The Blood of Tyrants
In social contract theory, the public must give that authority it enjoys in a "state of nature" to a sovereign with the power to enforce contracts. What is widely assumed to be the "genius" of the US constitution is the "right to keep and bear arms" so that individuals keep part of their "natural" authority in case they need to rely on themselves to protect their liberty. This contradiction is playing out before us but there seems to be no rational commentary attempting to explain or understand it. Can you voluntarily surrender power for the greater good yet at the same time hold on to as much of it as you think you might need?
The recent "town halls" have brought to a boil a long simmering segment of the population who don't see the statement about "spilling the blood of tyrants" as just some rhetorical flourish and have decided to exercise their "right to bear arms", much to the consternation of the liberal public. Those of us on the Left (especially revolutionaries) have long realized the actual potential of armed uprising ( remember the Panthers) because we have seen first hand the awesome, overwhelming power of the State. What would have happened to me had I been wearing a sidearm to the FTAA protests in Miami? Revolutions don't overwhelm the State military by force any more, they do it with ideas or they don't do it at all.
These "Tea Baggers" were of course cheering the police on as they broke up anti-war/ pro-immigrant demonstrations or labor strikes because their theoretical understanding is weak and superficial but their instincts are right on, they sense the breakdown in order, they sense the social contract dissolving as prosperity and national power evaporate but they have not yet had to confront the reality of their pathetic revolver in the face of the militarized State. Egged on by demagogues and carefully selected readings of the Federalist Papers, they are crumpling John Rawls' social contract up into a little ball and proclaiming Patriotic Anarchism as the Flag of Liberty. I would imagine there was lots of the same sentiment just prior to the civil war.