The precise circumstances of my personal, political awakening are indelibly imprinted upon my mind. It took place in front of my television set between 4 and 5 p.m. (CST) on Sunday, January 20, 1980. At the time I was 30 years old and married with a four-month-old son. Somewhat incongruously, I was employed in the insurance industry, although I had earned a master’s degree in English literature four years earlier and hoped for a career in academia.
My parents had both come from rather large, working class families consisting almost entirely of New Deal Democrats. Predictably, in my first two national elections, I voted for the Democrat Party’s nominees, George McGovern and Jimmy Carter, over Richard Nixon and George H. W. Bush. To complete the stereotype, I even read the New York Review of Books. In every way, I walked, talked and quacked like a liberal duck.
In the course of a single hour, my self perception as a political liberal dissolved like a light mist on a sunny, summer morning. Metaphorically speaking, I saw the light while watching William F. Buckley Jr. interview Ronald Reagan, who was then a candidate for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination. Buckley premised the interview on the hypothetical that the date was one year later, January 20, 1981, and his guest had just been inaugurated as President Ronald Wilson Reagan.
During that interview, it gradually dawned on me that what I thought I knew about America in general and Ronald Reagan in particular was in actuality a grotesque caricature. I came to realize my beliefs were based upon lies and distortions injected into my indolent brain by leftist intellectuals, hyper-partisan media, and other America-hating globalists.
To provide context to my awakening, at the time of the Buckley-Reagan interview, our nation was mired in a swamp of self-doubt and deepening despair. Among its causes were the physical and psychological wounds suffered during our failed, bloody war in Vietnam; the economic devastation arising from sky-high unemployment, inflation and interest rates; our ambivalence about opposing the aggressive expansion of communism in Central America, South America and Africa; and pangs of guilt associated with our nation’s allegedly-undeserved wealth and power.
Like so many of my contemporaries, I mindlessly accepted President Jimmy Carter’s diagnosis of our worsening condition as “malaise” and his prognosis that it was an incurable, metaphysical disorder. America’s best days, we were told, were deservedly behind us. We would have to accept that our fate was to become just another second-rate, cradle-to-grave welfare state. We were reassured that this was no disgrace. Quite the contrary, because we would henceforth be ruled by high-minded, social-engineering bureaucrats aided by lifetime-tenured lawyers posing as impartial judges.
While watching the interview, to my absolute astonishment, I learned that the real, flesh-and-blood Ronald Reagan was intelligent, articulate, humbly self-effacing, and filled with faith-based optimism. His infectious good cheer inspired in me a confidence that America was not in terminal decline. He made a compelling case for national healing through the cooperative, common sense efforts of the American people freed from the coercive constraints of government.
By the interview’s conclusion, I was acutely aware that an enormous hoax had been perpetrated upon me by a pack of natural-born liars whom I had foolishly trusted to provide me with “the truth.” Henceforth, I vowed to myself, I would always use my critical thinking skills to distinguish between objective fact and fiction. In urging others to follow this practice over the ensuing years, I have often quoted Ralph Waldo Emerson that thinking is the hardest thing in the world to do, which is why so few people do it.
My actively-engaged brain soon discovered an intricate web of lies and deception at the heart of what was then called liberalism, but now bears the label of progressivism, collectivism or socialism. The closer I examined this web, the clearer it became that its purpose was to ensnare true believers in America’s foundational principle of “government of the people, by the people, for the people.”
Clearly evident in the web’s ubiquitous strands was a pattern of hatred for the U.S. Constitution’s protections of individual liberty and its strict limitations on the federal government. Their purpose was to free the government of those limitations while simultaneously shackling its citizens, thereby reversing their respective roles as servant and master.
Now, four decades later, our Constitution is no longer recognizable as a security pact among the sovereign states and their citizens. No longer does it serve its original purpose of preserving the blessings of liberty by securing our unalienable, God-given rights. This is because the Constitution has been fraudulently transformed into an instrument of surrender to an unconstrained, coercive federal government.
Despite this tragic development, I find myself increasingly optimistic about America’s future. I am encouraged that the same personal awakening which I experienced 40-plus years ago is now being repeated in mass movements such as #walkaway and Blexit. Their supporters are daily clearing “woke” cobwebs from the corners of their minds. For the first time, they clearly see that removing our government-imposed shackles will require forcing our political masters back within their original constitutional constraints.
Only through courageous acts of non-violent resistance by law-abiding, liberty-loving citizens will limited, consensual government be restored to America. Failure is not an option. Success alone will guarantee its survival for future generations as–in the words of Ronald Reagan–“a nation that has a government, not the other way around” (ref. http://www.newguardsforliberty.com).