My Thoughts

A long time ago, 1964, I was in my senior year in high school and it was an election year. The Republican nominee, Barry Goldwater was running against the incumbent Democrat Lyndon Johnson, who would go on to win a second term in a landslide. As I now recall, there were three Republicans in my home town, only one was old enough and eligible to vote: the owner of our newspaper along with myself and a fellow classmate, neither eighteen at the time; the voting age was then twenty-one. Recent events caused me to recall a speech by a then up and coming former Democrat, turned Republican from California, Ronald Reagan.

In this nationally televised speech in support of Goldwater, Reagan challenged the Progressive principles behind President Johnson’s Great Society. His speech, “A Time for Choosing,”[1] delivered on October 27, 1964 propelled Reagan to national prominence and eventually into the presidency. There is much meat on them bones every bit as deserving of mention today and I encourage everyone to take the time to read the entire speech at your leisure; I will only mention a few here in my thoughts. Keeping in mind that he spoke these words nearly 76 years ago, listen to these words:

I am going to talk of controversial things. I make no apology for this. I have been talking on this subject for ten years, obviously under the administration of both parties. I mention this only because it seems impossible to legitimately debate the issues of the day without being subjected to name-calling and the application of labels. Those who deplore use of the terms “pink” and “leftist” are themselves guilty of branding all who oppose their liberalism as right-wing extremists. How long can we afford the luxury of this family fight when we are at war with the most dangerous enemy ever known to man?

If we lose that war, and in so doing lose our freedom, it has been said history will record with the greatest astonishment that those who had the most to lose did the least to prevent its happening. The guns are silent in this war but frontiers fall while those who should be warriors prefer neutrality. Not too long ago two friends of mine were talking to a Cuban refugee. He was a businessman who had escaped from Castro. In the midst of his tale of horrible experiences, one of my friends turned to the other and said, “We don’t know how lucky we are.” The Cuban stopped and said, “How lucky you are? I had some place to escape to.” And in that sentence he told the entire story. If freedom is lost here there is no place to escape to.

It’s time we asked ourselves if we still know the freedoms intended for us by the Founding Fathers. James Madison said, “We base all our experiments on the capacity of mankind for self-government.” This idea that government was beholden to the people, that it had no other source of power except the sovereign people, is still the newest, most unique idea in all the long history of man’s relation to man. For almost two centuries we have proved man’s capacity for self-government, but today we are told we must choose between a left and right or, as others suggest, a third alternative, a kind of safe middle ground. I suggest to you there is no left or right, only an up or down. Up to the maximum of individual freedom consistent with law and order, or down to the ant heap of totalitarianism; and regardless of their humanitarian purpose those who would sacrifice freedom for security have, whether they know it or not, chosen this downward path. Plutarch warned, “The real destroyer of the liberties of the people is he who spreads among them bounties, donations, and benefits.”

Today there is an increasing number who can’t see a fat man standing beside a thin one without automatically coming to the conclusion the fat man got that way by taking advantage of the thin one. So they would seek the answer to all the problems of human need through government. Howard K. Smith of television fame has written, “The profit motive is outmoded. It must be replaced by the incentives of the welfare state.” He says, “The distribution of goods must be effected by a planned economy.”

Another articulate spokesman for the welfare state defines liberalism as meeting the material needs of the masses through the full power of centralized government. I for one find it disturbing when a representative refers to the free men and women of this country as the masses, but beyond this the full power of centralized government was the very thing the Founding Fathers sought to minimize. They knew you don’t control things; you can’t control the economy without controlling people. So we have come to a time for choosing. Either we accept the responsibility for our own destiny, or we abandon the American Revolution and confess that an intellectual belief in a far-distant capitol can plan our lives for us better than we can plan them ourselves. Already the hour is late. Government has laid its hand on health, housing, farming, industry, commerce, education, and, to an ever-increasing degree, interferes with the people’s right to know. Government tends to grow; government programs take on weight and momentum, as public servants say, always with the best of intentions, “What greater service we could render if only we had a little more money and a little more power.” But the truth is that outside of its legitimate function, government does nothing as well or as economically as the private sector of the economy.

Reagan went on to describe much of the encroachment of government at the time. Imagine how much worse it has become three-quarters of a century later. He warned those listening then, “We approach a point of no return when government become so huge and entrenched that we fear the consequences of upheaval and just go along with it.” Toward the end of his speech he noted that “No nation has survived the tax burden that reached one-third of its national income.”

Today in our country the tax collector’s share is thirty-seven cents of every dollar earned. Freedom has never been so fragile, so close to slipping from our grasp. I wish I could give you some magic formula, but each of us must find his own role. One man in Virginia found what he could do, and dozens of business firms have followed his lead. Concerned because his two hundred employees seemed unworried about government extravagance, he conceived the idea of taking all of their withholding out of only the fourth paycheck each month. For three paydays his employees received their full salary. On the fourth payday all withholding was taken. He has one employee who owes him $4.70 each fourth payday. It only took one month to produce two hundred conservatives.

