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A Despot's Tale

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
As if we needed more reminders of just how despotic and power mad some world leaders can be, we’ve been confronted lately by a number of examples of liberty under assault and reminders we must be vigilant in its defense.

Some so-called leaders simply will do anything to impose their will on others. No lie is too big or absurd to tell because, in their position, no one has any authority, moral or otherwise, to challenge them.

Who would’ve thought a government, and a leader, would endure in the 21st century, and be so threatened by reality, so insecure in their own existence, that they’d use their power against someone simply for making a movie, an awful-looking movie, to maintain their grip on that power. Shame on us all for allowing it.

But these “leaders” aren’t content simply with trampling individuals and imprisoning them for their words. They bring down the full power of their governments against any who dare stray from the wishes of leadership. Harassment and intimidation are their currency, and their wealth in unrivaled—bolstered as it is not only by the treasures of a nation but the force of law as well.

Worse, the law in these nations is like Play-Dough, a malleable mush that can be reshaped to suit the leader’s needs at any moment.

With no free and independent press to hold leaders accountable or educate the masses, most citizens remain ignorant. They have or are given enough to get by, and some nebulous “other” is blamed for their lives not being even better.

History has shown us scapegoating is the despot’s best friend. Anger redirected away from a government worsening their economy and exacerbating dependence serves to solidify the concentration of power at the expense of the individual. An already powerful and intrusive government grows even larger.

But the “blessings” of subsistence showered upon the masses from a faceless entity would have all the passing sway of Santa Claus. A central focus of flesh and blood is required.

The “cult of personality” is essential for any despotic regime. It is necessary to willingly absorb the will of people without them knowing it. “Good” flows from government; “fairness” can be granted by decree; “the system is rigged” to help the scapegoat of the moment. Up doesn’t become down, it becomes sideways; and the only direction is the promise of a pot of gold at the end of an eternal rainbow that is forever “forward.”

“Equality” is another favored tool of the despot. Everyone is equal, though some more than others. The majority bide their time till the promised sharing of prosperity, but supporters and the connected bathe in the kind of unencumbered riches only government can disburse.

Having a willing partner in the co-opted press means there is no one to sound the alarm when it comes to small corruptions like cronyism. Grumblings are quickly silenced, and small corruptions grow.

North Korea and Cuba have followed these steps, and the more nasty ones that follow, just as their predecessors have. And given the news this week, there’s very little to indicate, or even warrant, a change coming anytime soon.

But I wasn’t thinking of North Korea or Cuba as I wrote this. While it holds true to them and every other despotic regime, both past and present, it holds true in this country and this administration as well.

On July 7, 1775, John Adams wrote his wife “…a Constitution of Government once changed from Freedom, can never be restored. Liberty, once lost, is lost forever. When the People once surrender their share in the Legislature, and their Right of defending the Limitations upon the Government, and of resisting every Encroachment upon them, they can never regain it.”

Of course, this is much less likely in an educated society. I fear we’re going to miss being one of those soon.

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