The Holocaust is a blight on human history, and when the West found out what really occurred under Hitler’s regime a whole generation vowed that they would never again let such a thing happen.
Yet similar events occurred just a few years later in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union.
When freedom is lost, human beings abuse power to the extreme of true inhumanity.
The problem is that people who haven’t experienced such deprivation seldom realize how important freedom is — until it’s too late. This pattern has repeated itself many times in history.
Most Americans today, basking in the benefits of decades of relative peace and prosperity, seem to think that such things won’t ever happen here.
We hear of our own government using drones and other means to spy on its people, of secret courts that aren’t overseen by anyone, of the government’s new power to detain, imprison and torture its people without any due process.
But we seem to have a disconnect in all this. We don’t realize how such things are naturally leading to the kind of excesses the German, Russian and Eastern European people experienced under authoritarian governments.
We hear of what Mao or Saddam Hussein did to their people, but it doesn’t click for most Americans that the secret powers of our own government are specifically designed to be able to do the same.
We hold out hope that it will be different, somehow, for us. That just because government has such power doesn’t mean it will ever use it.
(Ponder: Why else would the early twentieth century Germans have sat back and watched…?)
Then we brush off repeated reports that the government is, in fact, using such powers right now. We pretend that the people it targets somehow deserve it — or that this is just the price of staying safe.
This is exactly what the people in Germany and Russia experienced.
One of the most famous quotes about the Holocaust came from Christian pastor Martin Niemoller in his recollection of how secretive, authoritarian government spread in Germany, and how few people did anything to stop its takeover of society.
Pastor Neimoller is credited with saying:
“First they came for the communists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.
“Then they came for the socialists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a socialist.
“Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
“Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.
“Then they came for me,
and there was no one left to speak for me.”
Any time a government is given, or takes, powers that are beyond what it needs to follow its lawful constitution, freedom and liberty are in jeopardy. If we wait for government to widely utilize such power, it will be too late.
Freedom only flourishes when the people stop the government from getting such power in the first place.
That is where we are today.
The government’s current power to detain, hold and torture its own citizens with no due process is in violation of the whole freedom intent of the American framers. It is in direct violation of 7 of the Bill of Rights (Amendments 4,5,6,7,8,9,10) and of Articles 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 of the U.S. Constitution.
Yet it is happening right now, and the people’s response is a resounding, “Meh.” We don’t seem to care.
We just go about our business, ignoring the fact that when freedom is lost in the ways it already is here in Europe and North America, it always gets much, much worse for the people.
I hope I am wrong about this. I pray I am wrong. But there are no exceptions in all of human history. When the decline of freedom reaches this point, it always gets much worse — and quickly.
In my online class on the U.S. Constitution, I note that there are 16 key protections of freedom in the U.S. Constitution, and that while it took 220 years of American history to lose 7 of these protections (from 1789 to 2009), we have now lost 4 more of them just since 2009! And the remaining 5 are currently under strong attack from our government — they are weakening rapidly.
While most people don’t seem to care, those who do care appear unsure what to do about all this. The fundamental problem is that we don’t understand the Constitution well.
Very few people even know what the 16 key protections of freedom are.
Or which ones have been lost.
Or which ones are now in decline.
How can we do anything to stand up for freedom if we don’t even know what the real problem is?
Freedom is hanging by a thread, and the first step in getting it back is to really understand the Constitution. Until we do, the decline will continue. If it does, future Holocausts are inevitable.
And yes, it can happen here!
Oliver DeMille is the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling co-author of LeaderShift: A Call for Americans to Finally Stand Up and Lead, the co-founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of TJEd.
Among many other works, he is the author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, The Coming Aristocracy, and FreedomShift: 3 Choices to Reclaim America’s Destiny.
Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.