For many of us, the days of the cold war have been long forgotten and the lessons of the Soviet Union as a precautionary tale have been lost. We don’t quite grasp the machinations of such a government, and we certainly don’t understand how it gains such a hold over the people.
When I lived in Czechoslovakia in the early nineties as a missionary for my church, I spent a lot of time talking to all kinds of people.
I have been struck over this past week as I’ve watched the uproar over the comments of Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy regarding gay marriage.
We generally tend to think that the power over speech of oppressive government regimes is exercised by throwing citizens in jail when they speak out against such governments. Sometimes that is the case. Other times as in the former Soviet Union, China, and much of the Middle East, the power of the government to control speech is used much more subtly.
The people under such oppressive regimes understand that the initial step is often simply to strip them of their livelihood, their home, or their child’s ability to get an education. In order to quickly shut down speech that violates state dogma, and before taking the more extreme step of imprisonment, an all-powerful government just needs to make it impossible for those whose speech doesn’t conform to the official party line to continue supporting their families. Imprisonment generally doesn’t happen until after they refuse to sit down and shut up with the more run-of-the mill intimidation.
I spoke with mothers who told me that under Communist rule in Czechoslovakia, not only were their children forced into mandated preschool programs by the age of two or three, but there they were taught that government was the answer to all problems. Rather subtle, in fact. They were taught that government was their master and that, as children, it was their duty to inform on family members, including parents, if they spoke or acted against government philosophies.
The result was a forty-year period where children were not taught the beliefs of their parents during their formative years; they were taught, in public schools, the prevailing government dogmas. Religion was virtually done away with because speech was so tightly controlled that parents were afraid to speak truth to their children. Children were also taught in those same government-run schools to never question the authority or “beliefs” of the state, enabling a virtual monopoly of uniform thoughts and ideas.
But how to explain the amazing technological progress and innovative thinking that came out of the Soviet empire?! Oh no, that would be us . . .
Back to the US, 2012, Chick-fil-A. President Dan Cathy offers his opinion regarding gay marriage. I’ve written about the way the free-thinkers and espousers of tolerance among us are quick to steamroll over the rights of individuals to live and speak according to their own beliefs, be they religious or otherwise, whenever they come into conflict with the beliefs of the enforcers of speech code.
Now we have liberals taking this one step further: we have attempts at Communist-dictator/fascist-style oppression. Like it or not, the tactics are the same. In the US today, apparently using the power of government to destroy the livelihood of those whose speech doesn’t conform to the official party dogma is now coming into vogue by the left. After eruptions of alarm across this country, some of these government officials have backed down, for now, while the issue is in the public eye; others have not.
When supporters of religious liberty and free speech refuse to bow to the powers of the almighty state, the next step in a dictatorial regime would be imprisonment. Certainly we’d never go there . . . not unless we could just institute some kind of hate speech statute that would make it illegal to disseminate ideas that don’t agree with the official government dogma . . .
But really, little plebes, you just keep eating your bread and watching those circuses (provided, of course, by benevolent government officials) and it’ll all be just fine.