D: I just wrote a book called How to Overthrow the Government.
C: Don’t you know you can’t do that?!
D: Why not?
C: That’s sedition!
D: So what?
C: Sedition is illegal! You can’t advocate the overthrow of your own government.
D: Sure I can.
C: Perhaps you can. But it’s against the law.
D: I used to think that, too.
C: You changed your mind?
D: I looked it up. You can say whatever you want as long as you don’t advocate violence.
C: Overthrow sounds pretty violent to me.
D: It’s a figure of speech. You can overthrow a government without violence.
C: What did you find when you looked it up?
D: The Wikipedia entry on sedition said the U. S. outlawed sedition for a brief time during World War I, then repealed the prohibition.
C: Don’t forget the Alien and Sedition Acts during John Adams’ presidency.
D: Yeah, we saw how well they worked. Adams might have had a second term if it weren’t for those.
C: I have to say back to you, so what? You said yourself the government can do whatever it wants. If it wants to haul you before a judge on charges of sedition, does it matter that much whether we have a law against it?
D: I’ve thought about that. What do you think? Should I be worried?
C: I’m the one who says play it safe. It’s hard to tell.
D: Look, I have a family and I like my freedom. I don’t want to be thrown into jail any more than the next person.
C: So why don’t you write about something else?
D: The future of our republic is the most important question we have in front of us. How can we not think about it?
C: That’s the point. You could think about it and keep it to yourself.
D: What good is that?
C: That would make you a law abiding citizen.
D: What’s the point of being a law abiding citizen when the government can break any law it wants?
C: You’re exaggerating. At least it pretends to uphold the laws.
D: That makes it worse. If we’re going to have criminals in power, at least they could be honest about it.
C: So are you willing to go to jail over this or not?
D: I’m not sure it’s a real question to begin with. People don’t read what I write. I can barely get my family to read it. In fact, I don’t push it on my family because I don’t want to make too many waves.
C: You know you can influence the spirit of the times with your thoughts. You don’t need a lot of readers.
D: Do you believe that, too? I thought I might be the only one.
C: Who knows how the spirit changes? Who would have predicted Scott Brown, the Tea Party and all the rest?
D: So you think something that’s within the law, not widely read, can still get me in trouble?
D: Alright, I have one more counter. Lots of other people advocate the same thing. I’ve read that secession movements exist in about half the states. One of the most developed is right next door in Vermont. Those guys are a lot more vocal than I am, and they don’t get into trouble.
C: You don’t understand, Dio. The government doesn’t take those guys seriously.
D: Why not?
C: Why should it? They don’t have that much support. They sell T-shirts that say U. S. OUT OF VT. How serious is that?
D: Well I’m glad I’m not the only good-government advocate who thinks about secession, but I’m not sure why the feds would take me more seriously than anyone else.
C: It’s hard to tell why. You come across as someone who’s extra honest. You care about freedom and you want the best for others. Those qualities could have an influence.
D: The greater the influence, the greater the threat.
C: You’ve got it.
D: I’m not convinced.
C: Alright, it’s not only a question of voice or integrity. You lay things out persuasively. You have history, philosophy, ethics and current affairs in your reasoning. You make a case that people can’t dismiss as cranky or on the fringe.
D: Thanks, but I’m not sure being a non-crank makes me dangerous. I’d like to be persuasive, though!
C: Do you have any more arguments?
D: Let me go over all three points. You say it doesn’t matter whether we have a written law that currently prohibits sedition. You say the zeitgeist rules: a writer can influence the spirit of the time without having a lot of readers. Lastly, you say a patient, philosophical approach to these questions can make governmental authorities fearful. They think they could actually be overthrown if the arguments against their authority are powerful enough.
C: That’s a good summary!
D: Let me concede every point. Even if the feds knock at my door at two in the morning to take me in, I’ll have a day in court. I can make my case in public.
C: Don’t count on it. How many people in history who tried to speak up ever received a fair trial? Most people who take a stand like that don’t get a trial at all. If they do, the outcome is predetermined. It’ll be like the hearings you had at Carthage. The outcome is predetermined.
