Finally, to those nations who would make themselves our adversary, we offer not a pledge but a request: that both sides begin anew the quest for peace, before the dark powers of destruction unleashed by science engulf all humanity in planned or accidental self-destruction.
We dare not tempt them with weakness. For only when our arms are sufficient beyond doubt can we be certain beyond doubt that they will never be employed.
~ John F. Kennedy, Inaugural Address, January 1961
We see above and to the right famous words from John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address. He spoke to rally Americans in a great struggle against totalitarian communism. Now, just sixty years later, America’s enemies sit not in Moscow, but in Washington, DC. Now we have to recognize that the threat to our liberties comes not from abroad but from our own government. I am not someone who paints a Hitler mustache on Obama and calls it a day. President Obama has a difficult job. He is patriotic and he tries hard. He has not, however, changed Washington’s self-serving culture, and his philosophy of active, we-know-what’s-good-for-you government is radically out of place. Moreover, the administration he runs has proven just as secretive as all those before it. Therefore, Kennedy’s words apply not to us as we face overseas enemies; they apply to us as we face our own government.
“Only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger.” We’ve seen people all through north Africa and the Middle East rise to this opportunity. Will we see a similar impulse to reestablish and protect freedom here in our own country? Will we even recognize how much freedom we have lost, and why we have lost it?
Citizens dare not tempt their government with weakness. When the government perceives weak citizens, it takes advantage of them relentlessly. Eventually citizens lose all their liberties and have no resources at hand to restore them. A key element in this struggle is that citizens must remain armed. Government has to know that citizens are not weak or helpless. Only in that robust state can we be confident that weapons won’t be used.
The government has become the people’s adversary. It bullies people, orders them around, and ties them down with a thousand threads. It claims the rules are necessary for justice, safety, fairness, and prosperity. It says it cares about citizens’ welfare, that it protects their rights, but every action it takes speaks the opposite. It cares not a whit for freedom, when freedom diminishes its own power.
What does a destructive government do when it knows it can manipulate weak and gullible citizens?
- Kennedy’s assassination reminds us. It destroys a leader, and lies to escape responsibility.
- Waco reminds us. It burns a community to the ground and murders everyone in it, then lies to make its action look justified.
- Vietnam, My Lai, Iraq and Fallujah remind us. It initiates illegal, aggressive wars, and lies to hide its guilt.
- Abu Ghraib, Bagram, and Guantanamo remind us. It tortures people in secret, and does not even bother to lie when its crimes come to light.
- AIG, Bank of America, Citicorp, and Goldman Sachs remind us. It lets financial institutions that claim special privileges loot the federal treasury of our tax money, and conducts its panicky deals in secret.
- Wikileaks and Julian Assange remind us. It destroys people, it destroys openness and free speech, then lies to make its actions look necessary.
Do we need any more examples? Do we need more evidence for what happens when we let governments destroy whatever they like? Strong citizens armed with truth must resist a hand this heavy. Armed and dangerous isn’t just a pat phrase. Our government is armed and dangerous. It must perceive that it has adversaries that are equally strong. Bullies, criminals, liars and torturers have to be brought down, even if they wear the garb of legality and the titles of institutional power. We owe allegiance to our constitution and to each other, not to the self-serving people who say they lead us, but commit acts in secret that no good leader would ever commit.
Let’s look at an episode just eight years before Kennedy’s address. What kind of leadership did Joe McCarthy give his country? Consider the effects of his actions. He used fear and intimidation to turn people against each other. He used secrecy to make victims of people who had done nothing wrong. It can happen again. It has already happened.
We can’t let fear and weakness lead to loss of our freedom. We can’t let trust in our government lead to tyranny and hopelessness. The government has not earned our trust, and we should not grant it. The government has not acted legally or honestly, and we should not give it a pass. The government has not acted on our behalf, and that is its only mission: to serve us. It now serves itself, and we have to respond accordingly.
Weakness breeds apathy and fear from the force of government intimidation. Gullibility breeds false belief from the deceit of government propaganda. Citizens dictate to the government what the government should do, not the other way around. Let the government fear the people it has tried to intimidate and deceive. Let the government become nervous about its hold on power. That’s when you see what an empty, illegitimate, immoral shell it is. That’s when you see its authority collapse, and you wonder how it could ever have enforced obedience to its freedom squashing rules.
Let’s not be weak and gullible when we respond to our government. Let’s be strong and incredulous. Let’s not be fearful or apathetic anymore. Let’s not look to government to protect us from things that make us afraid. Let government be fearful and respectful – of us. Let government look for protection from things that make it afraid. After the way it has acted, it won’t find protection from citizens who are angry and fed up. It has lost its friends.