Not only is freedom not free, it is painfully expensive. When freedom is challenged, she can’t fight that assault without honorable and brave people coming to her defense. Whatever challenges we face in defense of our freedom aren’t theoretic, esoteric or abstract, but real and often times exceedingly difficult. The fight for freedom is noble because the success we attain in preserving it ripples through the landscape in defining and preserving it for others as well. When we act bravely and nobly, we set down a marker that says anything less we will not tolerate.
Rosa Parks finally had enough on that fateful day in Montgomery, Alabama when she defied her antagonists on that city bus. I’m sure she had no grand idea of becoming a national symbol for character and bravery. James Bakke simply wanted his admission to medical school to be fairly considered. When it was not, he sued the State of California. He could not have known at the time that his story would ignite a national conversation about college admissions affirmative action programs, race and reverse-discrimination. That unknown, unnamed man in Tiananmen Square in China, a noble army of one, defying a communist Chinese tank, impressing on the minds of billions of people the incredible courage of his convictions. He was certainly not risking his very life as a publicity stunt.
These people and countless others have stood for the defense of freedom. Why aren’t we? Our founders pledged to each other, in words memorialized at the very end of the Declaration of Independence by writing the following:
“And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”
These 56 men took that pledge in the name of freedom. For their effort in the long bloody conflict that followed, five were captured, tortured and killed by the British. Twelve had their homes burned. Many died widowed paupers. Two lost sons in the fighting, two more saw their sons captured. Nine of the 56 fought and died in the Revolutionary War.
The minute before those 56 brave men signed that document they were British subjects. As soon as the ink dried on that declaration, they were American’s with a price on their heads, placed there by the largest and strongest empire and fighting force on the face of the Earth. Are we worthy of that legacy of courage? Is it right that we relish in the courage of yesterday while demonstrating none of the same today?
For our founders, it was the tyranny of England. For Rosa Parks, the tyranny of the mob. For the man in China, the tyranny of an ideology. And for us today, the tyranny of our own fears. But tyranny is tyranny, regardless of its origins and it must be expelled.
A healthy skepticism is a prerequisite to understanding people in power and what motivates them. Erich Fromm warned us when he said, “Power on the one side, fear on the other, are always the buttresses on which irrational authority is built.” We are seeing evidence of this today.
Governors compete to see who can tighten down the ratchet straps on people the hardest. Officials encourage citizens to snitch on each other if someone is seen, “out of compliance.” Local officials lecture about odd/even days of travel, according to your birthday. Governors compete with the President to produce the best, live reality TV show, using fear to enlarge their stage and their ego. Those huddled and hapless in their homes are bombarded with the same message, every 15 minutes on TV;
STAY AT HOME. DON’T GO OUT. FLATTEN THE CURVE.
America and American’s are not a one-size-fits-all commodity. We are being lied to, not about everything, but about some things, in order to manage effectively our fear levels for the benefit of those who cherish the power over us. Despots are using crisis to manage their political careers. This is a test to determine just how much the average American will tolerate before they fight back. So far the answer seems to be that American’s have forgotten how to fight.
Ghandi, of all people, sounded the alarm we would be wise to heed today. “It is when power is wedded to chronic fear that it becomes formidable. … Where there is fear, there is power.” Conversely, as John Maeda reminds us, “If you have no fear, no one has power over you.”
It is time that we began to listen to that voice in our heads that we have been suppressing for weeks now, mistakenly yielding to the group-think, sky-is-falling siren song of the powerful icons of leadership and ignoring our own sensibilities. Thomas Paine was right, and it ought to be as crystal clear now as it has ever been.
“The strength and power of despotism consists wholly in the fear of resistance.”
Can you imagine those 56 brave men, the signators of our countries birth, huddled at home, doing nothing, waiting to be told what will happen next? I don’t think so.
What in God’s holy name has happened to the spirit and backbone of this glorious country? Those huddling at home under masks, gloves and blankets of fear deserve nothing the founders gave them. Anais Nin got it right: “Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” The time is now to muster our own.
This Sunday we celebrate Easter, the most significant holiday in the Christian world. Just as Christ was resurrected, let us too reform and rethink our American geneaology and resurrect our resolve, our fortitude, and our God-given obligations as individuals to think for ourselves and to recognize when we are being mislead and misguided. I ask God Almighty for his intervention; not only to suppress this virus, but to relieve from us our own contagion of a lack of faith and a failing of our God-given responsibility to govern ourselves righteously and with honor and dignity.