Thursday, January 17, 2013

Sedition? Secession? Assassination? Civil War?

These are the times that try men's and women's souls.

Especially the scary language that's being used on the right.  And especially the language being used to incite resistance and hatred toward President Obama and his proposals to curb gun violence.

In recent years we have heard all manner of incendiary language from Sarah Palin, Sharron Angle and their cohorts.  Everything from "Lock and load!" to "Second Amendment remedies".  Nowadays Governor Rick Perry is no longer alone in suggesting that secession may be a good idea. Now extremists frothing at the mouth on TV and radio have promised outright war against the Obama administration over gun control, including direct personal violence against any federal agents seeking to enforce federal gun law. Further, the far right is calling the President a dictator who will use his executive powers to unilaterally take away their guns.

This dictator nonsense isn't coming just from the wild "fringe".  Sen. Rand Paul calling Obama a "king" and a "monarch" is right in line with the "dictator" label other right-wingers are bandying about.

This is not good.  This is the way it begins.  I remember the run-up to the assassination of President Kennedy.  This is the kind of noise on the right that preceded that killing.  Indeed, this noise is worse  than that preceding the assassination of Kennedy and even more explicitly violent.  It's the language of sedition and treason.  It's urging the killing of our democratically elected leader and the violent overthrow of our duly-elected government.  Indeed, it is an attack on all of us who voted for Obama, an attempt to retroactively steal our votes from us by nullifying our choice of government.

It''s seditious and disgusting.  And it is criminal.  Advocating the violent overthrow of the government is outlawed by the Smith Act, 18 USC Sect. 2385.  And it carries a twenty-year jail sentence.  We civil libertarians don't like to invoke such laws or penalties because of our tenderness for the First Amendment and our cherished right to criticize our government.  But no one has a right to violently overthrow our democratically-elected government nor successfully incite others to do so.  Nor do states have the right to secede from the Union nor nullify duly-enacted federal laws.  These last two issues were settled 150 years ago by the Civil War.  Nor does anyone have a right to incite the killing of our elected leaders or federal officers.

The most comfortable thing is to continue to view the far-right as a bunch of toddlers having a screaming tantrum in their playpen.  They lost the election.  They may have to accept some controls on the gun trade.  They have an African-American as a president.  They can rant all they want and it won't change anything.  So why pay them any attention?

 Until one of them picks up a gun and aims it at President Obama and fires.

That would change everything.

So how long can we tolerate the obvious urging to violence that increasingly disgraces our public discourse?  And is there anything we can do to cool it down?


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