There used to be a sign that hung on the gate to the entrance to Fort Dix (the army training ground in New Jersey ) in 1969: “OBEDIENCE TO THE LAW IS FREEDOM.” It probably was not as bad as the sign on the gate to the Auschwitz Concentration Camp, “ARBEIT MACHT FREI,” (Work is Freedom), but to those of us opposing the Vietnam War in 1969, the two sentiments and the source from where they sprung certainly seemed similar.
A while after leaving Canada and returning to the United States, I enrolled in state college and majored in political science. One of the first questions that arose in class was, “what makes a legitimate government?” I had long thought about this during the terms of Richard “Tricky Dick” Nixon. It’s still a basic axiom that governments remain legitimate only so long as they rule with the consent of the governed. The people give that consent (it does not have to be verbally acknowledged or recognized; it can be tacit consent, i.e. doing nothing to oppose the government’s policies) as long as they at least have some belief that there are relatively fair elections and through our elected representatives we have some voice in the laws that are made and the policies being carried out. At least that’s the theory in America. If you’re living under a blatant military dictatorship another set of principles apply.