Boots & Sabers

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0851, 09 Jul 22

Celebrating independence in 2022

Here is my full column that ran in the Washington County Daily News last week.

As we celebrate another Independence Day and the blessings of our liberties, it is also incumbent on us to reflect on the state of the constitutional republic our Founders left us. President Ronald Reagan reminded us that, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.” What time is it on the Doomsday Clock of the great American experiment?


The structure of our constitutional republic sits on pilings of genius sunk in a deep understanding of the human condition. Our Founders understood that any government requires some humans to hold power over other humans. They also understood that all humans are inherently flawed — sinful, in ecclesiastical parlance — and could not be trusted with power over others.


To square this circle, our Founders developed a constitutional framework that trifurcated power into three separate and coequal parts. Each part had distinct powers and restrictions with the other two parts serving as a check lest too much power be usurped by one part. In essence, the genius of our Founders’ construct is that it uses the worst parts of the human condition — envy, pride, bigotry, hubris, etc. — as a millstone to grind down the sharpness of concentrated power. In order for our great constitutional republic to function, it requires widespread consent of the governed in the form of mass voluntary obedience to the rule of law. We are a nation full of diverse opinions on what our laws should be and we hash that out through our elected government. Inevitably, there will be swaths of people who disagree with various laws for various reasons. For our society to function, it requires that the vast majority of the people accept and obey the laws even when they disagree with them. A small percentage of ne’er-dowells will violate laws for which we maintain a nominal police force to correct and punish, but most people must obey constrained only by their consciences and adherence to our form of government.


When laws are unjust, mass civil disobedience is a legitimate form of corrective action in a free society. This is when a significant percentage of citizens refuse to obey the unjust law. In response, the government can either enforce the law with increasingly aggressive tactics at the risk of enraging the larger citizenry, or forgo enforcement, thus undermining the authority of the law. We have seen that civil disobedience in response to a just law fizzles under the weight of societal indifference.


When we move beyond individual laws being unjust to government itself being unjust, then we venture beyond civil disobedience into the realm of uncivil disobedience. It is incumbent on a free people to throw off a government that has become tyrannical, but such action must be embarked upon with great prudence such that ”Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes.” But when there is a sober realization that the totality of the government has become intolerably tyrannical and it can no longer be rectified through the established constructs of our constitutional republic, then rebellion is the only recourse left to the dignity and conscience of a free people.


Where are we in 2022? We are in dangerous times. There are significant and growing factions in our nation that have moved well beyond protesting what they perceive as unjust laws into rejecting the very institutions of government as irrecoverably illegitimate. Groups like antifa and the Youth Liberation Front are using every societal spark to rebel and destabilize our institutions.


Left to their own devices, these fringe groups would rage in a vacuum where the fire quickly snuffs out. But recent years have seen mainstream leaders and elected representatives give them oxygen by echoing and validating their claims that our nation’s very institutions have become irredeemable. Calls by established and trusted leaders that the Supreme Court, Electoral College, Congress, and president are not just wrong, but illegitimate, are a manifest call to replace those institutions — even by violence. After all, what free people can tolerate living under the yoke of an illegitimate and tyrannical government? Such calls are reckless unless they are intended to be traitorous.


Thankfully, most Americans still respect our core government institutions and are willing to do the hard work of continuing to make our nation fairer and freer through the arduous representative process laid by the Founders. As we engage in robust debates in the public square and consider heterodox views without murdering each other, so too must we boldly engage and reform our government institutions without murdering them.


So what time is it on that Doomsday Clock? It’s time to get to work.


0851, 09 July 2022


  1. penquin

    Groups like antifa and the Youth Liberation Front are using every societal spark to rebel and destabilize our institutions.

    Interesting that you only mention left-wing organizations as examples. Are you of the beleif that it is only the left that are behaving as such? Or are you concerned about retaliation if you were to name any of those right-wing groups who are also doing so? Please clarify…thanks.

  2. Jason

    And we’ve now moved on to false dichotomies…sheesh.

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