“Today, people are more persuaded than ever that they have perfect freedom, yet they have brought their freedom to us and laid it humbly at our feet.”
The Grand Inquisitor
Freedom exists by virtue of an independence from the powers that might take that freedom away. Rights exist to fence out authority from the space allotted to freedom. The more leverage the citizens have over the authorities, the more they can prevent those rights from being trampled upon.
The problem begins when people begin to assume that the rights they enjoy are inherent to the system, so that they don’t have to worry about them. As long as the system exists, so do their rights.
Many Americans assume that as long as the flag waves and everyone celebrates the 4th of July, then their rights are safe. But it is entirely possible to have an America in which the flag still waves and people still go to see fireworks on the 4th of July, and in which there are no more rights or freedoms left. This can happen when people forget what the flag means and what the 4th of July means; the symbolism of a flag composed of individual states, and a holiday celebrating the Declaration of Independence, which holds that a people may overthrow a government when it violates their rights.
It is dangerous to celebrate symbols while forgetting what they mean. Because a nation’s fundamental symbols are the keys to its power. They are its scepters and thrones. And when people forget what the symbols mean and begin bowing to the symbols themselves– a tyrant can take the symbols and have people bow to him, even as he desecrates what those symbols actually stand for.
Obama’s rise to power could not have taken place except through a forgetfulness that has been with us for some time now. And Obama has been quite talented at manipulating symbols, posing in front of half a dozen flags, a Superman statue, glowing halos, historic sites and documents. That these symbols have no meaning to him except as tokens of power, that his very presence next to them or adjacent to them, should be anathema because of the profound gap between the ideals they represent, and the agenda he represents, is obvious to those who remember that symbols also have meanings.
But Obama’s success is due to those who do not remember. To whom the flag represents America, but who do not understand that it is not a random selection of shapes meant to look pretty against a blue sky. To whom the Constitution is a document that protects their freedoms, without understanding how it does that and what part their active participation must play for it to work.
Obama exploits symbols, while the media warns about the dangers of anyone literate enough to understand their meanings. In the kingdom of the blind, the one eyed man is a dangerous extremist. Because he can see what those in power can’t.
Unfortunately we live in an age in which people take systems for granted. The world around us teems with complexity. We use technologies we don’t understand. We rely on bureaucracies whose complexities we can’t navigate. The dramatic expansion of the government has made its workings incomprehensible.