Earlier in this century the light of freedom was extinguished over much of Europe and Asia, and only flickered tenuously in much of the rest of the world. Fortunately for us who came later, those living at the time were willing to risk a heavy price to restore the light of freedom. Many of those who believed in freedom paid the ultimate price of sacrificing their lives in the struggle to defeat tyrants and restore the freedom they'd destroyed.
It took a bloody shooting war that threatened to consume all of civilization to defeat the Axis powers in 1945. The Communists demonstrated their true nature by eagerly joining with the Fascists in a joint effort to violently enslave their neighbors - until their unreliable friends turned on them as well. Overcoming the most aggressive threats to freedom by the Communists took a cold war lasting the rest of the century. Even today the Communists continue to oppress large numbers of people, and plot to destroy freedom in the rest of the world.
A common sentiment among those who were obliged to defend freedom was "never again". Never again would those who love freedom allow the violent suppression of the freedoms of others. Some of the lessons learned at such high cost during WWII have been remembered, and no global military conflicts have occurred to threaten world wide tyranny since the midcentury. But an even more insidious threat to freedom has been incrementally eroding the freedom of citizens of those nations that successfully resisted military aggression.
Ironically, some of those who most defiantly championed the cause of freedom when threatened by violent aggression, are now the most willing to surrender their precious freedoms in the name of emotional manipulation. Having stood firm in the face of terrible Nazi and Communist aggression, they seem unable to resist demands, by those who no longer value freedom, that the most precious rights of individuals be surrendered in order to address relatively minor societal problems. While the current leaders in the willing slide into the darkness of tyranny appear to be Great Britain, Canada, and Australia, there are a distressing number of formerly free nations uncritically following in their footsteps.
The current soft fuzzy glove concealing the iron fist of tyranny is the mantra of imposing social harmony by eliminating the ability of people to offend each other. Since criminals have used guns to commit crimes against unarmed citizens, the right of citizens to bear arms has been revoked and their guns confiscated. Since some sectors of society find the opinions of others offensive, the right of free speech has also been revoked.
Driven by their emotions, the spoiled children of today have proven eager to give up, with hardly a whimper, the very freedoms their grandparents fought and died to preserve for them. And having first surrendered the arms that secured their right and ability to physically protect themselves from criminals and tyrants, and now allowed the suppression of their right to even voice their opinions, can the loss of all freedom and liberty be far away?
Worst of all, the high price being demanded in the name of imposing social harmony has done nothing to solve the original problems claimed as justifications for the suppression of individual rights. As with most ill conceived solutions, the real result has been to aggravate the very issues they were intended to solve. The demand for the elimination of the right to bear arms has only served to decrease public safety, while the efforts to muffle free speech that might offend has increased hostilities and frictions between the segments of society.
Consider the pattern developing in Australia. One year after Australians spent half a billion dollars to confiscate and destroy all privately owned firearms in the name of public safety, the real result has been an unrestrained crime wave. Nationwide, armed robberies are up 44%, blackmail and extortion are up 32%, and kidnappings are up 16%. It has been estimated that homicides with a firearm in the state of Victoria, which were almost nonexistent before private firearms were confiscated, are now up 300%. There has also been a dramatic increase in the number of home break-ins and assaults committed against the elderly. Far from increasing public safety, the disarming of the citizens of Australia has instead resulted in a predictable increase in the victimization of those denied the right of self-defense.
In its zeal to restrict the freedoms of the lawful, the Australian government has responded to the crime wave enabled by its firearm prohibition, by expanding its weapons prohibition to include anything that can be claimed to have been designed to kill or injure people. Those determined to impose public safety by eliminating any means of hurting people have even managed to impose draconian restrictions on the carrying of multipurpose objects like baseball bats, hammers, and screwdrivers. And as the means of self-defense are suppressed, the crime rate continues to rise.
