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Oath Keepers’ Call for a Hot Civil War May Be Premature

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Oath Keepers Volunteers

Oath Keepers Volunteers

Fayetteville, AR – -( As the House of Representatives finally gets into serious motion investigating whether the executive branch has violated the law, members of a group that calls itself the Oath Keepers have declared that the United States is “on the verge of a HOT civil war.”

According to the group’s Twitter account, the country is in the same condition that we experienced in 1859, and Trump supporters will not accept his removal from office through the process of impeachment. One member of the group, “AlkireMike,” said that if Trump calls them out, he will have an army at his disposal, adding the congressional actions to “an uprising of radical Islamic terrorists in this country” as examples of things that the Oath Keepers will not tolerate.

The Oath Keepers identify themselves as current or former members of the military or law enforcement who swore—or affirmed, presumably—to uphold the Constitution. With that in mind, I invite them to read said document, particularly Article I, Section 3, and Article II, Section 4. Impeachment is initiated in the House of Representatives (Article I, Section 2), and the Senate holds the hearing to decide whether or not to convict a federal officer of “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” Misdemeanor in this case does not mean shoplifting or something similar, but instead refers to “ill-behavior, evil conduct, fault,” which has been a parallel meaning for the word since its origin.

All of this is to say that the process currently going on in the House of Representatives is according to the Constitution that the Oath Keepers claim to support. It is not a criminal proceeding, but is instead a performance review—the impeachment process does not invoke double jeopardy—with a high bar to cross before the person can be fired.

But America has a long history of violence to achieve political ends, having revolted from our mother country and then fought a civil war over our national identity. Nor are we strangers to individual violence against political rivals, as the assault on Senator Charles Sumner in 1856 illustrates. But as the Declaration of Independence suggests, if we are going to go down this particular road, we have to explain why we regard ourselves as justified in doing so.

In the Revolution, we made the argument that King George wasn’t considering the rights of the American colonists, though we ignored the reasonable claim that we ought to pay for the protection we’d been given by the British army in the Seven Years’ War—we call it the French and Indian War. The Civil War, about which the Oath Keepers seem to want a second chance—was a fight by the Union against southern conservatives who demanded that the government be too small to bring an end to slavery. We were attacked at Pearl Harbor and in several sites on 9/11, stirring us into action overseas. These are our good wars, the ones in which we have an easy time explaining ourselves—at least to ourselves. We have engaged in other acts of collective violence—Jim Crow and the Vietnam War come to mind—that were indefensible.

In the specific situation of what’s going on right now in America, the Oath Keepers have not offered a sufficient reason to propose violence. No one’s rights are being violated. We are not witnessing a case of the constitutionally defined process being tossed aside—by the Congress, anyway. And no, the will of the people is not being ignored, since any time we vote, we do so with the recognition that elected officials are subject to investigations, hearings, and potential removal if their behavior warrants that.

The Oath Keepers are only living up to the stereotype that gun control advocates have of gun owners: violent people itching to overthrow the government. This is not helpful either to the cause of gun rights or of the desire for good government.

About Greg Camp

Greg Camp

Greg Camp has taught English composition and literature since 1998 and is the author of six books, including a western, The Willing Spirit, and Each One, Teach One, with Ranjit Singh on gun politics in America. His books can be found on Amazon. He tweets @gregcampnc.

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