October 15, 2008
Preserving the Brilliant Dance Called FreedomBy Janet Lynn
"You don't know what freedom is," I was told by a former Soviet Olympic champion after the fall of the Berlin Wall. He proclaimed that "freedom is having everything given to you," adding, "so you can become great like me."
Barack Obama's mantra of "change" eerily echoes the statement, "Freedom is having everything given to you."
And that eerie echo has prompted related memories to emerge in me.
During the Cold War, I represented United States Figure Skating in two Olympic games and six World Championships. Performing numerous times behind the Iron Curtain showed me that a people whose government "gives" them everything are not free.
Long before the Berlin Wall fell, I was among United States athletes aboard an airplane traveling home from the former Soviet Union. In transit, we were bombarded with Soviet propaganda by a mysterious man. He tried to persuade us to accept socialist ideas he attributed to Karl Marx-- who taught, "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need." Centralized government has power to meet all needs through high taxes, he said. Free health care, free education at government schools, equal paying jobs and housing for everyone are promises of equality.
Idealism tempted me. However, my glimpses of oppression and fear behind the Iron Curtain prevented me from ever embracing Marxism. Tens of millions of people who disagreed with these "utopian visions" were killed or sentenced to labor camps. Humanity has paid a hideous price for the ideas of Marx as they have marched through history.
Behind the Iron Curtain we were constantly monitored. While on a tour, I saw people standing in the bitter cold in a long line hoping to get bread for dinner. A state-run grocery store proudly shown to our group was almost empty of food. Roads had little traffic because only certain people were allowed to drive cars. I witnessed a young couple hiding in an armoire white with fear that government officials would find them talking to Westerners.
Information was controlled. Religion was banished. Private property was eliminated. We were shown imposing walls with towers and searchlights. Dogs and armed guards were poised to catch people who might try to flee for freedom and hope for a better life. I wondered why a government would have to threaten its people who were "given everything."
Of course, promises to provide for all our needs in the United States could never lead to such measures--or could they?
A free people wonder: at what point do the pressures of big government extinguish the flame of freedom? Barack Obama promises "change" incompatible with American freedom.
Democrats envision a government-brokered "collective" responsibility. Their new structure is being slowly interwoven into the fabric of the United States government. Their leadership would continue to change focus from the familial and private sectors to impersonal dominating government.
Obama's expanded government programs would include: guaranteed health coverage for every American which would limit choice and quality care; meddling "zero-to-five" early-childhood education; exhausting longer days of instruction for every child in government schools with no school choice; unrealistic promises of "affordable" college for everyone," with mandated "service" in exchange for college tuition credit; "pay equity," a subterfuge for effective federal-government control over private wages.
Government big enough for all this would be powerful enough to control our lives and personal choices, including what kind of light bulbs and cars will be for sale and how much energy one can use.
To pay for these programs, "Peter" will be highly taxed to pay "Paul." Government will tell "Paul" how to get money and how to spend it. When Peter is bankrupt, Paul, too, will be highly taxed.
When the plane I was on long ago touched down in New York under the banner of the Stars and Stripes, the true meaning of freedom was burned eternally into my mind, heart and conscience. The United States is the freest nation in the world. Her people have flourished under the foundations of self-government and individual responsibility. Thomas Jefferson said that preserving freedom requires eternal vigilance.
This election year, my attention has been riveted to a haunting realization. The utopian socialist government ideas to which I was introduced on my travels by the mysterious man on that plane are precisely consistent with Barack Obama's promises for change.
Pressures against our freedoms are strong. How long will the brilliant dance of freedom prevail?
On November 4, let the audacity of anyone who tries to change the United States of America into a socialist nation be rejected forever by the resourceful, exceptional spirit of the American people.
Janet Lynn was five time U.S. Ladies Figure Skating Champion, 1969-1973; Olympic and World bronze medalist, 1972; and World silver medalist, 1973