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Still the catch-all political crime, a treason charge is used to punish rivals and shield them from civic engagement. Autocrats use the insinuation of betrayal with brutal effectiveness to banish, if not execute, a political problem or inconvenient idea.

While betrayal is about to characterize someone with political beliefs that we disagree with, our founders made betrayal a particularly difficult crime to prove. As with much of the Constitution, the conditions were specifically written to prevent abuses that colonials witness. Article III, section 3 not only provides guarantees that treason should not be used to silence political opponents, but it also limits the scope of any sanction.

Because of these restrictions, we often forget what true betrayal looks like and do not fully appreciate loyalty to the country or creed. While national ties are reminiscent of family ties, this intrinsic loyalty to place or relationships is often weakened by expediency or ideology. Few people today really know a traitor to their country. There may be disagreements on many levels, but rarely do acts fully reach the level of betrayal in the constitutional definition. Betrayal in the United States is more than a lazy term of derision occasioned by mere political disagreements.

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