America: State or Thede?

Liberal reactions to the Oregon militia standoff have been more interesting than the standoff itself. My only reaction to the standoff was, “Oh, ranchers in dispute with the Feds? Eh.” After all, Rural Americans’ distrust of and conflicts with the “gummint” and “revenuers” are well-documented and frequent subjects of humor:

snuffy images-1

(The Beverly Hillbillies probably did this gag a hundred times.)

So you may imagine my confusion when I encountered liberal acquaintances (and pundits) calling the militia “terrorists” and “traitors” and demanding that the FBI go in, guns blazing, to put down the uprising.

These are the same folks who’re just fine with the Black Lives Matter folks shutting down streets and bridges in the middle of major cities in their protest against the police (who are, I note, as much government employees as the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management folks the Oregon Militia guys are opposed to.)

The whole affair highlights a crucial difference in the ways liberals and conservatives conceptualize “America.”

Liberals see “America” as a state, a formal, legal, structural governing institution (created, of course, via some form of “social contract,”) possessing a specific geographic area. The American people, therefore, can be anyone at all, so long as they have met the legal requirements.

Conservatives see “America” as a thede, (their thede), that happens to have a government.  Many conservatives see this government as having been imposed from the outside (in the South, this is actually true,) and as being run by people not from their thede (like Obama.)

Conservatives are loyal to their thede; liberals are loyal to the state. One can join a thede (generally by marrying in, converting to the religion, and adopting the local lifestyle,) but the formal process of acquiring US citizenship does not make one a member of the thede. Thus many legal Americans are not thedic Americans by conservative standards.

Liberals see the Black Lives Matter activists as blacks opposed to whites, which they are fine with. But they see the Oregon Militia as whites opposed to the state, which they see as treason.

To conservatives, the Black Lives Matter movement is acting against the interest of their thede, while the Oregon Militia, even if they disagree with it, (note: the vast majority of them disagree with it) is merely opposing the state.

This difference also manifests itself the two sides’ different attitudes toward the Constitution/Bill of Rights. To Conservatives, the Constitution is like the Bible: the founding document of their thede. Its role is mythic, not legalistic. (Without this understanding, Conservative statements about “activist” judges and the Obama administration running roughshod over the Constitution make no sense at all.) And they do have one vaguely valid point: the Constitution doesn’t actually say anything about issues like abortion or gay marriage, and the idea that there can exist no recognized right to gay marriage in the Constitution for over 200 years, and then suddenly one appears, involve highly questionable logic.

From a legalistic standpoint, re-interpreting the Constitution is one of the Supreme Court’s prerogatives (and from a practical standpoint, a necessity, given that new technologies and situations arise over time.) From a mythical standpoint, it’s like saying you’ve found a verse in the book of Mark where Jesus says he’s cool with gays.

Unfortunately, people are often really bad at articulating their points. So you get a lot of nonsense that has to be carefully picked apart before you can figure out where people are really coming from.

My liberal acquaintances seem curiously unaware of the general culture of Rural Americans. Perhaps this is just because I have relatives who live in rural America, and so I am vaguely acquainted with their culture and attitudes toward the government. I know that ranching and farming can be difficult, (especially in the areas that have been hit by droughts,) and yes, conflicts happen over grazing rights or land management, (though of course the vast, vast majority of ranchers pay their fees and obey the laws and generally act with loyalty to both the state and their thede.)

I also find it curious that the same people who recognize that the Black Lives Matter movement involves ethnic conflict do not recognize the ethnic conflict between different groups of whites.

Curious, not unexpected.

10 thoughts on “America: State or Thede?

  1. Disagree with your thedic analysis.

    I agree with you that liberals are loyal to the state and push the “proposition nation” idea. But I disagree that the state is their ultimate locus of loyalty — they eagerly disobey it if conflicts with their values. Indeed this is in large part how they got to control it. Consider the 60s.

    Lliberals have their own thede, which they are loyal to. The difference between them and “conservatives” is not thedishness, but power. Liberals control the state, and they also man the state top to bottom other than the military and police. It’s their thing.


    • I would say that your disagreement is non-timely. The liberals of today are quite dissimilar to the liberals of the 1960s and it’s not just that they’ve been allowed access to the reigns of power. These days due to earlier successes they’ve reached the point where they have to have the State as the sole locus of their loyalty because they cannot achieve anything more without the fiat powers and force of arms of the state.

      Indeed, you no longer – not even when Bush Jr. was POTUS – heard them railing against the authority of the State, only how it was being used.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This is complicated stuff, not only do you have to decide which “side” you like, you have to keep your BLMs separate.


  3. This is really too narrow, temporarily, to be of much value. Conservatives and liberals have different status arenas, and rationalize backwards from them. This is why what they both stand for is so malleable over time.


  4. I think that you (like everyone else) simply don’t encounter a representative sample of people of different political orientations. I didn’t pay a lot of attention to the militia story, but my impression was that the left mainly made fun of them as rednecks. That’s probably because I read different news sources than you do.


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