Americans have more freedom and broader rights than citizens of almost any other nation in the world, including the capacity to criticize their government and their elected officials. But we do not have the right to resort to violence — or the threat of violence — when we don’t get our way. Our founders constructed a system of government so that reason could prevail over fear. Oklahoma City proved once again that without the law there is no freedom.As some are evidently still confused about the proposition that states claim the sole legitimate use of force, here is Bill Clinton ably demonstrating the exact nature of this claim. We do not have any right to resort to violence, nor yet the threat of violence. As proof, he reminds us that competing claims to legitiamte violent recourse will be crushed by the state's instruments of coercive violence.
Criticism is part of the lifeblood of democracy. No one is right all the time. But we should remember that there is a big difference between criticizing a policy or a politician and demonizing the government that guarantees our freedoms and the public servants who enforce our laws.
We are again dealing with difficulties in a contentious, partisan time. We are more connected than ever before, more able to spread our ideas and beliefs, our anger and fears. As we exercise the right to advocate our views, and as we animate our supporters, we must all assume responsibility for our words and actions before they enter a vast echo chamber and reach those both serious and delirious, connected and unhinged.
Civic virtue can include harsh criticism, protest, even civil disobedience. But not violence or its advocacy. That is the bright line that protects our freedom. It has held for a long time, since President George Washington called out 13,000 troops in response to the Whiskey Rebellion.
-America's First Black President
On the other hand, I'm a bit bemused by: "Oklahoma City proved once again that without the law there is no freedom." Proved it how exactly? There are some understandable, if weak, claims that law backed by coercive force is necessary in order to protect citizen-subjects from the greater infringements of the Hobbesian all-against-all state of nature that would obtain [IOZ: it would not necessarily obtain] in the absence of government. The minor infringement of municipal police force prevent the greater infringements of epidemic purse-snatching, or what have you. Like I said, these are weak claims, but they cohere and they have an internal logic. On the other hand, Timothy McVeigh's attack did not occur in a lawless environment. I mean, it was plainly a violation of extant laws; it was clearly illegal. How that is dispositive evidence of the inextricable link between law and liberty is beyond me. If a deranged violent criminal breaks into your home and slaughters your family, then does that also prove an equation of law and liberty? There is, literally, Joe Biden, no logical connection between Oklahoma City, the law, and "freedom." Like, instead of saying, "If A, then B, and if B, then C; thus therefore if A and B, then C," Bill Clinton is saying, "If A, then Cow, and if Cow, then Blammo!; thus therefore 10." Well, I mean, okay, Groucho. The party of the first part shall be known in this contract as the party of the first part.
What Oklahoma City teaches is that claims to the unique legitimate right to exercise violence are not the same as an actual monopoly on violence, and that those who reject the uniqueness claim may come to exercise what they too believe to be legitimate force. This, by the way, is why the state's interlocutors persistently call terrorism an "existential threat." It is not actually a crisis of existence, but a frightening legal challenge. Think of al Qeda et al. not as "militants," but as trust busters.