Recent years have seen a growing number of yellow “Don’t Tread on Me” flags and license plates with the coiled rattlesnake on them. Popular with the Tea Party, the license plates are requested by the car owner as are other vanity plates. The message they are intended to convey has never been entirely clear to me, and I suspect with the recent activities of some alt-right groups there may be some who will roll up their flags and change their license plates. Certainly no one would want to be confused with the white supremacists or neo-Nazis when they may have a simple annoyance or personal issue with the government. It is safe to say that the symbols involved are an expression of displeasure with the government. For some time I have been reviewing the role of government and ways in which the resulting activity might be interpreted as “treading” on citizens. For each I have made my own judgment as to whether I lose any freedoms as a result of what the government is doing and whether I object to being tread upon.
I want to live in a community, state and world that are environmentally safe and clean. For the actions that the government must take to accomplish clean air and water and a sustainable environment, I say tread on me. To keep our communities safe from criminals, tread on me to make that happen. To ensure that our constitutional rights and our liberties are protected, tread on me to make sure I can continue to live free.
To be sure governments at all levels are held accountable to operate within the Constitution; tread on me to accomplish an effective judicial system to keep us protected. There are some inconveniences that may affect me and I will feel tread upon personally, but in an organized society we sometimes make small sacrifices for the greater good. We all need help sometimes in recognizing that we are not the only person in the world and that our moments of feeling tread upon must be looked at in perspective of our shared humanity.
Tread on me to pay for the rights and privileges and infrastructure of our world through the taxes and fees I pay. They are the price for living in a free and comfortable world. I do want those taxes to be based on income level and shared by those who can afford to pay more. Tread on me to support help for the disabled and for the disadvantaged to become productive members of our society and rise to a level where they can share more of the tax burden.
Maybe it would be nice to live in a world alone with no worry of anyone else, but that is not reality. There are real and reasonable times when we may feel tread upon for the good of society.
Ken Plum is a member of the Virginia House of Delegates.