On his Monday Fox News broadcast Sean Hannity’s “great American panel” included singer Aubrey O’Day. Outspoken and articulate, O’Day insisted that the U.S. government should provide for all citizens what she repeatedly called “basic civil rights,” meaning all of our basic needs, including free health care, free child care and so on. She seemed to care about people and apparently didn’t want to see anyone suffer or go without.
Listening to her transported me back to a train ride I took through (what was then) Yugoslavia many years ago. While traveling across that communist country, I got into a conversation with a lady passenger about freedom and “basic rights.” I explained that in America, we have fundamental freedoms of speech, of the press, of religion, association, travel and so on, as well as freedom of opportunity – that is, to succeed or fail, but also to be able to keep the fruits of our labors and to be free of the tyranny of a stifling and predatory government.
She countered, with words very close to these: “I know that’s what you believe in America. But in my society, we believe basic rights include the right to a job, to housing, to health care, to the basics of life. We consider these to be our basic rights.”
“OK,” I said, “but what if you have to sacrifice your individual rights and liberties in order to provide such security for everyone?”
Her reply was that it was worth the tradeoff.
Although that conversation occurred more than three decades ago, I still remember it vividly. The lady passenger, an unashamed supporter of the communist system under which she lived, even said it was appropriate for her government to restrict freedom of the press to protect the citizenry from being confused and confounded by divisive information and opinions that threatened the harmony of the nation.
Now, in no way did this woman seem to me to be evil, any more than the singer on Hannity’s show was evil. Both seem like decent, caring human beings. But their worldview, so prevalent in America today – especially at the pinnacle of power with President Obama, his whack-job czars and advisers, and a Congress ruled by Pelosi and Reid – brings about a great deal of evil. Indeed, upwards of 100 million people were murdered during the last century, crushed by the madness that besets nations that give themselves over to the seduction of collectivism.
How did we get here, people? How, in America of all places, did we get to a point where the rare and inexpressibly precious freedoms millions of our warriors have fought, bled and died for count for so very little? How did we get to where a worldview that is basically – let’s say it out loud – communist, or socialist, is resonating with so many Americans? And how can the president of the United States get away with appointing a self-proclaimed communist revolutionary like Van Jones as his personal adviser?
Truth is, many of us are disturbingly close to Van Jones in our view of life – or if not to his revolutionary street tactics, then at least we’re close to the reality-challenged socialist idealism of Aubrey O’Day and the lady on the train.
The timeless dream of cradle-to-crave security provided by an all-powerful, benevolent government is the perfect system for a godless world, a society in which people are just soulless animals – maybe nice and intelligent animals, but animals just the same.
On a farm, you see, when one animal for some reason hoards food, the farmer just comes in and takes some of the food away from the one that has too much and “shares the wealth” with the other animals.
What is perfectly proper and humane with barnyard animals is tyranny with human beings. Yet this is precisely how government treats people under socialism: The benevolent master takes wealth from one dumb brute who has “more than he needs” and gives it to another dumb brute who doesn’t have enough.
The problem with socialism is that we’re not dumb brutes. We’re spiritual beings with an immortal soul, created to honor and obey our Creator – not some politician or bureaucrat playing god. Moreover, as moral creatures we’re endowed with the ability, indeed the destiny, to choose between a life of foolishness and pride and one of responsibility and virtue – and to reap natural and divine reward, or rebuke, for our choices. I’ll say it again: We’re meant to be guided and inspired – and rewarded and chastised – by God, not by deluded, egotistical politicians who, in their extreme dysfunction, somehow imagine their role is to be our god.
How many times have we been sermonized by Barack Obama that it is “neighborly” – his word – for government to “spread the wealth around”? What is left out of this dishonest and seductive appeal is that, as Mao said, “Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.” The fruits of our labor, which the government takes from us and gives to our neighbor in such a coercive and unneighborly way, are extracted from us at the point of a gun, for ultimately that is exactly what is behind government’s power to tax and regulate. If you don’t obey, if you don’t pay, you get grabbed by men with guns and dragged off to be locked up in a cage – like an animal. That’s not neighborly.
Very simply, Aubrey O’Day, like the lady on the train and far too many of our neighbors living in the “land of the free” today don’t know what liberty really is. They’ve forgotten what being an American is all about. They’ve lost sight of the blessed privilege of living in a free country where you’re actually free to fail, and to learn from that failure and try again, only to fail again but not as badly – and one day, as your character and experience grow, to succeed – not just materially, but in many more important ways.
As Benjamin Franklin so famously put this timeless truth: “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” Although we’ve heard this a thousand times, we seem to be unable to learn from history. That’s probably because we humans really don’t learn very much from the suffering of others – only from our own. But don’t worry. Under Obama, we’re due for some real learning.