“I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend” ~ Thomas Jefferson
The mission statement for my blog is “the faith, love and politics of raising boys to men.” I’ve talked about bullying, belief intimidation, and the demonization of our young men. This isn’t a political post so much as it is about teaching my sons to stand up for what they believe in an environment that increasingly tries to silence their voices. Today, I want to talk about not just the dangers of silencing our beliefs (not just political but our faith-in-God beliefs), but silencing our beliefs due to oppression and suppression, and yes, how that looks in an election climate.
“All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.” ~ Thomas Jefferson.
A young college student stood at the back of the crowd, talking to some friends a few nights ago. Coolness wafted through a wall of humidity just before a storm front came through. A band played a set of Merle Haggard favorites in our small town amphitheater.
Some children danced with luminescents, grandparents, parents, young mothers and fathers sat in their folding chairs just enjoying a summer evening. It was a sweet evening in America.
The young man, though, kept pulling his grey Indian-cotton short sleeved shirt close, as if to hide his t-shirt. I was standing, fidgeting. Maybe if I’d been snuggled down into those comfy sports chairs, I might not have noticed his t-shirt. But I did – and it looked like a Trump-for-President t-shirt.
It saddened me that he was trying to hide it.
As we turned to leave, I stepped a few feet closer and asked about his Trump-for President t-shirt – congratulating him on wearing it. I thought courage should be encouraged.
He said, “Yeah – it’s a Trump for President t-shirt, but I’m wearing this shirt over it because I don’t want to incite anything.”
I told him about the t-shirt one of my sons gave me for my birthday and about how I was concerned to wear it out, even grocery shopping – concerned even to put a sign in my yard.
He said he had a magnetic Trump-for-President bumper sticker for his car because he was a student at the college. Magnetic, so he could take it off because he didn’t want anyone damaging his vehicle because of his presidential choice. I imagine he also didn’t want his college GPA negatively affected, either.
We talked for a few more minutes – and I left, saddened for both of us. Saddened about the fear and cost of freedom of expression and speech, even in our small town.
This fear-inspired hiding of a t-shirt is the result of A Little Tyranny. A Little Tyranny is made up of little persecutions, like a scratch on your car, a lower grade, intellectual condescension in the form of patronizing disdain, name calling, all of which is in contrast to A Big Tyranny, which negatively affects physical safety, the ability to keep ones job because of different points of view over constitutional beliefs, and ultimately, individual freedom. Little Tyrannies risk growing into Big Tyrannies.
Tyranny has trickled down to small-town America – and it is sad. It is sad that an American boy about to vote in his first presidential election feels the need for caution – caution, not because these beliefs do not belong or deserve to be broadcast, a caution developed from reading about, watching those who have acted nation-wide to shut down through fists, blocking streets, venues, shouting down speech to close down the freedom to gather peacefully for an exchange of ideas, for an exchange of speech, for an exchange of freedom they might not agree with.
Our revolutionary forefathers fought battles so its sons and daughters wouldn’t experience this. The greatest generation gave up much of themselves so its sons and daughters wouldn’t experience this.
Tyranny is an exercise of power over others with a rigor not authorized by law or justice. It is associated with cruelty and oppression. It can be harsh, unjustly cruel, oppressive. It seeks to take away the voice, the beliefs . . . the rights of each citizen.
Followers of tyranny use tactics of intimidation, physical and intellectual bullying, oppression and violence to silence opinions different from their own. It does not scoot over to make room for anyone thinking differently.
The enabling of tyranny is evident in the “safe spaces” created for college students because different opinions scare them. This type of intellectual enabling of students, a type of encouraged self-imprisonment, atrophies intellectual development, resulting in a myopic understanding of the world, their country, their state and even their neighbors. If differing opinions can’t be faced, how can students and citizens understand the objective history of differing opinions, why people have those differing opinions, why differing opinions existing together provide a healthy environment where freedom grows. If students and citizens don’t understand, then they cannot respect differences – and if differences cannot be respected, intolerance develops. Intolerance then leads to tyranny.
“If there is any principle of the Constitution that more imperatively calls for attachment than any other it is the principle of free thought — not free thought for those who agree with us but freedom for the thought that we hate” ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., U.S. Supreme Court justice.
Followers of tyranny make no room for opposition. Those followers will shut it down any way they can – and when an existing government fails to protect the freedoms like those in our Constitution, then the environment will have been created out of which will grow persecuting intolerance – like Mao’s intolerance, Stalin’s intolerance, Hitler’s intolerance, Castro’s intolerance – all who imprisoned, tortured and eradicated millions and millions of people who didn’t agree.
I’ve always told my sons – and my college students, you need three reasons to believe something. In this election season, I have my three reasons for why I’m voting for Donald Trump.
- Non-persecuted Christianity can only exist under the umbrella of Capitalism. The umbrella of socialism/communism makes no room for Christianity. Where freedom for Capitalism exists, freedom for non-persecuted Christianity exists.
- Trump’s daughter is Jewish, and as such, will support Israel. “I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:3). I also believe that God has a history of using unlikely men to lead his people out of oppression into a fully redeemed relationship with him (read Judges).
- Trumps supporters/followers don’t resort to tyranny in order to shut down the freedom to express differing opinions. If a candidate’s followers make no room in a political debate for differing opinions, most likely that candidate will make no room, if elected, for ideological, religious or personal differences either – and what was once individual bullying will become government-endorsed bullying to ensure differing opinions won’t exist to challenge their use of power.
“If men are to be precluded from offering their sentiments on a matter, which may involve the most serious and alarming consequences that can invite the consideration of mankind, reason is of no use to us; the freedom of speech may be taken away, and dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep, to the slaughter” ~George Washington, first U.S. president
The America I know does not persecute its citizens into silence. The America I know does not persecute its people into hiding their beliefs. The America I know was created so that no one would ever need to build priest holes to hide their religious leaders or freedom fighters.
“Let us not give up in freedom what we would never give up in persecution” ~ Nik Ripkin, The Insanity of God
Tyranny in a free country gives birth to government sanctioned persecution that seeks to silence differing opinions permanently.
My father-in-law used to say, “I can’t hear what you’re saying over what your actions are telling me.”
If you can tell much about a man by whom he surrounds himself, then surely you can tell much about a political candidate by who his followers are. If one man’s followers seek to shut down another person’s beliefs through fists, destruction and bullying, and the second man’s followers don’t persecute those who believe differently, though they disagree, I would choose the second man every time. The second man will uphold life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
“Freedom of speech is a principal pillar of a free government: When this support is taken away, the constitution of a free society is dissolved,” ~ Father Benjamin Franklin