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Aggression Doesn’t Change Anything

This op-ed in the New York Times has me worried.

Editorialist Frank Rich argues that our political dialogue has become more radical. The biggest reason why, he says, is panic about “a new era of cultural and demographic change.”

He points to cases of protesters carrying weapons or shouting incendiary phrases at political rallies.

He quotes U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, who answered the question of whether he was troubled by threats of violence against the government with, “Well, I’m troubled any time when we stop having confidence in our government, but we’ve earned it.”

I am worried because I know a lot of people who are so convinced that government is the cause of all the problems in their lives, they tread into the ground that the editorialist describes.

I am worried because, to a degree, I share some economic views, some social views, and even some political concerns with the “nuts” the editorialist writes about.

However, I completely dissociate myself with the means of those Frank Rich describes in the editorial.

These means will lead to increased bloodshed and tyranny, and less freedom and prosperity.

These means are full of hatred, force, and violence than cannot be used to fix anything. These means are antithetical to the teachings of Jesus Christ that many of these “nuts” claim to espouse.

The environment we are in is similar to that in Athens during the Peloponnesian War. Thucydides describes it thus:

“Words had to change their ordinary meaning and to take that which was now given them. Reckless audacity came to be considered the courage of a loyal ally; prudent hesitation, specious cowardice; moderation was held to be a cloak for unmanliness; ability to see all sides of a question, inaptness to act on any.

“Frantic violence became the attribute of manliness; cautious plotting, a justifiable means of self-defense. The advocate of extreme measures was always trustworthy; his opponent a man to be suspected.

“To succeed in a plot was to have a shrewd head, to divine a plot a still shrewder; but to try to provide against having to do either was to break up your party and to be afraid of your adversaries.

“In fine, to forestall an intending criminal, or to suggest the idea of a crime where it was wanting, was equally commended until even blood became a weaker tie than party, from the superior readiness of those united by the latter to dare everything without reserve.

“For such associations had not in view the blessings derivable from established institutions but were formed by ambition for their overthrow; and the confidence of their members in each other rested less on any religious sanction than upon complicity in crime.

“The fair proposals of an adversary were met with jealous precautions by the stronger of the two, and not with a generous confidence. Revenge also was held of more account than self-preservation.

“Oaths of reconciliation, being only proffered on either side to meet an immediate difficulty, only held good so long as no other weapon was at hand.

“But when opportunity offered, he who first ventured to seize it and to take his enemy off his guard, thought this perfidious vengeance sweeter than an open one, since, considerations of safety apart, success by treachery won him the palm of superior intelligence.

“Indeed it is generally the case that men are readier to call rogues clever than simpletons honest, and are as ashamed of being the second as they are proud of being the first. The cause of all these evils was the lust for power arising from greed and ambition; and from these passions proceeded the violence of parties once engaged in contention.

“The leaders in the cities, each provided with the fairest professions, on the one side with the cry of political equality of the people, on the other of a moderate aristocracy, sought prizes for themselves in those public interests which they pretended to cherish, and, recoiling from no means in their struggles for ascendancy engaged in the direst excesses.

“In their acts of vengeance they went to even greater lengths, not stopping at what justice or the good of the state demanded, but making the party caprice of the moment their only standard, and invoking with equal readiness the condemnation of an unjust verdict or the authority of the strong arm to glut the animosities of the hour.

“Thus religion was in honour with neither party; but the use of fair phrases to arrive at guilty ends was in high reputation. Meanwhile the moderate part of the citizens perished between the two, either for not joining in the quarrel, or because envy would not suffer them to escape.

“Thus every form of iniquity took root in the Hellenic countries by reason of the troubles. The ancient simplicity into which honor so largely entered was laughed down and disappeared; and society became divided into camps in which no man trusted his fellow.

The fear and distrust that permeate our political environment is disturbing.

Is power to be distrusted? Absolutely, that’s why checks and balances in government are absolutely essential.

Have some of those checks and balances been destroyed or ignored? Yes.

So how do we go about fixing things?

We engage in the conversation, instead of angrily getting into a bunker mentality. We talk to those running for office and make clear our views and ideas in an appropriate and non-threatening, non-violent tone.

We discuss options for changing the current political structures to sure up the checks and balances that are tipping.

But if you are convinced that the government is stealing your money by taxing you, have the guts to stop paying your taxes, as did Henry David Thoreau.

If you are convinced that certain laws are unjust, violate them and spend time in jail to prove your point and bring others around to your point of view.

If you aren’t so convinced of your position to be willing to stake your own life non-violently, why are you willing to stake someone else’s life violently?

There is nothing Christian about threatening violent revolution or rebellion.

If you disagree with what the government is doing so adamantly, stop cooperating with it.

Don’t take Medicare or Medicaid. Don’t send your kids to public schools where they will be indoctrinated by “the socialists.”

But don’t ever take up a weapon of aggression (and even consider turning the other cheek in response to force) in order to make your point.

Aggression has been tried in the history of the world, and it is the least effective method of changing things and in fact it can be argued that aggression doesn’t change anything.

So long as we allow fear to motivate our actions, it will lead us down the road to violence, oppression, war and tyranny; it also leads us down the road to bad legislation, poverty, and debt.

The reason for the American Revolution was that the American colonists had no representation, no say, in their government. However some may feel that this is the case today, our situation has not yet arrived at this point.

