Saturday, October 10, 2009
Liberty and Tyranny
Abraham Lincoln is quoted as making the following statement in 1864: "We all declare for liberty; but in using the same word we do not all mean the same thing. With some the word liberty may mean for each man to do as he pleases with himself, and the product of his labor; while with others the same word may mean for some men to do as they please with other men, and the product of other men's labor. Here are two, not only different, but incompatible things, called by the same name - liberty. And it follows that each of the things is, by the respective parties, called by two different and incompatible names - liberty and tyranny" (Mark R. Levin, Liberty and Tyranny A Conservative Manifesto (back cover). Liberty and Tyranny are two great forces in the world that seem to be everywhere. The wars currently going on in Iraq and Afghanistan are being fought to bring liberty where tyranny once reigned freely. The Korean War was fought to keep South Korea free of the tyranny of North Korea. World War II was fought to stop the tyranny of Germany, Italy, and Japan from being forced upon the rest of the world. In The Revolutionary War the American colonists fought a war against their mother country for liberty. Those familiar words in the Declaration of Independence state: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…." The United States Constitution was written to put in place the laws that would maintain those unalienable Rights, including Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. Right now in our country the Constitution is under attack. President Barack Obama has outright stated that the Constitution doesn't do what we want it to do. In particular, he thinks that the Constitution should tell us what the government can do for us rather than just what the government can't do to us (see the Bill of Rights). I'll admit that I've been looking at the big picture, thinking of freedom for our whole country. What are we supposed to do when we live in a country that guarantees liberty, but in our own home and/or community there is tyranny? How do we recognize tyranny in our personal lives? What do we do about it when we see it? What are the characteristics we should be aware of? How do we teach and train our children in liberty rather than tyranny? Today I've been forced to look at freedom from tyranny on a more personal level. I've spent the bigger part of the past two days reading a book called Escape by Carolyn Jessop with Laura Palmer. This book is the story of Carolyn Jessop, and her account is said to be "absolutely factual" (Jon Krakauer on back cover). In her book Carolyn tells the story of how she was born into a family that practiced polygamy for six generations. She accepted polygamy as the way life should be. When she was eighteen years old, she became the fourth wife of a fifty-year-old man. She had eight children in the fifteen years. Carolyn describes the tyranny that went on in her childhood home, schools, and later in her married life. She suffered physical abuse from her mother. She saw physical abuse on her bus when students assaulted other students and in her classroom when her principal "disciplined" students. She witnessed and suffered emotional and physical in her husband's home: husband upon wife, parent upon child, wife upon wife, child upon child. When she realized that life was becoming even more difficult, she began to plot her escape. After several years of planning, she was able to escape and take all eight of her children with her. Even though she was in a new community and receiving help, the results of all the abuse and tension continued to plague her. Little by little she was able to throw off the tyranny and become truly free. As I read this book, I begin to recognize the signs of other tyrannies that are familiar to us, like that of the Taliban, Hitler, Saddam Hussein, etc.: . The power was concentrated in one person who was the supreme head. In the family, father had absolute power. In the cult (the author's word) power was concentrated in the "prophet." In either case, there was to be no questioning of authority. The decision made by the person in control was permanent. . The right words were used, but the meaning was changed to mean whatever the supreme head wanted. . Laws were used to keep the masses under control, but the leaders had no laws. . Schools were for indoctrination but were eventually closed. Education was determined to be bad. They didn't want anyone learning to think for themselves or to be influenced by anyone outside their group. . Outside contact was eliminated. Television, radio, Internet, and newspapers were considered to be evil. Any information, such as the weather report, would be given by those in authority. . Women and children were powerless. They were under the direct control of the father in the home and had to endure whatever he chose to inflict. For rebellious wives or children, husbands and fathers could go to the "prophet" for more support. . Members of the family were encouraged to spy on each other and make reports to the father. . Affection was non-existent, whether between spouses or between parent and child. Emotional support was missing. . Personal control was taken away, such as type of clothing to be worn, hair styles, careers, etc. Towards the end of the book, even sex between husband and wife was being dictated. Tyranny has been defined as cruel or unjust use of power. The following quote is attributed to William Pitt, "Where laws end, tyranny begins." Edmund Burke is quoted as saying, "Bad laws are the worst sort of tyranny." Synonyms for tyranny are oppression, harshness, despotism. On the other hand, liberty has been defined as freedom; the condition of being free from captivity, imprisonment, or slavery; independence; the right or power to do as one pleases; power or opportunity to do something. (World Book Encyclopedia) God gave us agency, the freedom to choose, and the U.S. Constitution guarantees the liberty to use that agency. Liberty always involves freedom to grow, to develop, to do as we choose; tyranny always involves oppression and force of some kind. Parents have the responsibility to teach and to train children in love and kindness, but they have no right to use harshness or unkindness in dealing with their children.