Archive for the ‘Political Statements’ Category

The Importance of Being Morally Fit for Triumph   1 comment

Above:  The Confession of Captain Benjamin Sisko in In the Pale Moonlight (1998)

A Screen Capture I Took Via PowerDVD

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Or, What Reinhold Niebuhr Has to Do With Star Trek:  Deep Space Nine

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So… I lied. I cheated. I bribed men to cover the crimes of other men. I am an accessory to murder. But the most damning thing of all… I think I can live with it. And if I had to do it all over again, I would. Garak was right about one thing, a guilty conscience is a small price to pay for the safety of the Alpha Quadrant. So I will learn to live with it. Because I can live with it. I can live with it… Computer, erase that entire personal log.

–Captain Benjamin Sisko, In the Pale Moonlight (1998)

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Recently I completed my rewatch of Star Trek:  Deep Space Nine (1993-1999), the best of the Star Trek series.  I had recorded most of the episodes from 1993 to 1999, but I had not sat down and watched the series from beginning to end, skipping certain really bad episodes.  DS9 was the last great Star Trek series–certainly heads and shoulders over Voyager (1995-2001) and Enterprise (2001-2005), two series notable for, among other faults, playing it safe and ignoring continuity much of the time.  DS9 did not play it safe, especially after its troubled first season.  The Dominion War arc certainly took the series into dark and morally ambiguous territory, only part of which I consider in this post.

The Neo-Orthodox theologian Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971), a Cold War liberal, had a strong moral compass and an awareness of human sinfulness.  He opened The Irony of American History (1952) with a statement of the possibility that the means by which the free world, led by the United States, might have to win the Cold War might leave the victors morally unfit to govern.  The use of atomic weapons would not only endanger civilization, kill many people,  and cause much physical destruction, he wrote, but lead to moral complications for the victors:

The victors would also face the “imperial” problem of using power in global terms but from one particular center of authority, so preponderant and unchallenged that its world rule would almost certainly violate basic standards of justice.

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As Commander William Adama stated in Resurrection Ship, Part II (2006), an episode of the reimagined Battlestar Galactica (2003-2008),

It’s not enough to survive; one must be worthy of surviving.

In the story lines of Star Trek:  Deep Space Nine the Dominion War raged for years and endangered the great powers of the Alpha and  Beta Quadrants–the Klingon Empire, the Romulan Star Empire, and the United Federation of Planets.  (Aside:  The scripts tended not to mention the Beta Quadrant, but, according to official Star Trek lore, the Klingon Empire, the Romulan Star Empire, and much of the Federation were in the Beta Quadrant.)  Forces of the Dominion, an empire presided over by the shape-shifting Founders, fought to conquer the Alpha and Beta Quadrants.  The body counts were staggering and the Dominion seemed to be on the verge of victory.  Times were desperate.

In In the Pale Moonlight (1998) Captain Benjamin Sisko, with the approval of the Federation Council, conspired to trick the Romulan Star Empire into abandoning its non-aggression treaty with the Dominion.  The plan was to convince one Romulan senator, Vreenak, that the Dominion was plotting to invade the Romulan Star Empire.  There was no evidence of this, so Sisko, with Federation approval, arranged for the forging of evidence.  Certainly the Dominion would invade the Romulan Star Empire in time, given the nature of the Dominion and the Founders’ sense of superiority to solids.  Furthermore, the Federation needed for the Romulans to enter the war on its side.  Vreenak recognized the forgery as such, but Elim Garak, who hired the forger then killed him or had him killed, planted a bomb on Vreenak’s shuttle craft.  The leadership of the Romulan Star Empire blamed the Dominion for Vreenak’s death and declared war.  The Federation had a new ally.  Sisko admitted his crimes in private and confessed that he could live with his guilty conscience.

As I have pondered this episode and others, all the way through the end of the series, I have realized that, as the writers presented the story of the Dominion War, Sisko was correct; his crimes were necessary.  The Romulans were crucial to the defeat of the Dominion, after all.

In The Maquis, Part II (1994) Sisko analyzed the difficult situation of a group rebels-terrorists succinctly:

On Earth, there is no poverty, no crime, no war. You look out the window of Starfleet Headquarters and you see paradise. Well, it’s easy to be a saint in paradise, but the Maquis do not live in paradise. Out there in the Demilitarized Zone, all the problems haven’t been solved yet. Out there, there are no saints — just people. Angry, scared, determined people who are going to do whatever it takes to survive, whether it meets with Federation approval or not!

