If that’s not tyranny, I don’t know what is | Guest column

By Mindy Stern

The grounds of Covenant Living at the Shores come right up to Lake Washington’s waterfront on Mercer Island. On an overcast spring day, I walked the grounds of this retirement community with a friend who recently moved there. The grass sparkled with water droplets, reflecting filtered sunlight. Hydrangeas, rhododendrons, and azaleas in various stages of bloom added splashes of color. As we walked the path that follows the outlines of the water, we saw an assortment of flags, each on a 3’ pole.

We could easily recognize Washington state’s flag a few yards away. But what were the others? A strong gust unfurled one of the flags, revealing a deep royal blue background and what looked like a Roman centurion. But on closer examination, the figure was actually female, a mighty Amazonian woman in a knee-length toga, one breast exposed. Holding an enormous spear in her right hand, and an upright sword in her left, her foot is firmly planted on the chest of a slain man whose golden crown has been knocked off. Above her is the word Virginia, and below, a Latin phrase, Sic Semper Tyrannis. So, these must be state flags!

“I never studied Latin, did you?” I asked my friend, who went to medical school at a time when female students were few and far between.

“No, I didn’t, but it would have come in really handy,” she said.

“Let’s try to figure it out,” I said. “Your grandson is a U.S. Marine, and Semper is part of the Marines’ motto, Semper Fidelis. So, semper must mean always. Always faithful, right?” We then parsed that Tyrannis must mean tyranny. But neither of us could figure out how “Sic” fit in with the picture.

Later that day, I looked up Virginia’s flag and learned that the Great Seal of the Commonwealth of Virginia was created in 1776. Its motto means Thus Always to Tyrants, a reference to the newly formed American colonies refusing to be ruled by England’s king.

Last week, in a case aptly named Trump v. United States, the Supreme Court heard the plaintiff’s lawyers argue that it could be an official act for the president to assassinate a political opponent if he decides that his rival is corrupt. In this scenario, the president could order the military to assassinate a rival and be immune from prosecution.

If that’s not tyranny, I don’t know what is.

In 1776, Thomas Paine wrote Common Sense, a pamphlet that challenged the colonies to start a new nation and cut ties with the King of England. He asked, “Where… is the King of America? In America the law is king.”

Let’s hope that the justices consider Virginia’s flag before issuing their ruling. Maybe the image of a tyrant’s tossed crown will remind them that in America, there is no king.

Mindy Stern is a Mercer Island resident whose essays can be found at www.mindysternauthor.com.