The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines the word tyranny as
It’s nice to have a dictionary definition of a term like this. It provides a point where perspective can be regained, and sanity can be maintained when a term is overused, abused, politicized and redefined to suit one’s self.
If you wanted to argue that the possibility exists for Americans to become subject to tyranny of the government kind, I wouldn’t disagree with the premise. However, I think it is important to note that we do live in a democracy, we have a strong republic with a carefully crafted system of checks and balances, and while it is not perfect, and the flaws of human nature have entered into the picture, putting the system to the test, it is far from being tyrannical, and far from the point which would cause Americans to experience tyranny.
Some groups of people in this country have indeed experienced tyranny while living and working here. Even though it is found in the constitution, the idea that all men are created equal has had to be defined and redefined, including the definition of the term “men” and who it applies to. But the general direction of our whole culture, society and government system has always been moving forward, becoming more inclusive, and becoming less prone to tyranny.
So why are there so many people whining about the way things are, and using the term like it is the most common word in the dictionary?
Being on the losing side of an election, as an individual and as a political party, does not entitle you to use the term “tyranny” when the other side wants to do something you disagree with. We live in a democratic republic, and the principle of one person, one vote elects politicians who then, within the limits of the constitution, head in the direction of doing what they perceive is the will of the people based on the fact that they got the most votes. A majority that consistently controls the outcome of elections in specific places over and over can seem tyrannical. But the constitution prevents that from happening by protecting the freedom and rights of the minority from oppression, regardless of what the majority votes to do. That’s one of those checks and balances built into the system. You might not like what your city or county or state government does, and it may seem that your vote is futile in bringing about change, but regardless, your rights are still intact and you are protected from oppression because you are a dissenter. It’s a point that many Americans don’t understand, others prefer not to point out because it doesn’t lend credence to their argument, and still others want to supress because if it is equally applied, it means that people who practice different religions, or are of a different race, or a different national background can still be who they want to be, and they don’t have to conform.
What we are hearing, mostly from small groups on the extreme right, is a lot of noise, and not much substance. The current administration hasn’t made any kind of a move to restrict the second amendment right to bear arms. Universal background checks and limits on the ability to purchase guns without them is not a restriction of rights, and there is no way an argument can be twisted to make that the case. The word “tyranny” is being used, not necessarily to accurately describe what is happening, but as a political weapon to attempt to affect how voters will cast their ballots down the road. Perhaps, in some cases, it is also being used to justify planned illegal actions or civil disobedience, built around the supposed constitutional provision of the right to bear arms being for the purpose of rising up against a tyrannical government. I see nothing that the government is now doing that would qualify as tyrannical oppression, justifying any kind of taking up of arms against it. Nothing that is happening now meets the dictionary definition of the word.
The founding fathers did put the right to bear arms in the constitution as a hedge against tyranical government, but they did not envision that as being our own. What they were afraid of, in those early years of the American constitutional republic, was that it could fall victim to the influence of the heavyweight European monarchies, in spite of the fact that the Americans had defeated the British (with French help). France, Britain and Spain were world powers who all owned large tracts of land on the North American continent. That’s who they feared. Their own government was subject to complete change every six years. It still is.
There is a remote chance that a dictatorship could emerge our of our constitutional republic, but it is very remote. The structure of the government makes it virtually impossible for any kind of movement in that direction to get any traction. It is rare for one political faction to have a large enough majority in Congress to bring about the kind of changes necessary for it to happen, and the kinds of decrees and suspensions of constitutional law that would be required to bring it about do not exist. In Nazi Germany, the structure of the Weimar Republic, with its multi-party system, coalitions required for effective government, along with the quirky system of a directly elected president with the power to appoint a chancellor based on the legislative majority, was a set up for takeover by a dictator, especially one who had a well-armed, well trained private army ready to instigate civil disobedience at a moment’s notice.
It really does sound like whining when the side that lost the election gripes about tyranny when the winning side launches its legislative agenda. Even then, there are plenty of checks and balances to make sure that the majority does not become tyrannical, and that the rights of the minority are completely protected. It is rare, in our system, for a single political party to dominate, and even when they do, it is rare for them to have a large enough majority to pass legislation without some support from the other side. But even if that happens, it’s not tyranny. It is the expressed will of the people through their elected officials. It only becomes tyranny when the other side doesn’t have the right to speak up in opposition.
The biggest enemy of the constitutional republic is not liberalism, nor is it conservativism. The biggest enemy of it is ignorance. The lack of knowledge of the contents of the constitution, its interpretation and application, among Americans in general is beyond appalling. The condition of the historical knowledge and awareness of generations of Americans is pitiful. That enables the propagandists of our day, in the form of talk radio deejays, to manipulate people in ways that lines their pockets with cash, and feeds their ego with political power. When talk show radio hosts sitting behind a microphone can manipulate people to get certain individuals nominated for political office, ignorance is winning the battle.
And that’s a very real, and very dangerous threat to the stability of our constitutional republic.