L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 263, March 14, 2004
Damned if it's Bush. Damned if it's Kerry. Damn.
Welcome to My Nightmare
Exclusive to TLE
Well, the new year is less than one quarter over, and already some of the things that I wrote about as fears for the new year are coming true. The Religious Right is becoming even more vocal and domineering, the government is intruding even more into private lives, and ordinary, everyday people are saying that they don't care about being free, as long as they are taken care of. Even worse than all this, we are faced with choosing between two New England liberal Yale graduates, both wealthy and from wealthy families, neither with the slightest hint about what America is all about as our next President. All of these are very disturbing, but in this article I am going to concentrate on the Religious Right.
The Religious Right:
As we have all seen, the controversy over gay marriage is turning into a major civil rights battle, with extremists on both sides. On top of this, some states are making a major issue of abortion. The only problem I see with the Religious Right on these issues is this: the ONLY major argument that they use to address these issues is religious, and the vast majority of those who use these arguments are quite plainly fanatics, in the worst sense of the word. In and of itself, the fact that they use religion as their major argument is not wrong, per se, but in the context of our government, religion is NOT a compelling or overwhelming argument. One of the purposes of our Constitution is to prevent religion from becoming tyrannical, as it was in Europe for so many centuries.
How many wars were fought in the name of religion? The English Civil Wars, the Thirty Year's War, the Hundred Year's War, the Middle Eastern Crusades, the Albigensian Crusade, the various wars between the Moors and the Franks, scattered over several centuries, are just a start. On top of that, we have the Inquisition(s). How many times in our own country have those who belonged to religious groups that were different from the mainstream been persecuted? The most well known example is the Mormans, or to use their formal name, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Their town was burned (Nauvoo, Illinois). The survivors were forced to flee into the desert to preserve their lives. The only reason the Mormon church survived is that they got tough and fought back, forming a church militia known as the "Avenging Angels" under the leadership of Porter Rockwell. That, and their relative isolation in the wilds of Utah is all that enabled them to survive. They are far from the only ones, however.
You say that it can't happen here? Just thirteen years ago, a small religious 'cult' was destroyed by agents of our government, with the survivors thrown in prison, even though a jury had acquitted them of any wrong-doing. Does anyone remember Waco, and the disgusting government cover-up that followed it? Even though religion was not the major factor instigating this incident, it was used as a justification for the evil acts that were committed in the propaganda spewed forth by the government PR machine.
At this point, one novel and one novella come to mind. The novella "If this goes on" [a.k.a. "Revolt in 2100"Mr Ed] by the great Robert A. Heinlein, first written in 1940, then revised, expanded, and republished in "Methuselah's Children" in 1953, and the novel "Flight from Eden" by Kathryn A. Graham (www.flightfromeden.com/) both focus on the possibility of a theocratic dictatorship taking control of our country. The link above also lists comments made by the person now occupying the office of the president in regards to how his religion influences his political acts. (see the bottom of the page)
One of the things that bothers me about the Heinlein story is that Mr. Heinlein, without knowing it, often foretold the future in his stories. Quick example: waterbeds, corporate or contract marriage (ie. prenuptial agreements, etc), the way democracy gets out of hand when it is allowed free reign (see Friday, especially the sarcasm when discussing the current state of California, then think of last year's recall election), 'waldoes', among many others.
The book by Kathryn Graham is set in the near future, and quite clearly shows how a theocratic form of government could come to exist. Unfortunately for all of us, if we look carefully, we can see the first steps of this disaster coming to pass.
How is it possible that a country founded in part on freedom of religion, where the very first major issue addressed by the Bill of Rights is freedom of religion, can descend to this level? It is really very simple: the American people, by and large, are totally ignorant of their history! Has anyone ever seen the "jaywalking" segments on the Tonight Show, especially those which ask questions about our history? Granted, these segments are probably edited to highlight the most stupid respondants, but just the fact that such people can exist is a damning indictment of our educational system.
Ladies and gentlemen, we have to make sure that our children know our history. We have to make sure that we know our history. I strongly suggest that each of us study the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, especially the Bill of Rights. No matter what has happened since, no matter how badly the government has shredded the protections provided by these two great documents, if we don't know them, we can't use what protections are still extant. Besides that, when or if it becomes necessary to establish a new government, we have to know where this one went wrong, and take steps to prevent it happening again, specifically by providing enforcement for the Bill of Rights. Probably one of the best fictionalized treatments of this idea is in the novel Hope, by L. Neil Smith and Aaron Zelman. I strongly encourage all of you to read it, as soon as possible.
How would you feel if you no longer feared your government?
Order Hope from via this link. (Find more information and endorsements on that page as well!)