Belle of Liberty

Letting Freedom Ring

Friday, July 16, 2010

Poster Boy for Socialism

[Before I go into today’s blog, I must print a retraction for a previous posting, in which I laid the blame for TARP at Obama’s feet. As a radio commentator reminded me this morning, the Troubled Asset Relief Program was created in 2008. President Bush was the “bird brain” who signed it. The Democrats, led by Barney Frank, and Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan were the “bird brains” responsible for its necessity in the first place, forcing banks to make loans to people who couldn’t afford them and lowering interest rates so much that the banks were essentially giving out free money. Pres. Bush never said he was a conservative and he certainly wasn’t.  My apologies to my readers.]

“Probably it is true that the very magnitude of the outrages committed by totalitarian governments, instead of increasing the fear that such a system might one day arise in more enlightened countries, has rather strengthened the assurance that it cannot happen here.” F.A. Hayek, “The Road to Serfdom”

The Tea Party of Iowa removed its Hitler-Obama-Lenin billboard and tea partiers everywhere are breathing a sigh of relief. As if we don’t have enough problems. When people think of Hitler, they don’t see an image of a centralized, domineering, totalitarian government. They see the ovens of Auschwitz.

No matter how badly you think of Obama, he’s just not a homicidal maniac (as far as we know).

Yet, in a few days, the financial reform bill will be placed on his desk, and he’ll sign it, giving the government unprecedented and nearly unchecked control over the nation’s economy. He has already appointed an army of bureaucratic czars to oversee every aspect of our nation’s business.

The bill will set banks up for failure, yet provide fail-out protection for the biggest of those banks while offering no fail-out protection to smaller institutions. Our country has an enormous debt burden of $13 trillion. The debt per taxpayer is $119 thousand. Our total unfunded liability (the IOUs that are piling up for Social Security and Medicare) is $109 trillion, and that’s before Obamacare sets up shop. But no problem – the government will just grow more money.

According to Hayek, the totalitarians regard society – and the economy – as a machine that needs to be well-oiled and maintained. The individual, with his love of freedom and creativity, is a monkey wrench in the great social machine. Therefore, his every move must be monitored and controlled. There’s no better mechanism for that control of the individual than the monopolistic corporation.

Germany’s problems, Hayek says, began long before Hitler arrived on the scene. 19th Century German philosophers, influenced by advances in science and engineering (remember, it was the Germans who invented the modern automobile), began to apply the theories of engineering efficiency to government and economics.

Creativity was considered an untenable risk. Better to stick with the well-planned, but unpopular Model A machine than take a chance on developing the new improved Model B. The Germans regarded England and her concepts of freedom, democracy, and free trade as outdated and passé, dangerous to the new world order they had in mind.

Individuals had to be convinced that they needed to sacrifice their freedom for the greater good. Wartime provided the ideal setting for such sacrifice, and the Germans loved nothing better than a good war. Sensible Germans, seeing what was happening politically and finding their potato crops decimated by the same fungus that wiped out the Irish potatoes, headed for America.

During the 19th century, German became a major industrial power. Under Bismarck, the German Empire expanded, annexing Denmark, Austria and the Bohemian countries. Meanwhile the industrial class workers were urged by the Marxists to agitate for better job security and income. Still, Germany’s great enemy, Britain, prospered, and war began to brew between the two nations.

At the outbreak of World War I, Germany threatened France, bringing England into a European-wide conflict. Only America’s entry late in the war, in 1917, brought an end to the conflict. But the reparations England and France demanded from Germany brought the country to the brink of economic ruin.

The U.S. loaned Germany money, but the crash of 1929 brought about many bank failures, including the Austrian Credit-Anstalt. Adolf Hitler, taking power in 1933, brought the German economy under government control, turning factories in war plants. According to Hayek, the devastated middle class found new hope and security in bureaucratic careers. Unwilling to take any capital risks, they left small and medium entrepreneurship to the disenfranchised class of Jewish business owners, who were forbidden to hold government jobs.

