December 15, 2019

Could tyranny come to America?

Posted on 22. Jan, 2013 by Stephan Helgesen in Politics, Social/Cultural

There is an elephant in our room, and it is the unasked question: “Could tyranny come to America?” I’m told that serious-minded, intelligent people (you know, rational, modern men and women) would never ask this question nor even entertain the possibility of debating it even if it were asked.

Perhaps that’s the problem. Outside of the academic environment where theories and hypotheses are tossed around college classrooms like vulgarities on the Bill Maher show, the question is largely un-debated except among those people that are labeled by the left as kooks, right-wing crazies, wackos, nut jobs, Tea Partyers, survivalists, extremists and Republicans.

It’s not surprising then that we don’t want to talk about the possibility that our U.S. government or any of its three branches: the Legislative, Executive or Judicial might one day (or incrementally over time) turn renegade and limit some of our freedoms or remove others, completely.

Historical examples might be: Lincoln’s suspension of habeas corpus, the internment of innocent Japanese during WWII and the Patriot Act, to name a few. Were we to talk that talk it might make the possibility actually, well, possible. Then, Heaven forbid, we’d have to think about it by shifting our focus away from the latest sports scandal.

That unspoken thought on tyranny (or abuse of power if you prefer) shares the cupboard with a lot of other unspoken thoughts tucked away on our secret shelves. Incest is one. Mental illness is another. Drug addiction and alcoholism (now called substance abuse) are a little more acceptable now that so many Americans have experienced them.

Unspoken issues share space with euphemisms we use to soften reality. For example, “Uncle Joe passed away/on/over last week.” Translation: Uncle Joe died. Passing away sounds like he suddenly left town unannounced and moved to the Villages in Florida.

Euphemisms take the edge off reality by making a perfectly normal but uncomfortable-to-acknowledge situation acceptable to society when society can’t handle the truth. They are also often the precursor for the subordination of unspoken issues (like tyranny) to the dust heap reserved for uncivilized conversation.

It may be high time to man up and talk about tyranny in relation to American life and politics. There are many forms of it, but all of them have one thing in common – an inordinate amount of power concentrated in a few hands.

The enablers of tyranny are cowardice, apathy, ignorance, lethargy, stupidity and gullibility. Tyranny also relies on lies and subterfuge to succeed. The lies don’t have to be sophisticated. They can be simple emotional appeals to our fears and our basic needs. They can come from the left and from the right of the political spectrum, and like fire, they need oxygen to survive. Their oxygen usually comes in the form of a crisis or the threat of one.

Other examples of tyranny are: an abusive parent or spouse, sexual harassment, slavery, monopolies, unfair laws, un-enforced or inconsistently-enforced laws, voter fraud, disenfranchisement or manipulation.

The tyrant is a battlefield commander that divides the opposition into smaller groups, attacks them unmercifully and then paints them with a brush of ideological repugnance and then forces them into a highly visible corner. Finally, the tyrant calls the public’s attention to them and declares them, the enemy.

While America may not be teetering on the brink of tyranny, to say it could never happen or ignore the conversation is naive and foolish. I’ve said it before though not said it first, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” To that I would simply add ‘or say nothing.’

- Editor

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