Tea-baggers tea-party supporters in Oklahoma, frustrated by recent federal legislation such as the healthcare plan, want to create an armed militia to resist the imposition of such measures in their home state. Yes, you read that right: an armed militia. Not everyone supports the idea. For example, Professor Glenn Reynolds, an expert on the Second Amendment to the US Constitution (under the authority of which the militia might be legal), when asked about it, said
now, that strikes me as kind of silly.
This might, I think, qualify for understatement of the year.
But J.W. Berry, leader of the tea-bagging tea-party movement in Oklahoma – who proposed the scheme in a newsletter article entitled ‘Buy more guns, more bullets’ – thinks it is moderate and sensible. He said,
It’s not a far-right crazy plan or anything like that.
It occurs to me to wonder: if taking up arms against the democratically-elected government of your own country when it fulfils its constitutionally-mandated role of passing laws doesn’t count as a far-right crazy plan, then what does?
It also occurs to me to wonder why Mr Berry and his associates are proposing a military solution. If Oklahomans want to stop federal legislation being imposed on their state, the solution’s very straightforward, and it doesn’t involve the firing of a single shot, or the brandishing of a single weapon: simply pursue proceedings to secede from the Union (Oklahomans have already begun the process at least once). Of course, seceding from the Union would have effects beyond preventing the imposition of (mildly) progressive legislation, and it may be that the tea-baggers tea-party supporters don’t want to risk those consequences, especially since some of them might prove devastating to the continued economic health of their state.
But you know what, that’s just too bad. The United States of America is a political collective, founded on the principles of mutual self-help and support: ‘we must hang together […] else we shall most assuredly hang separately’, and all that. Being part of a political collective carries certain advantages – increased ability to resist foreign invasion (which was what most bothered the Founding Fathers), but also economic and social benefits – but it also means accepting the will of the majority within the collective, even if you don’t share it. If you want to dance off into a happy Libertarian world where no-one has the power to impose anything on you, then fine – but that means you are rejecting membership of the political collective, and must accept all the consequences that flow from it, the negative just as much as the positive. This is what being a grown-up means, after all: recognising that, in some circumstances, “I want” won’t translate into “I get”, and that if you decide that the most important thing is freedom to take your own decisions, then you must freely accept all the consequences that flow from that. Anything else is just cry-baby whining.
Of course, there is a third option, where you remain within the collective and try to persuade others to your point of view. But, let’s face it, if your response to a disappointment is not to suggest a political campaign to unseat the legislators you disagree with, nor to suggest mass protests in the streets, nor to propose a campaign of civil disobedience, but instead to suggest to your political fellow-travellers that they stock up on ammo and prepare to shoot everyone who disagrees – well, you’re not really capable of that level of sophistication and self-control, are you?
You may wonder why, in the midst of a UK election, I am writing about US politics. Well, it’s true, the election campaign thus far has been horribly depressing – I particularly liked the bit where the Daily Mail (in a gambit so nasty-minded and shallow it even appalled their own readers) decided that what really mattered in a grown-up discussion of the future of our country were the toes of the wife of one of the candidates – but I’ve also struggled to find anything that engages my interest. Or, at least, I was struggling, but I’ve just come across something that does interest me – so, watch this space, as they say…