My Dear Sir,
I am beginning to grasp the seriousness of your plight. Now you might not consider yourself to be in any sort of fix at all – it is only through the contrast afforded by a hundred-year leap that I recognize it. Thankfully, I am here and fully intend to see that you become informed.
I recall writing on some occasion that Americans seemed prone to ceding unwarranted power to government. The prevailing form of government at the time was the monarchy, and I saw signs every day that some force seemed to be drawing us back in that direction like the moths I used to see committing suicide by diving into the gaslights in Hartford. How tragic this would have been! We had become a great nation in large part because we had insisted – in the strongest possible way – that we be free to think and act independently. Our fathers and grandfathers had considered this so fundamental to human existence that they had been quite willing to give their lives if it would ensure liberty for their descendents. Yet, as each new blowhard charged onto the public stage, I watched in amazement as an adoring throng surrounded him, quite willing of a sudden to cast aside any notion of personal liberty for promises of health, safety, or prosperity.
From their high platforms these devils would hawk cure-all medicines, religions, military aggressions, political change, investments, or elaborate social campaigns, and the chattel gathered around them (for that is what they had allowed themselves to become) would cheer or shake their fists or faint to the floor in paroxysms of ecstasy. In one way or another, the plate would then be passed and return to the sender filled with bills and hopes and dreams and never-to-be-regained freedoms.
For all your sophistication and technology, you seem blind to the plate that has been passed so many times over the last century. On each of its circuits, it has brought back to the powerful one more sliver of ceded independence, an additional mote of exchanged liberty. Through political and economic sleight of hand, these magicians have pulled a switch on you. Instead of freedom, you now have safety. Instead of independence to innovate, you now have a license to achieve unlimited mediocrity. In place of peace, you now have unprecedented leisure. In case you are uncertain, this is not a winning position.
I recently found a place to visit through which I have learned a great deal about your world. It appears to be a classroom. I believe the place to be a university, but cannot say for certain because of the unnatural means of my coming and going – I am in the room and then I am not. (It is most disconcerting, but I am now nearly completely accustomed to it.) The teacher is a most pleasant and engaging woman. To enhance her teaching, she displays kinetoscopes to the class on a large TV surface. (You see that I have also learned how to spell what I had been calling a “teevee!”) These are amazing bits of work that analyze recent historical events and include commentary from lettered experts. To my mind they are a triumph of Man’s ability to analyze himself critically. I cannot seem to quench my appetite for them & so have spent many hours there, sitting undetected in the lap of one student or another, getting myself caught up on all the damage we have managed to do in a handful of decades.
Through these presentations I have seen your leaders preach safety through government intervention, as did Roosevelt in my day. I have watched amazed as they have sold war to line their own pockets & increase their own power, and I have fumed as I endured their shameless manipulation of fear to advance political parties and philosophies. I saw one particularly disturbing treatise on partiality in the judicial system. Now this is nothing new; it was already a well-worn tool in the political toolbox in my time. But my, my! Your judges are Rembrandts in comparison with the feeble efforts of my contemporaries. Out west, we knew such judges as “dealers in retail justice,” but they now stand ashamed in my mind as rank amateurs. Your judges artfully combine law with political persuasion and personal investment to deliver decisions that serve as precedents to be used by their peers to tighten the screws just a little tighter with each case they hear. It is impressive. May the greedy of the world rejoice! For Lady Justice was blind, and now she can see!
And, as in my day, this happens because you allow it to happen. You forget that it is you – not those flea-brained scoundrels in Washington, and certainly not those self-righteous vultures who perch on the bench and peck at the gavel – who are the government! The administration of liberty – and it must be carefully administered – can never go lax where every individual sees to it that it grows not lax in his own case, or in cases which fall under his eyes. To the passive go the leavings of the powerful, never the blessings of liberty.