“There are no cats in America”- Papa Mousekowitz: An American Tail
Credit cards. Payday loans. Title loans. Mortgages. As we get older and more experienced we learn how dangerous these things can be. Having the warm security blanket of a credit card is a comfort to some people, like a big cuddly tiger. And like a tiger, if you forget what it is, it can eat you alive . We learn to respect the dangers of debt by making our own mistakes and seeing the mistakes of others. But there are other less tangible debts that must be paid down and controlled.
Liberty, like any other debt must be serviced regularly. And make no mistake, this is a debt that requires payment. The longer you avoid it, the more difficult the payments are to make. If you don’t cover your share of the debt it gets shifted onto your children, then grows and moves on to their children. The price of nonpayment is worse than anything a debt collector can bring to bear.
Get a picture in your mind of your family, anyone living under the same roof as you. Now take everything from them they can’t carry. Family pictures, gone. Favorite stuffed animals, gone. Pets, makeup, tools, grandpa’s old rifle, your mothers earrings, gone. Imagine you either had to leave it or sell it to pay a smuggler to give you room in the cargo hold of a dangerously overcrowded ship. Your family gets a bucket for a bathroom and access to the community water barrel for drinking. Anyone who isn’t strong enough to make the trip gets buried at sea, your captain gets paid either way. Imagine all the new experiences you get to explain to your children along the way. Imagine having to keep the fear out of your voice and eyes to reassure them everything is ok. Watching them get sick and not being able offer anything but a caring embrace. Sleeping with your shoes on, on top of what few possessions you saved from your old life. It’s the only way to prevent someone from stealing them.
Imagine putting on a face of confidence knowing that at the end of this trip you are on your own. No support group, no savings to fall back on, and no way to be certain you can provide food and shelter when you step off the boat. What you can be sure of is your family will start at the bottom. Most everyone they meet will look down on them. Other children will laugh at yours for being different. Men will look at you with distrust and become impatient when you struggle with your new language. Mothers will avoid making “play dates” with you and your kids. What work history you had has been erased. Now your a day laborer, or if your very lucky, picking crops by hand. Welcome to your new life. Now imagine you thank God every night for it.
How bad would life have to be for you to risk this? Hard to create that world in your mind isn’t it? That world does exist. That’s why we have had people risking everything to get here since the time we were thirteen colonies. Not the promise of prosperity. You can’t guarantee that for anyone. It’s the possibility of safety and a better life, mixed with the threat of their current situation that prompts them to roll the dice and run to our nation.
But what created that terrible world they ran from? The answer is easy, too few people paid to create Freedom. Over time the price of regaining lost liberties became too high as tyrants took power. We don’t have a large population that experienced this first hand, so it seems less possible here. But we do have history to learn from. The U.S. “Civil War” didn’t happen overnight. It built slowly over the years as slavery, banking practices and various politicians ate away at the Freedom Americans had embraced. Afghanistan once had a thriving trade economy and the Middle east at one time led the world in art and science. China and Russia have both experienced that same rise in quality of life and the terrifying fall into tyranny that left millions dead.
We all have the same natural resources, mental and physical capacity, and 24 hours in the day. The only thing that has kept us from sliding into the same abyss is remembering that “All men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights”. Not all Americans. All men, and women, and children, everywhere. Remembering this reminds us to pay our bill.
Paying that bill doesn’t require blood, as long as we stay on top of it. It requires letting your neighbor live as freely as you want to especially if you disagree with them. It also requires you respecting others, on the road, in business ,and in the line at the grocery store. Saying the Pledge of Allegiance and standing for the National Anthem may give you a warm feeling inside, but if you fail to respect the inherent Freedom of others, and teach that respect to the next generation, it doesn’t count for much. Sometimes paying the tab means doing things that are uncomfortable and scary. Letting in outsiders for example. It’s a risk to be sure, but if we live in fear of what may happen we can’t build the Liberty that will prevent true evil from taking root.
On a somewhat positive note, you got very lucky. It’s unlikely you or your children will ever have to make that trip into an unfamiliar land. Not because it can’t happen here. You just don’t have anywhere to run to. That’s why if we lose freedom here, the price to get it back will be enormous. Please remember that when you get the urge to make any government more powerful so they can keep you safe. Just like any other service, that temporary safety will be paid for sooner or later. If not by you then by those that follow you.