Does all this sound familiar? The German people became cogs of the government that basically owned them. Every aspect of German life was controlled, including religion. They were instilled from childhood up with propagandist notions of Aryan perfection (the original people), as opposed to the hybrid English and of course, the despised Jews, who were quite successful as independent business owners.

Socialists and communists clashed over who could establish the more totalitarian government. The Marxists viewed themselves as freedom-lovers, while still acknowledging that individuality had to be exterminated. A similar fascist movement was occurring in Italy. German invaded Poland and the war was on. Altogether, it’s estimated that some 45 million people died in World War II.

The Allies emerged as the victors, but in Great Britain, socialism had triumphed after all. The necessary, but temporary, war powers with which the English government granted itself were extended indefinitely. Friedrich Hayek arrived from Austria in the early 1930s to teach economics at the London School of Economics. He cautioned that reason, not idealistic utopianism, and freedom, not oppression, were the proper ingredients for a well-functioning, democratic economy – and nation.

His book goes on to give an economic history of Germany and Britain, and how Germany came to fall under the influence of the Nazis, the National Socialist party, and how Britain, by her very war with Germany, wound up falling under the same spell.

Reading from a modern context, it’s appalling to see how closely America is paralleling the fate of these two European powers. Our march towards totalitarianism began in the 1930s with FDR. Obama is simply the current drum major for this parade of bureaucracy. Private companies being taken over by the government, labor unions deciding the fates of those private companies and even deciding elections, and the government takeover of the health care industry are ominous signs, indeed.

Have we not heard Obama from his podium (looking more like Mussolini than Hitler as he imperiously tilts his head back and juts out his jaw) tell us that we must make “sacrifices?” Are we not now beset with “emergencies” (the oil spill in the Gulf) that require the government to usurp for itself unconstitutional powers?

Hayek gives America a prescient warning about giving in to fear and insecurity when faced with troubling times. Ironically, the Tea Party billboard was removed out of concern for alarming the general population and appearing to be exaggerated and over the top. Hitler has become such an iconic symbol of political evil that it’s impossible to compare anyone else to him without causing an uproar of hysteria and angry indignation.

Obama may or may not be the next totalitarian dictator. But so far, we are paving the road smooth for someone to assume that role someday unless we put a check on it now, while we can, protests to the contrary that “that could never happen here” notwithstanding. The best way to make sure something like that could never happen here is by realizing that it could.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Isn't That Special?

Correct me if I’m wrong. I’m such a novice when it comes to politics (except for the 18 years I spent as an officer in a community organization, during which time I read Roberts Rules of Orders, The Federalist Papers, the Anti-Federalist Papers, and Wealth of Nations, among other works).

But I thought one of the Democrats’ biggest complaints was Special Interest Groups? Those evil, K-Street lobbyists who line the halls of Congress bribing our representatives to represent them instead of the people who elected them?

That was why we Republicans kicked our representatives out of office in 2006. Whose side were they on here, we wondered, as they helped spend our government into oblivion. Apparently, Democrats don’t have any conscience about it at all.

In spite of the McCain-Feingold Campaign Reform, a bipartisan effort, they were all too happy when a judge ruled against the act, stating that corporations and unions may make contributions to elections.

Obama promised change and Congressman Bill Pascrell (D) in New Jersey’s 8th District has gotten a lot of change so far for the upcoming, 2010 mid-term elections. $473,500 worth of change, to be exact, the last time anyone checked. And there are still three months to go.

Pascrell is an entrenched Democrat who has held sway over the 8th District for a number of years. His Republican challenger, Roland Straten, hasn’t spent his life as a career politician. A lifelong resident of the area, he’s been too busy for politics (though never too busy for his community, serving on the Paterson Rotary, the Paterson Education Fund, the Paterson Chamber of Commerce, the Paterson Economic Development Corporation, the Memorial Day Nursery, and the board of St. Joseph’s Hospital).

As a 40 year businessman, Navy veteran, and licensed engineer, he knows how to earn money and manage a business. Now he must learn to raise money and manage a political campaign.

