One of the major problems with Americans today is that this generation has always been free. There’s been no “real” threat to our democracy and no World Wars or “genuine” Civil Wars to endure. We live bubble wrapped lives that have perfectly insulated us from any real danger. America has had some bumps and dips along the way, but we’ve been on an upward trajectory for decades. As a result, we’ve grown lethargic in our thinking, we’re ill-prepared to stand up for much of anything, and we’ve become apathetic towards the one thing that matters most in this country – freedom. We assume it’ll always be there. We assume we’ll always be free.
In our comfort, we have become the frog in the boiling water, not noticing the temperature rising in America. We’ve ignored the change in the atmosphere and can no longer see the restrictions that have been placed on us. We have lost our ability to understand the times. Our window of opportunity to jump out of the hot water is closing and we’re unaware of the seriousness of the situation. I fear we no longer know the difference.
Some of my campaign’s most ardent supporters were those from the Chinese-American community, the majority of whom are first-generation immigrants. These precious people knocked on over 50,000 doors for me during my campaign. They purchased three very large billboards in prominent locations. They canvassed homes, handed out fliers, and were some of my most passionate supporters. They loudly and proudly carried my campaign’s message throughout most of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. They were relentless.
This merry band of warriors carried a profound perspective that continues to resonate within my heart and mind. One of their fearless leaders, Paul Li, once explained to a room of red-blooded Americans why he and his group were so fervent in their efforts to see me elected. Fully understanding the policies of my Democrat challenger (and the Democrat Party as a whole), Paul explained that his group’s zeal is because they know what communism looks like, feels like, and tastes like. They had escaped communist China with next to nothing – all in hope of a better life. They found that better life here, in America. He would then emphasize that the reason they fight today is because if America were to become a communist nation, they would have nowhere left to go. There’s no other America in the world.
Where will people flee to when they want to escape communism, totalitarianism, fascism, and any other form of oppression of the acutest kind? Then again, where will we flee to? America has always been a place of refuge for the oppressed, but if our nation continues in the direction it’s going that will no longer be an option. We cannot become comfortable in our current situation. We cannot forget how far we’ve come or allow ourselves to forfeit our freedoms. We must continue to stand for what’s right and stand on the principles on which this country was founded.
We have forgotten who we are as a nation. We have discarded our own history as something too outdated to be of use to us now. And as a result, we don’t know that we are dangerously dangling on a precipice.
I understand why many feel ready to just move on and put what has happened over the past several months behind us. I understand the desire to look to brighter days ahead and get back to some semblance of normal. Many have been tempted with the false hope that if they just relinquish any claims to justice they will be allowed to get back to living their lives. “If we can just get over this hump,” they whisper, “we can get back to golfing, relaxing on the beach, planning play dates, and the like.” This is a false hope.
Of course, there’s always the danger that jumping out of the hot water could risk us jumping into the hot coals. But what we need to understand is that it’s in the hot coals where we build up a resistance to the heat. It’s in the hot coals where we have the opportunity to grow a spine in this country. It’s in the hot coals where we demand that we protect the processes that keep us free and become vigilant over the end result of those processes.
I was once speaking to a dear friend (a young black mother of five) and was explaining the dangers of allowing power to only fall into the hands of a few “elite” politicians and the inevitable infringement on our rights that will occur. She quipped, “You Republicans love your freedom.” I was shocked. After picking my jaw up off the floor, I laid my hand on my friend’s back and reminded her of our own history, as black people in America. If anyone should know the importance of freedom it should be us. If anyone should be exercising extreme vigilance over freedom it should be us – black people. But I fear my thoughts fell on deaf ears.
How do we begin to change this mentality – that our freedom is somehow guaranteed and we can leave the dirty work of maintaining that freedom to politicians, the media and other multi-international corporations? For now, the solution is simple. We each have a duty to start speaking out. Where there’s suppression, push against it. Where there’s criticism, fight it. There’s a Goliath in the culture that demands silence. We must all recognize and resist our inner coward and release our inner lion. When you feel oppressed and forced to be silent, that’s when you must dig deep and speak – even if it starts as a whisper.