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One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors. -- Plato (429-347 BC)

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Lessons From Oregon Armed Takeover

Dr. Alan Keyes
by Dr. Alan Keyes: The actions of the armed men who took over the federal facility in Oregon look like a gift to those who seek to erase the Second Amendment. These men profess to be opponents of the U.S. government's tyrannous bid for overriding control of the states, respectively, and their people. But how have they themselves behaved? Did they act in response to a call for aid from the local people they profess to support? No. Rather like the elitist faction tyrants they reproach, they decided what was needed and acted as they saw fit, despite local reticence and even opposition.

Those responsible for the takeover have surrendered the natural advantages protesters had during the confrontation in Nevada that brought the Bundy family to national attention. In that episode, the Bundy family stood on their home ground, hallowed as such by long custom and usage. They stood on their own rights, rather than seeking to dictate right action to others. But whatever ignorant or malicious media coverage is wont to suggest, the armed action in Oregon has little or nothing to do with the duty of the militia as America's founders experienced, practiced, and constitutionally respected it.

The basis of the Constitution's understanding of the militia is the God-endowed right of self-preservation. This right is what authorizes people to stand in defense of their home ground and God-endowed rights. Their right in this respect is not a matter of abstract ideological passion. It has to do with the existential duty to stand in defense of what threatens the community to which one belongs, be it the family or the association of people in defense of their neighborhood, district, or state.

Indicative of the constitutional militia's proper existential basis is the fact that the well-regulated militia the Constitution provides for is marshaled and commanded by individuals who are either selected by grassroots people themselves, or in a manner determined by those the people choose to represent their locales in the state governments. This makes good in practice the principle of federalism, not just as an administrative structure, but according to its root signification, which references the good faith of those who respect their sworn duties connected with their responsibility for the safety and well-being of the community they constitute.

But most important of all, from a constitutional perspective, the Constitution's understanding of a well-regulated militia is that it consists of people who are not supposed to be at odds with the constitutional government of the nation, but are ready to defend it, against foreign and domestic foes, when called upon to do so pursuant to the Constitution of the United States.

In the Oregon situation, those actually victimized by the alleged injustice of the U.S. government's officials appear conscious of the fact that they have broken a law made pursuant to the Constitution's provisions. So, in a classic instance of civil disobedience, they have chosen to accept the resulting penalties they believe, with apparent good reason, were vindictively sought against them. By their action they bear peaceful, sacrificial witness against the unjust intent and motives of the U.S. government's prosecution of their case.

Their stand is not so much against the law as against officials who have shown no regard for the fair dealing that ought to characterize the actions of a government that supposedly represents the people affected by official actions. Officials of such a government should strive faithfully to respect the right intentions of the people whose consent is, in principle and fact, the basis for the just powers they wield.

I think the Hammonds are right in thinking that, in their case, the U.S. government did not act in such good faith. But, the essential statement of America's creed reminds us that respect for the common good ought to lead people to "suffer while evils are sufferable," even when they are unfairly treated. Such patience helps to keep disputes from always inclining toward physical combat.

This is especially important in our present circumstances. An arrogant faction holding considerable power is engaged in a studied assault against our whole way of life. The issues at stake are matters of profound principle. They rise to such a level that people who care about our nation must realize that there is a fundamental threat to our liberty, one as much liable to cause civil conflict as the issue of slavery was in the 19th century.

But the more they are impressed with this possibility, the more the good people of the United States ought to prefer the path of reasoned persuasion, attempted in light of the founding premises of our nation, premises steeped in reverence for the authority of the Creator, God. His provisions for human justice are a far better arbiter than the first resort to arms. The path they open is more likely to prevent warlike civil combat, so long as we strive first of all to use the political powers the Constitution leaves in our hands.

This ought to be our first and most persistent inclination. That way, if and when the enemies of our liberty force us into battle, our own behavior will have demonstrated the just good will that impels us, by all means, to stand against their violent actions. Our self-restraint will also refute the slanderous lie that the dutiful individual rights the Second Amendment protects are simply a source of danger to our county.

The real danger with respect to the Second Amendment arises from the constitutional dereliction of our elected government officials. They have abandoned the Constitution's respect for the people's duty to participate in the defense of their home ground. They have refused to adapt the constitutional militia system so as to deal with 21st century threats. They have been blind to the fact that citizens encouraged regularly to organize themselves to fulfill their Second Amendment duties are the most likely means of assuring that conspiratorial terrorists or deranged individuals alike will find an environment in the United States wherein every potential target is a hard target, because there are individuals in every locale willing and regularly well-disciplined to make it so.
Dr. Alan Keyes served as Assistant Secretary of State for International Organizations and as Ambassador to the United Nations Economic and Social Council under President Ronald Reagan. He ran for president in 1996, 2000, and 2008, and was a Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate from Maryland in 1988 and 1992, in addition to his 2004 candidacy in Illinois against Democrat Barack Obama. He provided this article to the ARRA News Service and shared it at Renew America; he blogs at

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