It comes as no surprise to some of us that once citizens have been disarmed, the elimination of the right of free speech is never far behind. True to form, claiming concern for the sensibilities of minorities, those demanding curbs on free speech have already moved against their most feared enemy - the truth. After first denying the right of their citizens to bear arms, the Canadian courts have recently ruled that speaking the truth will now be an actionable crime if that truth might be found offensive by any of the protected minorities.
The chilling effects of national restrictions on free speech are even managing to impact the exuberant anarchy of the Internet. Having survived overt attempts to throttle the free flow of information by claiming a need to protect children from pornography, the Net is now threatened by local prosecutions of those engaging in prohibited forms of speech. Participants in discussions on the Net residing in nations where the truth has been outlawed must now fear that expressing their honest opinions might land them in jail.
Carrying on a discussion over the Net with someone whose freedom of speech has been restricted has become a parody of intellectual discourse. Many common topics contain forbidden areas that those in still partly free nations can discuss with impunity, while those participants whose freedom of speech has been locally restricted can listen but are prohibited from responding - even when they strongly disagree with the points being made. Rather than the global sharing of knowledge and opinion that is its most valuable function, local prohibitions on free speech are turning the net into a one sided medium. While some might find pleasure in always winning arguments when their opponents must remain silent because their real views have been outlawed where they live, we all suffer because of the loss of proscribed knowledge.
Just as restrictions on self-defense have in reality resulted in encouraging violent crimes against individuals, restrictions on free speech in the name of suppressing frictions between segments of the population are in reality increasing hostilities. Prohibiting the public expression of an offensive idea will never result in eliminating that idea in the minds of those wanting to believe it. To the contrary, driving offensive ideas underground will serve primarily to perpetuate them by protecting them from the harsh light of public discourse. The Soviets tried to suppress a wide range of ideas that were contrary to their official dogma, but those prohibited ideas outlived the Soviet state.
Not only does the alleged protection of the sensibilities of minorities fail to have any meaningful effect on the real opinions of people, but actually results in increasing existing hostilities, as well as creating whole new ones. Those losing their freedom of speech naturally resent the increasing restrictions, and their resentment is often directed toward those whom they see as the cause of their loss. Those minorities claiming the greatest objections to the free speech of others also create a perception of privilege which becomes yet another focus of resentment and hostility by other segments of society. Far from adopting the officially intended respect for the offended minorities, restrictions on free speech most often result in reinforcing the opposite view that those being protected must be in fact inferior since they need special protection by the state.
Worst of all, the draconian measures imposed in answer to superficial insults ultimately result in eliminating the primary means of dealing with very real threats to society - such as aberrant political philosophies and religious cults. Tyrants and false prophets thrive in environments where the free flow of information is restricted, and decline when their true nature becomes common knowledge.
The accelerating loss of basic freedoms in Europe, Canada, and Australia prove yet again that the right to bear arms is the single most important right since it is the one that protects all of the others. Having surrendered their basic right to bear arms, the disarmed no longer possess the means of defending their other freedoms from those who would take them away.
It's no surprise to some of us that oppressive restrictions on freedom of speech have followed closely on the heels of firearm confiscation. The process has been repeated so many times you'd think the need to relearn it yet again would have faded, but apparently not. Unfortunately, those fools so determined to endlessly repeat the errors of the past, have yet again created an unwanted learning experience from which there is no easy escape. Freedoms lost are not easily regained - especially when the oppressed have already abandoned the only effective means citizens have ever had when facing tyrants - short of allowing civilization to break down so completely that nothing remains to be exploited.
While the lights of freedom are being extinguished around the world, once again America remains a flickering beacon of hope for those losing their rights. As our allies in the last global struggle against tyranny turn away from freedom and plunge their citizens into a darkness of their own making, it becomes even more important for America to retain its reverence for the principles of liberty and individual freedom.
Freedom has a cost, but that cost is insignificant when compared to the tremendous benefits freedom provides to those who properly value it. As the best chance for restoring hope to a world growing increasingly dark, America must not fall prey to the same misguided emotional manipulations that are extinguishing the lights of freedom elsewhere. We should learn from what is going on in the rest of the world, and protect our freedoms with renewed dedication.