Don’t Tread on Me (TOO much)!

 (This is a re-post from an article I posted at last year.  It addresses our delusions about what great protectors of freedom we are.)


As I noted in another thread, far too many tend to cope with life by making a million case-by-case judgments as they encounter various life situations, questions, issues, and dilemmas. This, of course, is in contrast to those who adopt foundational paradigms (such as honesty and justice, for example) from which they can judge most matters with much greater ease than the case-by-case folks.

The obvious peril for the foundational paradigm folks, of course, is that they run the risk of choosing bad paradigms. And good paradigms or not, they will have to endure many of the case-by-case folks calling them “closed-minded” or “dogmatic”.

But the case-by-case folks wear themselves out by the constant adoption of alternating convictions. For example, they may judge in one situation that they have been grievously wronged by someone’s lie, while in another, they choose that their own best course of action is to tell a lie. Or similarly, they cry out for the removal of one man from office for an offense, while defending another official for the same offense, which they judge in this present case to be “not that bad”. By the constant alternation between applying and disregarding principle, they grossly thwart their own development as humans and deny the collective society any chance of maintaining the course of principle.

Of course, few people aspire to have no principles. Indeed, we somehow seem to universally value at least the CONCEPT of a principled life, if not the practice of it. And this is where things get tricky, for there are currently many millions sporting such notions as are found on the “Gadsden Flag” (“Don’t tread on me.”)

Having propagated this paradigm, however, most are found not to hold to it as a foundational and unassailable doctrine. Rather, they hold it up as a mere ideal—something they’d like to see, perhaps, in a perfect world someday.

Unlike the rattlesnake on the flag, they are stepped on over and over without striking. They rattle and rattle, but never strike. In effect, they are saying “Don’t tread on me too much.” And those whose boots are doing the treading are naturally dismissing the rhetoric with a “Yeah, whatever.”

To take a graphic example from the recent movie, “Book of Eli”, a hoodlum puts his hand on Eli, who promptly warns him, “If you put that hand on me again, you won’t get it back.” The man proceeds to put his hand on him again, and Eli chops it off with a sword. The man falls to the ground in pain and eventually tries to recover his severed hand. Eli kicks the hand away from the man and says, “I told you you weren’t going to get that back.”

This is an example of a man who means what he says. But how many of us wave that yellow flag back and forth, or sport it on our bumper stickers, yet weekly endure further and further encroachments upon our rights and our property by our government? Unlike Eli, we don’t mean what we say.

We are not ready to oppose this government and to return it to its rightful and limited role. And I’m not talking about violence, for we have peaceful means of resistance at our disposal, yet we neglect to make use of those means.

Where our Republic’s founders judged that certain tyrants were worthy of execution, we have a hard time making the same judgment as we watch our government continue to undermine truth and justice for the sake of the bankers and their darlings. We are not likely anytime soon to adopt a simple paradigm that tyrants do not deserve to live…or even that they don’t deserve to live outside of the confines of a prison….nor even that they must not be allowed ever to hold office again….nor even that we PERSONALLY will never vote for one again.

No, for this present citizenry, all these judgments are considered too “harsh” or “radical”. Even the idea of pledging never to vote for a candidate who reserves the right to exceed the powers of his or her office is too difficult for most Americans to grasp.

And why is that?

It’s because we firmly resist the notion of living according to unassailable principle. Rather than to execute the murderer, rapist, or child molester on principle, we’d rather hear all the details about the attack and decide whether this particular case is “bad enough” to warrant the execution. (Thus are our prisons, and ultimately our streets, full of murders, rapists, and child molesters.)

And rather than to eject lawbreakers from office on principle, we’d rather handle it on a case-by-case basis—which policy ensures that our public offices will eventually be overrun with corrupt officials (which time has already come). Indeed, in this country, the investigation and prosecution of government officials is handled by….government officials who are themselves allowed to keep their offices during bad behavior….and whose re-election is made possible with the aid of millions upon millions of voters who reserve the right to vote for candidates who themselves reserve the right to exceed the powers of their offices.

So here are some philosophical questions you might want to ponder before you wave your Gadsden Flags.

1. Is is ever right to believe a thing that is false?
2. Is it ever good for government to exceed the powers given to it by the constitution or charter that created it?
3. Is it ever defensible for officials to use their offices for their own personal gain?
4. Is it ever good to sit by and passively watch tyranny flourish?
5. Is it good policy to issue or to imply idle threats?
6. Is it good policy to take some token action when you know that action will not have any substantive effect on the problem in view?
7. Is it reasonable to believe that established tyranny will put itself to an end, and that the citizenry need do nothing to stop it?
8. Is it ever good to support, to protect, or to defend either tyranny or the tyrant?

If you answered anything other than “no” to these questions, perhaps you do not have a solid philosophical foundation. And if that’s the case, and if you brandish the Gadsden Flag, or if you use similar rhetoric, it’s very likely that you’re the type who is constantly drawing a line in the sand, saying, “This far, and no farther!”. And when that line is crossed by the government, you take yet another step backward and draw another line, “This far, and no farther!”


This entry was posted in Character, Politics, Rule of Law and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *