Read this quote and see if you can guess who said these words, and which side of the political spectrum they represent:
“There is a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can't take part; you can't even passively take part, and you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you've got to make it stop. And you've got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you're free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!”
Does that sound like the sentiment of the Left or of the Right? No fair Googling!
Here’s a hint. That is an excerpt from Mario Savio’s speech on the steps of Sproul Hall during the Free Speech Movement at the Berkeley campus of the University of California in 1964. So it definitely comes at us from the Left.
But it could just as easily have come from today’s Proud Boys or from John Calhoun and his secessionist fire-breathers of the mid-19th Century.
Dissatisfaction with government is not unique to one political philosophy or another, it is not the sole province of the Left or the Right. To either side, “The Machine” can be a government they view as anathema to their interests.
And rightly so! The Declaration of Independence states in no uncertain terms, that government derives its just powers from the “consent of the governed."
This noble notion was first articulated in Magna Carta, in 1215, when King John of England was forced to abandon his claim to the Divine Right of Kings under pressure from a bunch of rebellious barons who didn’t consent to his heavy-handed excesses.
It is an imperative that has guided western political thought for centuries, right up to our own Revolution. It entrenches the idea of political dissent as a tool available to those who don’t consent. It is the cornerstone of free speech and the Bill of Rights.
That begs the question, how should the nation respond when a bunch of its citizens, regardless of political persuasion, don’t consent to how they are being governed?
King John would have certainly confiscated their property and had them put to the sword. But the United States is not King John.
It is an uncomfortable fact of life in a free society that dissent should not only be tolerated but encouraged as the natural leavening of our political system, regardless of whether it is the Left or the Right doing the dissenting.
Speeches, marches, demonstrations, sit-ins and every other form of political protest (short of firing on Ft. Sumter, of course) are what keeps our republic alive and growing. This is especially true when those expressions of dissent set The Machine’s teeth on edge and make it blow snot bubbles.
And this is also true when something you hear from anywhere on the political spectrum sets your own teeth on edge.
You, of course, are under no obligation to agree with something contrary to your own political thinking. But, in our pluralistic society, you are obligated to let all of those weird voices be heard. You are also free to call those dissenters commies or fascists or your pejorative of choice.
But you are not free to silence them.
We are so much better off living in a system that encourages political dissent than under a regime where God anoints the King and the King is answerable only to God.
Rod Miller can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org