By Charlie Reese
There is a greater danger that the United States is becoming more like the Soviet Union than there is a possibility that the Soviet Union will become more like the United States.
The latter will not happen. Why it won’t and can’t happen I’ll leave for another column.
But how are we becoming more like the Soviet Union? Well, a woman in Madison, Wis., who declined to accept a lesbian as a roommate, was hauled before the city board, which declares such a private decision a public violation of ordinances forbidding discrimination. As part of her punishment, the lady was required to attend re-education classes conducted by a lesbian organization.
This incident is as significant as it is bizarre. The American tradition, the essence if you will of our free society, is that the government concerns itself with protecting rights by punishing behavior that harms people. Here, however, the government is concerned not merely with behavior but with thinking. The woman must not only cease her behavior, declining to have a lesbian as a roommate, but she must change her thinking about lesbians.
This, of course, is the essence of the communist society and the difference between a common, ordinary dictator and a communist dictator. The ordinary dictator doesn’t care what you think, only what you do if it threatens him. The communist, however, considers what you think a threat and does everything he can, from propagandizing to killing, to control your mind. This tendency to view thoughts as crimes is growing in the U.S., and the danger is not from fundamentalist Christians but from hip liberals in the elite institutions. It is they who increasingly are beginning to view thoughts as unacceptable. They increasingly show a desire to punish people for being what they define as sexist or racist or homophobic even in the absence of any actions that injure anyone.
The poor baseball executive, neither a philosopher nor a professional debater, who expressed his opinion that perhaps blacks did not have the stuff to be executives lost his job, even though no one ever accused the man of doing anyone any wrong. His “crime” was an opinion that differed from the orthodoxy established by the elite.
The American tradition has always been that your thoughts and expressions of those thoughts should be guided only by your conscience and your reason. With four exceptions – libel, slander, incitement to riot, and obscenity — thought and speech are declared off limits to government by our Constitution. There is no requirement in the Bill of Rights that speech or thought be correct or fashionable in order to qualify for protection.
So this is one way we are beginning to resemble the Soviet Union – by viewing any thinking we don’t agree with as dangerous and punishable.
The other foundation of our free society is private property. This too, is becoming less and less a value among the American intelligentsia. Increasingly people are willing to restrict the use or even effectively confiscate private property in the name of so-called greater public needs.
The most obvious example is the restriction of advertising billboards because someone in government thinks they are aesthetically offensive. They may be, but a bedrock of America was that private property rights are a higher value than aesthetics.
The key control mechanism in the Soviet Union is the absence of property rights. With no private ownership of anything, people can never be independent.
We had better be much more concerned about the evolution of our country and the thinking of its elites than we are about the Soviet Union. We can’t control or influence the Soviet Union. We can save ourselves – from ourselves – if we rediscover our American values.
Guardian of Truth XXXIV: 5, p. 136
March 1, 1990