“Whoever incites, sets on foot, assists, or engages in any rebellion or insurrection against the authority of the United States or the laws thereof, or gives aid or comfort thereto, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.” 18 U.S. Code § 2383
America is a nation of laws and the majority of Americans are law abiding. We believe in right and wrong. We also believe that the purpose of law and government is to further the former and punish the latter. Life and property cannot be protected if criminals are allowed to prosper. Liberty cannot be preserved thru chaos. The pursuit of happiness fails if no one is assigned to keep the peace.
The word “rebellion” does not always have a positive connotation, but I suppose that usually depends on which side you are on. For instance, the British called the American colonists rebels because we opposed being their subjects without basic human rights. And the American North called the American South rebels when they seceded from the Union in order to protect the business of slavery. And today, the barbaric Islamist extremists all over the Middle East are called rebels because they oppose the authority of any government that is not Sharia, as well as the right of anyone to exist who is not Muslim or “Muslim enough”. So, in some cases rebellion began in order to protect basic human rights, and in others it began to take them away. So, this begs the question: can the pursuit of rebellion ever be noble? Can rebellion ever take peaceful forms?
I believe that acts of rebellion can be noble, if it furthers the protection of human life, the protection of personal property, the protection of personal liberty, and the protection of one’s ability to seek their happiness. The American Revolution began with these seeds of truth: the dignity of the human condition and the value given to it by God made it worthy enough to fight for it. Unfortunately, fighting for this truth and the protection of natural rights has historically been more bloody than peaceful. There always seems to be a violent force fighting against that which God Himself deemed as “very good”, and therefore sadly, requires an equally violent response to stop it. While there have been cases of more peaceful rebellions- a.k.a. civil disobedience- in which more violence was perpetrated by those seeking to quash the peaceful rebellion that those actually pursuing it (as in the Women’s Suffrage and Civil Rights movements), these have been more the rarity than the norm.
It is man who has always been engaged in rebellion against our God-given natural right of equality to each other. Man has always sought power and domination through the ages, and unfortunately, sometimes government easily lends itself to the perpetration of this if not watched carefully and held to account early. Under the Constitution, the American people assigned a group of men and women to keep the peace, to protect life and property, and to ensure that government gets out of the way of an individual’s pursuit of happiness. This is the ultimate purpose of our Constitutional government, and as a nation we are unique in that the majority of Americans still see our government as one that should be subservient to us. It is not there to tell us what to do. It is not there to protect us from ourselves. It is not there to further what a small band of citizens in Des Moines or DC deem to be the common good at the expense of others. It is there to further what the individual deems as his or her personal good. You see, our Constitution was written with the individual in mind, not the collective. If our government continues to try to distort the plain meaning of its words in order to overthrow this document’s legal authority, if it continues to use its power to punish those that try to hold them accountable to the same laws the rest of us must follow, and if it continues to give aid and comfort to those who enable the same, then one must ask: who now is truly engaging in rebellion?
“There are two potential violators of man’s rights: the criminals and the government. The great achievement of the United States was to draw a distinction between these two — by forbidding to the second the legalized version of the activities of the first.” ~ Ayn Rand (1905-1982) from her 1963 essay, Man’s Rights