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Del. Ken Plum: Don’t Tread on Me

by Del. Ken Plum — July 28, 2016 at 11:30 am 6 Comments

Del. Ken Plum/File photoThis is an opinion piece by Del. Ken Plum (D), who represents Reston in Virginia’s House of Delegates.

For a short time when I was in college, I sold Fuller brushes and home cleaning products door to door to make money to pay my bills.

I could make several-fold more per hour selling door to door with flexible hours than I could with any other part-time job. I was trained by a mentor salesman who made a good living selling the well-known brushes and cleaners.

One practice of his that I never adopted was to knock on doors that had a “no solicitation” sign. He explained that while he may encounter a grumpy person or two behind those doors he mostly found people with a low resistance to sales pitches who used the signs as their first level of defense to keep from buying something.

More recently, I have been seeing a different sign, “Don’t Tread on Me,” not on homes but on vehicle license plates. The original yellow flag with a coiled snake and the slogan on it was the flag of the early navy in our country. Today it is the flag of the Tea Party.

Each time I see the yellow license plate I wonder what message it is intended to convey. Is it at all like the “no solicitation” signs on homes that proved to be a not-very-effective defense from the salesman and the outside world? Or is it a proclamation of self-importance that one should be able to live in the world without being bothered by others?

Since the flag has been adopted politically by the Tea Party-ites, its meaning no doubt is aimed at laws, regulations, or government actions that are viewed as “treading” on someone.

Government actions do affect us. We have a system of national security that gets in our way especially when we want to board an airplane or enter a government building. We may feel tread upon by the number of traffic rules we have to abide by or by the health and safety regulations affecting our homes and businesses. Certainly there have been cries of protest at any attempts to tread on someone’s ability to buy and carry any size gun whenever or wherever they want.

Living in a civilized society means that we sometimes are inconvenienced by the necessity to compromise some of what we are doing for the greater community’s health and safety. There simply has never been a government devised that allows everyone to live a life unfettered without any thought of the needs of others. There is no constitutional right to live a life trampling on others in order that you are not tread upon.

While certainly not intended by most, the admonition to not tread on me can be interpreted as selfishness. You view your needs as greater than others; your rights trump (sorry for the pun) others’ rights. Certainly there are mixed messages that can be interpreted from such a simple phrase. I prefer the simpler and easier to understand bumper stickers like “live simply so that others can simply live” or “coexist.”

What does “don’t tread on me” mean to you? Positive or negative. Let me know at [email protected].

  • Meh

    The Nobel Prize winners that sport these plates typically drive lifted, high-mileage pickup trucks and “roll coal” (look it up) in or west of Loudoun County. Pay them no mind.

  • Walter Hadlock

    Meh must not do much driving in the immediate Reston/Herndon area. The “Don’t Tread on Me” plates can be seen on numerous vehicles of various makes and models. As is the case with the various vanity plates offered by the Virginia DMV, it gives people a way to express themselves.

  • Bitemore Gfotwo

    I never gave the “Don’t tread on me” plates much notice, but I see that the symbol used is a coiled rattlesnake, which tells me that the warning is to keep your distance because “I bite.” Wikipedia has an interesting history of the “Gadsden flag” here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gadsden_flag. As for whether it is positive or negative, I think it all depends on who is seeing it and what their intentions may be. I prefer to see it as “live and let live.”

  • 30yearsinreston

    It signifies independence and resistance to stultifying oligarchs and commisats

    PC slogans don’t result in independence, just subservience to ‘betters’
    Its too bad some of that independence has been watered down

  • Paul

    It’s disheartening to see that the Reston Rep profiles people based on color…yellow license plate = possibly a selfish citizen. Hopefully the day will come when elected officials will not judge others based on the color of their vehicle license plate and simply let them live.

    Here is the Reston Reps record of cosponsored bills in the legislation session of 2016, it’s quite a feather in his tri-cornered hat:

    Minimum wage increase…killed
    Taxpayer credit…killed
    Transfer of firerams…killed
    State plan for medical assistance…killed
    Commending Rob Jones…killed

    Celebrating the life of Priscilla Ames…passed
    Commending the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute…passed
    Commending Google…passed
    Commending Amy’s Amigos…passed
    Commending Bechtel Corporation…passed
    Commending Wiygul Automotive Clinic…passed

  • Farce 2016

    Thanks Ken for sharing your insights and two party logic, I would rather you explain tho how we ended up in this situation where we have to decide between a deranged witch doctor and a psycho clown.

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