It occured to me the other day, as I browsed, that most people in the United States have a fundamental difficulty … a blind spot, if you will… when it comes to understanding the conflict we are engaged in.
Some of you, I trust, are familiar with the Gadsden flag of the Revolutionary War period:
The rattlesnake flag was apparently very popular, giving rise to several variations.
One of those variations was the first US naval flag, the Navy Jack:
The slogan, in turn, has been used in broadsides and posters, and now can be seen on bumperstickers and T-shirts. Almost any literate American will recognize the sentiment as part of our heritage, in some wise or another.
That sentiment is quintessentially American. Leave us alone. Let us make our decisions, believe as we wish to, live as we choose to. Let us BE.
Now, not all Americans think that we have been left alone. There are all manner of people, across the political spectrum, who think that they’re not being allowed the freedom to be make their own choices. Some are, perhaps, more accurate in their perceptions than others. But for the moment, let’s just note that all these pundits appeal to the same notion: that people are being subjected to some kind of interference with their freedom. That they are being denied their rights by some interfering busybody.
As philosophies go, this is not exactly the stuff of empire. It is hard, in fact, to imagine a LESS “imperialist” philosophy. The “Don’t Tread on Me” meme does not thunder for the inevitable expansion of the US. It doesn’t call for hegemony, dominion, or conquest. It does not call on its adherents to subscribe to the One True Way. The “Don’t Tread On Me” meme is a call to be free of interference, a call to make choices freely, in accordance with people’s personal beliefs.
That notion is, to put it gently, highly unusual. Throughout most of history, societies taught their people that some group had a right to intrude on others’ lives, to order them about, for their own good. Whether this authority derived from naked force, or governmental needs, or religious mandate, this belief system ultimately held that Someone Knew Best… and if you weren’t Someone, you had to bend to the will of those who Knew Best.
That’s not our way. Even as we accede to a government presence in our lives, there is the deep-seated, quiet belief that we have a right to be left to our own beliefs, to choose for ourselves. Few things make us more restive than the notion that we will be compelled by force of law to follow someone else’s religious or philosophical beliefs.
But now, that assertion is being challenged by our enemies. And make no mistake; these are not opponents at debate, but enemies. We are challenged by people who believe that we have no right to behave as we choose. These people believe that we must all submit to the will of their God… whether we like it or not.
These enemies are convinced They Know Best. They are convinced that they are righteous in their actions… blessed as they killed innocent women and children.
They Know Best, and we have no right to do anything else but submit. Let us alone, while they live by their beliefs? Not a chance. They Know Best.
In such straits, discussions of “root causes” miss the point. Calls to “walk a mile in THEIR shoes” are misinformed.
We are not in a debate with people who wish to live, and let live.
We are faced with people who are bent on making us submit to THEIR beliefs.
We want to be let be. Our enemies want our subjugation, our obedience.
I note, with some satisfaction, that the US Navy is now flying the Revolutionary era Navy Jack, which bears the rattlesnake, and the American wish…
Don’t Tread On Me.