Back in 2003, at the beginning of the war with Iraq, I was a student at Tech (I was late getting started) and a member of the College Democrats. We were opposed to the war - anyone paying attention could tell there were no weapons of mass destruction, and we were being fed a line as an excuse to invade. But that didn’t mean we were opposed to the men and women who were going to have to go do it. We started a drive to collect toiletries and phone cards to send to the troops overseas and volunteered at a table in the university center to take donations. I will never forget the large number of fellow students who made a special effort to yell at us, swear at us, and deride us as traitors to America - because we were Democrats. That same year, Ann Coulter wrote a book (very popular in some circles) called Treason: Liberal Treachery from the Cold War to the War on Terror.
That was not really the beginning, but it was certainly an early high (or low) point in the progression of conservatives not just disagreeing with liberals/progressives, but of viewing them as traitors who want to destroy America. And it has only intensified in the last decade. It is everywhere you look in a red state such as ours: television pundits, newspaper columns, and the guy you vaguely know on Facebook, all saying that you should arm yourself and be prepared to shoot your neighbors because they are “enemies of the Constitution.”
Here’s what I haven’t noticed much, though - specific allegations of specific “crimes” with any credible evidence to back them up. It mostly seems to be “you’re a traitor because I say so” or “you’re a traitor because you don’t share my opinions” or “you’re a traitor because I saw something on YouTube.”
And yet. Here we are. In the midst of an investigation into an unruly mob (that was very intentionally stoked up) storming the Capitol, smearing their own feces on the wall, and making a very plausible attempt to assassinate the vice-president - all in an effort to prevent Congress from certifying the electoral votes in an election that their candidate handily lost. Think about that - they were trying to prevent Congress from doing its constitutionally-mandated job, while claiming they were doing so in order to defend the Constitution. You will find no promotion or defense of angry mobs violating the Constitution in the Constitution. An effort to change the outcome of a decided election, and therefore in effect overthrow the Constitutional government, is rightly defined as an insurrection.
In their case, there were clear laws being broken - and not just misdemeanors, or even serious assault, but treason against the Constitution. A lot of Trump voters who were embarrassed or dismayed on that day quickly changed their tunes and started claiming that horrible scene was not a very big deal and was just tourists being excited.
The Justice Department has charged several individuals with “seditious conspiracy.” Seditious, if you didn’t know, means treasonous. The charge is that they “did knowingly conspire, confederate, and agree, with other persons known and unknown to the Grand Jury, by force to prevent, hinder, and delay the execution of any law of the United States.”
Every day, investigators are learning more about those “other persons” and the means by which they purposely laid the groundwork for insurrection. More arrests will come. And the perpetrators will continue to be people who think anyone who disagrees with them is a traitor - while they have supported or participated in literal sedition.
Maybe you think I’m harping on this topic too much. Well, it can’t be ignored or forgotten. We can’t just sweep it away. And everyone who supports the actions of that day needs to take a step back from the abyss and understand just what they encourage stepping into.
--Troy D. Smith, a White County native, is a novelist and a history professor at Tennessee Tech. His words do not necessarily represent TTU.
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