However, later, in For the Uniform (1997), Sisko poisoned the atmosphere of  Maquis colony world and prepared to do the same to other Maquis colonies.  A vendetta against one Maquis leader, Michael Eddington, inspired this plan.

Above:  Dr. Julian Bashir Confronts Admiral William Ross in Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges (1999)

A Screen Capture via PowerDVD

Sisko, the greatest of all the Star Trek captains, did not live in paradise, neither was he a saint.  Neither was Admiral William Ross, as in Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges (1999).  In a story reminiscent of The Spy Who Came in From the Cold,  a great Cold War thriller, Admiral Ross plotted with Section 31, the Federation’s black operations agency that officially does not exist, to frame an innocent and  patriotic Romulan senator and thereby improve the political standing of a double agent.  After all, as Ross said in Latin, quoting Cicero,

In time of war the law falls silent.

Later in the series Dr. Julian Bashir, who takes his Hippocratic Oath seriously, learns that Section 31 was responsible for infecting the Founders of the Dominion with a fatal virus–that the Federation was responsible for attempted genocide.  The Federation, as Gene Roddenberry conceived of it in the 1960s, was a noble and idealistic organization.  DS9 did more to expose the dark underbelly of the Federation than did any other filmed incarnation of Star Trek.  DS9 gave us Section 31, for example.  The writers seemed to present Section 31 in such a way as to make plain its moral dubiousness as well as its practical necessity.

Roddenberry’s Federation is an analog for the United States of America, just as the Klingon Empire is an analog for the Soviet Union.  Thus, in Star Trek VI:  The Undiscovered Country (1991) the two powers begin to end their cold war.  Since the Federation stands in for the U.S.A., the moral questions the Federation faces during the Dominion War might remind one of morally questionable policies of the U.S. Government over time, especially in the context of the Cold War and events since September 11, 2001.   Overthrowing democratically elected governments that are merely inconvenient to U.S. business interests and installing military dictatorships that victimize their own citizenry for decades contradicts U.S. ideals, does it not?  Supporting brutal regimes–whether fascist or military dictatorships–because they are not communist should trouble one’s conscience, should it not?  Also, committing and condoning torture makes one morally unfit.  Whom would Jesus torture?  As Niebuhr reminds us down the corridors of time, we must be morally fit, not just victorious.

All of this brings me to a point:  How can we defend ideals that are in peril by violating those ideals?  We cannot, of course.  Yes, we might have to get our hands dirty, so to speak, but, if we get them too dirty, we compromise ourselves morally and render ourselves morally unfit to serve the interests of justice.   How we treat others is about our character, not theirs.  We may not live in paradise, but how close to the standard of sainthood can we live?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 17, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF EDITH BOYLE MACALISTER, ENGLISH NOVELIST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT EMILY DE VIALAR, FOUNDER OF THE SISTERS OF SAINT JOSEPH OF THE APPARITION

THE FEAST OF JANE CROSS BELL SIMPSON, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS TERESA AND MAFALDA OF PORTUGAL, PRINCESSES, QUEENS, AND NUNS; AND SANCHIA OF PORTUGAL, PRINCESS AND NUN

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2017/06/17/the-importance-of-being-morally-fit-for-triumph/

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Regarding Political Incivility and the Denial of the Humanity of the Opposition   Leave a comment

On Tuesday, June 6, 2017, Eric Trump, son of Donald Trump, appeared on the alleged FOX News Channel (perhaps the greatest oxymoron since jumbo shrimp, the Holy Roman Empire, and the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada) and denied the humanity of Democrats, especially those pressing the Russia investigation:

I’ve never seen hatred like this.  I mean to me, they’re not even people.

I, writing as a member of the resistance to Donald Trump, a man with a disturbing affinity for strong men (such as those of Turkey, the Russian Federation, and the Philippines), affirm the humanity and corresponding dignity of all people, including those with the surname “Trump.”  I refuse to stoop to the mean-spirited level of Eric Trump, who, in that interview, went on to accuse Tom Perez, the new Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, “a total whack job” then to decry the increase in political name calling.  I am well-acquainted with the desire to engage in political name calling, for I have done so.  I conclude, however, that I ought to be a better person than that.  This is a spiritual discipline.

