Toward an American Shibboleth!

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January 26, 2007

'Once an individual who would advance liberty has settled on self-perfection as correct method, the first fact to bear in mind is that ours is not a numbers problem. Were it necessary to bring a majority into a comprehension of the libertarian philosophy, the cause of liberty would be utterly hopeless. Every significant movement in history has been led by one or just a few individuals with a small minority of energetic supporters.' ~ Leonard E. Read

'It does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority keen to set brush fires in people's minds.' ~ Samuel Adams

The story behind the word is recorded in the biblical Book of Judges Chapter 12, verses 1-15. The word shibboleth in ancient Hebrew dialects meant 'ear of grain' or 'torrent.' Cousins and countrymen, members of the two Israelite tribes Ephraim and Manasseh, have a quarrel over booty from a battle that Ephraim sat out. The Ephraimites invade Manasseh's area of Gilead and are defeated. The survivors attempt to retreat across the river Jordan back to Ephraim. The Gileadites set up a blockade to catch the fleeing Ephraimites. The sentries asked each person to say the word shibboleth. The Ephraimites, who had no sh sound in their dialect, pronounced the word with an s and were thereby unmasked as the enemy and executed. Book of Judges 12:5-6.

5 The Gileadites captured the fords of the Jordan opposite Ephraim. And it happened when any of the fugitives of Ephraim said, "Let me cross over," the men of Gilead would say to him, "Are you an Ephraimite?" If he said, "No,"

6 then they would say to him, "Say now, 'Shibboleth.'" But he said, "Sibboleth," for he could not pronounce it correctly. Then they seized him and slew him at the fords of the Jordan . Thus there fell at that time 42,000 of Ephraim.

Through history, a shibboleth has come to be a kind of linguistic password: A way of speaking or writing that identifies one as a member of a group. Today, it has also come to mean a point of difference and division. A person whose way of speaking or believing, as evidenced by actions, violates a shibboleth and is therefore identified as an outsider and thereby excluded by the group. You could say that the 'talking points' that are parroted by the leaders of political parties and especially the Administration are a weekly 'shibboleth.' It is an idiom in the nature of the idiomatic clich', 'to draw a line in the sand.'

A few years ago, Media Bypass Magazine (now defunct) had a cover that asked, 'What's your line in the sand?' In the cover art illustration were a succession of lines titled 'Unlawful Currency, Confiscatory Taxation, Right to Self-Medicate, Property Rights, Rampant Government Corruption, Judicial Tyranny, Parental Rights, Gun Control, Gun Confiscation.' The cartoon character with a round stylized American Flag head, wearing a suit and tie carrying a briefcase was in a great stride over the last line leaving footprints behind him over the other lines.

The problem with a line in the sand is that it is only a temporary line. If we are to make a difference, there must be a line chiseled somewhere in stone or concrete that we will not cross or allow to be crossed without consequences.

The 'Patriot, Freedom, Tax-Freedom, Anti-Federal Reserve, Second Amendment, fill in the blank Movement' etc., has been as the cover art illustrates, in a constant retreat. Some individual groups have made notorious stands and have been crushed because of a lack of support from those in the 'Freedom' community.

Do We Have A Shibboleth?

The John Birch Society identifies the division as between the people of an original intent U.S. Constitutional national government vs. the forces that seek to build a world government.

Alex Jones, radio host and filmmaker, makes the division as between certain elements of the United States Government that are Globalist vs. the People of the USA .

Bob Schulz of We The People Congress says that the division is in the First Amendment's redress clause between We the People vs. the U.S. Government, hence 'No Answers, No Taxes.'

Aaron Russo's America: Freedom to Fascism film identifies the division as between American citizens vs. the U.S. Government enforcing the Federal Reserve Banks fronting for the shadowy group of international bankers.

L. Neil Smith, author, in his recent article Why Did it Have to be. . . Guns? Identifies the division between whether an average 'man, woman, or responsible child, walking into a hardware store and paying cash'for any rifle, shotgun, handgun, machinegun, anything'without producing ID or signing one scrap of paper' vs. those who want to regulate gun ownership in any way.

Jim Davies, creator of The On Line Freedom Academy, identifies the division as between the general concept of Government vs. the People.

G. Edward Griffin's Freedom Force takes on this issue in his essay The Chasm by dividing people into Individualists vs. Collectivists in any political construct.

As you can see, there are many versions in this small sampling of what the dividing line is. They range from original intent constitutionalists to questioning the legitimacy of government to defining the underlying belief systems of government.

Have We Had A Shibboleth Before?

In the list above and in researching this concept, I have found that most people are hung up with the idea that the Constitution now overrules the principles and premises of the Declaration of Independence. In many ways, they suffer from a religious view of law and the Constitution is the 'Holy Writ'! They forget that this present 'constitution' is another failed attempt at self-governance by limited government on this continent by the 'Euro-Americans.' If it were successful (in limiting government expanse), then we wouldn't be having this discussion, as there would be no need. (Look Mommy, the Empire has no clothes!)

