We are now entering the fourth week of our “occupation” by the bizarre bundle of contradictions that is Occupy Wall Street: the anarchists who want total government control, the anti-capitalists with an affinity for the newest tech gadgets, the populists with union backing and a Manhattan PR firm. As their efforts coalesced in cities across the United States under the banner “Occupy Together,” hilarity ensued, confusion spread, and in some cases violence escalated. Americans are scratching their heads trying to make sense of the whole thing.
Americans are used to protests. What makes these protests different is the class-warfare rhetoric that underlies them. Americans are getting introduced to a foreign concept that has been business-as-usual in Europe for some time now. The Europeans call it “tall poppy syndrome.” It is a social phenomenon in which people of genuine merit are resented and criticized because their talents or achievements have distinguished them from their peers — and it has wreaked havoc on European economies.
The widespread adoption of this line of thought is a threat to America and is the sum of our failures as a people. America has been an exceptional nation because our government was put at the mercy of the people, allowing individuals to fully realize their potential without unnecessary government interference. However, American exceptionalism does not mean we are immune to the consequences of our actions. We allowed the government to educate our children for us and we allowed the government to chose winners and losers in private-sector business — and now we’re seeing the results.
Ayn Rand wrote in her seminal novel Atlas Shrugged that, “When you see that trading is done, not by consent, but by compulsion — when you see that in order to produce, you need to obtain permission from men who produce nothing — when you see that money is flowing to those who deal, not in goods, but in favors — when you see that men get richer by graft and by pull than by work, and your laws don’t protect you against them, but protect them against you — when you see corruption being rewarded and honesty becoming a self-sacrifice — you may know that your society is doomed.” Every time Chris Dodd, Barney Frank, and co. open their mouths it is like a scene out of Atlas. Is it any surprise, then, that the movement is now spilling out into the streets?
And now there is growing concern that the protests will have serious long-term ramifications for our nation. After hearing the chants of the protesters, Ann Coulter told Fox Business host Eric Bolling, “All of those quotes could have been said in 1789 in France before the French Revolution, or the Russian Revolution, or with only slight modifications when the Nazis were coming to power,” said Coulter. “This is always the beginning of totalitarianism.”
We have watched from afar as other countries fell to violent uprisings and assumed it would never happen here — and it likely never will. But although we may never lose our freedoms at the point of a gun, it is already happening by what one Hungarian immigrant called “salami tactics” — slice, by slice, by slice. The only thing that can stop this slow erosion of our freedoms is for a new generation to rise to the call. Apathy and ignorance are not acceptable alibis when freedom’s fate is in play. We speak with romantic fervor about our brave men and women fighting for the cause of freedom on the other side of the ocean. The question is, what are we going to do now that the fight has reached our shores and is spreading from within?
Ronald Reagan said, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.” My generation’s fight for freedom won’t be in a foreign land — it will be right here in our own backyard. And whether you want to admit it or not, the fight is already underway.
Cliff Sims is the chairman of the Alabama College Republicans and founder of Generation NOW, an organization formed to educate and empower a new generation of leaders. His Twitter handle is @Cliff_Sims.