“Our progress in degeneracy appears to me to be pretty rapid,” Abraham Lincoln said in 1855. “As a nation, we began by declaring that ‘all men are created equal.’ We now practically read it ‘all men are created equal, except negroes.’ Soon it will read ‘all men are created equal, except negroes, and foreigners, and Catholics.’ When it comes to this I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretense of loving liberty – to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy of hypocrisy.”
Though I am no fan of Lincoln, who was nothing short of a despot himself, I do believe his quote is as applicable today as it ever was. Do we not have a “base alloy of hypocrisy” in regards to our land of liberty? We seem to want to uphold our ideals, praise our Founders, and celebrate the 4th of July with picnics and parades. But in this day and age do we really believe it?
If we do, why then do we allow our federal government to run roughshod over the Constitution and the ideals enshrined in the Declaration of Independence? Why did we just re-elect a man president who clearly does not hold any of these values?
Historians generally agree on what characteristics constitute a totalitarian or authoritarian regime – a strong and charismatic leader with extraordinary powers, a single mass political party, secret police forces, control of education and communications, and central state economic planning, to name a few.
With these characteristics in mind, tyrannical states like the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany, Mao’s China, Pol Pot’s Cambodia, or Saddam Hussein’s Iraq come immediately to mind. Now I know we are not like those awful regimes but we might be well on our way if things don’t change. Let’s look at a few recent examples.
A couple in Texas had to tear down the partial construction of their dream home because the EPA determined it was on a wetland. Not only did all work have to be removed, they were ordered to replace dirt and trees to restore the property to its original condition, all without due process of law. They have fought back in court, to the tune of millions in legal fees, but seem to be coming up on the short end of the stick.
The government also confiscated, again without due process, a family’s gold coins worth $80 million. Why? Because that great, freedom loving president FDR seized the nation’s gold in 1933, and we are still technically operating under that law today. To possess those coins, the government told them, was illegal.
President Obama recently issued an executive order to take more control over the Internet in times of crisis. Since this is where a growing portion of Americans get their news, as well as communicate and do business, it’s a scary thought indeed.
The TSA, a target of my vitriol for years, is expanding its operations beyond airports, to buses, trains, interstates, and even public events. Recently, a Harris poll asked Americans if they would consent to a CAVITY search by TSA agents in order to fly. And by cavity, I don’t mean your teeth. Amazingly, nearly a third answered yes! Another 35 percent would be willing to wear an electric shock bracelet while in the airport and on the plane! The same survey asked if a law mandating complete obedience to ANY order given by a TSA agent, under threat of penalty, was reasonable. Fifty-seven percent said it was at least somewhat reasonable! Have we lost our collective minds?
In 2008, Obama vowed to create a civilian national security force, which many freedom-loving Americans thought sounded something close to the brown shirts in Hitler’s Germany. This year the new “FEMACorps” just graduated its first class of recruits who have vowed to do whatever the government tells them to.
All this is precisely what Mark Levin refers to as “soft tyranny.” But sadly we seem to be inching toward a more lethal form. In his farewell address to the House in mid-November, Ron Paul warned the country that we are on a “continuous march toward fascism.” He is spot-on.
In at least one regard, Lincoln was right: In true tyrannical regimes despotism is pure. There is no effort to mask it behind high-minded ideals of liberty. True tyrants are not hypocrites, appealing to the base instincts of a patriotic people. They don’t have to be, which makes our progress toward true tyranny all the more scary, for it sneaks up on you like a thief in the dead of night.
As James Madison once said, “Since the general civilization of mankind, I believe there are more instances of the abridgment of freedoms of the people by gradual and silent encroachment of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.” He knew his history and so should we.
But should this trend continue under Obama, with no aggressive pushback by conservatives, perhaps it soon will be time to emigrate. I hear Cuba and North Korea are nice this time of year.
This column was published in the Laurel Leader Call (Laurel, MS) on Tuesday, November 27, 2012.