Bryan Hyde is a news commentator and co-host of the Perspectives morning show on Fox News 1450 AM 93.1 FM. The opinions stated in this article are his and not those of St. George News.
OPINION – The surest way to be labeled a whacko these days is to affirm that freedom is in decline in America. A few simple questions can help establish the growing distance between our government and the people.
Are travelers being groped and electronically undressed by the TSA? Are militarized police strike forces executing SWAT raids over everything from illicit substances to gambling to unpaid student loans? Are banks required to report on our financial transactions without our knowledge? Are our emails and telephone calls being monitored for suspicious activities? Do national leaders claim the power to detain or assassinate anyone they deem an enemy for any reason and without due process? Are drones now keeping a watchful eye above American soil?
The answer to each of these questions is a disappointing “yes.” But anyone pointing out these trends can expect to be summarily labeled extremist or simply anti-government.
Despite mounting evidence to the contrary, a majority of Americans still fervently believe that they are a free people. In that respect, we share a common blind spot with another group of people who also allowed abusive government power to grow unchecked.
Milton Mayer’s excellent book, “They Thought They Were Free: The Germans 1933-1945,” written in the years following the Second World War. Mayer’s book is a study of the lives of ten ordinary German citizens and particularly what their lives were like under Nazi rule.
The most remarkable conclusion of the book was that many Germans, even after the war, were unable to admit that the Nazi regime was tyrannical. By conflating their own identities with that of the state, Germans were unwilling to condemn the lies, the aggression and the atrocities of their leaders. They sang patriotic songs, waved their flags and cheered their troops without a second thought about the morality of what was being done.
On the other hand, the Germans who recognized and spoke out about the growing threat were labeled as “neurotic” and “alarmist” for suggesting that tyranny was approaching. With each new encroachment they tried to warn their fellow citizens, but were told they were “just seeing things.”
One man described it as, “Each act, each occasion, is worse than the last, but only a little worse. You wait for the next and the next. You wait for one great shocking occasion, thinking that others, when such a shock comes, will join with you in resisting somehow.” But because the worst and final acts of the regime were separated from the earlier, smaller acts by hundreds of incremental steps, the great shock that should have awakened the masses never came.
As the cumulative effect on individual freedom mounted, those in power became increasingly insistent that the German people submit and obey. By being unwilling to make a stand early on, when the infringements were relatively minor, the German people eventually found themselves in a position where speaking out was virtually impossible.
Those who have the courage to read Mayer’s book will likely be astonished at the number of parallels between pre-World War II Germany and our nation today. Like the German people did, we tend to think of ourselves as patriotic citizens who are proud to be free. But like them, we also possess a fatal blindness that presumes that our government could never be found on the wrong side of history.
Even when confronted with specific evidence that abuses are taking place, we tend to minimize or excuse revelations of government wrongdoing as “isolated incidents” or “paranoia.” Some go so far as to argue that if a particular infringement of freedom hasn’t happened to them personally, then it must not be a problem. They fail to understand that if government is doing it to anyone, it can eventually do it to all of us.
The almost imperceptible and incremental baby steps by which full-blown despotism arrives add up far more quickly than we realize. The great shock that will awaken everyone will arrive too late. The future of our freedom in America depends upon us being able to recognize how the little infringements today lead to a total loss of freedom over time. We’d also be wise to learn from those who have made similar mistakes.
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Copyright 2012 St. George News.