Can he do it? The question is, what are we going to do?  Pascrell’s “investors” have donated that money to his campaign largely for the purpose of mailings and commercials. Just what is Pascrell’s message going to be? How he’s going to “protect” us from the special interests, the lobbyists, that he’s all for the “little guy.”

The list of political contributions from the Federal Election Commission shows some very curious entries.

The Action Committee for Rural Electrification (ACRE). $1,000 (The National Rural Electric Cooperative). Excuse me? We’re the 8th District. The City of Paterson, the county seat of Passaic County, is at its center. Nearby is hoity toity Montclair with the New York City (electric) train running right through its center. Garfield. Verona. Wayne (think Willowbrook Mall). If you want to get nostalgic, Wayne was rural, once upon a time. It used to be the home of Preakness Farms, the race horse farm for which the famous Preakness horse race is named. Now it’s all malls, flood plains, and mini mansions. About the only rural section is The Crossroads between the Hamburg Turnpike and Route 23.

They couldn’t mean Pompton Lakes. A few years ago, Pompton Lakes had a spectacular 23 transmission box blowout that shut off half the town, including its business district. Pompton Lakes definitely has electric (though they didn’t have it that particular night).

Rural. Well it seems they began during World War II when there was a shortage of electrical construction. They now represent consumer-owned electric cooperatives. Okay, so let’s see who else is on that list. The Airline Pilots Association. A union. Caldwell Airport? There are a bunch of academies. The American Academy of:  Dermatology, Family Physicians, Neurology Professionals, Ophthalmology ($8,500 – obviously, the Congressman will need new glasses to read all the bills he’s helped pass), and the American College of Cardiology (for all those patients who are going to have heart attacks when they see their taxes in January).

AFSCME has donated tons of money of course, the municipal employees union. $4,000 to keep themselves employed for another two years or so. Anheuser-Busch. AFLAC. The American Hospital Association. The American Bankers Association. The American Dental Association (we’ll keep them busy grinding our teeth over Pascrell’s growth of government).

The Amalgamated Transit Union. American Council of Engineering Companies. The American College of Radiology. AT &T. The American Society of Pension Professionals & Actuaries. The American Nurses Association. The American Psychiatric Association (they can certify that the people who vote for Pascrell are crazy).

These are just the As. Continental Airlines Employee Fund. Bayer Corporation. Becton, Dickerson. Boeing Company. Bristol Myers. The Committee on Letter Carriers Education Fund. The International Longshoreman’s Union. Cablevision. Chubb Corporation.

General Electric. Honeywell. Johnson & Johnson. National Community Pharmacists Association. Mass. Mutual Life, Merck, MetLife, and New York Life. The NEA. SEIU. NAIFA (The National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors – shame on them). The Sierra Club is a major sponsor.

The National Limousine Association?

Well, you get the picture. You can see the entire list and the contributions here. Click here for the list

Most of those contributors have a special interest horse in the race. These very same contributors showering Pascrell with money now will be lining up in the hallways after the election waiting for their payback, at our expense. We will ultimately pay for all those mesmerizing commercials, telling us repeatedly what a friend Pascrell is to the common man, how financial reform and Obamacare will benefit us.

I wasn’t able to participate in the Montclair parade, where Straten was behind Pascrell in the line up. A prior commitment and the heat prevented me from going. I never even made it to the prior commitment. But Pascrell was at the Totowa Memorial Day Parade. I didn’t see him but I saw his entourage trotting after him, throwing his unspoken promises of political favors out to the crowd the way some organizations throw free candy out to the crowds from their parade floats.

The thing about parades is after the parade is over, the people, especially the kids, drop the American flags they’ve been waving to pick up the free candy. Over the years, I’ve collected a fair number of those discarded flags. They’re all over my house.

Looking at Pascrell’s FEC Campaign Donation List, I see a parade of special interest spectators waiting for the free candy to be tossed out and I anticipate all the American flags that will be discarded along the way if he’s elected (again) as they follow him to Washington.

