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: noamgalai
In the 101st section of Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord gives a parable about watchmen on the tower in His vineyard. The various watchmen were commanded to build a tower upon which one watchman could stand and warn the others of approaching enemies. But the construction project was started during a time of peace, and slothful servants questioned the need of such a tower when all was well in Zion.
The tower was not built, and the enemy invaded. In essence, the Saints were not prepared to observe and prepare for the threats around them because of their disobedience, and thus suffered an incursion from the enemy.
What good does a watchman do, though, if those around him do not pay heed to his warnings and react accordingly? With the watchman placed upon the tower, do his alarms make a difference if the watchmen around the vineyard are too distracted with other enticing activities?
36 years ago, then-Elder Benson spoke of this parable and its implications:
These warnings were given 140 years ago. The fulfillment is now. We are living witnesses, unless we are blinded by our own complacency and the craftiness of evil men.
As watchmen on the tower of Zion, it is our obligation and right as leaders to speak out against current evils–evils that strike at the very foundation of all we hold dear as the true church of Christ and as members of Christian nations. (Ezra Taft Benson, Watchman, Warn the Wicked)
While the watchman does his job to sound a warning cry, the watchmen slumber. Whether through complacency or the craftiness of evil men, the watchmen shirk their responsibility and cede their ground to the enemy. Elder Benson also commented:
Freedom can be killed by neglect as well as by direct attack.
Too long have too many Americans, and people of the free world generally, stood by as silent accessories to the crimes of assault against freedom assault against basic economic and spiritual principles and traditions that have made nations strong.
Elder Mark E. Peterson noted that this parable of the watchman and the tower is one of prevention—the Lord has given us a mechanism through which we can be warned of danger. But what does that mechanism profit us if we refuse to take heed?
Every individual who has heard the watchman’s cry is implicitly obligated to warn his neighbor—his family, his friends, his physical neighbors, and any and all within his sphere of influence. News only spreads if we actively pass the message on; if we refuse to do so, we are held accountable for those who were left uninformed.
Elder H. Ross Workman has observed three reasons why the watchmen failed to build the tower in this parable:
- “First, the servants began to question. They felt to exercise their own judgment upon the instruction given by their master. ‘What need hath my lord of this tower, seeing this is a time of peace?’ they said (D&C 101:48). They questioned first in their own minds and then planted questions in the minds of others. Questioning came first.”
- “Second, they began to rationalize and excuse themselves from doing what they had been instructed to do. They said: ‘Might not this money be given to the exchangers? For there is no need of these things’ (D&C 101:49). Thus, they made an excuse for disobedience.”
- “The third step inevitably follows: slothfulness in following the commandment of the Master. The parable says, ‘They became very slothful, and they hearkened not unto the commandments of their lord’ (D&C 101:50). Thus, the stage was set for disaster.”
For these and other reasons, the watchmen failed to fulfill their duty. The vineyard was left prone to attack and total destruction because those who should have been passing on the watchman’s message from the tower did not do so.
Now, a word of application. Anybody who has watched the slightest bit of news in the past year has no doubt caught wind of the despotic drivel, wrapped up in legislative prose, spewing forth from Washington. The Constitution, esteemed as lightly as one-ply toilet paper, is irrelevant in current policy-making. Sycophantic senators and reprehensible “representatives” have let liberty languish and are mortgaging our current house-of-cards economy on the backs of our not-yet-born posterity. Our modern watchmen on the tower have seen their counsel fall on deaf ears and come under attack from the enemy. The watchmen of our time are snoring loudly in a media-induced slumber of ignorance, entertainment, and comprehensive stimuli.
Allow me to become a bit more direct. Where is the public outcry and revolt over this grand theft and blatant disregard for the Constitution these people swore to uphold? Lee Iacocca said it better than I:
Am I the only guy in this country who’s fed up with what’s happening? Where the hell is our outrage? We should be screaming bloody murder. We’ve got a gang of clueless bozos steering our ship of state right over a cliff, we’ve got corporate gangsters stealing us blind, and we can’t even clean up after a hurricane much less build a hybrid car. But instead of getting mad, everyone sits around and nods their heads when the politicians say, “Stay the course.” Stay the course? You’ve got to be kidding. This is America, not the damned Titanic. I’ll give you a sound bite: Throw the bums out! You might think I’m getting senile, that I’ve gone off my rocker, and maybe I have. But someone has to speak up. I hardly recognize this country anymore. The President of the United States is given a free pass to ignore the Constitution, tap our phones, and lead us to war on a pack of lies. Congress responds to record deficits by passing a huge tax cut for the wealthy (thanks, but I don’t need it). The most famous business leaders are not the innovators but the guys in handcuffs. While we’re fiddling in Iraq, the Middle East is burning and nobody seems to know what to do. And the press is waving pom-poms instead of asking hard questions. That’s not the promise of America my parents and yours traveled across the ocean for.
I’ve had enough. How about you? I’ll go a step further. You can’t call yourself a patriot if you’re not outraged. This is a fight I’m ready and willing to have. My friends tell me to calm down. They say, “Lee, you’re eighty-two years old. Leave the rage to the young people.” I’d love to, as soon as I can pry them away from their iPods for five seconds and get them to pay attention. I’m going to speak up because it’s my patriotic duty. I think people will listen to me. They say I have a reputation as a straight shooter. So I’ll tell you how I see it, and it’s not pretty, but at least it’s real. I’m hoping to strike a nerve in those young folks who say they don’t vote because they don’t trust politicians to represent their interests. Hey, America, wake up. These guys work for us. Who Are These Guys, Anyway? Why are we in this mess? How did we end up with this crowd in Washington? Well, we voted for them, or at least some of us did. But I’ll tell you what we didn’t do. We didn’t agree to suspend the Constitution. We didn’t agree to stop asking questions or demanding answers. Some of us are sick and tired of people who call free speech treason. Where I come from that’s a dictatorship, not a democracy. And don’t tell me it’s all the fault of right-wing Republicans or liberal Democrats. That’s an intellectually lazy argument, and it’s part of the reason we’re in this stew. We’re not just a nation of factions. We’re a people. We share common principles and ideals. And we rise and fall together.
In numerous instances, the scriptures speak of a slumbering people, bound down with chains and unable to easily rise from their sleep. The prophets, through persuasion, have urged them to wake up. Personally, I’m losing patience.
I fear that short of some divine and completely undeserved act of mercy, America will get what she deserves.