From the book “Winter of the World” by Ken Follett, speaking of the ambivalence and apathy of many pre- and post-WWII Germans, Follett writes: “… those inadequate people who were so scared by life that they preferred to live under harsh authority, to be told what to do and what to think by a government that allowed no dissent. They were foolish and dangerous, but there were an awful lot of them”.
To compare Nazi Germany and Communist-controlled East Germany with America today is not altogether farfetched; certainly our government is not “harsh” in terms of the enforcement of laws. However, if you equate the number of laws, regulations and rules created by continuously growing government control at the national and state levels to a degree of “harshness,” then Follett’s assessment of pre- and post-war Germany is closer to being a parallel assessment of our current situation here in America and the State of Maryland.
Further, although we as Americans, or if you like Marylanders, continue to have many avenues for dissent, would we be prone to disagree if dissent or disagreement was tied directly to our living conditions and well being? Case-in-point: if the government paid for your health care, your food, your shelter, your transportation and generally subsidized to a greater and greater extent your total well-being, would you disagree (dissent) with your government’s actions? How about your government’s actions in other areas such as foreign affairs, public safety, business, development, growth?
Sure, some would (disagree or dissent), but others would not — many people subscribe to the old adage of “not biting the hand that feeds you”. And when we stop biting the government’s hand, what will happen to our republic?
I find the following information ironic: James McHenry was an early Maryland statesman. McHenry was a signer of the United States Constitution and the namesake of Fort McHenry. In his diary, McHenry recorded this conversation: “Outside Independence Hall when the Constitutional Convention of 1787 ended, Mrs. Powel of Philadelphia asked Benjamin Franklin, ‘Well, Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?’ With no hesitation whatsoever, Franklin responded, ‘A republic, if you can keep it.’”
McHenry, the story goes, was moved by Franklin’s assertion about the future of our republic and if we could keep it. A republic, as you know, is simply a representative democracy. Would we be able to elect those who would uphold the values noted in the fledgling Constitution? Would our future as a nation include electing leaders who would uphold our rights and liberties and insure that government itself would not become as tyrannical as those governments headed by monarchs or dictators?
After a typical Maryland General Assembly 90-day session, where over 2,500 bills are processed, I cannot help but wonder how a latter day “Maryland statesman” would respond to an inquiry from a citizen about whether our state government today is more like a monarchy (where the government is totally in charge) or a republic (where the people through their elected representatives are in charge). And if you think the state government’s control continues to grow, how about the federal government?
Consider: “America was founded by men who understood that the threat of domestic tyranny is as great as any threat from abroad. If we want to be worthy of their legacy, we must resist the rush toward ever-increasing state control of our society. Otherwise, our own government will become a greater threat to our freedoms than any foreign terrorist.” —Ron Paul, Texas Straight Talk, May 31, 2004.
As a conservative Republican, it pains me to quote a “tea party” ultra right winger, yet words are words and what is spoken, if it makes sense, are words to the wise. Paul may be right. Ken Follett in his fictitious work about Nazism, Communism and Fascism in the 1930s and ’40s, coupled with Paul’s recent words sends a chilling message of watchfulness to those of us living today.
When we depend on government too much we position ourselves for failure and give up our right to independence and self governance. Thomas Jefferson reminded us over 200 years ago to always be in a state of rebellion. Tuesday, Nov. 6, is your next day to rebel. Rebel at the ballot box; vote for those who will represent you by supporting less government and will protect your individual freedoms. And every time there is an election, join the rebellion again! Vote on Nov. 6.
Art Callaham is a community activist and president of the Washington County Free Library Board of Trustees.