There are two reasons why political violence will never get Americans where we want to go. One is tactical. The second is strategic – and far more important.
I do not believe foreign powers will ever seriously challenge our national integrity. 2015 is not 1776. Rather, the danger lies within. The fight involves ideas, and the sincerity of our relationships with one another.
Yet, we seem to hear implied threats of armed rebellion. One hopes the partisan will read the Second Amendment very carefully. (Please see January 2 post.)
Any patriot of today preparing for armed resistance in the tradition of 1776 will pit himself against an extraordinary opponent. He will be outmaneuvered and outgunned by fully militarized police possessing the most advanced surveillance technology and backed by massive firepower.
The mythical ideal of the citizen soldier remains deeply engrained in the American psyche. But the plain fact is, if we imagine a heroic Star Wars scenario in defense of freedom and justice, we are in la-la land.
I am not interested in arguing about this, because there is a much more significant problem with this kind of thinking. And it is this:
American police agencies and the United States military are served by Americans.
As I wrote here last week, violence committed by Americans against Americans would contradict the rationale behind the impetus to violence itself. It would be self-contradictory, pitting us against one another and subverting the integrity and viability of the American Idea as a guiding force for the good.
These are our people, our sons and daughters, friends and neighbors. They are working people. They may be working for deluded or destructive political and economic forces, but they are Americans who should be approached respectfully and won over by persuasive argument and compassionate example.
Our views on government overreach, threats to the integrity of the Constitution, or the loss of liberty in any form are serious matters that must be addressed. But, public servants, police officers and bureaucrats are not the problem.
We must respect these people, not just as a matter of principle, but because we need them. They are essential to a constructive solution.
Any resort to violence within the American community will tear the fabric of the republic and threaten the safety of our families and communities. And, it is simply not necessary.
Some may think the financial elite are our opponents or some dark conspiracy, but it will be our own people, Americans from our own communities, who serve on the front lines arrayed against the self-styled patriot-hero.
Americans will not be persuaded if we are attacked. When people are confronted with hostility we close ranks in self-defense.
Even the misguided rebellion of tiny splinter groups will be destructive to the cause of liberty. This can easily lead to cascading consequences in which violence begets violence in a downward spiral, endangering everyone and threatening the progress of constructive action.
As aggravating as our neighbors may be, it is really not necessary for us to agree about everything. Our differences must be respected, yes. But, if we want to rebuild the foundations of the republic, the American people must rise above our differences to resolve practical problems, define shared values, and together assert the moral center of the nation.
I did not say it would be easy.
The essential question to ask ourselves, and the question by which to judge constructive action, is the spirit and quality of the future we wish to secure. This is not a theoretical nicety. It is a necessity.
Going to war with our fellow citizens would make no sense. Indeed, the ends we seek could be delayed by decades and possibly destroyed by an impractical or intemperate course of action.
Next week: A Foundation Based on Values