Our United States of America and the world at large are presently, for the most part, under the leadership of what some call Strong Men and what history has called Tyrants. To be clear, tyranny has no political affiliation, no leaning to left or right. Neither has it religion. No, tyranny is the imposition of will of a small group on a larger group without compelling need, representation, and consent. It is most often manifest in the decree, the executive order, the fiat. It is also manifest in policies and procedures that render segments of the population enemies of the state, and historically in such societies large prison or re-education centers have sprung up, often coupled with outright genocide. The fact that America has the largest per-capita incarceration rate in the world should be a red flag, a warning, and a call for drastic change.
Why? Because tyranny has always resulted in bloodshed, insurrections, and outright war. That’s why, and historically speaking many could have been avoided had people cared. I mean, a dominant reason for Germany’s growth to WWII was the Treaty of Versailles that ended WWI but imposed tyranny on Germany who then supported its overthrow through the rise of a tyrant more vicious and murderous than any of modern note. The holocaust should call to us, never again. It does call, but we do not listen because we think that tyranny somehow does not affect us – perhaps we agree with the fiat or ideology, as did many in Germany. It impacts other people and not us, we think. But it does impact us, it will further impact us, and we’ve no stomach for violence within our borders but that too will come, methinks.
One problem with American society is our large popular ideological divide including certain key issues, a divide that means interpretation of one groups’ actions as tyranny by a large swath of the population, say 30-40% whereas another swath, say 30-40% find this to be good governance. Between the two is where we often find contemplation and discussion as to what is right and proper for the government to undertake.
Tyranny becomes manifest when one group, through their power, forces the other groups into compliance against their judgement and will. Clearly presidential administrations in broad cooperation with congress, both Democrat and Republican, have engaged in these measures with varying degrees of rationale such as national security or public health. Even the Supreme Court has engaged in such conduct, certainly with Dred Scott v. Sandford holding the Black people could not be citizens of the United States, or Buck v. Bell in which the court ruled for eugenics and sterilization of people based on family history or intelligence. This ruling, in 1927, was in accord with a world-wide eugenics scheme started in these United States and brought to murderous expression by Hitler.
Of late, we’ve of course seen the vaccine mandate and associated impact on work and travel with requirements for unaffordable testing for those who do not comply, but one must also remember the Patriot Act, the Border Wall, tariffs by fiat, prosecutions for women in miscarriages at five weeks where potential harm to the fetus was discovered, the Clinton era minimum drug sentences, police turned into military units, unjustified use of deadly force by police, apprehending anyone and everyone police suspect may know something without due process, police lying to people to get a confession, and so forth and so on. In short, tyranny at all levels. I mean just consider how tyrannical it is to empower, by property deed, a homeowner’s association over property you own as in the case at my house.
Good governance, by our constitution and notable authors like Aristotle, is a mutually beneficial set of rules that are minimalist to maximize the amount of individual freedom within those rules that facilitate the common safety and trade: this we call liberty. Our attitude, some would say is Stoic, and some would say that Christians are meant to be Stoic. I disagree. Christianity is not meant to be a laissez faire venture held in awe of and capitulation to fate, afraid to spoil some vast eternal plan. No, it is a journey and transformation into seeking, and suffering for, the good for others. We Christians are not alone in this journey and transformation, no, most religions such as our Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, even Zoroastrian friends undergo such a journey. So do, for that matter, our atheist friends.
Good governance hinges on justice, but justice is not a simple rational exercise being, an attempt to restore balance through equitable means for all involved, at least that’s what Aristotle writes. Others say that justice cannot exist without mercy. According to Jesus, that’s what the Father wants, mercy not sacrifice … “Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.” (Matthew 9:13 NRS) The only call to study by Christ Jesus, and we ignore it.
We have a long way to go, and I hope that God will be helping us along that way. The thing is, we’ve got to get our feet wet – “When the soles of the feet of the priests who bear the ark of the LORD, the Lord of all the earth, rest in the waters of the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan flowing from above shall be cut off; they shall stand in a single heap.” (Joshua 3:13 NRS) We must have faith, and trust in each other, even if it sometimes turns out badly. Yes, trust each other, especially people who are outside of our ideology and identity groups.
It is not unity that we should seek. Far from it, no, it is the marketplace of ideas and the liberty to explore what makes us happy and pursue those ends. To each their own taste, as the French say. But how can we be so wealthy, have so many religious institutions, and still have hungry and homeless people? You see, this is the cause that should unite us, the poor, the orphan, the widow, the stranger. “Thus says the LORD of hosts: Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another;
do not oppress the widow, the orphan, the alien, or the poor; and do not devise evil in your hearts against one another.” (Zechariah 7:9-10 NRS)
I quoted a lyric from Fiddler on the Roof above. Did you catch it?