A respondent to “An Inauguration of Tyranny” (January 20) chided me for writing so much about current political trends and events, such as Barack Obama’s election and his and Congress’s plans to “socialize” the country by hook or by crook — chiefly by crook.
“What possible gratification can you find in following, articulating, and decrying the decline and possible fall of the United States of America under Bush…and now Obama?”
What gratification, indeed? Some “gratification” occurs when I have identified something that imperils my life and that of the country. It occurs also when I am able to articulate my observations and concerns. Writing about such matters is an invaluable aid to grasping the fundamentals of any issue. I do not envy the many individuals I encounter who share my awareness and concerns (not only about Bush, Obama, Islam, etc.) but who are unable to articulate them. The only alternative to focusing on such matters is to install a governor in one’s mind and to say nothing.
There is another value to dwelling on the ubiquitous sordidness, political folly, and venal conspiracies in our culture: catharsis. If I could not or did not actively identify and articulate my concerns, I should go mad. Therefore, I purge myself of frustration, helplessness and anger by pointing fingers and saying that the king wears no other clothes but a swastika armband or a hammer-and-sickle toga.
Or, I write fiction. In the Sparrowhawk novels, I set out to do justice to the pre-Revolutionary period, to better dramatize why the American Revolution happened. The series is also an allegory on our own times. I have been told by parents, teachers, and students that there is more history in the series than what is being taught in schools today, and this is aside from the literary value they see in it. Just the other day I was informed that Book One: Jack Frake of the series has been chosen for an eighth-grade English class of 75 students. I have lost track of where else the series is being used in schools.
Sparrowhawk is making its mark on countless minds, all seven million words of it. It is making a difference.
However, one may as well scold any commentator or columnist for discussing the state of things, whether he be Left, Right, or rational. For example, a regular reader of Rule of Reason will know that the Social Security system was a fraud from its inception. Walter Williams on February 4th addressed this subject in “The National Ponzi Scheme,” brilliantly and succinctly explicating the mechanics of the system. He values the truth about it and wishes to communicate it to his readers. That truth is not forthcoming from the federal government, of course, nor will it be reported by our patronizing, Sesame Street news media. Who would take up the lamp of knowledge for any reason other than for wanting to know? Williams seeks to debunk all the propaganda about Social Security and let his readers know exactly how they are being cheated, defrauded, and chained.
It does not matter that Williams’ revelations have not sent Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Barney Frank and all their ilk scurrying for cover all the while stammering denial. Williams has added titanium-jacketed dumdums to the arsenal of those who choose to lock and load their arguments for freedom.
The respondent went on to say:
“Your clarion calls in defense of national ideals are inspired and melodic, but such noble efforts seem wasted given the apathetic, deaf and decadent context of the times; indeed, I have an impression of you valiantly, but foolishly, trying to pitch a tent in an avalanche.”
Such a compliment inadvertently puts me in the company of Cicero, Galileo, Patrick Henry and many others in history who pitched their tents, if not on an avalanche, than in its path. Would we be better off today if they had remained silent about the growth of tyranny or the suppression of the truth? Or judiciously taciturn about how such a crime can be committed? Wallflowers do not ignite revolutions. Nor do they save them. Cicero lost his fight and his life by indulging in such “foolishness.” Galileo was forced to recant. But Henry won his fight, twice, first by uniting the colonies for the first time in a common cause with his Stamp Act Resolves to oppose Crown authority, and then by campaigning for the inclusion of a Bill of Rights in the Constitution.
“Why dwell on and deplore the frayed American fabric? I say: disburden yourself now and bide your time to mend it.”
If I had disburdened myself long ago, would I have anything to say at all, or any talent to say it? Practice makes perfect, and if I had not practiced I would be hard put to identify and articulate my likes and dislikes, contentments and concerns, pleasures and fears, the is and the ought. Would I have written fifteen novels and innumerable dozens of published essays, book reviews, and articles?
An element of bitterness and despair redounds throughout the respondent’s advice, which I have often felt in my career, perhaps more poignantly than he has experienced, for I have been in the front lines for decades. I have been rebuffed, ignored, and derogated more times than he could imagine. The antidote to such bitterness and despair is to act, regardless of the expected outcome. The only action open to me in today’s circumstances is to write. To allow apathy, deafness, and decadence to discourage and silence me would be to surrender existence and my life to them without a fight.
Why should I bide my time to mend the American fabric, when I need to teach myself how best to baste, sew, and stitch that fabric? At the eleventh hour, could I count on the Muses of Declamation and Exposition to suddenly inspire me to speak? Doubtful. The Muses do not bother to disturb those lost in the resignation of quietism.
The respondent asserts that only physical coercion by the government will cause Americans to revolt.
“Yes, I think American government MUST sink THAT low before widespread public alarm and indignation will blaze up, inspiring legions of individuals to reclaim, champion, and demand their fundamental American rights.”
Who and what will alarm the public? Who and what will move it to indignation? Who and what will inform the public that “now is the time”? Who and what will inspire legions to rise up, not only against the oppressors, but against the philosophy that sanctioned their power? Are not Americans being coerced now? Why do they tolerate it? Taxation, regulation and prohibition are all indirect but legalized forms of coercion. Who and what are to remind Americans that this is theft by stealth, and that it has the same consequences as undisguised armed robbery, serfdom and penury? Who and what will tell them that it is a republic they have lost and must reclaim?
Writers, and their words. Or, as John Milton put it in Paradise Lost:
“Thus Belial with words clothed in reason’s garb counseled ignoble ease, and peaceful sloth, not peace.” (Book 2, line 226)
Now, what could Milton have meant by those words?