In 1955 Albert Camus ( a French philosopher and winner of the Nobel Prize in literature in 1957) wrote the following words,
“The welfare of the people in particular has always been the alibi of tyrants, and it provides the further advantage of giving the servants of tyranny a good conscience.”
I wonder what Albert Camus would think, were he alive today to witness the reality of his words being played out around the world but most spectacularly right here in the United States. COVID-19 has indeed provided and proved to be the perfect alibi for a small number of people to seize power over a previously free, self governing nation of people.
In COVID world there are no voices of dissent tolerated. If you disagree with any edicts dictating public behavior, openings/closings, comings and goings, who is essential and who is not, who may congregate and who may not, (still a mystery why some are allowed to gather and others are threatened with legal action if they dare to gather- isn’t the virus equally deadly no matter what the reason for the gathering of people together?) you are shamed into silence and accused of wishing harm to anyone and everyone.
After all, it is those in power, the tyrants, who have our best interests at heart. They know so much more than we could ever hope to know and so must protect us from ourselves and our own bad choices. We have to trust them, right? We dare not trust ourselves, the tyrants have made that clear.
And so we are at the mercy of the tyrants. The problem is, tyrants by definition are not merciful. They are anything but. They have no interest in justice, equality or freedom either. How ironic that they parade under the banner of these ideals even as everything they do works to extinguish our freedoms, the very freedoms which provide us the opportunity to continue pursuing justice and equality for all.
Who loves this country enough to speak out on her behalf? Why all the silence, which gives its unspoken consent and defense to all things previously indefensible? That rhetoric is not popular at the moment. Or is it the mandatory mask mandate that has muzzled us into an uneasy silence – masks being a constant reminder that there is personal danger from both disease and dissent? The question is, which will ultimately prove to be the more deadly?
In 1770 Edmund Burke wrote these telling words in a letter to Thomas Mercer. “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” (or to remain silent)
Another voice from the past, Otto Gritschneder, left us words of warning as well stating, “He who falls asleep in a democracy will wake up in a dictatorship.”
Are we silent because we are sleeping, comfortable for the moment, unwilling to be disturbed or are we silent out of fear, unwilling to risk our current comforts to defend our constitution and the freedoms and protections it provides for us all?
It seems there are few who will come to the defense of this country, this country that has provided them shelter, protection and opportunity to pursue their dreams. Even the opportunity to protest is protected under our first amendment.
How ironic that those who riot in our streets are protesting and burning down the very country which protects their right to do so and protects their freedom to have any opinion they choose. Do they know what happens to people in China who dissent? When you have abolished our Constitution, who will protect you then? (certainly not the now defunct police whom you denigrated and then defunded) Yes, they were there to protect you, too. Well, unless you were committing crimes, that is. Then they were there to protect us from you.
There is this hopeful sign though. In my state, the early voting lines have been long and continue to be long day after day. People are standing in line for hours to cast their vote in person. And with 4-7 hour wait times at some locations, this is quite a sacrifice of their time, yet still the lines continue to be long and they continue to be peaceful.
When our streets are overrun with rioters assaulting police, burning, looting, vandalizing, tearing down and terrorizing – we feel helpless. We may be tempted to think that these rioters speak for everyone, that everyone hates our country and wants to destroy her. Our voices are not heard. In fact, they are even silenced. After all, Patriotism is a punishable offense.
Just look at what happened to Drew Brees. You are not allowed to say you love your country. How many apologies did he issue for simply saying something positive and sharing his feelings publicly? (at least five and counting) I thought free speech was still guaranteed by our constitution?
But these long voting lines tell a different story. One the media won’t tell, but a story nonetheless. No one is paying these voters to stand in line, unlike the professional, paid protesters showing up in every city with bags of bats, bricks and bombs (we saw a u-haul pull up at one site to deliver the mob their ammunition for another night of terror and destruction)
The individuals waiting in voting lines at the polls are quiet and peaceful. They are counting on their voice being heard at the ballot box where their vote will be counted. They are not tearing anything down, they are not attacking anyone physically or verbally but they are participating in the process that lets them choose those who end up in office.
The unprecedented numbers of people in these long lines reveal to us this untold story. There is a silent majority in our country who want peace and prosperity for everyone. (I confess – I am and have been a part of that silent majority, maybe for far too long) And for the past few weeks here in my state, they have been silently standing up and standing in long lines for the privilege of casting their vote. They are letting their voices be heard, not by burning something down, but by participating in the democratic process. And they are willing to pay the price of a long wait, in questionable weather, on their feet – it must be important to each person there or they would simply leave.
These are not the people who have filled our streets with hate speech and violence. These are people willing to sacrifice their time and comfort for something more important. Freedom comes at a cost. In our lifetime the cost hasn’t been very high, as it was paid by those who came before us, those who gave their lives to secure and protect our current freedoms.
It is a very vocal minority that has taken over our streets purporting to speak for all of us, when in reality they speak only for themselves and no one else. They do not speak for me.
I do not think reacting to an act of injustice with multiple acts of multiplied injustices over long periods of time benefits anyone. No one’s life is made better by hate, destruction, violence, vengeance, fear, intimidation, and a mob mentality rule. No one. The answer to injustice is not more injustice. We all suffer as our communities are torn down and terrorized by – by whom?
These people should not be able to hide behind anonymity. Of course that’s why they come out when the sun goes down. Those who do dark deeds love the cover of darkness. “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.” (John 3:19)
Voices from the past continue to speak into our lives today, if we listen to them and learn from them. Gandhi’s words are still with us and they were many. This observation of his is particularly pertinent,
“I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary, the evil it does is permanent.” Likewise Gandhi stated,
“Permanent good can never be the outcome of untruth and violence.” Gandhi’s message was this,
“In a gentle way, you can shake the world.” Maybe meaning positive change doesn’t come through violence? How does it come? These words of Gandhi answer that question,
“The spirit of democracy is not a mechanical thing to be adjusted by abolition of forms. It requires change of heart.”
Human hearts are hard to change, especially when they are hardened hearts. Fortunately, we don’t need to rely on a voice from the past to guide us in how to change our hearts. We have an ever present voice in the person of God’s Holy Spirit speaking God’s wisdom and truth into our hearts and minds and lives all day long. But we have to stop and we have to listen.
Jesus told His disciples concerning the Holy Spirit, “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. . . . But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all truth.” (John 14:26 & John 16:13)
And truth is necessary for freedom. Jesus said, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. . . . So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:32 & 36)
Paul said in Galatians 5:1, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”
When the truth is known, freedom will follow. It is lies and deceits that keep us captive. (that’s why a free press was so important to our founding fathers) When speech is not free, the people are not free. When we cannot worship freely (or choose not to) we are no longer free.
Today voices from our past mingle with the voices of our present. Yet above them all is the still, small, steady voice of God’s Holy Spirit calling us to Him who can change our hearts and make us holy. Gandhi was onto something when he said the heart must change first, then world change will follow in its wake.
“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10) “Create in me a new, clean heart, O God, filled with clean thoughts and right desires.” (Living Bible translation)
sincerely, Grace Day