This post really broke me up so, I thought that I would share.
Published on 04-16-2012 08:56 AM
Having lost my preferred choice for a presidential candidate on Tuesday, I determined that after a suitable period of mourning and reflection the only viable option was to shake it off and begin the search anew, the presumptive, media-anointed frontrunner not being desirable or acceptable.
Last night, as part of this Quixote-like quest, I ventured into the heretofore unexplored dimension of a Ron Paul rally and was witness to something that can only be described as all parts exhilarating, befuddling, encouraging, depressing, moving, maddening and, ultimately, inspiring. More on all that later.
Over the years I have been to more political rallies, events, forums, roundtables, discussion groups, debates and whatever than I care to remember. While a whole range of adjectives from boring to thrilling could be used to describe these events, I have never before been moved to use contradictory metaphors for the same event. Attending a Ron Paul campaign rally is a singularly unique experience. I have never seen anything like it before. Perhaps phenomenal is the word that comes closest in accuracy, not in the ordinary “awesome” sense, but in the other-worldly, spatiotemporal sense.
A little truth in advertising first: I come from an old school of conservatism, a hodgepodge of Strauss, Kirk, Buckley, Reagan and a smattering of other modern day conservative thinkers who shaped my thinking while coming of age in the midst of a persistent nuclear threat during the so-called Cold War, replete with duck and cover, fallout shelters and a young girl sitting in a meadow picking the petals off a daisy. One is shaped by the world one is raised in and then, if playing the game right, uses those experiences to shape the world for those who will inherit it.
The purpose of this piece is not to analyze Mr. Paul’s specific policies, although my worldview does not coalesce with his on many fronts. I do not write this piece from the point of view of a longtime Paul devotee, many of whom (and you know who you are) I have exasperatingly debated over the fallacies I see in some (not all) of his positions. Over the years, though, I have learned (much to my surprise and dismay) that not everyone will agree with my positions on all things and I often frustratingly find myself having internal disagreements with my own stated beliefs. Such is the nature of evolving thought.
I have spoken before a lot of groups in the last several years as we have all grappled with the seeming dissolution of our country. I have half-jokingly said on many of these occasions that the other side doesn’t really have to defeat us politically, they just have to wait for us all to die off so they can implement their plans. My point has been that the greatest issue facing the conservative cause is a demographical one, a lack of diversity that will shortly render the conservative message irrelevant. Where are the youth? I and others have asked. Where are the people of color? Why doesn’t the conservative message resonate?
The answer to where they are could be found last night at the Will Rogers Auditorium. Often at political events there is a sense of excitement, anticipation, a certain buzz in the audience while waiting for the main event. Excitement, anticipation and buzz are weak and inadequate words to describe the pre-rally crowd last night. Energy is even inadequate. What undulated through the thousands who thronged outside before the doors opened last night was a kinetic power, the power of hope, the power of liberation, the power of anger at a system turned upside down, the power of liberation and, yes, the ultimate and emancipating power of freedom. You had to be there to understand it.
Once inside, for the only time in my politically active life, I was transported to a world I had not seen before. There was enough energy in that room to power a skyscraper. Teenagers, college students, whites, Hispanics, African Americans, Asians, middle-aged, elderly, every racial, ethnic, socio-economic, cross cultural ingredient of the American melting pot was there. The auditorium was a cauldron of American citizens who understand and have grasped the true nature of the tyranny which has befallen this nation, a conflagration, if you will, of passion and anger and joy and determination. This is where the fire starts this time. The eruption when Mr. Paul took the stage was deafening.
While I didn’t find much to cheer about on the foreign policy portion of his speech, it is on domestic policy that I find much agreement with Ron Paul. In fact, he could have lifted whole tracks of his speech from my book, Common Ground America. Foreign policy, while a crucial element of any president’s agenda, has slowly shifted from my center of attention to domestic policy, I having long come to the conclusion that the greatest threat to American freedom comes not from foreign governments, but from our own. Sadly, America has become one of the least free nations on earth. Increasingly, everything in our lives is being regulated by a faceless bureaucracy, to a degree that neither Orwell nor Huxley could have imagined. Want to add a room onto your house? Get permission. Want to get married? Get permission. Want to open a business? Get permission. Want to fly a flag in your front yard? Get permission. Want to own a gun? Get permission. Want to open a lemonade stand? Get permission. Want to play Frisbee on the beach? Get fined. Want to preach politics from the pulpit? Get fined. Want to protest your government without permission? Get arrested.
We have become a nation of regulations and licenses and permits, fines and punishment and intimidation by a remorseless, uncaring government. We have become, as Dylan sang in 1971, “One big prison yard”, in which our guards are always watching, always monitoring, always snooping, always threatening, always ready to swoop in with a fine or a cuff or a taser or a bullet should we wander outside the boundaries of what is allowed. The IRS can now revoke your passport should you owe too much on your taxes, making you not just a literal prisoner but a figurative one as well. It has been so long since we were truly free that we don’t even recognize it anymore. Freedom is slowly being snuffed out in American.