I do not know what the conclusions of a full, professional investigation of the Russia-related allegations will be or what paths for further investigation they will open.  No, I reserve judgment, for I prefer to stand on the solid ground of objective reality.  I wish for people to recognize me as being what I am–one who speaks and writes cautiously, based on accurate information.  More information relevant to the Russia issue and its spin-offs seems to become available daily, as the stories develop.  Objective reality is what it is; so be it; I side with it.  To insist on a full disclosure of objective reality in matters affecting the governance of the republic then to follow objective reality where it points is wise and patriotic, although inconvenient for many.  I, as a patriot, hope that there is nothing detrimental to the United States for any investigation to unearth; I do not want my country to suffer a political trauma needlessly.  If, however, such skullduggery is reality, may it become public knowledge and the chips fall where they may.  I support the integrity of the constitutional system, which is greater than any person or persons.

I do write and speak of what I know.  Donald Trump is his own worst enemy.  He, despite his advanced age, is immature.  He is also impulsive.  He uses Twitter too much, doubles down on inaccurate Tweets, demonstrates his affinity for hare-brained conspiracy theories.  He, behaving immaturely and impulsively, undercuts the efforts of his staff and cabinet secretaries, appalls not only Democrats but principled conservatives, makes life more difficult for himself by giving political ammunition to his opponents, and complicates the efforts of many supporters to defend him.

Regardless of what professional investigators will learn, Donald Trump will remain his own worst enemy.  Will he learn this lesson and cease to blame others and not himself?  The passage of time will tell.

If publishing this post places me in the class of people whose humanity Eric Trump denies, so be it.  I continue to affirm his humanity and his corresponding dignity.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 7, 2017 COMMON ERA

The Folly and Immorality of Campus Carry   Leave a comment

Above:  The Flag of Georgia

Image in the Public Domain

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On July 1, in the State of Georgia, the new “campus carry” law will go into effect.

As long as this law (as well as the previous, vetoed version) has been on the legislative table, it has concerned me.  I, as a classroom instructor on a university campus, have become jaded about postsecondary students overall over the years.  This fact, added to my negative view of human nature (depravity as objective reality, not an article of faith), has caused me to conclude that this law is a recipe for very bad–even lethal–results.

The version of the law that passed the General Assembly and received Governor Nathan Deal’s signature does include certain exemptions, such as residence halls, sports venues, day care centers, and offices.  But what constitutes an office?  This matter is not always clear for certain employees of the University System of Georgia.  Another exemption is any classroom in which, at the time, a dual-enrolled high school student is present.  Yet, if a high school student not dual-enrolled is present in that classroom, that space is not exempt from the “campus carry” law.  Furthermore, any common space–such as a dining hall or a lobby–is a space in which someone with a concealed gun permit may legally carry a concealed gun, even if a high school student is present.  Regarding sports venues, guns are forbidden there, but, as of today, there will no University System of Georgia policy allowing the posting of signage indicating this.  Drunken tailgaters outside the sports venues will have the right of carry guns, however.

This morning I attended a town hall meeting led by the university chief of police.  He, for professional reasons, did not express his opinion.  He read the text of the law and of the statement from the office of the Chancellor of the University System.  He also went over established questions and answers.  Many of the answers were indefinite, indicating that the University System had yet to provide guidance regarding that particular circumstance.  Then the chief answered new questions.  As I listened intently, I became more concerned.  Professors and staff members asked about their particular and practical circumstances, ranging from chemistry labs to testing centers to the blurring of the lines between common space and office space in the library.  The chief had no answer other than the University System had yet to provide guidance.  After the meeting I heard some professors indicate that they were going on the job market.

The chief will lead more campus town hall meetings–later this month and again in August, as the University System offers more guidance.

Those who voted for this law and the governor who signed it did not think through the plethora of details sufficiently.  They created a huge mess, one that is leading campus police departments to develop programs to train faculty and staff to talk down armed and emotionally disturbed students.

I am cautious by nature.  For this reason I tend not to make wild predictions or embrace conspiracy theories.  I do make two predictions, however:

  1. Lawsuits will ensue as the University System offers guidance, faculty and staff members follow it, and individuals carrying concealed guns object to the rules, claiming that these rules violate the law.  The United States does have a litigious society, after all.
  2. More than one person will die or suffer injury because of this law.

Legislators and the Governor will be morally responsible for those deaths and injuries.

The gun culture is alive and well in the State of Georgia.  For example, we have a law permitting people to carry weapons onto church property unless the church forbids it.  Fortunately, the Episcopal Dioceses of Georgia and Atlanta have such a ban.  I reject the idea that the answer to the problem of gun violence is more guns.  Adding guns to the equation makes as much sense to me as pouring gasoline on a fire and mistaking the gasoline for flame retardant.

