Is Palin Invoking Locke’s Right Of Rebellion?

Of course, she’s never heard of John Locke, but the person who made the flag above her sure did. A reader writes:

Note the white sign with the green arrow, pointing up with the text “Appeal to Heaven.” I would suspect that most casual observers, perhaps even most reporters, would assume that meant something like, “Let’s pray about all this” or “Let’s pray to God to change Obama’s mind” or something other prayer-centered interpretation of what that sign might mean.

However, that exact phrase appears, as I’m sure you will recall, in Ch. 14 of Locke’s Second Treatise, which describes the nature and extent of executive power, especially the executive’s “prerogative,” i.e. discretionary power. Here’s the relevant passage, in which “appeal to heaven” is used in the context of unjust or abusive uses of prerogative power:

The people have no other remedy in this, as in all other cases where they have no judge on earth, but to appeal to heaven: for the rulers, in such attempts, exercising a power the people never put into their hands, (who can never be supposed to consent that any body should rule over them for their harm) do that which they have not a right to do. And where the body of the people, or any single man, is deprived of their right, or is under the exercise of a power without right, and have no appeal on earth, then they have a liberty to appeal to heaven, whenever they judge the cause of sufficient moment.

It is clear that “appeal to heaven” in the text means revolution or rebellion. When the usual, political channels – i.e. earthly channels – are exhausted, then you can revolt in the name of the “laws of nature” or the “rights” we all possess and which no “government” can take away. I’ll spare you a lengthy exegesis of these sentences; my point is that “appeal to heaven” is not a random phrase, but one from the history of political thought that clearly means revolution or rebellion – and one the people take into their own hands, even.

I don’t think we can ignore the fact that many on the Republican right now believe themselves to be in open, non-violent rebellion against the government of the United States. Having the lost the appeal to the majority of Americans, they will soon be invoking an appeal to a higher power – against the president.

Update from a reader:

Your reader who identified Locke in the context of the “Appeal to Heaven” flag is correct in getting the reference, but wrong in thinking the flag is anything new. It’s the flag of Washington’s Cruisers, one of the flags of the American Revolution. That’s not a “green arrow”; it’s a pine tree. Alas, just like the Gadsden flag and it’s famous “Don’t Tread on Me” snake, it has now been appropriated by the Tea Party movement. I am a liberal Democrat who used to regularly fly those historic flags outside my home on the Fourth of July to commemorate the American Revolution – when there was a real, not imagined and hysterical, reason for revolt – but now I’m afraid I have to confine them to the closet. The idea that my neighbors might affiliate me with these crazies is too much to bear.