If your idea of good citizenship is watching the dissolution of our society from the sidelines like an insomniac staring at a late-night movie, you need to move to a dictatorship. Democracy is too much work for you.
“The price of liberty is eternal vigilance.” Contrary to popular attribution, neither Thomas Jefferson nor Patrick Henry said this first. The truth appears to be less glamorous.
John Philpot Curran first said, “The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and punishment of his guilt.”
Personally, I like Curran’s original wording better. It’s not as pithy as the more popular version. It won’t fit as well in a speech or the lead of a news story, but it says what needs saying.
Liberty is our natural state under God. If you doubt this, all you have to do is consider the extreme and absolute freedom He bestows on each of us. God does not force us to follow Him. In His own words, He sets before us life and death; right and wrong. But he lets us chose. He allows us to live our lives exactly as we decide to live them, even if that means committing grievous sin and turning our backs on Him.
Liberty is our natural state under God. But we live in a devil-besotted world that is stained and weakened by original sin. Thus, liberty, which comes from God, comes also with the requirement that we must guard it well or we will lose it.
No one wants to be a slave, but it seems that there are a lot of people who want to own slaves. Curran rightly says that if we stop tending our liberties, we will lose them and we will end in servitude.
In our generation we acknowledge that members of our military pay with their life’s blood for our freedom. What we don’t acknowledge is that the real threat to our freedom is not military invasion. No foreign power I know of is hankering to land on our shores with troops and armaments, and as Lincoln said, “by force take a drink from the Ohio River.”
This generation’s challenges to liberty come from our two political parties, our own government, our corporations and from our lazy refusal to fight for the democracy which is our inheritance. It feels good to blame the propagandists on our televisions, the amoral political parties and the equally amoral corporations who own them. Disrespecting politicians is an American birthright, a natural outgrowth of freedom of religion and speech. If we ever see the day when we can not make fun of our elected officials, we are doomed. But, worthless as they are, puppet people politicians are not ultimately to blame for this mess.
We may have, as Will Rogers said, the best government that money can buy, but the ones wearing the biggest price tag on them are not the politicians. The many millions that are lavished on political campaigns in this country are spent for one purpose: To buy us. By the time the campaigning starts, the puppet people politicians are already bought. They’ve been recruited, programmed and polished to a marketable level. Now they’re set before us for our inspection like new cars on a lot.
As I said earlier, the object of all this sloganeering, hate-campaigning, and propaganda is the manipulation of us, of we the people. Or, to put it more bluntly, the object of all this expenditure of capital and slime is our vote.
The one thing that those who want to control our government for their own ends fear is an informed and aroused citizenry. That’s why they spend huge amounts of money to feed us a steady diet of propaganda and lies. We have brains. We’ve got to think something with them. So, they spend enormous sums to fill our otherwise very good minds with half-truths and lies.
We are the products of an educational system that no longer teaches young people our American story. We’ve been taught to take multiple choice tests and not a lot else. Our educational system produces wave after wave of people who’ve never read an original source. We have large numbers of people with higher-level degrees whose entire education is the product of the digested and massaged bits and scraps of thought found in incredibly over-priced textbooks.
We have actually been taught to take other people’s pre-digested opinions about great thinkers as the works of the thinkers themselves. And we don’t have to understand these thoughts. All we have to do is exercise the totally-useless-in-life skill of getting a high score on a multiple choice test.
This is our educational system from early childhood through university level. It is nothing more than a trade school, or what we used to call vocational-technical education, on steroids.
That makes us prey for the propagandists and manipulators who want to confuse us into believing whatever sheep dip they’re dumping on us. Coming as we do from churches who preach politics rather than Christ, who sometimes preach politics as Christ, we are shorn of the moral underpinnings that would keep us from jumping headlong into abusive language, vicious slander and hate-voting.
We are, in short, easy pickings.
We can blame the manipulators, both secular and clerical, for misusing their enormous talents to do such harm. They are certainly responsible for what they do.
But ultimately, no matter how much money is spent manipulating us, it’s up to us whether or not we will allow ourselves to be manipulated.
We are Americans. We are a free people. That makes us responsible. We are responsible for what we chose to believe, how we chose to behave and whether or not we value our liberty enough to do the work and exercise the vigilance to keep it.
Liberty is our God-given right. The God of all the universe, the creator of creation from bottom to top, set us free from our beginning. He gave us such absolute freedom that we can accept or reject Him. We can do anything we want. We can create or destroy, think or blindly follow, live free or become slaves.
The equation is, again, a simple one:
Democracy = We Are Responsible