Whatever happened to “the consent of the governed”?

Militias like these Bundy folks in Oregon are always talking about how they want to take America back to whatever they imagine its founders intended. Their group calls itself “Citizens for Constitutional Freedom,” for example, and Ammon Bundy apparently thinks he’s the new George Washington. My question is, have any of these people ever read the Declaration of Independence?

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

Now, I realize that Ammon Bundy doesn’t govern anybody, least of all the people of Burns, Oregon. But the issue of “consent” is important nonetheless–and in this case, Bundy doesn’t have any:

[Bundy] sat on the second row from the top as County Judge Steve Grasty, microphone in hand, strode to the foot of that bleacher section.

“It is time for you to go home,” Grasty said to Bundy, vowing to meet with Bundy anytime,  anyplace – outside of Harney County.

A chant then grew in the gymnasium: “Go, go, go, go, go.”

That was a message Bundy heard repeatedly through the evening, one he once vowed to heed. He sat expressionless, making no move to respond or to comment.

But the audience of perhaps 300 people had plenty to say, and it seemed the cork had come out of the county.

One woman said she appreciated the attention Bundy has brought to rural issues but told him, “Get the hell out of my county.”

Another man gestured at Bundy and gave him the same message.

“Are you happy you did this to our community?” he said.

Another woman, shaking in anger, called out Bundy for the fear he’s caused in local schools, which closed for a week after the occupation began. She yelled across the gym at him, telling him to leave and “go to jail where you deserve to be!”

The Bundy crew have also been pretending to care about the concerns of the local Native American Paiute tribe, who have responded by telling the Bundy crowd to leave them alone. These people live in Burns, and they want Bundy and company to pack up and get out. Does that not matter? Shouldn’t they get a say? As Bundy and his pals pretend to be leading a revolution to save the rest of us from a tyrannical federal government, don’t we get the opportunity to consent–or not–to letting them represent us? To letting them bring their movement into our communities?

I guess not, because Bundy and his people aren’t leaving Burns even though they’re not wanted there. The lure of all those TV cameras and reporters standing up for their principles, which apparently don’t include anything about consent, must be too strong. I ask these questions not just because of the Bundy situation, but because something similar may now be happening in Flint, Michigan:

A group of vigilantes has vowed to take up arms to defend the city’s residents. During a rally in front of City Hall, an executive officer for the Genesee County Volunteer Militia announced the group is “not going to allow [the government] to step on the people of Flint any longer.”

“We’re here to defend this community,” said Matthew Krol, who was joined by approximately 30 supporters. The Detroit Free Press reported that the group carried “Don’t Tread On Me” signs and some of its members had pistols. “We’re not going to allow (the government) to step on the people of Flint any longer.”

So far, the group has passed out bottles of water alongside the Red Cross. But the militia has also promised to use armed defense if necessary.

Armed defense against…whom? Are they going to fire bullets into the polluted Flint River? Do they imagine that some malign government force is on its way to conquer Flint after having softened it up with the water thing? Does it matter if the people of Flint want to be “defended” from, well, whatever, by these people? Or is it all about what the militia wants and to hell with everybody else? Because I don’t know about you, but that attitude seems kind of tyrannical to me.

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3 thoughts on “Whatever happened to “the consent of the governed”?

  1. The federal government does a lot of “protecting us” without our consent, too. Starting wars, bombing campaigns, spying on us, torturing people, when we never got a say in the matter.

    1. Elections are consent, and unfortunately all those things you’ve listed have polled well at one time or another (some still do). I’m not going to argue that we don’t need to work on making our system better and more representative, but I don’t remember the Bundys holding a vote in Burns before they showed up. They’re not even pretending to care whether or not they’re wanted.

      1. I hold the Naderites responsible for a chunk of that “war and torture” thing. Republicans do what Republicans do and we have systems in place to keep that sort of thing in check, but it’s difficult to guard against kamikaze attacks that pop up at random every thirty years or so. Contradictions get heightened, hundreds of thousands of people die in agony, but the Naderites (and their ilk) never get swept into power by the Righteous Outpouring of the People in their Wrath.

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