Tuesday, December 7, 2021

The gift of liberty. . .

Perhaps on this anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor it might be worth taking a look at the liberty we fought so hard to preserve.  In particular, to look at the willingness of this generation to surrender the very things we were willing to risk everything to preserve.  Some of it comes in the wake of a pandemic but the rest of it comes with an increasing frustration with capitalism and democracy itself.  We seem to be willing to give up much in pursuit of a greater good that promises much but extracts a price -- the rights to privacy and the individual liberties that once were the hallmark of our nation.

Abortion was justified as a small price to pay for a greater good -- the emancipation of women from their own bodies natural reproductive destiny, the elimination of unwanted children and the prevention of them living unwanted lives, and the establishment of a right that justified the ending of one life at the decision of another.  We were haunted by pictures of back alley botched abortions and twelve year old rape victims that slanted the views of many in support of a procedure that did not at all reflect the statistics.  All before we had ultrasounds and knew what we know now about those babies in the womb!  But it was for the greater good.

It began after 9-11.  Faced with an enemy we did not see and seemed unable to predict, we began a process of secret courts to justify the greater good of preserving our land against the terrorist we did not know.  We began patting down old ladies in wheelchairs at airports and scanning children to see it they were threats.  We began requiring documentation of identity (the now postponed gold star on the driver's license that says you are who it says you are).  Both of these seemed prudent and reasonable to the many in the wake of such shocking attacks -- just like the decision to intern the Japanese after Pearl Harbor.  But how far are we willing to go protect ourselves?

After school shootings the now normal metal detectors and those in uniform patrolling the hallways of our schools, now locked down during school hours, became routine.  Again, it was the cost of protecting our children.  Who would not be willing to sacrifice something to protect those most precious to us?  It was a greater good that justified what was done but it has not stopped there.  Legal gun owners have now become pariahs in some places and a right guaranteed by our most sacred documents is under scrutiny by those who seek to restrict legal ownership.

Then came the social media police deciding what deserved to be heard and seen and what did not.  Free speech is only free if it supports the party line -- that is what we shuddered to find out about life under communism but who knew that it might show up in our own back yards?  Now we have a strange situation in which the Taliban can post to Facebook but a former President of the USA cannot.  We have fact checkers telling us what is true because we can no longer agree on what truth is.  Pilate would be proud.  Again, the justification is the greater good.

By the time the pandemic hit, we were ready to shut down our economy, empty the skies of air travel, send home our kids, close down churches, and do whatever we thought would end a virus none of us can see and some of us, apparently, can have without symptom.  When the vaccine came and we thought we were returning to normal, we began the drumbeat of mandate that said the greater good was more important that individual conscience or liberty.

All the cell phone manufacturers adjusted the programming to allow for contact tracing in the wake of the pandemic -- add this to the government's ability to read our texts, listen in to our conversations, and mark where we go.  Apple decided that its part against the scourge of child pornography would be to look through our stored photos on our I-devices and in the I-Cloud and decide which were porn and which were not.  It is a tremendous overreach -- not of government but of industry -- and yet in pursuit of a greater good many think it is justified. 

Climate change gurus are telling us that our lives must radically change and we must be willing to pay the cost of that change to preserve the environment.  So autos will be mostly electric in 10-15 years and all electricity will be green and manufacturing will have to find new ways to produce and new things to produce to prevent the oceans and landfills from being polluted.  It will cost jobs and it will make everything we use and eat and purchase cost more but it will be worth it -- so we are told.  Since we are not doing this on our own, government will tell us what we must do and will enforce its mandate.  It is all for the greater good, of course.

An infrastructure bill proposed is much more than an infrastructure bill.  In it are hidden goodies that will complete the radical transformation of our lives and the disruption of our freedoms -- all in the name of the greater good.  It represents a wholesale takeover of so much of our lives and yet it has broad support.  The government would pay for family leave, would provide for universal preschool from age 3, would receive income supplements, all school children would receive free meals, high school graduates would be guaranteed two years of college education free, work force training programs would fund the shift of our labor force to new careers, elder care would be covered, and Medicare expanded to cover dental, hearing, and vision coverage.  Among other things.  In other words, from cradle to grave, the federal government would direct, control, and fund the shape of our lives.  It is costly, to be sure, but the plea under it all is, again, the greater good.

We seem poised to surrender so much of our liberty and give up so many rights in pursuit of a life without risk, a protected life in which others make decisions for us, and a preserved life that affords us the entertainment, pleasure, and happiness we seek.  But labor, moral choices, and freedom are not what we seek.  A nation born of people who came here to be free -- free to work, free to worship, free to wed, free to raise their children, and free to make their own choices in life -- has given way to a nation willing to live lives stripped of rights and freedoms in order to preserve their own individual welfare.  While it sounds good in the face of a growing inequity between rich and poor, the end result is to make everyone poorer.  If we are all dependent upon the government, then we are all on welfare.  

Is this what we want?  Does this accord with Scripture?  Can we as Christians embrace a birth to death government reach into our homes, neighborhoods, technological devices, and lives?  In effect, the government has relieved us of one messy problem -- who is my neighbor?  The only hitch is that we will be unable to bite the hand that feeds us and will become accomplices to those who decide what the greater good is and how it works out.  This could be a greater impact upon the shape of America than any attack on our land has ever been -- from Pearl Harbor to 9-11.  I am not sure that those who died to preserve our liberty would be as willing as this generation is to give it all up in favor of a greater good.  Further, I shudder to think what other greater goods await us and what that will cost us down the pike.

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