
And the deeper thought is this (and Charles Johnson, you complete idiot, notice this is me speaking only). There are some who say that violence is never justified. But we as a nation were founded on violence and it has been preserved by violence. We have said that when we are under the boot of tyranny we have a moral right to rise up in arms against that tyranny. That is precisely why the Second Amendment exists. To quote Justice Kozinski’s classic opinion:
The prospect of tyranny may not grab the headlines the way vivid stories of gun crime routinely do. But few saw the Third Reich coming until it was too late. The Second Amendment is a doomsday provision, one designed for those exceptionally rare circumstances where all other rights have failed — where the government refuses to stand for reelection and silences those who protest; where courts have lost the courage to oppose, or can find no one to enforce their decrees. However improbable these contingencies may seem today, facing them unprepared is a mistake a free people get to make only once.
So it is incorrect to say that violence is never, ever justified. The better answer is that violence is rarely justified and only under extreme circumstances. And if we are going to accept that violence is rarely justified, we also have to accept that occasionally inopportune calls for violence will occur. Jefferson was wrong to say that Shay’s rebellion was a good thing. He was wrong to say a little rebellion now and then is a good thing. But rather than demonize him as evil, evil, evil, we simply say he was wrong. Why can’t people do that in our modern disagreements?
Oh right, because it means then we can’t score political points.
[Posted and authored by Aaron Worthing.]