Isn’t that just special?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Welcome to the Party!

When my group organized its first Tea Party in April 2009, everyone knew there was the potential for some knucklehead to show up with a racist sign that would taint our entire movement. Heated arguments arose over what to do about the problem.

Some members wanted all signs banned. Others wanted a committee to review the signs, others to print the signs for the participants. But that wandered into the territory of censorship. Not only did they want to prevent racist signs from popping up (naturally enough) but they wanted control of ordinary protest signs.

No signs criticizing Obama. No signs mentioning any names. No signs that didn’t pertain to taxation. No signs that went “off-message.” No signs about “social issues.” They were demanding that a centralized theme, namely taxes, be strictly adhered to.

Taxes were certainly on everyone’s mind that day, so there was no problem regarding the theme. But I argued against telling American citizens that they couldn’t criticize their president or elected representative by name. If once we invited the public, we had no business dictating to them what they could write on their signs (though we could insist that they be clean).

Occasionally, we would get a ringer who could have been from either extreme – the Black Panthers, or The Alliance, or One Voice (a local leftist organization). Our Intervention Squad made pretty short work of him (he was carrying a rather racist anti-Obama sign).

The trick is not to let the Leftist alarmists alarm people too much about the Tea Party. Or help them do it by going too far over the edge.

I got a call from Mom today.

“Communications Department, ‘Belle’ speaking.”

“This is your mother speaking. Did you see the billboard sign out in Iowa?”

“Yes, Mom.”

“Are you Tea Party people out of your minds?”

“I didn’t put it up, Mom. It’s out in Iowa somewhere.”

“Yes, but did you see the picture? It shows Hitler on one side and some other guy-“

“Lenin, Mom.”

“That’s right, Lenin, on the other side, with Obama in the middle. That’s crazy, comparing him with Hitler. That’s really, what do they call it? Over the edge?”

“Over the top, Mom.”

“That, too! He’s pretty bad, but he’s not Hitler. He hasn’t killed anyone.”

“I agree, Mom. It was over the top. But I didn’t put it up there. If they were going to put Obama up there, then they might as well have put FDR, LBJ and Clinton up there right alongside him. Still, while he’s not sticking anyone in ovens, his policies are an awful lot like Hitler’s socialism. It’s right there in that book you and Dad told me to read years ago, ‘Road to Serfdom’.”

“I didn’t read it. Your father did.”

“Well, he told me to read it and I did and apparently this Hayek – and Dad – were right.”

Silence. Mom never could stand to admit my father was right about anything.

“Yes, well never mind about that. All this Hitler business - it’s going to get these other people all worked up.”

“Yeah, I know. They’re already pretty worked up.”

“And then they’re going to come after you! You’re in the Tea Party! You even gave a speech.”

“That hardly anyone heard. I don’t think anyone’s going to come after me, Mom. I don’t go around carrying racist signs. In fact, I don’t carry any signs at all (although I probably should) because I’m too busy looking at everyone else’s.”

“But you don’t know who’s watching you at these Tea Party rallies. They could be standing behind some tree, taking down your name and what you’re saying. Taking your picture.”

“No one’s going to take my picture, Mom. But I’ve already caught them taking down what I’ve said. Besides, I’m already on the government’s Naughty List. What more can they do to me?”

“They could get you fired!”

“Well what if they do? I’ve already been there and done that. Don’t you remember my newspaper route when I was 13? All because I took Arty’s little friend down to the private clubhouse on the lake and he happened to be black, my lake customers got in a lather and threatened to cancel the paper if I wasn’t fired?”

“That’s what I’m talking about!! And you did lose your route! And they made threatening calls to us in the middle of the night.”

“But they were the white racists, Mom. And I didn’t lose the route because of Dwayne. I lost the route because I was a girl. I lost the route because of the sexists, not the racists. These are the black racists.”

