A Declaration was written to define it. A war was fought to earn it. A Constitution was established to protect it. And the only thing standing between freedom and tyranny is the willingness of the people to protect and defend it.

What stands between freedom and tyranny?

In America, as Dr. William Bennett, former Secretary of Education, so aptly described as, “the last best hope of mankind,” it’s the people. Protected by our Constitution, our Bill of Rights, federal civil rights laws, and the principles of liberty upon which our country was founded, We the People are the last line of defense.

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Perhaps now, more than any moment in recent history, that foundation is being challenged. Not because it is inadequate, unjust, or outdated, but because it stands in the way.

Progressivism, greed, and outright disdain for America itself have firmly taken root within and spread throughout the institutions created to protect and defend freedom in the first place.

Tyranny, by definition, is the cruel, unreasonable, or arbitrary use of power or control. In other words, tyranny is oppressive power. And when wielded by governments it degenerates quickly into totalitarianism. Totalitarian governments, by design, are centralized, dictatorial, and require complete subservience to the state.

Our founding fathers knew this. They had lived under the yoke of the British Monarchy in a time when the divine right of kings brokered no argument against its whims. To stand against it was treason. And treason meant death. They stood up anyway.

We have to ask ourselves why?

Truth resides in the answer, and that perhaps more than any other characteristic, is why our Constitutional Republic is seen as a threat.

The principles that founded America and that underpin our Constitution and our democracy, shine the light of truth exposing corruption, greed, and tyranny where they exist. Even in our own backyard.

The first challenge to our Republic occurred in the 1860s approximately eighty short years after America’s founding.

Threatened by the establishment of the anti-slavery Republican Party, the election of the first Republican President, and what was seen as an imminent threat to its way of life, the predominantly Democratic South seceded from the Union.

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The Civil War, the bloodiest conflict in American history, resulted in the Union’s victory. With that victory, our Constitution and our government were preserved. As a country, we moved closer to attaining the ideals upon which our country was founded. But, the cost was great.

On March 4, 1865, as the war was ending, President Abraham Lincoln laid out his plans for healing a once-divided nation. Lincoln’s ideas for Reconstruction were born from his innate faith and determined belief in the tenants of our Constitution and the sanctity of the Union itself.

With malice toward none with charity for all with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan — to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.

Abraham Lincoln | Second Inaugural Address, 1865

What might Reconstruction have looked like had Lincoln lived? History will never answer those questions, as the 16th President of the United States was assassinated on April 14, 1865, barely one month after giving that address.

What is known is that out of the ravages of the Civil War, the Nation found itself at a crossroads where the ideals of the Declaration of Independence and the principles contained in the Constitution were tested.

During the course of the war and shortly thereafter, three new amendments were added to the Constitution:

  • The 13th Amendment (1865), outlawed slavery in the United States.
  • The 14th Amendment (1868), granted citizenship to all persons born or naturalized in the U.S. and guaranteed all citizens equal protection under the law.
  • The 15th Amendment (1870), guaranteed that the right to vote could not be denied based on race, color, or previous condition of servitude.

However, rather than uniting the country in working together to uphold these laws, the late 1870s saw the demise of the Republican Party in the South and the rise of Southern Democratic state governments. Largely run by former Confederate leaders, the 14th and 15th Amendments came under fire and were for all intents and purposes, effectively nullified.

It wouldn’t be until 1965, nearly one hundred years after the end of Reconstruction, that the Voting Rights Act of 1965 would forever outlaw the legal barriers and practices put in place following the Civil War.

With Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. looking over his shoulder, President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act of 1964 into law. This act, prohibited discrimination in public places, provided for the integration of schools and other public facilities, and made employment discrimination illegal. It was the most sweeping civil rights legislation since Reconstruction. ~ National Archives. A year later, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 would also be signed into law. | Image by WikiImages from Pixabay

Since its beginning, America was viewed as an experiment.

It was never a given that a nation could successfully self-govern. Nor was it a given that the U. S. Constitution, no matter how carefully conceived and written, would be enough to effectively defend against the encroachment of tyranny.

Again, the founding fathers understood this. The Constitution, along with the Bill of Rights, sent to the original states for ratification in 1789, was their best attempt.

