This delightful bit of video has conservatives in arms. “Government is the only thing we all belong to.” Really? Were you people asleep in high school American History? I don’t belong to the government, the government belongs to me. That’s what the whole Revolutionary War was about: the consent of the governed and the right of the people to dissolve the government when it failed to do its job.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”
I will admit I was prepared to go all blog ragey and start quoting John Locke and Abraham Lincoln and Patrick Henry. (Seriously, is there a better line in all speechdom than “Give me liberty or give me death!”? No, I think not.)
But then it occurred to me, the creators of this video and those who agree with this statement and similar ones–for example, “government is just another name for the things we do together”–have made a simple, but very important mistake. They’ve confused “government” for “the nation.” Bless their hearts.
Yes, we are united as Americans. We do all go to different churches, clubs, schools, et cetera, but we all belong to the same nation. But “nation” is not synonymous with “government.” Government is a tool of the nation, and the tool no more owns the nation than a hammer owns the carpenter.
For example, the nation uses the tool of government to provide justice. Citizens of the nation establish government institutions like courts and law enforcement agencies to administer justice. But the definition of justice and the powers given to those instruments comes from the consent of the people. The nation uses the tool of government to provide for defense–growing when the threat is imminent and shrinking when the threat is eliminate. But the establishment and the mission of that defense comes from the consent of the people.
Now I realize because we do have a representative government, it can be hard to grasp this concept. But the people vote for the tools, er government officials, and those government officials do what the people tell them. If they’re good little tools, they will most likely get voted in again to do more things the nation tells them.
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Now I will admit, we no longer have a toolbox of hammers and saws, but rather over-sized power tools looking for any project to make themselves relevant,even if it’s the size of your soda. Take for example the chainsaw of federal regulations.
But I digress. The point is that the thing we all belong to is the nation of the United States of America. The government belongs to us, not the other way around. To borrow a phrase, the government serves at the pleasure of the people. One can belong to the nation and dislike or even loathe the government. Patriotism, that is love of country, has nothing to do with agreement with or appreciation of the government.
So now, dear misguided people, you are set straight. We are all citizens of the same country and all belong to the United States of America, and the government, which is our tool, will do our bidding or face the consequences.*
*Note: by consequences, I mean nothing sinister or violent. I mean simply the orderly transition of power via the means of election which is another delightful characteristic of this great nation of ours. Or as Clint said, “When somebody does not do the job, we got to let them go.”