Tensions are primed. Fissures are opening among social lines, be they racial, economic, political, etc. The security of our Democracy is quite literally at stake, and there is a common thread underpinning all of it: The United States Government has failed in its civic duties as described in our founding documents – The Declaration of Independence and The Constitution of the United States of America – and as a result, We the People, not only have the ability but an obligation to demand accountability and set right the situation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident…
Anyone who was raised in the American education system should know these words; words that initiated a war for freedom which, against all odds, would conclude in the formation of a new nation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
–The Declaration of Independence, 1776
The second of the two most important documents involved in the birth of our nation, this establishes the right to revolution as a response to a government failing to protect basic human rights given to all citizens by their Creator. It specifically states that the power of a government is derived from the consent of the governed and such governments are created by its citizens to protect those rights. In fact, this concept was so important to the founding members of our Union that, thirteen years later, they decided to reaffirm this belief in this nation’s most important founding document, The Constitution of the United States of America.
We, the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
-The Constitution of the United States of America, 1789
In fact, peace and justice were the first items on the menu in the pursuit of “a more perfect Union.” Peace and justice. These documents represent the sacred agreement between the State and its citizens. And thus far, our government has failed to uphold their end of this agreement.
On August 11th, 2017, Neo-Nazi, white-supremacy, and other hate groups descended on Charlottesville, VA. They were attempting to “peacefully protest” the removal of a Confederate statue. Of course, in this case, “peaceful” means chants of “Blood and Soil” and “Jews will not replace us” while armed with torches and clubs, and giving the Nazi salute. The following day, demonstrations continued, this time armed with assault weapons, militia gear, and chants of “White Power”.
Let this be clear: this was not a peaceful assembly. This was not a protected assembly. This was a Nazi rally. This was a KKK rally. Even before chemical deterrents started being used, before punches started being thrown, this assembly was violent and a threat to the peace. Violence is defined as “the intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community, which either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment, or deprivation”. Given the violence inherent to these groups, the government has a sworn and sacred duty to intervene in these types of demonstrations. And yet, they were given legal permits to assemble under the First Amendment. Yet, these groups do not enjoy those protections.
On multiple occasions, the Supreme Court has ruled that threats of violence are not protected by the First Amendment. In 1942, the Court ruled that fighting words – words designed or likely to elicit a violent response – were not protected by the first amendment. And hateful rhetoric is inherently likely to result in a violent response because it is the natural defensive response. Like a cornered animal, targeted people will resort to fighting to protect themselves and their loved ones.
In the light of this reality, how can we be so blind to our government supporting and allowing this threat to the peace and its people? Only by choice does this happen: the choice to remain silent and blind while a government acting in our name enables and supports this hateful rhetoric.
In Charlottesville, the organizers of the hateful “Unite the Right” rally were granted a permit to organize, and after that permit was stopped by an injunction, they were defended by the ACLU on the basis of their right to free speech. A right they do not enjoy. Not because they are statistically likely to encourage physical violence, but because their inherently violent message strips this right from them.
Violence is abhorrent and should be condemned. But when all other voices have been silenced by a system that has proven to mean failure for a group of people in need of help, silenced by a system that operates against the principles of the society it operates therein, then violence becomes the only voice of the oppressed. A voice calling for help through the Darkness. And we must answer that voice.
We cannot choose to sit silent and blind any longer, because “evil triumphs when good men do nothing.” And while many Americans know the values for which this country was formed, it’s important to realize that governments are not immutable, and the United States government is no exception. Democracy can give way to authoritarianism. Capitalism can give rise to oligarchy. Unless We, the People, choose to stop it.
And while principles endeared by a community can change and evolve, that which does not are the inalienable rights afforded to every person by their Creator: Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.
When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for a people to alter their government, a decent respect to the opinions of humankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to such change.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all people are created equal without regard to their race, gender, or identity, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among them are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and that any credible threat to one’s safety poses a real and present danger to society by infringing these rights therein. To secure these rights governments are instituted among people deriving their just powers from the implicit consent of the governed and whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute a new government, laying its foundation on such principles, organizing its powers in such form as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.
Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient reasons, but when a long train of abuses pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism and systemic oppression, it is their Duty, it is their Right, to cast off such oppressors and establish new guards for their future security.
This is the situation we once again find ourselves in. Our government has proven through actions that it no longer espouses the values and ideals for which it once stood, and it no longer seeks to serve the People.
We cannot be complacent, for complacency is complicity. These grievances demand change, and change does not come from inaction, but rather active opposition.
Opposition need not be violent; revolution need not be bloody. Change can be enacted through a revolution of ideas, as much as force. But regardless of the mechanism, change must come.
We, the People, have a right to demand a redress of grievances, and if our government fails in this, we have a duty to redress the government.