“And you’re a Tea Party member which means they think you’re crazy – and the enemy! You’ve got to be careful! You’d better not tell anyone at work that you’re involved in the Tea Party!”

“I think it’s too late for that, Mom. They already know it. But they just seem to be brushing it off because they think I’m crazy. Besides, I don’t really talk about it beyond mentioning that I’m a member. We’re not allowed to talk about politics at work, especially not in my department.”

“Well, I’m just telling you, you’d better be careful! And come over for dinner tonight. We’re going to have pizza. Just make sure you come early because both your brothers and John [my six foot four nephew] will be there. If you come late, there won’t be anything left! The other night, they ate the entire pot of mashed potatoes and the whole steak by themselves. I only got one spoonful of potatoes and a sliver of meat.”

“That’s what you get for marrying a big German-Irishman, Mom – big sons, and big grandsons with big appetites.”

“Oh when they’re all sitting around the table, I feel like a dwarf among hulking giants, all towering above me. It’s almost scary. And they’re eating me out of house and home. They devour everything in sight.”

“Kind of like Big Government, Mom.”

“And I’m supporting these goons! I’m getting tired of taking care of them. But if I don’t feed them, they’ll get mad.”

“Well there was a time when you lifted Arty up to the ceiling when he got fresh with you and you tackled Billy when he wouldn’t cut his hair.”

“That was years ago, though. They’ve grown and I’ve shrunk. Meanwhile, you’re not getting enough to eat.”

“I can cook my own meals, Mom. And I’ll probably be cooking big pots of potatoes in the future for them, later on, probably.”

“I’ll make sure they don’t eat all the pizza up on you before you arrive.”

She did, too, but she practically had to throw herself across the pizza box to stop them from eating the last two slices. That’s what we’re doing in the Tea Party. There isn’t much pizza left, and we’ve got to throw ourselves across the boxes before the government devours what’s left of our economy – and our freedom.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Calling the Tea Kettle White

Just the other day, a black co-worker (and good friend) examined one of my Tea Party buttons. We’re really not supposed to wear politically-oriented objects at work. But this was one of the less objectionable buttons, illustrating a Colonial soldier waving a white flag.

“What if I had done this?”

I suffered her to examine it and she stood back again unsmiling but didn’t say anything. Since we’re not allowed to discuss politics at work, it was hard to explain to her that my Tea Party activities had nothing to do with race. Nor would she have believed me, I’m sure, if I told her my objections to Barack Obama were strictly political.

Since 94 percent of black people voted for him, how could black people be convinced that there are many objections to his administration other than the color of his skin, since that’s apparently why so many of them unquestionably voted for him?

The NAACP (National Association for the Advance of Colored Persons) is considering a condemnation of the Tea Parties on the grounds of racism. These charges have already intimidated earlier tea party rally organizers from allowing any signs that criticize the president.

Right there, we have a problem. It is illegal to discriminate against someone on the basis of their skin color. His skin notwithstanding, however, Obama is now a public figure and must be willing to endure the slings and arrows of misfortune, no matter how outraged his followers. It’s one (illegal) thing to refuse to hire someone because they’re black. It’s another thing to criminalize anyone who criticizes a black (or any other color) president because he’s directing the country in a direction antithetical to freedom and liberty.

To deny a citizen’s right to criticize a public elected official because of their skin color is to sow the seeds of tyranny. How is any critic to defend themselves against a charge of racism when it’s obvious that the president’s skin is black? Anyone can (and has) shown up to a public tea party rally displaying a racially derogatory sign, including tea party opponents, and instantly negate legitimate criticism.

The result was a discouragement of the signs that served as the voice of the people at the rallies. How very convenient for the tea party opponents. Now they can declare war on the tea parties who seek to affirm their rights as Americans, not engage in a race war. The socialists are the same Islamic apologists who deny that Muslim terrorists, led by Osama Bin Laden, have declared war on a heretical world, despite the concrete evidence to the contrary.

