Ah, Russian spies; talk about a blast from the past. It’s just like an 80s party, but for the Cold War. Next we should have Vladimir Putin go to the UN and bang his shoe on the table, and then start a proxy war in a Third World country, and it’ll be just like old times. It’s like waking up in 1982; or 1952, as the case may be, though no matter how successful and deep this spy ring was, the Rosenbergs they were not.
The flashback quality of breaking this Russian spy ring has been noticed by many others besides me, who was only a child when the Soviet Union collapsed, though I was old enough to clearly remember the trouble and fear associated with it. (Not Khrushchev banging his shoe, though; I only know that through history.) But it made me reflect on patriotism—loyalty to country, a species of piety—and treason, the betrayal of that country. And treason made me angry.
I’m an American, born and bred; my people have been in this country for well over three hundred years, and I’m proud of what I am and of what we have been. That said, there are many things about my country now and in the past that I’m not proud of. I don’t like some of our founding principles, for example, and I don’t like either of our current wars, which I think clearly fail the requirements of just war theory.
But I am not a traitor. The Constitution of 1787 gives what I think is a pretty fair definition of treason:
Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.
In other words, treason isn’t just refusing to support your country’s unjust acts; it’s actively assisting your country’s enemies. That is absolutely despicable.
For example, I opposed our invasion of Iraq. But I did not inform the Iraqi army of our troop movements. The former is simply rational thinking, a perfectly legitimate disagreement with my government; the latter is treason. As another example, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were communists. This in itself is not treason. But they also conspired to, and did in fact, transfer to the Soviets secret information concerning the atomic bomb, which was instrumental in the Soviets producing their own bomb, with which they began to threaten the United States. The former is simply disagreement with the current regime; the latter is treason. And the Rosenbergs, at least, got the just penalty for treason in the end.
Treason is to the nation what attempted patricide is to the family; the guilty party simply cannot remain a member of the society any longer. The betrayal that has been done is too great and too violent to permit any form of reconciliation. The traitor may be reconciled with God; he cannot be reconciled with his country. How can his people ever trust him again? How can they ever again acknowledge him as a member of the same national body? There are only two possible just penalties for treason: denationalization, the stripping of citizenship and all the benefits thereof, or death. Death is the more merciful sentence of the two.
I’m not saying that the Russian spies we’ve caught here are traitors, or even that they’re necessarily spies; they haven’t been tried yet, and I know little of the circumstances. But the incident did inspire some reflections on patriotism and treason, which I found interesting if nothing else.
Praise be to Christ the King!