D: I didn’t think of it that way. I’m not sure I have another Carthage in me.
C: You said at the time you didn’t want to go through anything like that again without your family. Now you have your family, but you want to keep them with you.
D: That’s for sure. Somebody has to say these things, though, and I don’t see these ideas coming out from other sources.
C: That’s because other people understand all the things I’ve been telling you. They know sedition when they see it, and they keep quiet.
D: You can’t be a good citizen when you let the government cow you!
C: You can’t be a good citizen when you have a government who wants to cow you.
D: I’ll take a last stand here. Look at people like Socrates and Jesus. They took a stand against established authority. Why shouldn’t we emulate them?
C: You remember what happened to them, don’t you?
D: Yeah, punishments worse than jail. You can’t say much for the trial they received, either.
C: So why did you bring them up as good examples?
D: They tried to tell the truth.
C: You remember what Pilate said about that: “What is truth?” One person’s truth is another’s mockery.
D: We’re not sure Pilate wanted to mock Jesus. Even if he did, Jesus was right to challenge the people who ran the temple.
C: Sedition is always the most threatening crime of all, right?
D: Look, I don’t want to compare myself to Jesus. He did say to stand up for what’s right, to speak the truth according to his light. He told all of us to follow his example. I don’t think we can let fear make us say, “Not me.”
C: He also said, “Render unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar.” What would he say about challenging secular authority?
D: I think I might stay away from that question. For secular authority, we have Locke and Jefferson. We have ample basis in our own political tradition to overturn established authority when it ceases to act for the people who formed it.
C: I think I won’t get you to pick safety over this dangerous course. You’re just too stubborn.
D: Being stubborn isn’t such a bad thing.
C: I won’t say it is, but I don’t want to see you disappear in some federal detention facility. They don’t do good things to you in there.
D: Remember Abraham Bolden? When he tried to tell the feds about the plot against Kennedy in Chicago, they locked him up for three years.
C: Yes, and drugged him up so much he couldn’t do anything to help himself.
D: Once the feds have you in their sights, you don’t win.
C: The whole operation works like a crime family – right down to public assassination when you want to fire the guy at the top. You can’t really fight power like that.
D: Only one question matters: Is it true? If what I say is true, you can’t even think about power and opposition. You just have to craft an argument that reaches people.
C: Are you sure that’s the only reason you want to say these things?
D: What do you mean?
C: You have a sizeable ego to go with your stubbornness.
C: Perhaps you want to say these things to make a name for yourself. To make your mark rather than go silently into the dark night.
D: I see. Yeah, I’ve thought of that, too.
C: What did the still small voice say to that one?
D: I don’t know. I just know you need a sizeable ego to marshal energy for this kind of work. You need stamina, concentration, and persistence. You also need to be principled, angry, smart, and a little nutty – call it eccentric.
C: Are you all those things?
D: I guess we’ll find out.
C: Why not just enjoy yourself? Make some friends.
D: You can make friends and enemies at the same time.
C: So do you want to make a name for yourself or not?
D: If ambition is in the mix of motivations, so be it.
C: You wouldn’t be the first person to let ambition obscure the truth. What if you confuse what’s good for you with what’s good for the country and its citizens? You might launch arguments that make a name for yourself, but that bring calamity on your countrymen.
D: When you embark on a dangerous course, you have to trust that you’re given some important part of the truth, and with that truth you’re given enough wisdom to distinguish what’s true from what’s not.
C: That sounds prophetic.
D: Maybe so. But look, you credit my thoughts with more influence than they’ll ever have.
C: Okay, but you should watch your ambition. Keep it in check.
D: It’s a good point. The best leaders are ambitious, but they try to do what’s best for everyone.
C: Would you like to be a leader like that?
D: For now, I just want to write!
C: Keep writing. The pen is mighty.
D: Mightier than an M-16?
C: Mightier than all the powers of earth.
D: Say it again!
C: Mightier than all the powers of the earth.