What do history's most notorious despots have in common with many of the flag-waving, patriotic politicians of our day? Both groups rise to power through the exploitation of fear, which has become a societal plague. There have been widespread casualties. We need an antidote. Feardom offers its readers a much-needed immunization.
photo credit: cricechen
Difficult circumstances have many results, one of which being that a person’s true character is likely to be exposed throughout the process. In times of trial, the way a person acts or reacts is a raw indication of what their true desires are. Applied in the political realm, this implies that the solutions a person supports as remedies for perceived problems demonstrates where their heart is.
In the Book of Mormon, the fledgling Jaredite nation came to a crossroads with the impeding death of their patriarchal leaders. The people were consulted as to their final wish; their request was an establishment of monarchy in their new nation. Despite a warning to the contrary, they got their wish. The rest of their history details the bloody consequences of that pivotal choice.
Few societies throughout the world’s history have chosen liberty when afforded the option to do so. To be sure, many have chosen freedom: freedom from the shackles of their current oppressive masters; freedom from the burdensome taxes they were forced to pay; freedom from the restraints felt in their individual lives. But few have chosen liberty, the political implications of which are far more preparatory and broadly applied than most understand.
Too many have fought for freedom only to further enslave themselves within a new system of government or under a newly elected leader. Numerous revolutions and elections throughout history have simply swapped one group of tyrants for another, demonstrating that a narrow definition of and support for freedom is deceptively transitory.
Liberty, as George Bernard Shaw once said, means responsibility. “That is why most men dread it,” he opined. The Jaredite’s invitation for kingly rule over them was indicative of their unwillingness to self-govern—a surrender of liberty, in effect. A similar desire is seen in countless homes across the country today, as people look to Washington for a solution to their problems. A person who has lost his job, has poor health care, or dislikes his quality of education will likely look to a single man—the President—for assistance. By extension, the few individuals working with him in the federal government are also solicited for fixing personal and local problems.
Put simply, the desire for a king does not require a monarchy. It is equally (if not more deviously) manifested in the way people clamor for change, stimuli, and subsidies from one or more people in charge of whatever form of government may exist. This desire is the antithesis of liberty, for liberty requires solving one’s own problems. It exists only when there is a general repudiation of outsourcing one’s difficulties to another person or group.
The lack of concern most people feel for liberty (to say nothing of their general ignorance regarding its meaning and implications) is illustrated well in the third installment of the recent Star Wars series, when the fictional character Padmé Amidala observed the way in which her colleagues clamored for the so-called “safety” and “security” offered by the man who hijacked the Republic and transformed it into an Empire. As the masses cheered, Padmé remarked: “So this is how liberty dies… with thunderous applause.”
Though the evidence all around us shows a similar pattern in our own country, we must resist the tide that is taking us in the direction of centralized tyranny. Samuel Adams warned us in this way:
The liberties of our country, the freedom of our civil constitution, are worth defending at all hazards; and it is our duty to defend them against all attacks. We have received them as a fair inheritance from our worthy ancestors; they purchased them for us with toil and danger and at the expense of treasure and blood, and transmitted them to us with care and diligence. It will bring an everlasting mark of infamy on the present generation, enlightened as it is, if we should suffer them to be wrested from us by violence without a struggle, or be cheated out of them by the artifices of false and designing men.
Too many Americans today surrender their birthright—liberty—for a mess of putrescent, political pottage: bondage. Liberty is hard work which cannot be delegated to another. It is rarely easy, and (sadly) seldom popular. It causes controversy and division, and is often (and erroneously) considered harsh, unjust, and inconsiderate. It does not easily appeal to base emotions, and requires an informed and intelligent people to carry its banner forward.
The American experiment was, at its outset, a firm rejection of servile dependence. The Founders asserted themselves and their countrymen as sovereign, free men. That their posterity has largely surrendered this great gift is a testament not only to our current, pathetic state, but also to our ingratitude for such a priceless treasure—one that will not easily be recovered.