The NAACP declares that the majority of Tea Partiers are white (which they admittedly are – they’re also well educated and fairly affluent). An overwhelming majority of blacks voted for Obama, whom the Tea Parties regard as a socialist, if not an outright communist. What then? Has the chasm of racism really widened when we thought we’d gained much ground, or has politics driven a wedge between two races of people that were at least trying to make a go of it?

Martin Luther King Jr. spoke in extreme, abstract terms of love and hate between the races. He also helped abolish the laws that prevented blacks from getting a good education and gaining meaningful employment. His concrete objectives turned out to be more useful to all of us than his dreams. Idealistic notions of love and hate only made those who hate on both sides just dig their heels in more deeply. That beatnik who cried out at Clinton’s Town Hall Meeting, “Can’t we all just get along?” probably had the more pragmatic notion. You know – you don’t have t to “like” each other – just leave each other alone. It doesn’t seem too much to ask.

They’ve put a black president into office whose staggeringly socialist agenda is anathema to freedom-loving Americans, at least freedom-loving conservative, white Americans. What did they expect? The charge of racism is hard to judge. Let the NAACP nominate a conservative, Republican black candidate for president of the United States. Then we’ll see whether white America is truly racist or not. It could be they are, that they’d vote as overwhelmingly for some other white candidate as the blacks voted for Obama.

Or it could be they’d welcome him (or her) with thundering applause, even more than if one of their “own kind” had been elected to the office. The question is: would the blacks do the same? If both races are truly equal, then they’re susceptible to the same flaws. No matter their color, our feet are all made of clay.

One day, King’s dream of a color-blind world may be realized. We’re working on it. Realizing the same dream of a free world is proving to be a nightmare, though. Until then, it’s politics, not racism, as usual.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Marching to the Beat of Different Drummers

If ever there was a case against political collectivism, it’s your typical band or orchestra.

Now, being a musician, I have no problem with playing on bands and orchestras. I live to march in step with my fellow musicians and am always grateful for the more liberal director who will allow me to play the maracas on Amparito Roca.

However, musicians do make personal sacrifices of freedom for the greater good of the orchestra. We all have to play the same music. At the same time. At the same volume (generally). We have to play the parts assigned to us and we can’t really ad lib (on some bands, we percussionists can get away with some little freedoms).

Above all, your typical orchestra is an absolute totalitarian dictatorship. The conductor or director is boss, and that’s it. His or her word is final on how a piece of music is to be played. The conductor sets the tempo and heaven help the bass drummer whose attention strays for a moment after a hard day at work photographing people who don’t want to wear hardhats (!).

Just as workers going to their jobs at a corporation, we musicians, be we paid studio musicians or volunteer amateurs, leave our freedom in our music cases. That’s the deal. We know it and accept it, willingly. What would we sound like, after all, if we didn’t?

After the performance is over, though, we go home and we can be ourselves again. The director doesn’t follow us home to nag us to practice (though he wishes we would) or clean our instruments. He doesn’t tell us what music we have to listen to in our spare time.

My marching band is a particular case. On the street, it’s particularly important that the band know that the director – and in our case, also our drum major – is in charge. He makes the decisions about what march to play, when to stop, when to turn, and when to play.

When I was an officer on the band, years ago, I had a donnybrook with a trumpet player who felt that the office of the band director should be a sort of committee, so that no one person would be burdened with the responsibility of making those decisions.

I asked her, “So what happens if we’re in Wildwood and the unit in front of us has gotten too far ahead and we’re uncertain what street to turn onto (which did happen)? If we stop, we’ll be disqualified. How long is it going to take this committee to decide which street to turn onto? What if they can’t decide? What are we going to do then?”

The trumpet player cursed at me, but common sense prevailed, and at the next election, the band elected only one band director, although there are also three other officers to help in making decisions not directly related to performances, such as accounting and the purchase of uniforms.

Being that both the bands I’m on are volunteer organizations, even those two directors can’t completely ignore the musicians’ wishes entirely. If you put a piece of music in front of them that they absolutely despise, they won’t come back. The director will find himself with two flutes, a sax, one trumpet player, and one rusty baritone player. Oh and the percussionists (we don’t care what we play).