Those who ask us to trade our freedom for the soup kitchen of the welfare state are architects of a policy of accommodation. They tell us that by avoiding a direct confrontation with the enemy he will learn to love us and give up his evil ways. All who oppose this idea are blanket indicted as war-mongers. Well, let us set one thing straight, there is no argument with regard to peace and war. It is cheap demagoguery to suggest that anyone would want to send other people’s sons to war. The only argument is with regard to the best way to avoid war. There is only one sure way—surrender.

Jim Caviezel, the Catholic actor who played Christ in The Passion of the Christ, in a recent interview recalled Reagan’s speech and added something rather remarkable to it, recalling Reagan’s words, “Admittedly there is a risk in any course we follow other than this, but every lesson in history tells us the greater risk lies in appeasement, and this is the ‘spectre our well-meaning’ Christian ‘liberal friends,’ our priests, bishops, and pastors ‘refuse to face is that their policy of accommodation is appeasement, and appeasement does not give you a choice between peace and war, only between fight and surrender.’”

We are told that the problem is too complex for a simple answer. They are wrong. There is no easy answer, but there is a simple answer. We must have the courage to do what we know is morally right, and this policy of accommodation asks us to accept the greatest possible immorality. We are being asked to buy our safety from the threat of “the bomb” by selling into permanent slavery our fellow human beings enslaved behind the Iron Curtain, to tell them to give up their hope of freedom because we are ready to make a deal with their slave masters.

Alexander Hamilton warned us that a nation which can prefer disgrace to danger is prepared for a master and deserves one. Admittedly there is a risk in any course we follow. Choosing the high road cannot eliminate that risk. Already some of the architects of accommodation have hinted what their decision will be if their plan fails and we are faced with the final ultimatum. The English commentator [Kenneth] Tynan has put it this way: he would rather live on his knees than die on his feet. Some of our own have said “Better Red than dead.” If we are to believe that nothing is worth the dying, when did this begin? Should Moses have told the children of Israel to live in slavery rather than dare the wilderness? Should Christ have refused the Cross? Should the patriots at Concord Bridge have refused to fire the shot heard ’round the world? Are we to believe that all the martyrs of history died in vain?

You and I have a rendezvous with destiny. We can preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on earth, or we can sentence them to take the first step into a thousand years of darkness. If we fail, at least let our children and our children’s children say of us we justified our brief moment here. We did all that could be done.

Caviezel went on to say that if we continue to accommodate, continue to back and retreat eventually we will have to face the final demand, the final ultimatum and what then?

When Satan has told the people of this world, he knows what our answer is going to be. He has told them that we are retreating under the pressure of his cold war and someday when the time is right to deliver his final ultimatum, our surrender will be voluntary because you see by then we will have been so weakened from within spiritually, morally, economically. And therein lies the road to war because those voices don’t speak for the rest of us. You and I know it and do not believe that life is so dear and peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery.

The martyrs of history were not fools and our beloved dead who gave their lives to stop the advance of the Nazis did not die in vain. Where then lies the road to peace? Well, it’s a simple answer after all. You and I must have the courage to tell our enemies, “there is a price we will not pay, there is a point beyond which evil must not advance. In the words of Reagan, “Evil is powerless if the good are unafraid.”

Wake up America.

[1] Ronald Reagan, “A Time for Choosing,” 1964, in Alfred A. Bolitzer et al., eds., A Time for Choosing: The Speeches of Ronald Reagan, 1961-1982 (Chicago: Regnery, 1983), 41-57. Available in PDF at http://cdn.constitutionreader.com/files/pdf/constitution/ch123.pdf.

Deacon Chuck

About the author: Deacon Chuck

Deacon Chuck was ordained into the permanent diaconate on September 17, 2011, in the ministry of service to the Diocese of Reno and assigned to St. Albert the Great Catholic Community. He currently serves as the parish bulletin editor and website administrator. Deacon Chuck continues to serve the parish of Saint Albert the Great Catholic Community of the Diocese of Reno, Nevada. He is the Director of Adult Faith Formation and Homebound Ministries for the parish, conducts frequent adult faith formation workshops, and is a regular homilist. He currently serves as the bulletin editor for the parish bulletin. He writes a weekly column intended to encompass a broad landscape of thoughts and ideas on matters of theology, faith, morals, teachings of the magisterium and the Catholic Church; they are meant to illuminate, illustrate, and catechize the readers and now number more than 230 articles. His latest endeavor is "Colloqui: A journal for restless minds", a weekly journal of about 8 pages similar in content to bulletin reflections. All his reflections, homilies, commentaries, and Colloqui are posted and can be found on his website: http://deaconscorner.org. Comments are always welcome and appreciated. He is the author of two books: "The Voices of God: hearing God in the silence" which offers the reader insights into how to hear God’s voice through all of the noise that surrounds us; and "Echoes of Love: Effervescent Memories" which through a combination of prose and verse provides the reader with a wonderful journey on the way to discovering forever love. He regularly speaks to groups of all ages and size and would welcome the opportunity to speak to your group.

2 Comments

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    Everyone should read this! It states what our choice must be. We must fight for what we believe, what the founding fathers fought for. We live in a country with so many blessings. Why are we so willing to give them away and live on our knees? Thank you for this article.

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