Sic Semper Tyrranis

Supposedly, when the conspirators were burying their daggers into Julius Caesar’s breast, Marcus Junius Brutus declared, “Sic semper tyrranis!”  This is often translated as “Death to tyrants!”, a phrase resonant with Americans, whose nation was born by dissolving the political bands forged by the tyrant George III.  For America, “Death to tyrants!” is a call to arms, an imperative for one and all to cut the head from the serpent with the implication that death is a tyrant’s due.  True, it has proven to be a double-edged sword, especially when every and anybody can decide who a tyrant is as was evident when John Wilkes Booth shouted the phrase after assassinating Abraham Lincoln, but it is a notion that lies deep in the heart of the American soul.

However, “Sic semper tyrranis!” is more closely translated as “Thus ever to tyrants,” which I maintain could also be seen as a descriptive statement.  Brutus, after all, was merely pointing out what was taking place before his eyes, and we know that death isn’t always “ever thus with tyrants.”  In fact, I saw firsthand how it usually is for tyrants when Wisconsin governor Scott Walker recently took measures to limit the success of protesters at the Wisconsin state capitol. 

After a week of thousands of peaceful protesters swarming the capitol, Walker announced new measures that, taken together, clearly were designed to impede the ability of protesters to get into the building, lessen their numbers, and shut them off from the outside world.  I described these measures to some of Walker’s supporters, and in spite of their libertarian leanings, they began justifying his behavior.  More pointedly, they actually made Walker’s decisions, taken individually, seem like reasonable measures to ensure public safety.  That’s when I got a glimpse inside the machinery of tyranny.  I’m not claiming here that Walker is a tyrant.  I’m merely saying that I saw how tyranny works by the ease with which one can rationalize most any behavior, regardless of how transparent its ulterior motives. 

It seems to me, then, that it isn’t accurate to always see “Thus ever to tyrants” as “Death to tyrants.”  More often, “Thus ever to tyrants” is to defend a tyrant’s most egregious actions as being in a nation’s best interest.  Until the people who excuse tyrants get sick and tired of their own attenuated lot in life, tyrants will continue to consolidate wealth and power, stealing it from us, the people, as we smile and thank them for their kindness and concern.

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4 Responses to Sic Semper Tyrranis

  1. policomic says:

    “He’s right! Give us hell, Quimby!”

    We some strange and contradictory ideas about authority in this country. Right now, the people shouting the loudest about tyranny are, by and large, the same people who are prone to worship demagogues like Walker. “Somebody’s got to get tough,” they like to say, and “rein in Big Government.” Hooray for tough-guy political bullies, down with “the government.”

    But wait a minute. Aren’t WE “the government”? Isn’t that what they used to tell us in Civics class? Isn’t that what Lincoln meant when he talked government of, by, and for the people?

    It would be naive to think that there is in fact no gap between “we, the people,” and our elected representatives and unelected bureaucrats. But it is the ideal we are supposed to cherish, and, I think, the one that should guide our participation, whether that means voting, writing letters, or protesting: the government is US.

    It’s good to remember that when Walker, or Kasich, or Michigan’s Snyder, or Sarah Palin, or Newt Gingrich, or Haley Barbour, or Rush Limbaugh badmouth “the government,” they are really attacking us. When Reagan said “government is the problem,” he was saying “you people are the problem.” And the unspoken corollary to that idea is, “you people have messed this up–let ME run things.”

    Got a problem with the way your representatives vote? Fine–let them know. Don’t like a candidate? Fine–vote for a different candidate. Disapprove of the actions of your representatives? Fine–tell them so; use your First Amendment rights to speak and to assemble, like those tens of thousands have been doing in Wisconsin, Ohio, and Michigan. But being against “the government” shows a basic misunderstanding of the founding principles of this nation you supposedly revere. And applauding the “get tough” tactics of thugs like Walker is begging for the kind of unaccountable tyranny we supposedly rejected in 1776.

  2. Dix Steele says:

    I found this definition of Teabagger on the web courtesy of the Urban Dictionary:

    “A misinformed, right-wing corporate media consumer who often fails to understand that BOTH major parties represent a corrupt plutocracy that steals from the middle class by taxing labor and profiting from corporate tax subsidies.

    “A teabagger also often fails to acknowledge that George W. Bush and his neo-conservative minions perpetrated one of the boldest and most egregious executive power grabs in the history of the United States. Furthermore, teabaggers mistakenly continue to blame a newly elected President Obama for all that ails the United States of America, based on a grossly flawed perception of reality (including latent racial prejudice) and despite the fact the U.S. economy collapsed on the previous administration’s watch.

    “Teabaggers are also known to base their misguided, right-wing-media-inspired beliefs about President Obama on stupid conspiracy theories about totalitarian takeovers, FEMA camps, etc., despite the fact these very same theories have been circulating around on the Internet for years, and were originally ascribed to neo-conservative cabalists at a time when Barack Obama had not even entered national politics. Teabaggers also are known to be particularly paranoid, xenophobic and intolerant, especially with regard to immigrants and anyone who isn’t white.

    “Additionally, teabaggers generally echo stupid myths about entitlement spending (it actually only accounts for about 1% of federal budget spending), have no idea that most poor people in America are not lazy, actually do work and don’t want to be on welfare, and have no idea what socialism actually means or that socialist reform in this country is actually what allowed a middle class to flourish and ultimately make the U.S. one of the most prosperous nations in human history.

    “Furthermore, teabaggers incorrectly equate socialism with Stalinism, think a system that rewards greed (capitalism) is the divine preference (despite Gospel evidence to the contrary), and are shameless champions of a misguided belief in American exceptionalism. Teabaggers also fail to recognize the inherently unpatriotic nature of their failed every-man-for-himself ideology that ultimately vilifies anyone who supports public policy aimed at reaching out to fellow Americans in need. They celebrate an exploitative corporatocracy (holy creator of jobs, blah blah blah) while denigrating the little guy for being “weak.”

    “Interestingly, teabaggers uphold an immoral, morbidly obese, twice divorced, draft-dodging, college dropout and known drug addict as their de facto leader, and are even known to advocate burning books. Of course, teabaggers fail to recognize the blatant hypocrisy within the GOP and tend to oversimplify all political debate and social issues, much like their pseudo-intellectual, fat-ass leader.

    “Finally, incredibly, teabaggers fail to recognize the hysterical double entendre associated with their proudly adopted teabag moniker.

    “Every village has its idiots, of course, but it’s sad when citizens of any nation allow themselves to be whipped into a frenzy en masse by a state-run propaganda machine masquerading as a legitimate, fair, balanced and independent news organization. Teabaggers are right to believe the future of the U.S.A. is in jeopardy, but sadly they have not yet correctly identified the real enemy. Perhaps when teabaggers finally grow up and mature into thinking adults, they will see the right-leaning power establishment for the oppressive and cunning beast that it is.

    “Teabagger: We don’t care that George Bush tripled the deficit and lied us into a war. The new administration only cut taxes for 90% of the population… fascists. Let’s go throw some Lipton tea bags into a fountain!”

  3. chaszak says:

    The poster on the Urban Dictionary clearly has an ax or two to grind. The people I was describing would subscribe to neither Republican nor Democratic, and probably not even “Teabagger” (I thought that’s what opponents called them to make fun of them).

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