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Wednesday, September 6, 2023

Why the FBI Also Deserves Blame for the 12-Year-Old Suspended Over ‘Don’t Tread on Me’ Patch

The FBI’s penchant for investigating dissent of government policies reminds us why the Gadsden flag is more important today than ever.

Image Credit: iStock

Right when you think things can’t get any more strange and dysfunctional in America , another week passes.

It began last Monday when video emerged of a 12-year-old student identified only as “Jaiden” being suspended for wearing a “ Don’t Tread on Me ” patch on his backpack.

The disciplinary action came down from the Vanguard School, a tuition-free charter school in Colorado Springs, which told Jaiden’s mother that the Gadsden flag, which depicts a coiled snake on a yellow banner above the words that triggered the event, had to be removed “due to its origins with slavery and slave trade.”

The Gadsden flag’s origins , of course, had nothing to do with race or slavery. As Colorado’s own Democratic governor explained on Twitter, the Gadsden flag is “a proud symbol of the American revolution.”

The mother patiently tried to explain the symbol’s actual history to school officials but got nowhere. The story took a turn, however, when Libertas Institute President Connor Boyack, creator of the Tuttle Twins children’s books, shared on Twitter video of Jaiden being disciplined.

The post quickly went viral (it had 12 million views as I was writing this article), prompting the school to do an about-face after the school’s board of directors called an emergency meeting.

“From Vanguard’s founding we have proudly supported our Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the ordered liberty that all Americans have enjoyed for almost 250 years,” the district said in a statement. “The Vanguard School recognizes the historical significance of the Gadsden flag and its place in history.”

It’s nice that the Vanguard School quickly recognized its error, but it’s worth examining how the school arrived at the idea that the Gadsden flag was an evil symbol.

Some have noted the Gadsden flag first came under fire from the government in 2014 when a federal employee filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, alleging he was being subjected to a hostile workplace because a coworker was wearing a “Don’t Tread on Me” cap.

Federal involvement does not end there, however.

Documents leaked by an FBI whistleblower in 2022 and published by Project Veritas show the FBI has also identified the Gadsden flag as a dangerous symbol, one favored by “violent militia groups” alongside such things as the Betsy Ross flag, the Liberty Tree, and Second Amendment references (2A and the Greek phrase “ Molon Labe ”).

To understand just how absurdly wide the FBI cast its net for images favored by violent extremists, consider this: The FBI itself flies the Betsy Ross flag at its headquarters on Pennsylvania Avenue!

It’s hard to reach any other conclusion from these facts than that the snoopy, heavy-handed FBI is hostile to the principles of the American Revolution and the ideals described in the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights. For years, Americans have routinely found themselves the target of FBI probes for no other reason than attending a peace rally (John Denver), voicing opposition to U.S. foreign policy (Truman Capote), advocating civil liberties (MLK Jr.), or being gay (Rock Hudson).

Indeed, the FBI’s penchant for investigating dissent of government policies was noted by the U.S. Senate’s Church Committee decades ago.

“The FBI … has placed more emphasis on domestic dissent than on organized crime and, according to some, let its efforts against foreign spies suffer because of the amount of time spent checking up on American protest groups,” the committee concluded in 1976.

This might be a shocking revelation to many, but it actually helps reveal the true nature of the state. Centuries ago, Machiavelli explained in The Prince that rulers should have “no other object nor any other thought” but “war, its institutions, and its discipline.” Building on this theory centuries later, the economist Murray Rothbard noted that “the chief task of the rulers is always to secure the active or resigned acceptance of the majority of the citizens.”

The Gadsden flag is a symbol that runs counter to this “resigned acceptance,” which is no doubt why the FBI flagged it, which helps explain why the Vanguard School panicked and demanded Jaiden remove it.

Jaiden is back in school with his “Don’t Tread on Me” patch still on his backpack. But his suspension reveals why the Gadsden flag is more important today than ever.

This article first appeared on The Washington Examiner

  • Jonathan Miltimore is the Editor at Large of at the Foundation for Economic Education.