Dr. Edwin Vieira, Jr. (Ph.D., J.D.) lists in his article Will The North American Union Be American Patriots' Last Stand? several specific reasons why the premises of the Declaration were antecedent to any subsequent organization of government and therefore the only legitimate reasons for our national existence.

'Third, the legitimacy of the Constitution depends upon the Declaration of Independence ; and therefore the Constitution's powers cannot contradict the Declaration's principles. For, were the Declaration not an actual law both prior in time and superior in authority to the Constitution, and the source of WE THE PEOPLE'S authority to enact the Constitution, the Constitution itself would not be valid. After all, before they could enact their own laws, binding on anyone, including themselves, Americans had to win legal independence from Great Britain . They secured that independence only under the aegis of the Declaration. Therefore, they could enact only such subsequent laws as were entirely consistent with the principles the Declaration set forth.'

Dr. Vieira echoes the words that Thomas Paine wrote in his 1791 treatise, 'The Rights Of Man':

''Man did not enter into society to become worse than he was before, nor to have fewer rights than he had before, but to have those rights better secured. His natural rights are the foundation of all his civil rights'Natural rights are those which appertain to man in right of his existence. Of this kind are all the intellectual rights, or rights of the mind, and also all those rights of acting as an individual for his own comfort and happiness, which are not injurious to the natural rights of others. Civil rights are those which appertain to man in right of his being a member of society. Every civil right has for its foundation some natural right pre-existing in the individual, but to the enjoyment of which his individual power is not, in all cases, sufficiently competent. Of this kind are all those which relate to security and protection...'

You see the founding fathers had a 'shibboleth.' It was a declaration!

'That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do.'

Their 'shibboleth' was based upon only five premises. Dr. Vieira lists the five premises as:

  1. 1. That the positive laws of any government are always subject and subordinate to the Natural Law'"the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God."

  2. 2. That all men are equally entitled to "certain unalienable Rights"'whether or not that is convenient to public officials or special-interest groups, domestic or foreign.

  3. 3. That "Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed"'and therefore can never claim any unjust powers whatsoever, or impose any powers "from the top down."

  4. 4. That "whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter and abolish it, and to institute new Government"'"the People" being always morally, politically, and legally superior to "any Form of Government." And,

  5. 5. That "when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce the[ People] under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security."

What was the effect of that 'shibboleth' signed by those 56 men who mutually pledged their 'Lives, Fortunes and sacred Honor?'

We find that it created divisions among the populace. The new revolutionaries now called Patriots, the Loyalists also called Tories and those who wanted to remain neutral. Friends, families and neighbors made decisions that broke friendships, split families and divided towns. Just as the Lord of Liberty proclaimed that he 'came not to bring peace on the earth; but a sword.' For he 'came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man's enemies will be the members of his household.' People, who were once friends and family, were now potential spies and threats to each other. Some of one's kith and kin held to the philosophy of Monarchy and 'Divine Right' while others grasped the philosophy of republican ideals that became the basis for worldwide movements toward liberty.

IS there an issue, a cause, and a position that we are willing to defend in the same way as the founding fathers did for their 'Declaration?'

Most of us are older now and we have a lot to lose. We have brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, houses, farms, cars, boats, IRAs, 401Ks, pensions, investments, Social Security, Medicare, lives, fortunes and sacred honor to lose.

Have we lost our first love of Liberty ? Are we doers of Liberty or hearers only? Does the truth of Liberty come only from near our lips but is far from our hearts?

It is time to strengthen the things that remain! Wake up the slumberous! Restore the foundations of Life, Liberty , and the pursuit of Happiness!

What IS OUR Shibboleth?

Before any of us can discuss ways and means, strategies and tactics to restore liberty, we must have a common shibboleth, otherwise we will be as the Irish 88 years ago, fighting against the invader with his alien philosophy, their own collaborating countrymen and then among themselves.

'[Montesquieu wrote in Spirit of the Laws, VIII,c.12:] 'When once a republic is corrupted, there is no possibility of remedying any of the growing evils but by removing the corruption and restoring its lost principles; every other correction is either useless or a new evil.'' --Thomas Jefferson: copied into his Commonplace Book

Is it time for a New Shibboleth?

To find our shibboleth, we must embrace our heritage. Accept the original premises and correct the mistakes of flawed attempts of Liberty . Rebuild a better house, not held together by threat of coercion, not divided by race, religion, class and imposition of artificial personhood run amok. Liberty is the right and natural state of all natural people. We don't have to be many. We just have to be great.

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Tim Wingate's picture
Columns on STR: 7

Tim Wingate is a Liberty Activist, who tends to be an abolitionist. He is a member of ISIL, Freedom Force International, We the People Congress, and teaches a seminar, Sons of Liberty Seminar - Practical Ways to Resist Tyranny for Liberty Activists. He contributes to Freedom Shenanigans & High Jinks blog.