More than six decades ago, George Orwell wrote a little book called “Animal Farm” as an allegory about the Russian Revolution. But for those of us who have had the privilege of reading this classic work, we realize it is an allegory depicting the rise of oppression and tyranny and can be compared to similar tragic events in history like the rise of Hitler and the Nazi Party, Fidel Castro and Communist China. However, I never thought I would compare “Animal Farm” to the American republic.
In America, the people rule and liberty is supreme. Generations of men and women have fought for that liberty. Fifty-six men pledged their lives, fortunes and their sacred honor for it. Over 3,000 Americans died on 9/11 because of the belief in it, and thousands of men and women serve in the United States military sworn to preserve and protect it. That liberty – the belief that all men are created equal and endowed with certain unalienable rights – is what this nation was founded on and what we have lived by in the Constitution of the United States for over 200 years. On Friday, Feb. 13, however, that liberty was dealt a fatal blow when 244 congressmen and 60 senators voted for a $787 billion stimulus package.
Many of us find ourselves asking the age-old question, “How did we get here?” I’m sure that’s what the animals on Animal Farm wondered when the rules they believed in and everything they knew and understood as truth suddenly changed.
As I have reflected on events of the last few months leading up to the vote on this “stimulus bill,” I have both marveled and ached at the remarkable similarities between the events and characters of “Animal Farm” and the current state of our nation.
In “Animal Farm,” Mr. Jones’ farm animals launch a revolt and take over the farm themselves. The pigs, who can read, lead the revolt. The animals unanimously accept Snowball as their leader and establish seven commandments, or rules of government, by which to live by. The commandments designated those who walk on two legs as enemies and those who walk on four as friends, and included other standards such as “no animal shall sleep in a bed” and “all animals are created equal.” But as time passed, under the cunning leadership of a pig named Napoleon, Snowball is run off the farm and the commandments evolve to a more suitable arrangement for the pigs.
The animals were confused as the rules began to change from “no animal shall sleep in a bed” to “no animal shall sleep in a bed with sheets,” and Squealer, Napoleon’s spokesperson, quickly jumped in to convince the animals that was the way it always was – they just didn’t remember. Since they couldn’t read, they accepted the new rules as they were announced one after another. When any animal would question the rule change, Napoleon would use his trained dogs, who had violently run Snowball off the farm, to scare them into submission, and the sheep would start bleating, “Four legs good, two legs bad” over and over again until the animals stopped asking questions and accepted the rule change.
Watching the events of the last few weeks unfold, I find an uncanny resemblance between Animal Farm and Washington D.C. All the rules that we established over 200 years ago in the Constitution of the United States have slowly evolved and eroded from the freedom of speech to include “unless you’re saying something we don’t like” and freedom religion to “unless the building was paid for by the stimulus bill.” The unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness established in the Declaration of Independence have evolved to include life – as longs as it is convenient, liberty – as long as the government approves it, and the pursuit of happiness – as long as our carbon footprint isn’t too big.
In “Animal Farm,” Snowball orchestrated a plan to build a mill to reduce the work on the farm animals. Napoleon was completely opposed to the idea until he rose to power and suddenly announced construction on the mill, stating he was for it all the time and the animals must not remember right if they thought otherwise. Then the sheep began their familiar relentless chant, “Four legs good, two legs bad” until all arguments ceased and the animals quietly accepted whatever they were told because, as Napoleon reminded them, they didn’t want to go back to the way things were when Farmer Jones was in charge.
The windmill sounds a lot like the last eight years of the Democrats preaching the need to reduce the deficit and then once President Obama is elected, suddenly deciding they were for deficit spending all along and convincing the American people that we needed to go another $787 billion deeper in debt for the “good of the farm.”
The rules keep changing, and there seems to be no end to the changes. The pigs have succeeded in turning President Bush into a traitor. He is blamed for everything that goes wrong – even after he is gone. Just like Napoleon, President Obama has adjusted the seven commandments – or, in our case, the Constitution of the United States – to promote his own self-serving interests. The media is Squealer convincing the American people that anything President Obama says is good even if yesterday he said it was bad, because he is, after all, Obama. And anytime anyone questions anything, the Democrats begin bleating, “Bush bad, Obama good” until the American people are silenced and accept whatever they are told, while President Obama reminds us, you don’t want to go back to the way it was under Bush do you?
The saddest thing about “Animal Farm” is that as you read you realize the animals have no idea what’s going on. We see the corruption, deception and tyranny unfold, page by page, but they have no idea things are actually worse under the pigs than they were under Farmer Jones. As I read the book, I wanted to shout out: “Don’t you realize what you’re doing? Don’t you realize what is going on?” But the animals didn’t hear me and neither do the American people. They have no idea what they have done. They have no idea what they have given up.
April 18, 1775, was the day the shot was heard around the world and freedom began in the United States of America. Feb. 13, 2009, is the day history will acknowledge as the day freedom was lost without a shot being fired. And while the world looks at President Obama as the new leader of the free world, after reading another classic, by C.S. Lewis, I know him for what he really is: just another donkey in a lion’s coat.