“There is no crueler tyranny than that which is perpetuated under the shield of law and in the name of justice.” – Charles de Montesquieu
What defines a free society? Freedom of speech? Freedom of religion? Freedom of the press? Each of these things is a piece of what we would traditionally label a free, and open society–though a free society possesses many other component pieces. We tend to take these freedoms for granted in the United States because they are protected in our founding document. Though these rights are not given to us by our founders, but by our creator, they have been safe-guarded through the carefully crafted words inked in the constitution. But what happens when, under the guise of justice, and tolerance, these rights are abbreviated, or eliminated altogether?
According to Oliver Lane of Breitbart:
“A 19-year-old West Yorkshire man was arrested by police…on suspicion of a racially or religiously aggravated public order offense…after posting a video on social media showing him tearing apart a Koran with his teeth, before putting it in a toilet and then burning it.”
You read that correctly. A man was arrested for burning a book. And this is not an isolated incident. Once again, from Oliver Lane:
“In September 2010 six young men were arrested for pouring petrol on and burning two Korans in a pub beer garden. In a statement at the time, Northumbria police said the offense was not related to creating, sharing or viewing a video, but rather they were specifically arrested on ‘suspicion of burning the Koran’…Two months later, a 15-year-old girl was arrested by West Midlands police in a separate incident for posting a video of herself burning a Koran with her school-friends.”
In 2010, another man was arrested for burning a Koran, but this time, the man wasn’t an average citizen, but a candidate for elected office. Sion Owens leaked a clip of himself lighting a copy of the Koran on fire, and was arrested for it. According to Gus Lubin of Business Insider, the British Home Office released a statement following the incident:
“The government absolutely condemns the burning of the Qur’an. It is fundamentally offensive to the values of our pluralist and tolerant society. We equally condemn any attempts to create divisions between communities and are committed to ensuring that everyone has the freedom to live their lives free from fear of targeted hostility or harassment on the grounds of a particular characteristic, such as religion.”
Lastly, in an article from 2009, the Daily Mail told the story of a couple who were arrested for allegedly offending a Muslim woman:
“A Christian couple have been charged with a criminal offence after taking part in what they regarded as a reasonable discussion about religion with guests at their hotel. Ben and Sharon Vogelenzang were arrested after a Muslim woman complained to police that she had been offended by their comments. They have been charged under public order laws with using ‘threatening, abusive or insulting words’ that were ‘religiously aggravated’. The couple, whose trial has been set for December, face a fine of up to Â£5,000 and a criminal record if they are convicted.”
These are not isolated incidents, but a string, connected by one commonality: offense to Islam. Lest you read these stories, and believe England respects all religions equally, think again. According to the Telegraph, in 2009, an art exhibit called “Made in God’s Image” was mounted, which was described as “part of a series of exhibitions focusing on human rights organized by Culture and Sport Glasgow, part of the city council.” This exhibit partly consisted of an open bible, and a sign, which encouraged patrons to write what they felt they needed to be said to make the bible “inclusive.” As expected, much of what was written was wildly indecent. There was an additional exhibit which included a video of a woman tearing apart a bible, and stuffing the shreds down her pants, and in her mouth. Nary a government eye was batted. No one was arrested. In fact, the exhibit was promoted by the city council.
The implicit idea is that for fear of being intolerant, those who would burn the Koran, or offend a Muslim are to be arrested, yet nothing is done when the bible is desecrated, or a Christian is offended. The origin of this behavior is not fear of intolerance, but fear of retaliation from radical Islamists. Regardless of the “why,” what is occurring is tyrannical.
On the other hand, we have Cuba, a dark regime that has oppressed its citizens for decades. When Obama recently opened relations with Cuba, there were expectations that the island might release its grip on its people. Though there were no concessions of that sort by Raul Castro, or the Cuban government at large, I suppose the Obama administration just assumed. We can all breathe easier now, Obama to the rescue! Not so fast. According to Jonathan Watts of The Guardian:
“Cuban police have detained at least three leading dissidents ahead of a planned free-speech demonstration in the Plaza de la Revolución. The arrests of Antonio Rodiles, Eliezer Avila and Reinaldo Escobar look set to be the biggest test yet of diplomatic relations with the US since they were restored earlier this month after 53 years of tension. The crackdown came around lunchtime on Tuesday, just hours before local performance artist Tania Bruguera was due to stage an open-microphone event in Havana’s most politically sensitive square. Police had denied Bruguera a permit for the ‘Yo tambien exijo,’ [I also demand]’ demonstration and warned activists not to participate, but several had indicated their willingness to participate in this test case for public dissent. The authorities did not give them a chance.”
Well, that lasted long. I guess just assuming a tyrannical government will change its ways based on absolutely zero evidence, or concessions of any kind is kind of stupid.
Three governments, three manifestations of “freedom.” Cuba holds tightly to its people, England allows many freedoms, but has begun to make frightening incursions, and the United States remains the last truly free nation, as of this writing. But what happens next. We’ve seen that modern dictatorships can coalesce, and we’ve seen a modern society which was once emblematic of freedom begin to tighten its grip on its people. The United States, though free, has seen its fair share of attacks on the liberties of its people. The second amendment has been brutalized, as has the first. Will we allow restrictions to be made, like England has, under the guise of “tolerance?” And once that has taken place, once we have allowed those restrictions, how long will it be before we wind up so far from where we came that there is no turning back? These are questions to ponder as we open relations with a dictatorship, and watch as the country that used to represent western freedom has its freedoms chipped away.
How long is the road to tyranny, and how far along have we travelled?