Totalitarianism and the Silence of the Lambs
A few days ago, a prominent attorney asked me a question: can religious liberty and the growing demands of government and others occupy the same space? And if not, who wins?
This is, perhaps, not quite the right question.
Dr. Hannibal Lecter, aka "Hannibal the Cannibal" in The Silence of the Lambs asked a more fitting one:
First principles, Clarice. Simplicity. Read Marcus Aurelius. Of each particular thing ask: What is it in itself? What is its nature?
Most pundits observing what has gone on recently in Arizona and other states regarding same-sex marriage have concluded, "We are witnessing a clash between religious and civil liberties." While many nod their heads in agreement, this analysis is wrong.
The fact is that what the left is demanding now through our courts, through legislatures, and at ballot boxes around the country does not constitute “rights” at all, or at least not in the historical sense.
This is not a "clash of religious and civil rights." This is a clash of freedom and untenable, outrageous demands.
The left is seeking not only equal status to enumerated constitutional rights, but a position of superiority. When you have "rights" that have been magically pulled from the emanations and penumbras of the Constitution – such as the “right” to an abortion – that compete with fundamental rights not created by our government, but rather endowed by our Creator, the contest should be quite simple. But when you dislodge the bedrock of our culture, found in our First Amendment, you create a sinkhole of relativism and totalitarianism and anarchy.
There is something much, much deeper going on here.
Same-sex marriage is a trial balloon of sorts, being used to test how far Americans will allow their consciences to be suppressed by the State.
“If Christians can be compelled to lend a craft to something their conscience objects to, what can’t they be compelled to participate in? We’re talking about precedent; and the cases before us are bellwether test cases about whether private actors can be forcibly mandated to go against their conscience" ("Of Consciences and Cakes," First Things, Feb. 20, Andrew Walker).
A couple years ago, the Health and Human Services Contraceptive and Abortifacient Mandate served the same purpose, leading the way to where we now are. When the State can get away with abusive behavior and strong-arm tactics toward even The Little Sisters of the Poor, let alone privately owned businesses such as Hobby Lobby, then statists know that the time is ripe to take another big step.
This battle is much bigger than anybody thinks it is. We cannot see the forest for the trees. We are not witnessing a clash of rights; we are in the middle of a massive social experiment. This is a test for the viability of incremental totalitarianism. Nothing less.
In a kind of Cloward-Piven Strategy, the assault – or "test," or however you want to identify it – is occurring on many different fronts and on many different levels simultaneously. In addition to same-sex marriage and the health care mandate(s), we have the IRS targeting of conservative groups, constant Second Amendment attacks, voter photo ID initiatives labeled as racist by the DOJ, and state initiatives to curb abortions labeled a "War on Women."
Perhaps most chilling is the way that federalism is being undermined from within the states themselves. State judges are now routinely overturning the expressed will of the people, acting unilaterally to impose novel viewpoints on entire state populations.
The fifty states, which are supposed to be laboratories for experimentation – conducting trial runs, so to speak – are being stripped of that function.
The beauty of America is our diversity, much of which is still reflected in the personalities of each of our states. If the reach of the national government extends too far and we become thoroughly homogenized, we inevitably start moving toward a type of tyranny. If the rules and the standards are exactly the same in every state, where can one go either for respite or advantage? As the force of the national government grows, this key element of our American liberty recedes, perhaps to be lost forever.
The Economist magazine once described the wonderful functioning of our local governance very nicely:
America has 50 states with 50 sets of laws. Virginia will never ban hunting, but even if it did, there are 49 other states that won’t. In America, people with unusual hobbies are generally left alone. And power is so devolved that you can more or less choose which rules you want to live under.
If you like low taxes and the death penalty, try Texas. For good public schools and subsidized cycle paths, try Portland, Oregon. Even within states, the rules vary widely. Bath County, Kentucky is dry. Next-door Bourbon County, as the name implies, is not. Nearby Montgomery County is in between: a “moist” county where the sale of alcohol is banned except in one city. Liberal foreign students let it all hang out at Berkeley; those from traditional backgrounds may prefer a campus where there is no peer pressure to drink or fornicate, such as Brigham Young in Utah. (Dec. 19, 2009)
If all our laws and regulations are essentially nationalized, there will be no choices left to us other than the single choice to comply. The very thing that makes the United States such a wonderful success – E pluribus unum, "out of many, one" – is being destroyed. Ironically, in the name of diversity, we are squashing diversity, trampling out opinions anathema to progressive ideology.
Statists are tickled pink that they are able to make headway on this. And for the most part, the media are willing collaborators, as pointed out by Mollie Hemingway in The Federalist:
Religious liberty is a deeply radical concept. It was at this country’s founding and it hasn’t become less so. Preserving it has always been a full-time battle. But it’s important, because religion is at the core of people’s identity. A government that tramples religious liberty is not a government that protects economic freedom. It’s certainly not a government that protects conscience rights. A government that tramples religious liberty does not have expansive press freedoms. Can you think of one country with a narrow view of religious liberty but an expansive view of economic freedom, freedom of association, press freedoms or free speech rights? One?
A media less hostile to religious liberty would think less about scoring cheap political points, creating uncivil political climates, and disparaging institutions that help humans flourish. A media with a higher regard for truth would, it turns out, have a higher regard for religious liberty.
Sadly, we seem to have left the world of reason and tolerance. Could our media climate demonstrate that any better? And what lies ahead, if left uncorrected, is illogical and tyrannical. Freedom of religion was the central principle in the moral case of our country. Once that’s gone, how long can the Republic stand?
Returning to Dr. Lecter's question, "what is it in itself? What is its nature?"
Its nature is this: totalitarianism.
The current visible clash of religious and asserted civil "rights" is secondary – a symptom, not an actual cause.
In fact, the logical conclusion for the trajectory we are now on is the eventual squashing of both civil and religious rights, and this will occur because we have allowed a powerful government to play us one group against another.
What can each of us do?
The only way to stop the advancement of totalitarian measures is for the grassroots of each state to bravely stand up to the bullying, silencing tactics of out-of-touch, frightened judges, legislators, corporate cronies, and media collaborators, as they lead us down a path of decreased liberty and increased totalitarianism.
Stand up for social issues that you know in your gut to be true. Don't allow yourself to be silenced by political correctness. Stand up for marriage. Stand up for life. Stand up for the right of children to be born and to have both a mom and a dad.
Stand up also for constitutionally limited government and fiscal responsibility.
You have Truth with a capital T on your side. You are right, and they are wrong, so do not be afraid.
Don't make the mistake of remaining quiet until you are certain you have a winning argument. That is not your responsibility, and that is what the totalitarian left is hoping you will do. All you are responsible for is to speak truthfully and to let others know your beliefs. We outnumber them. We can overwhelm them with Truth, if only each of us would open our mouths and proclaim the Truth at every opportunity.
Remember: be not afraid.