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April 05, 2005

Quotes on Violent Intimidation of Government Leaders

Let me be clear-- I am no fan of violence and think even when done in the name of justice, it leads to tyranny and injustice. But the fact is that many thinkers and leaders have justified violence as an important tool to keep government leaders in line. In Voltarian fashion, I don't like Senator Cornyn's particular examples of supposedly liberty-inspired violence, but I defend his right to make the argument.

Thomas Jefferson argued explicitly for the usefulness of intimidating government leaders through violence: "When the government fears the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny."

Or look at the following quotations, starting with Justice William Douglas:

"The use of violence as an instrument of persuasion is therefore inviting and seems to the discontented to be the only effective protest...where grievances pile high and most of the elected spokesmen represent the Establishment, violence may be the only effective response." -- William O. Douglas

"The oppressed should rebel, and they will continue to rebel and raise disturbance until their civil rights are fully restored to them and all partial distinctions, exclusions and incapacitations are removed." --Thomas Jefferson

"People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf." -George Orwell

"Violence is as American as cherry pie." -- H. Rap Brown

"It is organized violence on top which creates individual violence at the bottom. It is the accumulated indignation against organized wrong, organized crime, organized injustice, which drives the political offender to act." -- Emma Goldman

In that long tradition, Cornyn's quotes are hardly some bizarro aberration but are squarely in the tradition of noting that political tyranny breeds violent response. And no, Emma Goldman, H. Rap Brown and even Thomas Jefferson were not speaking in calm academic terms but with a tone to put political leaders a bit on edge for their personal safety if they allowed injustice to continue.

Posted by Nathan at April 5, 2005 09:02 PM