Several months ago, I paused to admire a lovely neighborhood. A man and his wife approached and asked if I was putting up flyers on the wall. “No,” I replied.
“How about this one,” the man asked pointing at the shreds of a yellow flyer on a utility box.
Perhaps he asked the question because I was standing near that utility box? I explained that it was thought members of Organizing for America had done that and that Tea Party supporters had removed it.
The man asked, “Are you one of them?”
“Of whom? The Tea Party? Yes, I am. But I am an Objectivist, not a Conservative. No one in the Tea Party is OFA.”
He said, “You’re merely the other extreme. You’re all the same.”
I was taken aback. In today’s clear-cut struggle between individual rights on the one hand and statism on the other, I had never met anyone who considered both as anathema. If he were a centrist, he would advocate features of both sides. But he had not. He considered both sides “extreme” and “the same.”
Did he genuinely believe that both the advocacy of individual rights and government’s violation of them were equally reprehensible? What sort of government was he for?
I did not discover the answer to my question until a couple of days ago.
I had a telephone conversation with a woman who is an officer of an organization allegedly devoted to advancing Albuquerque businesses. I thought an interview with her might be interesting for a radio show I’m helping to produce for the Patriot Activist Network.
After explaining why I had called, she asked, “What is your agenda?”
Thinking that she meant what was my political perspective, I answered, “I don’t like what’s happening to my country. I want to help businessmen understand that government should be limited, and that markets should be free.”
“Are you connected with the Tea Party?”
“Yes. PAN is a branch of the Albuquerque Tea Party,” I said.”
“I am tired of anti-everything,” she said, implying that Tea Parties are anti-everything. “I do not denigrate the President. I am not anti-anything.” She continued in this vein for quite a while. Eventually, she began to tell me about what she undoubtedly considered her accomplishments.
She had been interviewed on an Albuquerque public television program, she said. Also the United Nations had hired her to go to China to teach technology. She had worked in Russia, too, doing the same thing. She wanted to be for things, she said, repeating again that she was not anti anything. She ended by declaring that she was for populism and worked “to develop and promote populism as the basis of a safe and strong society.”
Now, populism is the doctrine that arose in 1891-1904 as a political party advocating among other things, public ownership of utilities, an income tax and government support of unions and agriculture. It is a variant of statism. Her claim that she was not anti anything means she is not anti our government’s infringement of individual rights, not anti Russia’s slaughter of millions of peasants, not anti China’s ruthless suppression of student protests and Tibetan priests, not anti the removal of the clitoris of Islamic women, not anti the Taliban’s bombing of the World Trade Center, and so forth.
Like the man I had previously met, she was a political agnostic. Not being against anything means not taking sides. What is it about taking sides that the political agnostic abhors?
Many people avoid passing negative judgments openly. In personal relationships they might be “sweet” to one’s face but scathingly critical behind one’s back. In political matters, however, the same people can take a specific stand and loudly protest in defense of it.
The political agnostic takes the opposite tact. He will tell you to your face face that you are wrong, but he is loath to criticize the government. Both the man and the woman referred to above told me, respectively explicitly and implicitly, that I was wrong to be involved with the Tea Party, wrong to criticize the government or denigrate the president. They claimed that they were not anti anything but in fact they were anti taking sides against the government.
The political agnostic is an authoritarian. He is comfortable taking orders. But only from authority figures. He feels safe to be told what to do. He resents those who question authority. He feels such questioning is a slur on his own self-image of a “good person cooperating with those who know best.”
Safety to the political agnostic means the absence of public dissent. He does not say, “a plague on both your houses.” He says, “Let there be only one house, the central government that tells everyone what to do.” The political agnostic does not say, “I don’t want to be bothered with politics.” He says, “Let a leader decide, which we will all obey.”
By advocating a central government he feels secure from that constantly moving ocean of different types of individuals, different premises, different tastes, likes, dislikes, opinions, desires, goals, and choices. In that continually teeming roar of ebb and flow, of striving toward different goals that is society, he believes that only a centralized authority will guarantee him “safety”—the “safety” of the straight-jacket—and a “strong” society—the strength of a prison’s iron bars.
He evades recognizing that men of wisdom, integrity and benevolence are not interested in controlling others and consequently are not attracted to offices of omnipotent government. But vicious, fear-infested, manipulative and shrewdly malevolent men are. As has been seen countless times in an abundance of ghastly acts—the Nazis, the Communists, the Taliban, the Khmer Rouge—the bloodlust of totalitarianism does not stop with the abuse of men, women, children and animals but goes on to erupt in torturing, dismembering, starving and slaughtering all that lives.
The political agnostic’s role in this mayhem is seen in those who stood by and did not protest the rise of Adolph Hitler and his “Final Solution.” It was revealed during the 1920s and for decades following, by those who celebrated the “noble experiment” of Soviet Communism in which countless millions were slaughtered outright or were driven to despair, mental paralysis and starvation by government policies. It is expressed in the intellectual distortions of those who deal commercially with Communist China providing them with western technology, know-how and world wide instant communication. It is seen in the empty-headed shortsightedness of those who declare, “I’ll take anyone’s money: I’m a businessman.”
By refusing to take sides, the political agnostic shuns the virtue of justice and damns the good.
No one can justly stand on the sidelines and refuse to take sides at any time. Today, no one who makes the effort to arrive at an objective evaluation of the Obama Administration and Congress can justly conclude that Americans are not being railroaded into socialism against our will. And no one can rationally come to the decision that in such circumstances, one should do nothing.
The lives and thought of John Locke and the Founding Fathers resulted in the creation of the United States, the freest nation on earth and in history. For a while.
To regain the republic they created, one must take sides. Nothing short of that will regain our freedoms and restore our individual rights. And it will not end in November. That is only the beginning.