Freedom or Fear?

When the Europeans came to the New World they brought with them civilization. A funny word because essentially what it means is “our way of life is the right way and you will comply or we will force you because we are right and your differences cannot be tolerated.” The native American tribes had their own religious beliefs, some of which were not far from Christianity but different enough that it was a threat. So over years it was stamped out. Only Christianity could be tolerated among the natives because any other belief is a threat. Fear of their differences won out, even when it was among tribes they were allied with.

I remember when I was about nine years old reading a book called the Witch of Blackbird Pond. That book was one of my favorites and even as I grew older I’d still occasionally read it. It was set in the late 1600s in New England and there was a character named Hannah Tupper who was an elderly Quaker woman that lived on her own. She was suspected of being a “witch” essentially because she didn’t conform to the social norm of her community. Her greatest “sin” was in being a Quaker, a variation of Protestant faith that emphasized the relationship between a person and God rather than putting faith in a central church. To the Puritans of New England this was abhorrent, a threat to them and their faith. They had both been persecuted in Europe but when the shoe was on the other foot the Puritans had no problem persecuting the Quakers because they allowed their fear to rule them.

Around the late 1700s and early 1800s there was discussion about Islam. Many of the slaves brought into the country followed that faith and this required some careful thought on the part of those Christians already established here. Some founding fathers were opposed but many including George Washington actually either found merit in the Muslim teachings or at the very least supported their freedom to continuing practicing that faith. After all, had we not just fought a war for freedom, to create a country where we could have differences but still work together?

Into the 1800s, forgetting how we had worked together to gain independence, the divisions in the country once again began to fester. Tariffs unfairly targeting certain sections of the country, no matter that we had objected against unfair taxation practices from King George. It festered and it festered and when things came to a head with secession fear was once again used to control the populace. The Union, as Lincoln admitted, was terrified of losing the tax revenue from the South if they successfully seceded since they had been financially supporting the majority of the federal government as well as subsidies to many industries that didn’t wish to take a financial hit (the early days of our crony capitalism). The South was afraid of losing their autonomy as they lost more and more power within the government while their share of the taxes seemed to only get higher. For some there was a fear of abolition, though that was far from the only fear. In that war, terrorizing others became a favorite tool. Rarely did the Confederate armies attempt to cross into the Union but in the South civilians, both free and slave, were being targeted by the Union armies. All food was stolen, homes burned to the ground, women were raped, black men regardless of whether they were free or slave were forced into leaving and joining the Union army, graves of the newly dead were desecrated on the off chance that civilians might be attempting to hide supplies. Fear and destruction were the tools to obtain compliance.

Following the war came a period known as Reconstruction which is somewhat glossed over by the history classes. Immediately after abolition of slavery the southern legislatures had passed laws of their own volition, modeled after laws in the north, in order to make sure the newly freed would have no trouble with their rights to travel freely, etc. However, soon after more and more started migrating from the north to buy up land and take political power. There began to be laws and policies meant to divide the races, to keep everyone as separated as possible to keep the south weak and ensure the northerners maintained control. Fear was the order of the day. Whites, fear blacks. Blacks, fear whites. Worry about each other and don’t look over here at what we are doing. The racial tensions from that still rock us to this day.

Over the next few decades the world continued to turn and life went on. Technology was developing quickly and there was so much going on in the world. Wars happened, as they always do.

Fast forward to World War II and the Nazis were quickly gaining control in Europe. We knew Jews were being persecuted but that wasn’t on our doorstep and it was easier to say we didn’t want them here. After all, they had money. They could figure something out and it wasn’t our problem. Besides, we were just coming out of the Great Depression so we really didn’t have the resources to be helping foreigners… If millions died, well, we had to protect our own first. Why didn’t the Jews do more to stand up to the Nazis if it really was so terrible? And there could have been Nazi agents that snuck in with them had we accepted the refugees!