May God deliver us from ourselves and each other.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 1, 2017 COMMON ERA

Posted June 1, 2017 by neatnik2009 in Political Statements

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Expressing Opinions   Leave a comment

I am not shy about expressing my opinions at this, my original weblog, the one from which the others sprang, directly or indirectly.  I am, however, cautious in so far as I do not feel obligated to express every thought that passes through my mind.  I do, in fact, leave most of my thoughts unexpressed.  Furthermore, I am a trained historian.  The difference between history and journalism is hindsight.  I prefer to sit back and gather data rather than to spout off.  When I make a statement, however, I make it with conviction.

Certainly, in the age of the political, moral, and ecological train wreck that is the Trump Administration, with its fondness for foreign elected dictators and contempt for the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, sordid details come to light so quickly that I have difficulty keeping up with them.  Apparently do does that overgrown toddler, that man-child with a Twitter account,  a thin skin, a small vocabulary, a dearth of historical knowledge, a penchant for half-baked conspiracy theories, and a casual relationship (at best) with objective reality, in the White House.  In these times I double down on my historian’s tendencies and express my perspective by permitting it to inform my analysis of the past.   I leave a plethora of clues embedded in my posts.

I have ended my hiatus on renovating my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days.  During the hiatus I drafted new devotions for Lent, Easter, and the Season After Pentecost 2018.  I have made plans to start updating my LENTEN AND EASTER DEVOTIONS weblog after Pentecost (next Sunday) and ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS once Advent 2017 has begun.  I have also resolved to return to the wonderful world of saints.  My choice of saints has long reflected my political and theological priorities.  Now that the time to renovate systematically the Ecumenical Calendar, a project begun casually in 2009, has come, I have begun to remove some people and add others in accordance with my changing priorities and access to more knowledge, as well as all that I have learned about blogging.  I have never considered agreeing with me completely to be a requirement for inclusion, but not being overall morally objectionable to me has always been mandatory.

Without further ado, I resume the process of adding saints.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 29, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF PERCY DEARMER, ANGLICAN CANON AND TRANSLATOR AND AUTHOR OF HYMNS

THE FEAST OF THE FIRST U.S. PRESBYTERIAN BOOK OF CONFESSIONS, 1967

THE FEAST OF JIRI TRANOVSKY, LUTHER TO THE SLAVS AND FATHER OF SLOVAK HYMNODY

THE FEAST OF SAINTS LUKE KIRBY, THOMAS COTTAM, WILLIAM FILBY, AND LAURENCE RICHARDSON, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS

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Posted May 29, 2017 by neatnik2009 in Political Statements

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Against Xenophobia and Other Sins   2 comments

Above:  Superman on Diversity, 1949

Confirmed here:  http://www.snopes.com/superman-1950-poster-diversity/

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I tend not to be shy about expressing myself on my weblogs.  Usually I make comments in the context of a particular saint, some passage of scripture, or a theological or ethical principle that comes to mind because of that saint or scripture.  This post belongs to a different category–thoughts that simply occupy my mind.

Xenophobia, nativism, racism, and homophobia are sins.  They violate the highest principles of ethical monotheism and the ideals of the United States, as well as mere human decency.  These four sins are also endemic in human history and current events.  Holding up ideals is far easier than living according to them, after all.  Fear–not the variety that prevents one from touching a hot stove, but the sort that leads to hatred and flows from misunderstanding–is ever with us.  It leads us to deny our fellow human beings the civil rights God has granted them.  Even worse, we frequently engage in these sins while justifying them with religion.

May we respect the image of God in each other.  May we love one another as we love ourselves.  May we eschew bigotry.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 18, 2017 COMMON ERA

Posted April 18, 2017 by neatnik2009 in Political Statements

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The Hitler Analogy   Leave a comment

Above:  The Front Page of Stars and Stripes, May 2, 1945

Image in the Public Domain

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Just leave Hitler out of it.

Morning Joe, April 12, 2017

As Sean Spicer has learned this week and, to his credit, he should have just left Hitler out of a discussion of the crimes of the dictator of Syria.