After months of debate, compromise, and toil, the new Republic, at the very least had a strong beginning. More importantly, it had a firm foundation on which to build. A foundation that would ensure the freedom and liberty of all its citizens into perpetuity.

Today the U.S. Constitution is the oldest written constitution in operation in the world.

It has withstood the test of time. Largely, because it’s adaptable, able to grow and change with each successive generation, without destroying the whole.

While the Civil War posed perhaps the greatest threat to its existence, the Constitution has been challenged at other times in our history, and each time, revisions were made in the form of amendments that strengthened its ability to sustain our Republic and protect our freedoms and liberty.

  • The 17th Amendment (passed in 1912, and ratified in 1913), changed the election of Senators to popular vote (rather than through State Legislators — Article 1, Section 3).
  • The 19th Amendment (passed in 1919, and ratified in 1920) gave women the right to vote.
  • The 22nd Amendment (passed in 1947, and ratified in 1951) set a two-term limit on the presidency.
  • The 24th Amendment (passed in 1962, and ratified in 1964) abolished poll taxes.
  • The 26th Amendment (passed and ratified in 1971) set the voting age at 18.
Source: National Constitution Center| The Interactive Constitution | 2023

Unfortunately, the rich and powerful history of America is not being taught or even remembered.

The opposite is true in fact. It’s being demonized and undermined at every turn. It’s being ignored, rewritten, and “re-imagined.” In an effort to control the narrative, the current trend is to indoctrinate rather than educate, censor rather than promote discourse, and rather than learn from the past, reimagine it.

And what happens when people fall into ignorance? Ignorance, characterized by a lack of knowledge, education, and awareness, on an individual level is harmful, but on a societal level, it’s destructive. Mass ignorance is a breeding ground for tyranny and oppression. History has proven that.

To that end, and more frighteningly by design, our liberal education system has failed to teach our history.

History and civics education, meant to remind successive generations of the struggles, sacrifices, and ideas that gave birth to and underpin our Republic, has been watered-down to near extinction.

Without a National identity born from our heritage and our appreciation of it, we are doomed. The divide between freedom and tyranny grows smaller and smaller until civil rights and personal liberty cease to exist at all.

If students do not know what they came from, what their legacy is, what their inheritance is, how will they support or defend it?

Dr. William Bennet | U.S. Secretary of Education, 1985 — 1988 | author, America: The Last Best Hope

From Hitler in Germany, and Mussolini in Italy, to Stalin in Russia, these totalitarian states rose to power during times of crisis, specifically the economic hardship, inflation, and depression that weakened the existing governments following World War I. They then expanded and maintained their power through fear, intimidation, and indoctrination.

Between freedom and tyranny, dictators rise.

Throughout history, totalitarian regimes have thrived, not because they serve the best interest of the people, but because they control every aspect of their lives. From what they see and hear, to what they are able to learn, to what they are allowed to say and do, these regimes maintain power through fear and oppression.

Today, the communist regimes in China, North Korea, Vietnam, and Cuba, are no different than the ones that assumed power in the 1920s and 1930s in Europe. Individual freedom and liberty are nonexistent. The party is its own god.

There are several characteristics that all totalitarian regimes, both past and present have in common.

  • Rule by a single party. The party maintains monopoly control over the governmental system, which includes the police, military, communications, economic, and education systems.
  • Enemy of freedom. The party regards the concept of individual liberty as antiquated and outdated. Free speech, a free press, and civil rights are among its first casualties. The media and education system are viewed as tools of the state to be used in perpetuating its narrative.
  • Control of the economy. The party controls all aspects of the economy either in league with private corporations or through state ownership of the means of production.
  • Substitute for religion. The party, and not Christ, is the new savior, and whatever in Christian tradition or teachings, does not align with the state’s ideology is tossed out.
  • Reliance on propaganda and terror. Every means of communication from the pulpit and school, to the stage, cinema, airwaves, arts, and literature are controlled by and made to serve the state. The party uses propaganda to advance its agenda. Dissent is systematically suppressed. Terror is used to frighten and eliminate opponents and to control and isolate people.
  • Reason and truth are lost. Carefully devised narratives and rhetoric appealing to man’s baser instincts are used to incite the masses and to obtain and maintain their blind obedience.
  • Ideology has little to do with ideas and beliefs. The party employs its own ideology as an instrument of manipulation and ultimate consolidation of the ruling elite over the masses.
Source: Encyclopedia Brittanica | Last updated, May 18, 2023

“It is the absolute right of the state to supervise the formation of public opinion. If you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it, and you will even come to believe it yourself.”