We helped our allies from a ‘safe’ distance but that sense of safety wasn’t to last. Pearl Harbor happened and our fears skyrocketed. We had so many Japanese immigrants already, what if they turned on us too? If they didn’t agree with what the Japanese had done to us, why weren’t they doing more to speak out against it? Keeping our borders safe and preserving our culture was the most important thing, so we rounded up all the Japanese-Americans and put them in internment camps to make sure they couldn’t act against us. Though, if they wanted to serve in our military we would let the young men out and arm them with guns and planes to go into battle. The women, children and elderly though? They were scary. They needed to stay in the camps so we could feel safe.

Now, in 2015, we have forgotten the threat of the Native American faiths, the Quakers and other dissenting Protestant faiths, the Japanese… but some fears we still cling to. Why? Are we better people for allowing our fears to rule us?

Yes, we are told to fear the Syrian refugees. We are told we have enough economic troubles as it is, that these are Muslims who hate us, that they could do something else and don’t need to come here, that there could be agents of ISIS among them. If they truly oppose ISIS, why haven’t they done a better job of standing up to ISIS?

My question is, “Why are a people who claim to cherish freedom so quick to cling to fear?”

11 thoughts on “Freedom or Fear?

  1. That was a very well written article Nikki but it would have been even stronger if you added source information with it.

    Just some constructive criticism. :)

    • Consider this more of a rant. 😉 It does touch on a few things that will be full fledged articles in future though.

  2. I have an answer for your question “Why are a people who claim to cherish freedom so quick to cling to fear?”

    Ignorance, and the fear of the unknown.

    The writings of great men like Thomas Pain, Jefferson, Volatire, Plato, Socrates, and Aristotle should be required reading in school.

    • You know I had read Paine’s Common Sense in the past but only recently delved into The Rights of Man and The Age of Reason. I know a lot of people were scandalized at the time by what he had to say but I think honestly people would be just as scandalized today despite the changes in culture since it was first published.

      The thing is people are always quick to stand up for their own freedoms or freedoms they deem important but the moment there is a freedom at risk that isn’t on their radar so to speak they have no desire whatsoever to act. They don’t understand that if they don’t protect the rights of others then that in itself puts their own rights at risk.

  3. This quote fits so well with that.

    “…A man who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself…”

    John Stuart Mill

    When the liberty and freedom of others is threatened YOU FIGHT for their rights regardless if it doesn’t have anything to do with you.

  4. The Unknown Confederate Soldier’s Prayer.

    Found on the body of of a Confederate soldier in Devil’s Den at Gettysburg Pennsylvania, July 1863.

    “….I asked God for strength, that I might achieve,
    I was made weak, that I might learn humbly to obey.
    I asked for health, that I might do great things,
    I was given infirmity, that I might do better things.
    I asked for riches, that I might be happy,
    I was given poverty, that I might be wise.
    I asked for power, that I might have the praise of men,
    I was given weakness, that I might feel the need of God.
    I asked for all things, that I might enjoy life,
    I was given life, that I might enjoy all things.
    I got nothing that I asked for, but everything I had hoped for.
    Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered.
    I am, among all men, most richly blessed…..”

  5. ONLY A SOLDIER’S GRAVE
    By S.A. Jones

    “…Only a soldier’s grave! Pass by,
    For soldiers, like other mortals, die.
    Parents had he — they are far away;
    No sister weeps o’er the soldier’s clay;
    No brother comes, with tearful eye;
    It’s only a soldier’s grave — pass by.

    True, he was loving, and young, and brave,
    Though no glowing epitaph honors his grave;
    No proud recital of virtues known,
    Of griefs endured, or triumphs won;
    No tablet of marble, or obelisk high; —
    Only a soldier’s grave: — pass by.

    Yet bravely he wielded his sword in fight,
    And he gave his life in the cause of right!
    When his hope was high, and his youthful dream
    As warm as the sunlight on yonder stream;
    His heart unvexed by sorrow or sigh; —
    Yet, ’tis only a soldier’s grave: – pass by.

    Yet, we should mark it — the soldier’s grave,
    Some one may seek him in hope to save!
    Some of the dear ones, far away,
    Would bear him home to his native clay:
    ‘Twere sad, indeed, should they wander nigh,
    Find not the hillock, and pass him by…..”