The Hitler analogy is one I hear people of various political stripes invoke against their opponents frequently.  The analogy applies well to only a select group of individuals that includes Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong, the body count of each of whom exceeds that of the Fuherer, responsible for the Holocaust.  I recall that, in one statement, my Paul Broun, Jr., my former Congressman, compared Barack Obama to Hitler and Stalin–one a Fascist and the other a Communist–representatives of two opposing ideologies.  I remember hearing someone say “Hitlery Clinton” years ago.  I also recall hearing more than one person liken advocates of gun control to Nazis.  Oddly enough, I do not remember hearing anyone condemning the ownership and driving of Volkswagens, vehicles of which Hitler approved, due to the Nazi connection.

The crimes of the Nazis–especially Hitler–were of such magnitude that one should never trivialize them.  If every other thing is as bad as something the Nazis did, how bad could the Nazis have been?  The answer to that question is or should be obvious:  (1)  The Nazis were especially evil, and (2) Very little has ever risen to the level of evil of the Third Reich.  Evil of a magnitude lesser than that of the Nazis has long existed; examples have included Saddam Hussein and Bashar al-Assad.

As Jeffrey Toobin has said, “arguments are easy at the extremes. ”  I conclude that the comfort level with the simplicity of easy arguments makes many people want to avoid the messier arguments between the extremes and leads them to resort to fallacies such as the misuse of the Hitler analogy.  Doing so also weakens their arguments and reveals them to be idiots.

Can we just leave Hitler out of it when he does not belong there?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 13, 2017 COMMON ERA

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THE ADMINISTRATION IS NOT THE NATION-STATE.   Leave a comment

john-adams

Above:  John Adams, President of the United States from 1797 to 1801

Image in the Public Domain

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The administration is not the nation-state.  This is a simple fact that political dissidents keep having to repeat, even in my native land, the United States of America.  To oppose the presidential administration is not to be disloyal.  The Constitution of the United States even builds debate and dissent into the political system, complete with contested elections.

The failure to acknowledge the fact that the administration is not the nation-state during the Quasi-War with France during the administration of President John Adams (1797-1801) contributed to the abomination that was the Sedition Act of 1798.

SECTION 1. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled, That if any persons shall unlawfully combine or conspire together, with intent to oppose any measure or measures of the government of the United States, which are or shall be directed by proper authority, or to impede the operation of any law of the United States, or to intimidate or prevent any person holding a place or office in or under the government of the United States, from undertaking, performing or executing his trust or duty, and if any person or persons, with intent as aforesaid, shall counsel, advise or attempt to procure any insurrection, riot, unlawful assembly, or combination, whether such conspiracy, threatening, counsel, advice, or attempt shall have the proposed effect or not, he or they shall be deemed guilty of a high misdemeanor, and on conviction, before any court of the United States having jurisdiction thereof, shall be punished by a fine not exceeding five thousand dollars, and by imprisonment during a term not less than six months nor exceeding five years; and further, at the discretion of the court may be ho]den to find sureties for his good behaviour in such sum, and for such time, as the said court may direct.

SEC. 2. And be it farther enacted, That if any person shall write, print, utter or publish, or shall cause or procure to be written, printed, uttered or published, or shall knowingly and willingly assist or aid in writing, printing, uttering or publishing any false, scandalous and malicious writing or writings against the government of the United States, or either house of the Congress of the United States, or the President of the United States, with intent to defame the said government, or either house of the said Congress, or the said President, or to bring them, or either of them, into contempt or disrepute; or to excite against them, or either or any of them, the hatred of the good people of the United States, or to stir up sedition within the United States, or to excite any unlawful combinations therein, for opposing or resisting any law of the United States, or any act of the President of the United States, done in pursuance of any such law, or of the powers in him vested by the constitution of the United States, or to resist, oppose, or defeat any such law or act, or to aid, encourage or abet any hostile designs of any foreign nation against United States, their people or government, then such person, being thereof convicted before any court of the United States having jurisdiction thereof, shall be punished by a fine not exceeding two thousand dollars, and by imprisonment not exceeding two years.

SEC. 3. And be it further enacted and declared, That if any person shall be prosecuted under this act, for the writing or publishing any libel aforesaid, it shall be lawful for the defendant, upon the trial of the cause, to give in evidence in his defence, the truth of the matter contained in Republication charged as a libel. And the jury who shall try the cause, shall have a right to determine the law and the fact, under the direction of the court, as in other cases.

SEC. 4. And be it further enacted, That this act shall continue and be in force until the third day of March, one thousand eight hundred and one, and no longer: Provided, that the expiration of the act shall not prevent or defeat a prosecution and punishment of any offence against the law, during the time it shall be in force.

APPROVED, July 14, 1798.