Joseph Goebbel’s, the Reich Minister of Propaganda in Germany from 1933-1945

In America, we are not controlled by a single party, though overreach is prevalent.

For tyranny to succeed, our Republic must first be dismantled, the middle class castrated, and the Constitution thrown out along with our patriotism, faith, and the ideals that established and that have maintained this country for almost 250 years.

Though, our Constitution and the Bill of Rights are consistently being challenged, they have, for the most part, withstood the test of time. Our civil liberties and civil rights are protected by federal law.

From free speech and the right to hold and bear arms to due process, our civil liberties are constantly under attack. The methodical chipping away at these fundamental protections is a sure sign that the gulf between freedom and tyranny is slowly shrinking.

In the past few years, we have witnessed the weaponization of our justice system; increased government overreach, especially via executive privilege and by unelected bureaucrats; the systematic dismantling of our economy; destruction of our borders; undermining of our election system; and some of the most in-your-face attempts to re-divide this country along racial lines since Reconstruction.

Sadly, the powers working behind the scenes to promote these dangerous and destructive ideologies are no longer working in the shadows. Domestically, and across the globe, they are front and center. And they have help. Mainstream media, Big Tech, private corporations, the entertainment industry, and even from within our own institutions, the narrative has been set and the lines are being drawn.

When a government is no longer consensual, the final barrier between freedom and tyranny is breached.

In his book, The Dying Citizen, Victor Davis Hanson lays out both historically and currently what a world without freedom living under consensual governments will look like.

“Some elites, Hanson explains, “believe that they know the Constitution all too well and therefore believe it in dire need of radical deletions and alterations to fit the times. They envision an always improving, changing, and evolving Constitution that should serve as a global model for a vast, ecumenical brotherhood, requiring a global administrative state to monitor and enforce its ambitious idealism.”

Current events stand as a reminder of all that we stand to lose if the government’s attempts to usurp our rights as American citizens are successful.

From the vaccine mandates to the very real concerns surrounding the last few elections to the unelected federal bureaucracy working to suppress free speech, subvert the Second Amendment, and dilute due process, the yoke of tyranny is bearing down upon us.

“Contemporary events,” explains Hanson, “have reminded Americans that their citizenship is fragile and teetering on the abyss—and yet the calamities can also teach, indeed energize them to rebuild and recover what they have lost.”

America is only as good as the citizens of any era who choose to nourish and protect it for one more generation.

Victor Davis Hanson | The Dying Citizen, 2021

The strongest thing standing between freedom and tyranny is the will of the people to defend and protect it for one more generation.

We’ve seen it play out across the pages of history time and again. We are witnessing it now, in real time. The end result of tyranny is also chronicled and it is never good. No matter how often or to what extent it is rebranded, or repackaged, the road to tyranny leads only to destruction.

In America, thanks to our founders, preventing the encroachment of tyranny is built into our system of government. Federalism, separation, of powers, and checks and balances were designed with the rights of the people in mind. The electoral college was designed to prevent the will of the majority from completely overtaking the minority.

The Bill of Rights was added to define and protect our civil liberties while civil rights laws were passed to ensure individual rights and equality. The 10th Amendment defines a hard limit to the federal government’s powers, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

Our Constitutional Republic was designed to stand firmly in the divide between freedom and tyranny, protecting liberty and ensuring that government of the people, by the people, and for the people does not perish from the earth.

It is our duty to know and understand these principles so we can continue to uphold, defend, and protect them.

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, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.

Ronald Reagan | 40th President of the United States, 1981-1989

Note from the Author: JN Fenwick is a former US History teacher and writer. Along with historical facts, this piece includes the opinions of the author based largely on her knowledge of both historical and current events. Links are provided to source documentation if you would like more information on the topics discussed.

Reason, logic, critical thinking, and context are the hallmarks of all historical research. Without them, understanding, wisdom, and progress would never take form.

JN Fenwick (©2023)

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