Participate. Engage. Expand your knowledge base. Expand your circle of friends. Talk to people you disagree with or you think are different from you.

The forms are still in place. The dialogue is still more free than in any other place.

But please, please, do not buy into the fear-mongering, the hate-mongering, the idea that violence will fix anything. It will only enslave and tyrannize.

****************

Mike Wilson received his B.S. degree in Chemistry from Brigham Young University and pursued graduate work at the University of California, San Diego, where he earned a M.S. degree in Biomedical Sciences prior to obtaining his M.D. at the UCSD School of Medicine.

He lives in Cedar City, Utah with his wife Jenni and their six children and practices emergency medicine in St. George, Utah while working on a Ph.D. in Constitutional Law at George Wythe University. He is also an Associate Mentor at GWU.

Mike’s passion, which he blogs about on The Fearless Path, is promoting idea that the common man has power and capacity to affect grand change in the world through true principles of love, goodness, and virtue. Because of his Jeffersonian trust in the common man, he considers himself a “little d” democrat (an ideal, not a political party).

He believes that the cause of liberty is founded essentially in widespread powerful education, checks on power, and promotion of virtue and goodness. Force is never a real solution to problems for Mike and the statesman’s role is to understand the ideal, see where society is, and then put himself in a position to move society in the direction of the ideal.

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Comments

  1. Great insights in this article. Too many people have adopted a curious Red Dawn mentality about how our situation should be addressed. They’ve obviously never studied what life was like in the Balkans just a few years ago, or they’d re-think their eagerness to resort to violence.

    Michael Edwards over at activistpost.com was asked what he’s doing to address the problems and these were his answers:

    1. I do not obey illegal orders
    2. I do not cooperate with illegal mandates
    3. I will not support chain stores; I buy local
    4. I limit my exposure to banks
    4. I will not be intimidated by criminals masquerading as police
    5. I will not stop speaking my version of the truth
    6. Above all: I resist tyranny and promote fairness as best I can

    While I agree with the vast majority of what you’ve said here, Mike. I’m curious what your take is on the use of force to defend one’s life, liberty or property against tyranny.

  2. While I completely agree with this article, I was left a bit disturbed because using the op-ed piece as truth to the movement would be incorrect. Yes, there have been a few people who have acted and even used language that could be viewed as violent. But Timothy McVeigh has nothing to do with the current movement toward liberty.

    I have attended tea parties on the State Capitol in Utah, and I spoke there. I have attended demonstrations at the Federal Building. I even marched on DC last year on 9.12.09, with my entire family. Nothing violent, no one ever calling people to arms, no one ever being pushy or crazy. In fact, the tone was quite the opposite. Not one arrest, and the place was left very clean. A great peaceful feeling as you stood shoulder to shoulder with others of all races and all backgrounds to stand against tyranny and be the change.

    Gandhi gives us great courage and a great example of civil disobedience with non-violent means. I think these types of articles are creating a fear even on the conservative side that the people involved are somehow asking for violence. We are not. I’ve been there, I’ve participated, and when hundreds of thousand of people sing “God Bless America” as they walk down the street in Washington DC, you know you are standing with the right people.

  3. Bryan, Thanks for those bullet-point ideas. Regarding your question at the end: I agree that it is justified, but I also see it as a slippery slope for rationalizing force and violence in expanding ways (i.e. pre-emptive strikes). Anything that one can identify in his/her worldview that is tyrannical becomes a justifiable target of force and aggression. I guess what I’m saying is, if there is a guy at the door, willing to use force and violence to forcibly take my life or liberty (or that of my family), I would feel justified and in using force. Otherwise I see it as an ever-expanding circle of rationalized force. That might be unsatisfactory, but I hope not.

  4. Jaqueline,

    I share your concern about the broad strokes of Mr. Rich in painting the Tea Party movement or ideologic conservatives as angry and potentially violent. However, the posts I read on my friends’ Facebook and that I read on comments on news stories in The Deseret News in Utah or Yahoo News nationally betray a very bitter and deep seated anger. It worries me enough that I think it’s appropriate to allow Mr. Rich his concern because of where the anger and ideology takes us.

    Are there angry and potentially violent liberals also? Absolutely, and this article applies equally to them. Thucydides didn’t distinguish between which group was right or wrong: he helps us see that even if “freedom” or “security” (in our time) are the ends justifying our means of anger and brutality (even if it’s “in jest” or in private company) or sarcasm and cynicism, the wrong means will lead us to the wrong end.

    I’m glad that most of the Tea Party gatherings you’ve participated in have been very peaceful and uplifting. I hope they continue to be so. I’m just concerned at the underlying tone I hear and feel from friends and relatives that seem to betray some deeper anger and hostility.

  5. Mike — I have not seen anything even close to violent language from the friends that I have. I have seen the frustration mounting. That is why, as we continue to be leaders in our own sphere of influence we can bring people down from the rhetoric and back to the guiding principles of liberty. The Tea Party has been more angry in my opinion then say the 9.12 movement.

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  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Lisa Lomas, Billy Bush. Billy Bush said: Aggression Doesn’t Change Anything http://bit.ly/9IjTfE […]

  2. […] the fact that there may be truth to what he says, it is the tone of anti-business that reverberates. He may get past this bias in the weeks and months ahead, but […]

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Aggression Doesn’t Change Anything