The Tucson Festival of Books was a huge success! The weather was beautiful and not too hot. It was wonderful to see people coming out and interacting once again. I enjoyed reconnecting with my teacher/writer friends, Lisa Watson, and Dusty Humphrey. It was fun talking to those who stopped by our booth too. And, of course, there was the added advantage of selling books! I sold enough to make the experience well worth the expense. Thank you to those who came out and to those who supported me through word-of-mouth and prayer! I am looking forward to returning next year.
This past month, I also took a trip to visit my great aunt, Florence. It was a wonderful trip. She is a fellow genealogist and the repository of many decades of family history. We had a fabulous (and exhausting) time sharing stories and delving into the family records. I came away with more ideas for future books and additional evidence for books already in the works. Many thanks to Aunt Florence for her generous hospitality and for sharing her time and stories with me!
I hear many people from both sides of the political spectrum lamenting the state of affairs in the United States today and worrying about where the country is heading. There is also plenty of blame being leveled at progressive liberals and traditional conservatives. So, what is the truth?
History, politics, and the economy do not progress in a linear path, but rather are a series of causes and effects, actions and reactions. The more radical the response to an issue, the more radical the corresponding reaction will be. We like to believe that truth is relative, but this is not really truth, only our perception of it. To be true, it must be constant, unchanging. To understand truth, we must examine and strive to understand other perspectives of an issue or event beyond our own.
Machiavelli pointed out that if our only concern is to have others love us, then we will be perceived as weak, willing to do anything to keep their love. This will eventually ensure that those whose love we seek will turn on us at a whim, if suddenly our beliefs no longer align, or if someone else is offering them something more.
Machiavelli suggests then that “it is better to be feared than loved.” This was said to the Medici leaders in the context of acquiring and keeping power. It has often been used to support the idea that “the ends justify the means.” However, this path leads to totalitarianism. We have seen this justification used throughout history in the Reign of Terror during the French Revolution and again during the Bolshevik Revolution. We saw it in the rise of totalitarian leaders across the globe: Benito Mussolini in Italy, Adolf Hitler in Germany, Joseph Stalin in the Soviet Union, Mao Zedong in China, the Kim dynasty in North Korea, the Taliban in Afghanistan, Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, and the list goes on and on.
When we use evil methods, even to obtain noble goals, we become the evil we seek to overthrow. Stealing from others in the name of inequality, is not equality or equity. Killing innocent people in the name of justice for one group or cause, is not justice. Silencing others in the name of political correctness, is not free speech. Arresting political opponents in the name of intolerance, is not freedom or democracy. Demonizing parents for wanting a say in their children’s education leads down the road to totalitarianism.
Each revolutionary movement and totalitarian leader mentioned above, and many others, like President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey, or Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran, began by silencing their opponents. Then they limited protests, allowing only their own political parades and demonstrations. Next, they told people to spy on each other and report anyone who spoke out against the politically correct dogma. They changed the curriculum taught in classrooms, instituted organizations for children to indoctrinate them into their own political views. All of this was in the name of democracy for the people! By the time the majority of citizens realized what was happening it was too late; these totalitarian leaders had already eliminated their enemies and solidified their power.
I am afraid for this country, because I see the signs from history starting to repeat themselves. I am also hopeful for this county. Unlike all the other countries mentioned above, we have a unique history. Unlike them, we do not have a long history of absolute monarchs followed by totalitarian dictators governing us, despite what political rhetoric would tell us. Both the Native American tribes that inhabited this land and the early colonist developed systems of democratic self-governance. We were founded on the principals of Freedom to Practice our Religions, Freedom from a State imposed Religion, Freedom of Speech, Freedom of the Press, Freedom to Assemble, and Freedom to Petition the Government. It is true that we have not always applied these freedoms equally to everyone in this country, but a nation, we have always striven for this goal. We are used to standing up for what we believe is right, though it is not always easy.
I am not advocating violence, for the reasons stated at the beginning of this article. Strength comes in many forms. The Roman Empire became a Christian Empire, despite, and perhaps because of the thousands of Christians martyred under the Roman Emperors. Sometimes there is a need to fight to defend our way of life, as the Ukrainians are doing now, and as we did in our own Revolution. We should never be quick to resort to arms. The individual colonies and later the Constitutional Convention petitioned King George III multiple times before finally declaring independence, and then only after the British army had already fired shots at Lexington and Concord. Rather, we need to have the courage to speak up for what we value. I see many stepping up to do that now and am encouraged.
We also need a willingness to listen to our opponents, so that we might understand each other. This necessitates that we stop demonizing those with different political views from ours. There may be some in positions of power on either side who are willing to use immoral tactics to gain or maintain power, but most people in this country, want what we all want, a just and free society. It is often our definitions of what that means that differs. I believe we can return from the brink of totalitarianism or civil war to reaffirm our founding freedoms, though it may be a struggle. It requires defending our values, while still being able to listen to the concerns of others, to find a mutually beneficial solution. It may sound impossible, but we have done it before, and I hope that we can do it again.
If you have any comments on what I have just said, please reply to this email. I really would love to hear from you! I’ve been reading about the Lost Dutchman’s Mine in the Superstition Mountains, and so, next month, I plan to share a bit about that mystery with you.
Take care and I’ll connect with you again in May!