As a nation, we find ourselves lost in a stormy sea of doubt. As our troubles grow, we search for a captain capable of taking the helm to lead us clear of our troubles, into the clear skies and promised glory of yesteryear.
But as we cast our gaze on a field of challengers to find this chosen one, we inevitably find that all of them fall short of the task. The real problem, however, is not that we cannot find someone talented enough to solve our problems; no, our real problem is that we, as a people, cling to the hope that such a person can be found at all.
Whereas once we proudly captained our own vessels, guided by the lighthouse beacons of self-determination and self-identification, we have been convinced to lash our ships to the proud ship of state.
With the most enticing visions of the future, our past captains bound us ever tighter to the state. We submitted to each successive loss of liberty, with hope of some material gain. The national income tax was instituted to supplement governmental income and provide more services. The Patriot Act and the 16 U.S. intelligence agencies were created merely for our own well-being and protection. Citizens are herded like cattle to be poked and prodded by Transportation Security Administration personnel in the name of airport security. The need for protest permits in the realm of free speech was naturally intended only to preserve the public tranquility.
Despite the Founding Fathers’ warnings, we regularly trade liberty for security and comfort, but rarely do we find it worth the expense. The income tax, once a 3 percent tax filed on a single sheet of paper, now requires taxpayers to reference an over 13,000 page tax code; the revenue is used to fund activities many taxpayers find morally repugnant. The intelligence community, so enabled by the Patriot Act, regularly spies on presumably innocent U.S. citizens.
Inevitably, we change leadership, as we have done three times in the past decade, after we see these encroachments. Sadly, each new regime finds new liberties to curtail in pursuit of the greater good and finds the increased power of its forerunners too convenient to part with. New regulations are introduced and the old outrages join the ranks of the status quo to serve as the masters and guardians of new generations.
Our current congressional leaders, once outraged by growing executive power the Patriot Act, the Iraq War, the war in Afghanistan, warrantless wiretapping among others suddenly find themselves blind to those offenses which they so strongly opposed. Now our new captains have some regulations of their own to introduce.
For example, the health care “reform” bill recently approved by the House is akin to Pandora’s Box. The bill weighs in at over 2,000 pages, rife with cryptic mandates and regulations written in flowing legalese. It is so long and convoluted that even its backers admit that no one fully understands how it will be implemented.
One particularly lovely piece of the legislation criminalizes a citizen’s refusal to purchase health insurance. To complement this power grab, the Senate’s proposed Cap and Trade bill would vest the Environmental Protection Agency with the power to regulate greenhouse gases with all the fees, fines, and criminal charges already at its disposal.
Current poll numbers indicate that Americans are already tired of these heavy-handed tactics and our leadership may change hands once again in 2010. Unfortunately, history shows this will do nothing to restore our liberty. As the party of economic tyranny departs, the lazy stewards of civil liberties will return.
Even though we have seen the inability of our leaders to repeal failed policies and rule with regard to the rights of all men, some still insist on clinging ever tighter to the state, “knowing” that it was the other side that sabotaged their utopia. They hold fast to the hope that their group might again wrest control and set things right.
Each party, given its turn at the helm, is willing to cede certain rights of all citizens, usually rights it doesn’t much care for, on behalf of a partisan goal. Whether the issue is forcing universal health care upon the citizenry, controlling what children are taught in school or deciding the validity of same-sex marriages, it seems as if all of our leaders dearly wish to wield the power of the government against their opposition.
In the future, we must all resist the temptation to elect those willing to use the state to impose their will on others. It may seem advantageous in the short term to have the government cater to your vision of the world, especially when the only expense is unwanted liberties, but a just government must be a government by the people for all the people.
Leaders who crush the rights of the opposition only ensure the same, in turn, will be done to them.
John Scrudato is a junior in Morse College.