• Daniel Ethan Finneran

Enemy Of The State

August 2018


So promiscuously has the phrase “enemy of the state” been lately used, that I think it might behoove us to consider the four words with a bit more care. We might swallow rather than speak them so loosely—sequester rather than unfetter them at every vitriolic chance we get. We ought to look at the phrase, to consider it, to contextualize it, and to ultimately restrain its incorporation into daily conversation. Perhaps, we might even go so far as to render it inapplicable in most situations for which it’s so infrequently called. In the course of imposing upon it an early retirement of sorts from our vulgar and common speech, from our banal brow-beatings and political contumelies that punctate and denigrate each day, one must first appreciate more completely its impact.


It’s not an innocuous charge to be sallied at a political opponent with whom you simply disagree. It’s not a harmless accusation to be thrust at someone who says, in response to your own opinion, churlish things. It’s scurrilous and it’s dangerous. It picks up and shifts the spectrum of what once was agreeable and civil dialogue to an almost militant place. Once there, decorum and civility aren’t so easily retrieved.


An enemy implies aggression. Aggression demands reaction. Reaction, best applied, is penetrating and swift. A patriot, when confronted with said “enemy of the state”, then, mustn’t fail to react with a thrust. And if worth his salt, as doubtless he is, our doughty patriot won’t be the type to sit idly by with a worn blade. He’ll not suffer his country to be looted, pillaged, nor molested if there’s anything he can do about it. He won’t watch impotently as his nation is desecrated or worse. He’ll respond with celerity, pulling sword from scabbard with pugnacity and with verve.


In a liberal democracy, such as is ours (and such, contrary to popular opinion, as it remains to be), the charge of “enemy of the state” carries with it no small amount of gravity and offense. At least in this country, it’s a charge of almost incomparable historical weight. It’s synonymous with the likes of an Arnold, a Burr, a Booth, a Rosenberg (or, better yet, a few Rosenbergs), an Oswald, and a Hiss. It’s the highest of high crimes and the lowest of craven misdemeanors. And, as such, it’s not a charge from which a man (nor a woman, in the case of Mrs. Rosenberg) can easily escape. One isn’t deemed an enemy of the state by morn and accepted with hospitality into polite society by twilight’s last gleaming. To be an enemy of the state is to be not only in opposition, but in blatant subversion of America. It’s to toss in her bedraggled face your glove and to belittle everything for which she stands.

For this reason, a man—when convicted of such a crime as being an “enemy of the state”—is more likely to breathe their last at the gallows or writhe in the electric chair than to walk away free.


Thus, the media is not the enemy of the state. Nor is the president the enemy of the state. Nor is any single person against whom you stand on an otherwise unimportant issue of policy or taste an enemy of the state. The use of the phrase must be circumscribed and reined in. It’s not just an insult or an easy ignominy for which your political foe has begged. It’s a potentially capital crime.


But, for those in need of an enemy to whom they might turn in a fit and harangue, you’re in luck; such enemies abound. The only difference is that they come from without rather than within. Kim Jong-Un and North Korea, Vladimir Putin and Russia, Xi Jinping and China, Bashar al-Assad and Syria, Hassan Rouhani and Iran—these are the veritable enemies against whom America stands. These are the enemies that wish us ill and curse our name. Therefore, it should be upon these particular men and these unprepossessing countries we’d do better to levy all of our “enemy talk”. To do so would be a unifying, necessary, and far-seeing step.

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