Monday, January 10, 2011

Patriots or Tyrants?

"The tree of liberty must from time to time be refreshed with the blood of patriots and tyrants." Thomas Jefferson


Shay's Rebellion was an armed social uprising in western and central Massachusetts during the last half of 1786 and spilling over into the first few months of 1787. The rebellion was born from egregious injustices enacted upon Revolutionary war veterans and meager farmhands from whom the state wrongfully confiscated personal and business-related items to pay back debts owed to European war investors. During this period, the framework of the United States' taxation and revenue code was dictated by the Articles of Confederation (the Constitution wasn't adopted until September of 1787) which was hopelessly inadequate to enforce federal law or collect the appropriate revenue to operate the country. Therefore, each state struggled to pay down its own debt accumulated during the war. Much of this debt repayment was placed on the backs of the poor.

It was in a response to Shay's Rebellion that Jefferson penned these words in a letter addressed to James Adam's son-in-law William Stephens Smith concerning the current state of affairs in Massachusetts. It's also been a favorite rallying cry for the recent activities of the Tea Party Movement during the past two years. One of the most visible events involving this phrase occurred in August 2009 when Chris Matthews on MSNBC's Hardball (I really don't like that name.) berated a gentleman named William Kostric about his decision to bring a firearm to a presidential rally.

Here it is:

However, there are critical sections in the letter that are seldom, if ever, mentioned by the people who tout this phrase as a Libertarian calling card. In these passages, Jefferson emphasizes a much more sophisticated, and more moderate (especially given the period) view of social rebellion.

[Their motives] were founded in ignorance, not wickedness. God forbid we should ever be 20 years without such a rebellion. The people cannot be...always well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive.


What country before ever existed...without rebellion? And what country can preserve its 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, and pacify them.

Should people in this country preserve the "spirit of resistance?" A large part of me believes so. But there is quite a bit more to it. Firstly, it was never Jefferson's belief that ACTUAL blood should be spilled in rebellion. Remember he was politician, not a soldier and not a mercenary. And he was damned sure smart enough not to be so negligent as to incite what would only be considered as anarchy, especially in a country he worked so diligently to help create. Rather, it seems he suffered some of the same inarticulate tendencies of his modern day counterparts in his inartful usage of gun and war imagery to highlight a political concept.

Furthermore, and I feel this is most important, he stresses the importance of an informed public. Now, the Tea Party followers may feel they have nothing to worry about here.

I'm sorry, Tea Partiers. This is where you're all washed up. But it's not your fault.

The people who remain in the background, the ones who logistically and financially organize the Tea Partiers have herded these people not with facts about the challenges of government, but rather with threats, misconceptions, falsities, dubious math, and inflated conjecture. These are the strings by which the groundlings of this movement have been puppeted. And these puppet-masters will continue pulling these strings until their foot soldiers fetch the bounty for them, no matter what kinds of violent atrocities and/or acts of terrorism lay in their wake. Hence, they roll out Thomas Jefferson (Because founding fathers can't be wrong, right?) and perform contextomy with his words to aggravate the open wound of partisanship for the benefit of no one but themselves.

Snap out of it, Tea Partiers.

Yes, please question the government. But arm yourself with THE REAL AND ACTUAL FACTS, not someone else's talking points, and certainly not firearms.

"Let us hope we never become numb to what...the real blood of patriots looks like when it's spilled." Jon Stewart


1 comment:

  1. I'm still trying to figure you how to put into words how I feel about this without placing blame because blame and finger pointing will just satisfy the ignorant masses of which you speak of. I agree with Jon Stewart, does political vernacular have something to do with this situation? I don't know. It could have been that, it could have been his parents for the way they raised him, it could have been that he is clinically insane.

    But none of that matters.

    What matters is the tragedy. What matters is Rep. Giffords, he assistant who came to her aid, the man that tried to confiscate the gun from the assassin, and, most of all, the innocent 9 year old girl, killed for no reason except for one person's ignorance.

    And you are right. These people (Tea Partiers, etc.) need to educate themselves with the facts. However, I've fought this battle before, with people in my own family. I could whip out any proof they needed for anything they questioned, and they still didn't believe me. They say I'm the one that's uneducated, and I need to "open my eyes to reality." So, when faced with that, what are you to do? How do you educate people who don't want to be educated? And I believe that every person has a right to their beliefs and opinions, but when things like this complete and totally avoidable travesty happens, this is the time where people need to question what they believe.

    And as far as our forefathers, they could never really agree on anything anyway. Thomas Jefferson said himself that he did not want to be remembered for writing the Declaration of Independence. So for us to to leave our lives in 2011 to taken out of context quotes from cats that lived in 1776 and before is completely ridiculous to me.

    I'm not saying that people aren't entitled to their opinion, I'm just saying with the right to be opinionated comes the responsibility of being rational, fair, just, and accepting.