Letter to the Editor: ‘Treason’ is no light term

PATRIOT, n. One to whom the interests of a part seem superior to those of the whole. The dupe of statesmen and the tool of conquerors.

PATRIOTISM, n. Combustible rubbish read to the torch of any one ambitious to illuminate his name.

-”Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary.”

I find the above two quotes highly applicable to the previous edition’s opinion piece which elaborated upon the “treason” of a group of US citizens engaged in extremely disgusting yet legal actions (“Freedom of speech as psychological warfare”).

While reading the article, I couldn’t help but wonder: would the Fourth Circuit court somehow completely miss or ignore a treasonous (that most serious) offense? In fact, no. From Judge King’s opinion:

“By employing God, the strong verb ‘hate,’ and graphic references to terrorist attacks, the Defendants used the sort of ‘loose, figurative, or hyperbolic language’ that seriously
negates any impression that the speaker is asserting actual facts about an individual.”

“Accordingly, we are constrained to agree that these signs … are entitled to First Amendment protection.”

The Supreme Court may well overturn this judgment and Phelps et al. may be guilty of many crimes against our sensibilities or morals; even so, “treason” is not a term to be thrown around lightly (especially when it misses the topic at hand by so many miles). And for those who wish to discuss constitutional or Supreme Court law, a tip: read the court documents yourself.




You can contact MICHAEL at m.powers@rochester.edu.

    6 Responses to “Letter to the Editor: ‘Treason’ is no light term”

    1. Adam Ondo says:

      I would first like to note that King is a liberal. Second, I do read the court documents, so don’t insult me. Lastly, nothing the 4th circuit matters, because the actions I charge them with happened after the appellate court decision or in a different incident. The 4th Circuit decided upon Mr. Snyder’s funeral. I charge them with desecrating a flag, promoting juvenile delinquency by having their children step on flags, and protesting for Saddam openly (in Iraq) while we have soldiers their trying to kill him. This is not the same case, so no court has looked at treason… yet (one might if the church supports the Taliban next, because the Taliban also hates gays just like Saddam did). The only thing that could be called treasonous in Snyder v. Phelps that I mentioned was the “Thank God for Dead Soldiers” and “Use More IEDs”, because that is entreating terrorists to take the lives of Americans. That’s treason.

      Also, Bierce was extremely cynical, so quoting him is like quoting Nietzsche. And patriotism is related to treason, but I wonder why you didn’t actually define treason, because you don’t mention patriotism in your letter. A better quote for patriotism, anyways, is by Andrew Jackson (a great president) – “Every good citizen makes his country’s honor his own, and cherishes it not only as precious but as sacred. He is willing to risk his life in its defense and is conscious that he gains protection while he gives it.” The last part is important – gains protection while he gives it. So if you support killing your fellow countrymen and support and aid those who are doing so, you lose the protection of your government, because that makes you a traitor.

      • Aaron Burro says:

        Adam, I’d ask you, too, to take a look at the definition of treason. You can express “support” – through protests, signs and demonstrations – towards people who are enemies of the United States all you want. The Constitution doesn’t proscribe “supporting” enemies of the state – only adhering to the enemies of the state or giving them aid and comfort. However despicable, those types signs do not “help” terrorists in any rational concept of treason. Treason has to be an overt act, not just holding and expressing an opinion with which you disagree.

        The wording of the Constitution is clearly intended to limit the application of the word “treason” from being brandied about like you seem intent upon.

    2. MICHAEL POWERS says:

      I’m sorry, I can’t really help you if you don’t see how the whole “interests of the many vs. the few” topic in the first quote applies to what you have written.

      Anyway. You note the slogans are wrong because they “entreat terrorists to take the lives of Americans.” Again, let me refer you to the decision: “no reasonable reader could interpret any of these signs as asserting actual and objectively verifiable facts about Snyder or his son.” The same idea can be applied to your claim. The applicable phrases “Thank God for Dead Soldiers” and “Thank God for IEDs.” Whose soldiers? Which IEDs? You’re taking extremely vague and obviously hyperbolic protesting and extrapolating that to “the Phelpses support terrorists materially.”

      Listen, you can’t just object to speech because you don’t like it. I think it’s horrible too, the difference being that I don’t want to erode 1st Amendment rights so that I can feel like we nailed the Phelpses.

    3. Adam Ondo says:

      You’re misusing your first quote. They are the part, the small majority, who, with help of the ACLU and those type of attorneys, are hijacking our legal system to find loopholes around justice. The public, in this case, is the whole, and they are against the Phelpses.

      And “Whose soldiers?” – seriously? Do they have to spell it out. They are protesting AMERICA, with SADDAM, at a dead AMERICAN SOLDIER’S funeral. They hate American Soldiers, the dead ones whose funerals’ they’re at. Which IEDs? Well, seeing only terrorists use IEDs (we have better bombs), I would guess the ones killing the AMERICAN Soldiers listed above. They should get out now, before the Iowan prosecutor wins and they go to jail for treason. If they hate America so much, let them go to Pakistan or Afghanistan or Venezuela… or, if they really hate America, Paris.


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