I Am Now a Dissident (and You Should Be, Too!)

dissident n. a person who opposes official policy, esp. that of an authoritarian state.

We live in a nation where the constitutionally respectful are becoming increasingly outnumbered by those who neither understand the underpinnings of our founding nor recognize the benefits that flow from those foundational values. 

In place of legitimate constitutional scholarship in our educational system, we see a systematic and unrelenting effort to overturn the original concepts of our Constitution in favor of some "living" replacement -- an "updated" document made for a diverse and evolving population, or so we are told.

Those who hold offices created by the Constitution itself are the very people using the power of those offices to usurp constitutional authority and undermine its place in American law.

After Obama utilized his entire first term to levy insult after insult against the rule of law in our nation, we conservatives appealed to our fellow citizens to vote with us to halt his lawlessness.  We discovered to our eternal dismay that we -- not they -- are the minority.

Abraham Lincoln said:

We the people are the rightful masters of both Congress and the courts, not to overthrow the Constitution but to overthrow the men who pervert the Constitution.

This role has fallen to us now.  We are both more and less than the citizens we were before 2012.  We have become dissidents.  In our own land.  We are, however, in good company.  After all, Jesus was a dissident.

But let's look at a more approachable example for our time: Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.

Born 95 years ago, Solzhenitsyn became one of his country's most famous citizens, and, in the view of many of his countrymen, its most notorious traitor.  By chronicling the forced labor abuses of the Soviet Union's political prison system, he revealed the inherent nature of communism to the world.

Solzhenitsyn was born a year after the Soviet revolution of 1917.  Soviet statism was his world.  He drew the ire of Stalin's regime by simply discussing how far the reality of communism was from the promise of communism.  He saw through statist ideology from the beginning and dedicated his life to warning others of its inevitable outcome. 

His first published novel, One day in the life of Ivan Denisovich, was a tightly focused exposé on the lives of those in the labor camps.  It revealed much, exposing the abusive excesses commonplace in the camps, but did not take the final step of offering judgment on the system that oversaw those camps.  That would come later, in his seminal work, The Gulag Archipelago.

In Gulag, Solzhenitsyn deconstructed the moral case for communism.  In more than two thousand pages over three volumes, he contrasted communist ideology with the natural free state of man, daring to illuminate for shuttered Soviets that place in the pantheon of existence that man holds between God and the angels -- his relationship to good and evil -- and the illegitimacy of the state's intrusion into the equation.

Almost singlehandedly, his work removed communism from among the legitimate forms of government recognized on Earth.

He didn't stop there.  He cast a critical eye on Western societies as well, faulting them for replacing God with the pursuit of wealth, just as Communism had replaced God with the State.

He particularly disliked the West's conflation of legality with morality, abhorring the idea that because it is legal, it is also right.  He decried the application of this distorted concept to the practice of abortion, declaring that the imprimatur of legality granted by the State will not be enough to pass muster with God. 

As he grew older, his faith became increasingly important to him.  He spent his declining years urging his fellow citizens in Russia to rediscover their connection to God as partial recompense for having allowed the State to usurp God's throne.

He died in 2008, still writing, still agitating, still wearing his greatest title, that of dissident.

So, what can we learn from Solzhenitsyn?

  • Stories teach better than arguments. People may not understand the "takings clause" of the Constitution, but they will become incensed about a story of government forcing people from their homes.
  • Teach with stories, not just with information. Stories internalize truths we recognize, but don't fully understand. A story is accessible to anyone, regardless of education or political inclination. After all, Hollywood was built on exactly that, and we know the extent of their cultural power.

To that end, here are some pieces of advice.

1) Never underestimate the power of mockery. 

It is irrational and, as such, irrefutable.  It allows for the bludgeon of humor to strike your opponent without drawing blood.  Mockery does all its damage on the inside, unnerving your opponent and derailing his arguments.

2) Learn from Solzhenitsyn's methods. 

Focus on the result of a policy or initiative, and force those responsible to explain and defend it.  Solzhenitsyn didn't simply decry Communism.  He illustrated the brutality, and forced Communists to explain why it must be that way.

3) Know your stuff. 

No one can be knowledgeable about everything, so pick your battles, do your homework, and know more than your opponent.  This is how you poke the bear without getting mauled.  Embarrass your opponent into either admitting he knows less than he should or lying to cover up his deficiency.  Either way, you have the upper hand, and he will forever be on the defensive with you.

4) Always remember: volume is not a substitute for facts. 

A whisper will drown out the sounds of armies, if that whisper is the truth.  Make them squirm as they try to defend the indefensible.  Remember always: the tyrant's greatest weakness is his belief that he has no weaknesses.  Exploit that.

Those who will oppress their fellow citizens are not imported from another land for the purpose.  They are your neighbors already.  They are your friends and family, and in some cases, they might even be you. 

These government employees will rationalize their assistance in the confiscation of liberty as "simply doing their jobs," as did the members of the National Park Service when they followed the petulant orders of the president to close open-air memorials during the recent government shutdown.

Even the most complicit bureaucrat often believes to the end that he is serving the people, even if that "service" results in the abrogation of liberty, or ultimately, life.

While the bureaucrat may feel a vague sense of molestation as he follows orders he knows to be wrong, he will in the end side with his pension and benefits time and again, until, as Solzhenitsyn describes it, "the arrest is made."

Solzhenitsyn writes in Gulag:

At what point, then, should one resist? When one's belt is taken away? When one is ordered to face into a corner? When the policeman illegally crosses the threshold of one's home?  The arrest consists of a series of incidental irrelevancies, of a multitude of things that alone do not matter, and there seems no point in arguing about any one of them individually...and yet all these incidental irrelevancies, taken together implacably constitute an arrest.

Our arrest is in ObamaCare.  Our arrest is in an abusive and rogue IRS, and a myriad of other government scandals ignored and unpunished.  Our arrest is found in every mewling surrender our "representatives" negotiate with the lawlessness of anti-constitutional governance.  

Our belts have been taken.  We are facing the corner, and the state is approaching the door.  Civil disobedience is the right of every free citizen when faced with injustice.  Embrace that right, and make the most of your new status.  Be a dissident.

The author writes from Omaha, Nebraska and welcomes visitors to his website at www.readmorejoe.com.

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