If you were born with pale skin in the United States in the last 150 years, you have led a life of great privilege, though you might not realize it. You might begin to realize it if you could exchange brief life stories with someone your age born in Ghana, Afghanistan, Hong Kong, Brazil, Iraq … most any other non-democratic nation. But here’s the thing … we are so used to that life of privilege that we no longer appreciate it, we take it for granted.
Since you were old enough to talk, you’ve understood that this is a mostly free nation, that people have certain ‘unalienable’ rights. You can choose your own career path, can choose to be well-educated … or not. You can choose, within the confines of your economic status, where to live, what sort of car to drive. You are not told who, or even if you must marry. You are not forced into any religion. And perhaps most importantly of all, you have the right to vote in order to keep people in government who are dedicated to preserving your rights.
You were told when you first learned about the founding of the U.S. and the U.S. Constitution that this document was the foundation of our nation and was the primary safeguard against the country ever becoming a Nazi Germany ruled by a madman. You were told that the Constitution guaranteed that religion and government would always be kept separate, that you would never be beheaded for not believing in any religion. It is your right, you were told, to be a Jew, Muslin, Hindu, Christian, or atheist. It is your right to marry whomever you choose. It is your right to have the final say over your body. And you thought all this was guaranteed, that those ‘rights’ could never be taken away from you.
It may just be that you were wrong.
We became lazy, we became complacent, we became inured to the little things that were chipping away at our lives, our freedoms, as we didn’t even realize it. We trusted in our government and its foundational separation of powers that would always keep any one branch of government from having too much power. We never asked ourselves what would happen if two or even three of those branches plotted to join hands and become all-powerful. We had the utmost faith in the impartial, non-partisan, 9-member Supreme Court that would always rule in favour of ‘right’. We trusted in the ‘Separation of Church and State’ doctrine to keep us free of bigoted, restrictive rules imposed by religious sects.
But a funny thing happened as we travelled through the decades. Men became intoxicated by power and the smell of money. And then they lied to us. They lied about little things, they lied about big things. They manipulated us, told us that those who try to help people in need are ‘socialists’ and ‘communists’, even though the majority of people do not even understand what those terms mean, but these greedy men gave us their interpretation and … we were too lazy to educate ourselves with facts, to learn the truth of the matter.
I won’t go through the entire scenario of the past twelve years or so, but here we are today … dangerously close to the precipice, to that thin line that separates a democratic republic from an autocracy. Even now, when we nearly lost our voices and our freedoms on January 6th, far too many people believe that the men lying to them on a near-hourly basis are the good guys, the guys in the white hats. They have allowed themselves to be brainwashed into believing that white folks like themselves are being pushed into a minority and that … somehow this is not a good thing. They have been convinced that climate change is a hoax, that the pandemic is but a minor blip on the radar, and that somehow all evil stems from one side of the political spectrum.
A quote by Nelson Mandela speaks volumes here …
The United States is at a crossroads. We can continue to allow the politicians, our elected representatives, to lie to us, to rob us, to cheat on us, as we take comfort in the fact that we have a job, a comfortable home, a ‘happy’ life, or we can educate ourselves, wake up and realize what could happen, how drastically our lives could change over the coming few years if we simply do nothing, continue to believe that somehow it will “all work out in the long run.” A lot of people in Germany 90 years ago made the same mistake.