John Steinbeck’s 1942 novel The Moon is Down is about people of a small village occupied by Nazi forces somewhere in Northern Europe. They become sullen and their obedience is bought at an increasingly high price.
Free people cannot remain conquered.
Re-reading The Moon is Down left me with nagging questions about the extent to which the People of the United States remain free. Those questions did not arise when I first read it, many years ago. It now seems obvious that we are less free than we once were; yet perhaps (one can at least hope that) there are still enough to make a difference by remembering freedom, remaining free and hence remaining beyond conquest. It has never been easy.
One of my favorite bloggers today posted an essay titled When Abuse of Power is Considered a Virtue. It asserts that liberals
see all conservatives as evil for daring to be against Big Government. Therefore, anything they do to fight that evil must be virtuous. Look at this quote of Kirsten Powers at USA Today, which I found at Questions and Observations:
“These scandals can’t possibly be blamed on liberalism because liberals are good, virtuous people. Therefore the Republicans who are claiming these scandals indicate flaws in big government are unfairly twisting the truth for political advantage. Big government is clearly wonderful when run by virtuous liberals.”
I prefer to call them libruls because the “liberals” of today encourage unthinking acceptance of authority rather than free, rational thought and action. They are far removed from the classical liberals of the past.
In The Moon is Down, the two surviving members of a twelve member village militia — who had tried to stave off the Nazi invasion and occupation — took advantage of a night when the moon was down to sail to England (stealing a boat belonging to the village’s principal collaborator) and persuade England to air drop small packages of dynamite to augment the sullen resistance of the villagers. England did, and the disruption of the occupation became more effective — not completely effective, but many of the Nazi officers and men were already becoming increasingly disenchanted with their tasks and the villagers’ dislike of them; they longed increasingly for home. They became more disenchanted, and their longings for home increased further, when they executed the village doctor and its mayor, whom they had taken hostage shortly after the dynamite packages had been dropped, to compel good behavior by the villagers. The Nazis did not cherish freedom even though they had lost much of their own; perhaps their memories of freedom had faded. They assumed that villagers’ compliance with their dictates would be obtained by ever increasing repression. It did not happen that way. The novel (published in 1942) does not tell us what finally happened, but the moon going down, the advantage taken of it and the consequences left room for optimism.
There are still some who disagree with modern “liberals” and I hope that there are still many. How much governmental interference — with the ways in which we live our lives — will be necessary for sufficient numbers to reach a point when moon finally goes down and when the sullen restiveness and eventually resistance become too great for Government to overcome? In Venezuela, extreme shortages of toilet paper — piled upon shortages of nearly everything else — may be a tipping point; maybe not.
For the past four months Venezuelans have had to struggle to find basic food staples. Toilet paper is the latest item to join the list of unobtainable goods – last week the government announced it was organising an emergency shipment to boost supplies – but it has heightened the sense of urgency and indignation felt by many.
“What am I supposed to substitute [toilet paper] with? It’s hard to live without it,” Aquino said. Like many people here, she will try to stock up. “I phoned my son and told him to come, but not everyone can walk out of their job and cross the city to stand in line for hours,” she added.
Shortages of toilet paper may seem a minor bother — to those who can still buy it. The compulsions of ObamaCare may make a difference in the United States. Who knows; maybe some of the current ObamaScandals may.
The recent IRS scandals and DOJ secret seizures of phone records of reporters, and perhaps of a family member or two, seem to have irritated some even in the Legitimate Media to the point that they are, slowly and perhaps unhappily, reporting on them. Just as many of our “free citizens” took counsel from the Legitimate Media and helped to push our nation further toward Government of the Government, for the Government and by the Government, perhaps at least some of them may again take their counsel and say, “Hey! This has gone too far.” Perhaps that sense may even seep down to what Jim Geraghty referred to in today’s Morning Jolt as “the completely oblivious citizens” who follow no news at all. Possibly they won’t understand what has “gone too far,” but will at least agree that something has.
When pollsters ask the “how closely are you following [X story]?” question, I find myself thinking of Jimmy Kimmel’s recurring feature when he gets people on the street to answer questions about news events that never occurred. (Admittedly, he’s asking people on Hollywood Boulevard.) His staff found people with strong views about who won the First Lady Debate between Michelle Obama and Ann Romney, people who claimed to have witnessed an asteroid that didn’t reach Earth yet, and people giving their opinion on Obama’s decision to appoint Judge Judy to the Supreme Court. (All of those people are presumably eligible to vote.)
To them, it still seems unimportant that big Government destroys freedom, a little bit at a time, until freedom eventually becomes but an ill-remembered relic of an unfortunate past when Government neither provided for all our needs (as it determines them to be) nor satisfied all our desires (as it decides they should be). Most likely, they do not recognize that it is happening. The mess in which the United States now find themselves may reach down to them, but the trick is somehow to lure them out of their cocoons in time to realize that it (whatever it may be) affects them, personally and adversely, and that it will increasingly do so unless they also insist that it cease.
Does anyone else still remember Kate Smith singing When the Moon Comes Over the Mountain? It was popular back in the 1930’s and 1940’s.
The moon will rise again, because it always does; even an almost omnipotent Government cannot prevent it. When it does rise again — after having graciously disappeared from view as in The Moon is Down, might the sweet memories that return to us be of freedom, and the dreams they awaken in us be of its revival? Perhaps many of us might then play another of the Kate Smith favorites again, God Bless (not Damn) America. Perhaps we might even sing along and pledge, along with Miss Smith’s ghost, “allegiance to a land that’s free?” Not allegiance in the sense of a vassal to a lord, nor in the sense of a subject to Government, but in the sense of free men pledging to defend our own freedoms and those of our countrymen.
Those truly interested in freedom, what it means and what it demands of us might be well served by reading or re-reading The Moon is Down.
I did not want to add this, but the Devil made me do it.