SEDITION: Incitement of resistance to or insurrection against lawful authority.
During a recent visit to see my father, we had an interesting conversation concerning politics (as we are wont to do; I don’t think I’ve ever had a prolonged conversation with him in which politics didn’t become part of the discussion). He pointed out something concerning recent attitudes within the Republican party, especially these darned TEA baggers, that he believes is cause for concern. It’s one of those “those who don’t know their history are doomed to repeat it” scenarios that he believes isn’t being taken as seriously as it should be taken, especially by the politicians in power right now.
He reminded me about my own country’s history (which I admittedly don’t pay as much attention to as I should) by pointing out that one of the leading instigators behind the American Civil War was Abraham Lincoln’s election as president. Before Lincoln was even sworn in, 11 Southern states declared they were seceding from the Union to form the Confederate States of America. Outgoing president James Buchanan and Lincoln both declared this secession to be a rebellion.
That moment in our history led to the pitting of American against American, and ended with more than 600,000 dead and more than 400,000 wounded. Hard to believe that fewer than 200 years ago, we were “refreshing the tree of liberty” with the blood of our own.
Ah, there’s a frightening quote being bantered about by Republicans. Back in 1787, Thomas Jefferson wrote in a letter that “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”
[Loba Tangent: I wonder how these “Moral Majority” Christian conservatives within the Republican party feel about Jefferson’s stance on religion. He is, after all, the same person who wrote things like, “Question with boldness even the existence of a god; because if there be one he must approve of the homage of reason more than that of blindfolded fear,” and “In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own.” Ooh, or how about this one: “If anything pass in a religious meeting seditiously and contrary to the public peace, let it be punished in the same manner and no otherwise than as if it had happened in a fair or market.”]
So we have people like William Kostric, the gentleman pictured to the right. In 2009, he attended a protest outside a town hall meeting on health care reform in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. He carried a sign that read “It is time to water the tree of liberty.” In the center of this sign is visible the snake graphic from the Gadsden flag, which stated beneath the snake, “Don’t Tread On Me.” Kostric had a loaded 9mm gun visibly strapped to his leg. President Obama was in attendance at this meeting.
When interviewed by Chris Matthews, Kostric didn’t think it was “a relevant question” to be asked why he brought a loaded gun to a presidential meeting. I’m not going to post a link to this interview, because I honestly found Matthews’ combative interviewing style to be appalling, but I do find Kostric’s response disturbing. As a former student of literary analysis, I was taught to look for meaning in many forms, including symbolism. And I have to say, there is pretty clear meaning in the image of someone strapped with weaponry holding a sign about watering the tree of liberty (especially knowing how that quote ends in bloodshed), standing outside a location where the President of the United States is in attendance.
Regardless of what I think of Obama as President, I find this kind of behavior frightening. I find the feigned innocence, like Kostric’s comment that Matthews was asking irrelevant questions about his gun-toting antics, to be even more frightening.
Especially when similar sentiments surface in the speeches of people running for political positions. People like Sharron Angle. I’ve been keeping tabs on her for a while. She is a TEA Bagger currently trying to unseat Harry Reid as one of Nevada’s U.S. Senators. She’s said some pretty…interesting things throughout her run for Reid’s seat.
Things like she’d like to see the complete elimination of the U.S. Department of Education. Or that the separation of church and state is unconstitutional. Or that unemployment benefits have spoiled Americans from wanting to go and find real work (although she’s also on record as stating that it would not be her responsibility as a U.S. Senator to bring jobs to Nevada, which currently is the state with the highest unemployment rate, at more than 14 percent).
However, it’s her stance on the Second Amendment of the Constitution that worries me the most. During an interview with Lars Larson, Angle is quoted as saying the following:
Our Founding Fathers, they put that Second Amendment in there for a good reason, and that was for the people to protect themselves against a tyrannical government. In fact, Thomas Jefferson said it’s good for a country to have a revolution every 20 years. I hope that’s not where we’re going, but you know, if this Congress keeps going the way it is, people are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies.
Second Amendment remedies? It’s time to water the tree of liberty?
I don’t care how much Angle backpedals regarding her Second Amendment remedies. I don’t care how irrelevant Kostric thinks Matthews’ questions about him toting a loaded weapon outside a presidential town hall meeting might be. Both of these people have put forward imagery and ideas that translate to one thing: armed uprising against the government. Bloodshed.
Am I reading too much into these instances? I don’t think so. I think these things were said or performed in the hopes that people would analyze them and find meaning in the inferences. Do I think there are enough people in this country willing to answer the call for an uprising? I honestly don’t know anymore. I recently read a report from the Southern Poverty Law Center on a group that calls itself the “Sovereign Citizens.” Begun back in the 1970s, now more than 300,000 people claim to be members. According to the Anti-Defamation League, the Sovereign Citizens movement is:
…a loosely organized collection of groups and individuals who have adopted a right-wing anarchist ideology originating in the theories of a group called the Posse Comitatus in the 1970s. Its adherents believe that virtually all existing government in the United States is illegitimate and they seek to “restore” an idealized, minimalist government that never actually existed. To this end, sovereign citizens wage war against the government and other forms of authority using “paper terrorism” harassment and intimidation tactics, and occasionally resorting to violence.
“Occasionally resorting to violence.” Such as when father and son Sovereign Citizens killed two police officers during a traffic stop in May of this year.
Perhaps this is the ultimate way to destroy America. Terrorists need do nothing more than sit back and watch us destroy ourselves. Seems like we’re already on the way there. I can only hope that reason is still strong enough to prevail. Admittedly, though, I’m really beginning to wonder…