For the short time we’re together, we’re willing to suspend our liberties, yes.

However, the Wildwood parade I mentioned is a special case. It involves a three-day holiday for the band in southern New Jersey in a seaside carnival town. When we’re in uniform, we’re together, marching in step and hopefully playing in tune.

But once we’re done, or we’re not meeting together for some musical purpose, that’s it. Our members are on their own. We don’t parade up and down the Wildwood Boardwalk altogether, still in our (very sweaty) uniforms. We break up into clusters of friends and family groups. We wear individual clothing (except the night of the trophy ceremonies when we all wear our band jackets with our emblem on it).

Our conformity is temporary and finite. Once the job is done, our members are free to do – legally – what they please. There are no organized, concerted activities (except for lunch just before the parade – and even that’s not mandatory, but since everyone loves chili dogs, they come in throngs anyway).

Our fraternity exists only insofar as our musical tastes agree (we love marches, show tunes, popular standard music, some familiar classical pieces). We’re not bound by any other allegiances. Even the degree of our participation in the band itself is voluntary, though more is always appreciated.

The collectivist activists agitating today for political, socialist unity strive far beyond that pale. They don’t seem to know where the parade ends, where people are free to go their own way. In fact, they don’t believe people should ever be free to go their own way.

They would have us Americans march in lockstep forever to the socialist drummer. Thumpity, thumpity, thumpity. Some people have become too familiar with their tune and fall in step automatically, without even questioning the philosophy of socialism.

If they do fall out of step, they’re brought back into line as easily as any of us on our band can get back into step with a quick skip. If you don’t get back in step (on my band), you’re greeted with a chorus of very annoyed shouts of “Left! Left! Left, right, LEFT!!!”

In the socialist band, there is no “right” step of course, nor even a guide right. I’m so used to stepping off on my left foot (from being on the band), that if I take a first step with my right foot, I check myself for a moment, and then realize, well, it’s okay. I’m not out on the street.

That’s how easy it is to fall in step with people who give political orders, especially for young people, who desperately want to “fit in”. They want to be like everyone else. They don’t want to look different or be out of step.

Being on a marching band (or for that matter, probably being in the military, which I’m not and never have been), gives you a keen appreciation for freedom and individuality, and while you willingly make the sacrifice for some short-term or even long-term goal (and a five mile parade, playing an instrument on a blazing hot day, as I’m sure a stint in the 120 degree heat of Baghdad does, definitely seems long-term), you realize how long forever can be if those marching orders become permanent.

The military, in particular, is to be commended for accepting marching orders in order that our freedoms are safeguarded. Today’s young people are to be cautioned that the drummers to whose beat they’re gleefully marching have no greater purpose than that – to keep them in line. There is no end to the parade they’ll be expected to march under the socialist banner.

They’ll be brooked no quarter and certainly granted no liberty, no individual freedom, no shore leave. As the means justifies the end, they’ll be expected to obey every command they’re given, no matter how harsh, even to committing violence against those who merely disagree with them.

They’ll be congratulated for sacrificing their personal freedom for a greater cause, not comprehending that greater cause is the destruction of individual liberty and creativity. So it was that first one, and then the other, of the two bands with which I play were banished from their respective Fourth of July town concerts, silencing the very music that celebrates American independence.

Mike, and Tom, Pete, Paul, and RePete and I were the drummers. But someone changed the program and the audience danced to different drummers. Some of them knew the difference. Others didn’t, particularly the very young.

The difference is with, say, Stars and Stripes Forever, Sousa knew there were limits. His march has variety to keep the audience interested and a finite structure, so as not to hold them captive. Under the guise of “freedom” in which the audience could dance any way they pleased, the hard rock set went on relentlessly, the same monotonous beat and tone, for 45 minutes without pause.

That is the essence of socialism. Democracy gives liberty. Socialism takes liberties – and doesn’t give them back.