So You Say You Want a Revolution?

by Luna Flesher

A significant percentage of conservatives seem ready for a revolution. They are mad as hell, and aren't going to take it anymore. They carry guns to town hall meetings. They wave Gadsden flags.  They wistfully evoke memories of historical 1776. They quote Jefferson about the evils of tyranny and the need for blood.

I listened to a man named Dominick call into Michael Medved this week.  Medved had on polling expert Frank Luntz, who found 76% of Americans describe themselves as "mad as hell".  Though most of those are not necessarily conservatives or the Tea Party set, 3% of Americans are like Dominick -- outraged enough to revolt.

The recent 9-12 Tea Party march on DC had a disproportionate number of those people.  This enlightening video interview gives us some idea of what they're so angry about:

Certain members of the media seem perfectly willing to stoke the fire. Yes, I'll name names. Fox News. Glenn Beck. Rush Limbaugh. Michael Savage. They not only perpetuate the myths that make people feel their liberty and lives are in serious danger, but often come just short of actual calls to violence. They do so in a way that gives them plausible deniablity, so that they can feign innocence. But should disaster strike (as it already has to a limited extent), they are in every way as responsible as someone who shouts "Fire!" in a crowded theater.

I used to be one of that 3%, long before it was popular with anyone to be so.

I felt oppressed. I own such books as, "101 Things To Do 'til the Revolution".  Though I never got around to reading them, I planned all sorts of activist activities to spread the word. I thought of provocative slogans, like "Dan Rather is a Commie", and "You Are A Welfare Slave".  I plotted methods for organizing fellow revolters into anonymous cells similar in organization to ELF, but with additional rules against harming property or people.

And should it have come to firing actual weapons at the Government, I was ready to do that, too.

So I understand the anger, but at the same time feel ashamed to admit I was once one of them. Because now, I realize what a terrible, horrible thing a violent revolution would be.

Like Dominick, I had not fully thought through my vision. I assumed we would dodge some bullets, raise up the fallen as martyrs, defeat the military, and then simply kick the bastards out.  Everyone would see the error of their ways, and the country would return to the Constitutional libertarian liassez faire utopia the Founding Fathers intended.

But that isn't what the Founders intended.  Yes, Jefferson may have written about the benefits of periodic revolution. But he also co-wrote a much more important document: The Constitution.

The Founders foresaw the many power struggles that our society would face. They implanted ingenious checks and balances to keep too much power from collecting in one place. They designed it so that if any group or individual got out of control, another side or organization or societal force would be motivated and have the power to step in and change things.

In my studies of history, I'd say they succeeded remarkably well.  Yes, I think things are a little out of whack. Certainly if I were Queen of the World for a day, I would make some drastic changes.  But they didn't design America to be run by me alone. Or you alone. Or Glenn Beck. Certainly, they didn't design it to be run by which ever group was the most angry and had the most guns.

When the Constitution says, "We the People", it doesn't just mean you and your opinion.  It means all people, all our opinions, everyone's motives.  Consensus, the sum desires of an entire nation. Certainly the Tea Party people don't want the extreme left overthrowing the government to set up Communism... That would be treason. It would go against the will of the majority of Americans.

So likewise to conservatives and libertarians!

So let's think this through for a second.  What happens when a flawed, but otherwise stable government gets toppled by angry revolutionaries demanding liberty?  We get a great nation like the United States, just like in 1776, right?

Rarely. Let's look at history. France revolted against their aristocratic tyranny shortly after we won our victory. What they ended up with, after lots of blood, was a ruthless dictator, Napoleon Bonaparte.

In 1917, Russia overturned a long line of Czars. They tried to install a government that would bring freedom and justice for all.  Unfortunately, no one could quite agree on what that meant, so the great country quickly devolved into civil war. The "Reds", aka Bolsheviks, aka Communists, won.  That's when Vladimir Lenin established the Soviet Union.

In 1905, the people of Persia (now Iran) got tired of oppression, and after a 6 year conflict, toppled their corrupt dynasty. They implemented a constitution, parliament, and a Shah.  But that didn't work out so well, because 60 years later, they were still tired of oppression, and started another revolution in 1979. This time, it was lead by a religious leader who promised freedom. Instead, they got a near-total oppression that lasts to this day.

I could go on with dozens of historical examples of revolutions gone wrong. If they fail, all revolutionaries are executed and the tyrannical grip tightens to prevent future revolts. When they succeed, the people win an even worse totalitarianist state to replace the old one.