  6. THE BLUE AND THE GRAY
    by Francis Miles Finch
    (1827-1907)

    “….By the flow of the inland river,
    Whence the fleets of iron have fled,

    Where the blades of the grave-grass quiver,

    Asleep are the ranks of the dead:

    Under the sod and the dew,

    Waiting the judgment-day;
    Under the one, the Blue,

    Under the other, the Gray.

    These in the robings of glory,

    Those in the gloom of defeat,

    All with the battle-blood gory,

    In the dusk of eternity meet:

    Under the sod and the dew,

    Waiting the judgment-day,

    Under the laurel, the Blue,

    Under the willow, the Gray.

    From the silence of sorrowful hours
    The desolate mourners go,

    Lovingly laden with flowers
    Alike for the friend and the foe:

    Under the sod and the dew,

    Waiting the judgment-day,

    Under the roses, the Blue,

    Under the lilies, the Gray.

    So, with an equal splendor,

    The morning sun-rays fall,

    With a touch impartially tender,
    On the blossoms blooming for all:

    Under the sod and the dew,

    Waiting the judgment-day,

    Broidered with gold, the Blue,

    Mellowed with gold, the Gray.

    So, when the summer calleth,

    On forest and field of grain,

    With an equal murmur falleth
    The cooling drip of the rain:

    Under the sod and the dew,

    Waiting the judgment-day,

    Wet with the rain, the Blue,

    Wet with the rain, the Gray.
    Sadly, but not with upbraiding,

    The generous deed was done,

    In the storm of the years that are fading

    No braver battle was won:

    Under the sod and the dew,

    Waiting the judgment-day,

    Under the blossoms, the Blue,

    Under the garlands, the Gray.

    No more shall the war cry sever,

    Or the winding rivers be red;

    The banish our anger forever

    When they laurel the graves of our dead!

    Under the sod and the dew,

    Waiting the judgment-day,

    Love and tears for the Blue,

    Tears and love for the Gray….”

  7. THE JACKET OF GRAY
    by Caroline Augusta Ball
    born 1825

    “..Fold it up carefully, lay it aside;
    Tenderly touch it, look on it with pride;

    For dear to our hearts must it be evermore,

    The jacket of gray our loved soldier-boy wore.

    Can we ever forget when he joined the brave band.

    That rose in defense of our dear Southern land,

    And in his bright youth hurried on to the fray,

    How proudly he donned it — the jacket of gray?

    His fond mother blessed him and looked up above,

    Commending to Heaven the child of her love;

    What anguish was hers mortal tongue cannot say,

    When he passed from her sight in the jacket of gray.

    But her country had called and she would not repine,

    Though costly the sacrifice placed on its shrine;

    Her heart’s dearest hopes on its altar she lay,

    When she sent out her boy in the jacket of gray.

    Months passed and war’s thunders rolled over the land,
    Unsheathed was the sword and lighted the brand;

    We heard in the distance the sound of the fray,

    And prayed for our boy in the jacket of gray.

    Ah, vain, all in vain, were our prayers and our tears,

    The glad shout of victory rang in our ears;

    But our treasured one on the red battle-field lay,

    While the life-blood oozed out of the jacket of gray.

    His young comrades found him, and tenderly bore the cold lifeless form to his home by the shore;

    Oh, dark were our hearts on that terrible day,

    When we saw our dead boy in the jacket of gray.

    Ah! spotted and tattered, and stained now with gore,

    Was the garment which once he so proudly wore;

    We bitterly wept as we took it away,

    And replaced with death’s white robes the jacket of gray.

    We laid him to rest in his cold narrow bed,

    And graved on the marble we placed o’er his head.

    As the proudest tribute our sad hearts could pay —

    “He never disgraced it, the jacket of gray.”

    Then fold it up carefully, lay it aside,

    Tenderly touch it, look on it with pride;

    For dear must it be to our hearts evermore,

    The jacket of gray our loved soldier boy wore!….”

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