Whether they realize it or not Americans live in a constant state of fear every day. I’m not referring to the fears of everyday life like losing a job or having an accident of some kind, but rather a more sinister and devious fear; a fear that Americans only dare talk about around the water cooler or at cocktail parties so as not to be taken seriously; a fear they try to mask with a with a whimsical tone of sarcasm or indifference. Whether Americans want to admit it or not, it’s the single greatest fear in their lives: fear of the government.
Right about now there are those reading this thinking: Don Cooper is a drunk. To which I reply: what’s that got to do with it? Maybe more people should drink if that’s what it takes to sober up and confront what they are really afraid of.
In their defense, I’ll admit that reality is scary. No argument that living in delusion is warmer, safer, cozier, and easier. Pretending is always more fun than reality, that’s why we go to the movies. But fear of the government is a fear that invades a person’s soul and – since the government intervenes in every aspect of our lives – it affects every move we make every day.
Fear of the government is hard to recognize and acknowledge. It’s a fear that we are taught early on in life and to which we become accustomed. We inevitably end up tucking it away in the far reaches of our minds in order to function “normally” every day and live our lives. But just as a car backfiring will trigger a sense of fear from a shell-shocked veteran, so too can the State trigger that sense of fear they’ve instilled in us.
One need only ask: when you see a cop in your rearview mirror with his lights on, do you feel a sense of safety and comfort or do you get a shot of adrenaline from your body’s “fight or flight” reflex? Do you immediately start asking yourself what he could possibly pull you over for, other than the fact that he was abused as a child, bullied at school and his mother didn’t love him, and now he’s going to whittle away at that chip on his shoulder by abusing you.
As you search for your proof of government permission to drive (i.e., your license), and your government permission to own the car ( i.e., your registration ), and your proof of government mandated insurance, do you do so calmly and with a smile on your face and with gleeful anticipation of speaking with someone who gives of himself to serve and protect you, or do you do so nervously, fumbling through your papers hoping everything’s up to date and acceptable to him for fear of being detained for whatever reason and having it affect your job, your family, and every aspect of your life?
And when it’s all over, do you feel glad that it happened or are you just glad it’s over? Later that evening do you recount the story to others with a sense of pride, or do you do so with a sharp tongue and kick yourself for all the things you wish you would have had the presence of mind to say at the time but didn’t? Do you feel happy that you have to pay $150 to the government because you were driving down the street faster than the government allows you to, or are you angry?
And in the end, do you send the money to the government even though you don’t agree with it? Even though you feel it’s unfair to have to pay so much money yet you’ve harmed no one? Of course you do. And why? Because you’re afraid of what the government will do to you if you don’t. In the end, you’ll retreat back into your cubby-hole of delusion in order to justify paying the fine by convincing yourself that what you did was wrong, the government was right, and you deserve the punishment.
My favorite delusional argument from those still attached to the matrix is that they pay their taxes voluntarily. To these people I ask: when you do your tax returns, do you take as many deductions as the government will allow you? Of course, the answer is always yes. Then I ask them that if they could take enough deductions such that their tax liability was zero would they do so? Again, not surprisingly, the answer is yes. I then ask them that if their preference is to pay zero taxes then why don’t they simply refuse to pay taxes. Inevitably, that’s where their train of thought always runs out of track. Of course everyone knows the answer: because they’re afraid of what the government will do.
I challenge everyone to ask themselves: when was the last time you even thought about the possibility you might be robbed, your house broken into or shot at? Can you even remember? Now ask yourself when was the last time you were afraid of doing something that could be deemed “illegal” by the government and for which you could be fined, detained or arrested? Something like not wearing a seatbelt, speeding, making a U-turn, going through a yellow light, not crossing the street at the cross-walk, riding a bike on a sidewalk, forgetting your license at home, taking too many deductions on your taxes, talking on your phone while driving, not allowing strangers to touch you or your children at the airport, cutting down a tree on your own property, owning and transporting a gun, collecting rain water and the list goes on. I would wager the answer is: daily! The first word out of everybody’s mouth when asked a normal, completely benign question these days is: “Well legally …” It’s first and foremost on our minds, and why wouldn’t it be, there are 76,000 pages to just the federal register alone. Some argue that everyone commits at least three felonies every day!
Ignorance is a dangerous thing, and it must be stopped in our lifetime, fo’ it kill somebody.
At the end of the day, all government mandates are enforced at the end of the barrel of a gun, and that scares the hell out of everyone, as it should. But if we truly believe we are free then we have to start acting like it. It’s time we cared about something bigger than ourselves. It’s time we stopped living our lives in fear.
Having said all that, I’m not holding my breath. It’s proven to be difficult to convince people that freedom is more important than the real housewives of New Jersey.
And that’s why I drink!
March 25, 2011
Don Cooper is a Florida native, Navy veteran, economist, business analyst and father.
Copyright © 2011 by Lew Rockwell.com.
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