Yes, there have been a few successful revolutions that ended with a better life.  Yet no revolution has been as successful as the American Revolution.  We realistically have no chance of improving upon that.  Do we really want to mess with what is comparatively a decent government?

We could only make it worse.

Violent revolution should be reserved for true tyranny. In 1776, we were being oppressed by a distant king who had ultimate power over the colonies. There were no elected representatives to speak for the people.

But now we have elected representatives. You may not feel they speak for you. And you are probably right. They are influenced by all kinds of forces. They are often not doing the right thing. But sometimes they are. And there are many peaceful methods that actually work to change things, to increase the influence of oppressed groups and individuals. The process may be slow, but it works as assuredly as the Colorado River still carves the Grand Canyon.

How do I know this? Because again, I study history.

It is easy to imagine a steady climb towards one extreme or another. Perhaps you feel the 1780's were a magical utopia of unfettered freedom, moral leadership, and honest Presidents who always did the right thing.

But an honest look at history shows they had the same problems we have. Lawmakers ignored the Constitution. Politicians lied. Officials became corrupt. Merchants got kickbacks. Parties committed vote fraud. Yes, even vote fraud.

America hasn't always ramped steadily towards godlessness, either. In fact, the most secular time in this country was the early 19th Century, just before the Second Great Awakening.

This isn't anywhere near the most socialist time in our history. During the first part of the 20th century, Socialism was considered legitimate and desirable. Many elected leaders were openly socialist.  By the 1970's, the top marginal tax rate was 70%. During, and for two decades after World War II, it was 91%!

A close look at history shows our country's politics are like a pendulum. Actually more like a Spirograph, with a pen wildly spinning in all directions. Just as it's about to get too extreme, people push back, and the pen starts its swing too far in the other direction.

Obviously no one, not even the filthy rich, have an income tax as high as 90% any more. It's 35% at its highest rate. So what happened?

Democracy worked, that's what happened. The Constitution did its job. The Founders of this nation came through for us. It worked before, and it will work again.

Peaceful revolution has more power than you can imagine. Remember the 1960's?

Granted, a few of those protesters got violent. In fact, conservatives to this day revile them, naming them terrorists. The Weather Underground, for example, believed nothing but violence could change the government, which they believed was unjustly killing innocent people in Vietnam.  They used bombs and caused a lot of damage to buildings, though they avoided killing any people. The group disbanded when a bomb-making accident killed three of their own number.

Ironically, President Obama was criticized during the elections for associating with Bill Ayes, a former member of this group.  Yet now some conservatives want to emulate Ayers' behavior?

Do we really want to live in a country where force is law? Where who ever has the most munitions and the will to use them get to run the show?

The Founding Fathers didn't believe so. They knew that that way lead to anarchy and eventual tyranny. They believed we should petition the government for redress. That we should exercise free assembly, and freedom of press, and freedom of speech. They believed we should vote. It's all there, in the Constitution.  And yes, we were given the right to bear arms, but no where does it say we are allowed to shoot rightfully elected leaders who (by and large) follow due process, just because we disagree with them or "feel" threatened.

The Beatles said, "You say you want a revolution / we all want to change the world / but when you talk about destruction / don't you know that you can count me out." The Beatles should know what they were talking about, because they were one of many inspirations during one of the biggest revolutions our country has seen.  While a few groups in the 1960's got violent, the majority remained peaceful. They affected enormous change to free oppressed peoples and end injustices.

In fact, those who started riots, set off bombs, or shot at innocent people detracted from the cause of civil rights and anti-war protesters!  It marginalized the entire movement. It gave their political opponents (just about everyone in government, both right and left) justification to ignore, and sometimes even "fire back"at non-violent protesters.

Jefferson has gotten his tree of liberty refreshed periodically.  It just hasn't required much blood. The Civil Rights movement is one of the more extreme examples, but every generation or two has fought in a struggle to overthrow some oppression or injustice, and every time, they have succeeded in giving that Spirograph pen a good shove in a different direction.

So to the Right, I say yes, march on Washington. Burn tea bags, hold up signs, chant, yell, kick and scream. But for the sake of America, with every ounce of love I hold for this great country, please, do not take this to the level of violence. Do not initiate force. I know you believe you live under tyranny, that nothing but killing will free you. But you are wrong.

If you get your wish and topple the government, it will only end in death, chaos, anarchy. The already-weakened US economy will collapse completely. When you find your visions of utopia are not identical to those of your compatriots, civil war will break out.  Infrastructure will be further damaged. There won't be enough jobs, fuel, electricity, or food.

Whatever rises out of those ashes will show you what real tyranny looks like.

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