Source = The Avalon Project, Yale University

Adjusting dollar amounts for inflation is crucial.  Know then, O reader, that $2000 (1798) is $39,800 (2015) and that $5000 (1798) is $99,400, according to MeasuringWorth.com.

It was a partisan law applied to opposition newspaper editors and Representative Matthew Lyon of Vermont.  One might also notice that the law permitted (by omission) all manner of negative press and speech regarding the Vice President, who was Thomas Jefferson, a leader of the opposition party.  Newspaper editors went to prison, newspapers closed, and Lyon became a federal inmate.  Lyon was hardly the most polite of Congressmen, but all that he had uttered and published negatively regarding the Adams Administration fell within the bounds of the First Amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Federalists who supported the Sedition Act of 1798 mistook partisanship for treason and trampled upon the First Amendment.  Lyon had argued in a letter to Spooner’s Vermont Journal that the allegedly power-hungry president had “swallowed up” “every consideration of public welfare.”  He had written this letter prior to July 14, 1798, so the legal principle of ex post facto protected him prior to the date that Adams signed the Sedition Act into law.  After the law had gone into effect, however, Lyon repeated those charges repeatedly and added more criticisms of Adams and the Federalist majorities in Congress (such as that Adams fostered “ridiculous pomp, foolish adulation, and selfish avarice” and Congress should send the President to a mad house).  The federal indictment (October 5, 1798) accused Lyon of having “malicious intent to bring the President and the government of the United States into contempt.”  The verdict was guilty.  Lyon went on to win reelection from his prison cell.

Alas, Jefferson was not a paragon of virtue with regard to freedom of the press.  Although he, as Vice President, opposed the Sedition Act of 1798, which expired in 1801, he encouraged partisans to use similar state laws against Federalist critics of himself and of his administration.  There was, for example, People v. Croswell (1804), which targeted Harry Croswell (1778-1858), editor of The Wasp, a Federalist newspaper in Hudson, New York.  Croswell was openly critical of President Jefferson.  Croswell lost that case, in which the prosecution convicted him of having committed both libel and sedition.  The editor kept losing libel lawsuits.  In 1814 he left journalism for the Episcopal priesthood.

The unfortunate tendency to confuse the presidential administration for the nation-state has recurred frequently, drawing support from the “rally around the flag” mentality.  Resurgence of this confusion in the form of jingoism has been especially egregious during times of war, whether declared or otherwise.  During World War I, for example, the federal government sent some antiwar activists to prison not for inciting violence, but for inciting nonviolence.  Associate Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., disappointingly, compared the rhetoric of nonviolence during time of war to yelling “fire” in a crowded theater.  “My country, right or wrong” has never impressed me, for as the great Voltaire wrote,

It is dangerous to be right when the government is wrong.

And, as the moralist Samuel Johnson observed,

Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.

Dissent is as American as the First Amendment.  That is a patriotic statement.  Those who enter public life should either have thick political skins already or grow them quickly.  President Harry Truman‘s maxim that those who want a friend in Washington, D.C., should bring a dog remains true much of the time.

I am convinced that another contributing factor to the identification of the administration with the nation-state is fear.  Out of fear individuals and institutions tend to trample people and ideals–even foundational principles.  A time of crisis, however, is properly a time to double down on acting in accordance with those foundational principles, such as freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and the fact that dissent is patriotic.  As Tom Dobbs, the character the late, great Robin Williams portrayed in Man of the Year (2006), said,

If dissent were unpatriotic, we would still be British.

I bristle whenever I read or hear someone accuse dissidents of being stupid at best or treasonous at worst.  One reason for my bristling is principled; I affirm that, in the words of The Use of Force in International Affairs (1961),

If what your country is doing seems to you practically and morally wrong, dissent is the highest form of patriotism.

What I think of the content of that dissent is irrelevant with regard to my estimate of the patriotism of the dissident.  Another reason is personal; I know the feeling of hearing and reading people question either my intelligence or my patriotism or both because of a political difference.  Dissent, however, is as American as the First Amendment.

Administrations come and go, but the United States of America persists.  The administration is not the nation-state.

As Martin Luther probably did not say,

Here I stand; I can do no other.

I will do no other.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 10, 2017 COMMON ERA

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I derived much material for this post from Geoffrey R. Stone, Perilous Times:  Free Speech in Wartime from the Sedition Act of 1798 to the War on Terrorism (New York, NY:  W. W. Norton and Company, 2004).

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