It might sound somewhat paradoxical but my two favorite bands are Lynyrd Skynyrd and RUSH. RUSH are a Canadian power tri most well known for the songs Tom Sawyer and The Spirit of Radio, while Skynyrd is/was a Southern Rock band best known for hits like Free Bird and Sweet Home Alabama; I say was because as far as I’m concerned Lynyrd Skynyrd died in 1977 when the plane carrying the band crashed near Gillsburg, Mississippi on a way to a show in Baton Rouge, Louisiana; killing Van Zant who was, at least for me, the spirit and soul of Lynyrd Skynyrd.
For those who are familiar with 70’s rock the name Lynyrd Skynyrd is tied irrevocably to songs like Free Bird and Sweet Home Alabama which have both become Southern Rock Anthems. But few people realize that Ronnie was very political in his lyrics; and even Sweet Home Alabama has a political slant to it when Ronnie sings about George Wallace and how Watergate didn’t bother him. The song Saturday Night Special is decidedly anti-gun in its lyrics, but it is the song Things Goin On that strikes me as the most in your face political song written by Van Zant.
Have you ever lived down in the ghetto?
Have you ever felt the cold wind blow?
If you don’t know what I mean,
Won’t you stand up and scream?
‘Cause there’s things goin’ on that you don’t know.
Too many lives they’ve spent across the ocean.
Too much money been spent upon the moon.
Well, until they make it right
I hope they never sleep at night
They better make some changes
And do it soon.
They’re going to ruin the air we breathe
Lord have mercy.
They’re gonna ruin us all, by and by.
I’m telling you all beware
I don’t think they really care
I think they just sit up there
And just get high.
If you can’t see the politics in that then you’re blind. I mean, “Too many lives they’ve spent across the ocean. Too much money been spent upon the moon” is clearly a jab at governments lust for war and its spending of money on things like lunar landings while people are starving back home. Then of course there is, “They’re going to ruin the air that we breathe Lord have mercy…” is also a jab at how they are destroying the environment.
But I think Ronnie’s most vicious jab is at people themselves and how they have become ignorant and apathetic about things that truly concern them; letting trivial things take precedence in their lives. You have to remember, Things Goin On was written and produced in 1973, and times were very different back then than they are today.
I was a sophomore in high school when the album containing Things Goin On was released to the public and there were no mass shootings, the government, although well on its way towards being oppressive, was still much less intrusive into our lives than it is today, and the idea that global terrorism would lead to a massive loss of liberty was as far-fetched as the idea that man could fly must have been in the 1800’s.
Things were much simpler back then, and if you ask me, they were much better as well. Yet even as good as they were, Ronnie Van Zant still felt that there were things going on that people were unaware of; things that they should have been paying attention to, but weren’t. That’s why that song is one of my absolute favorites, as it is a cry against ignorance and apathy; something I have been beating my head against a brick wall about for years.
Awhile back my brother sent me a letter via snail mail that criticized me for calling people stupid in these commentaries I write. He told me I might get more people to listen if I stopped calling them stupid. Maybe, but after nearly 20 years of writing these essays I have come to the sad realization that people are going to believe whatever they want to believe, and no amount of facts and evidence is going to change their minds or their opinions.
Yet if you were to ask people to support their positions with facts, most would be unable to do so. Sure, they might be able to tell you that the government passed this law or that law that criminalized certain actions, or gave the government the authority to infringe upon our rights, but that doesn’t answer my challenge to support your position with facts.
What I’m asking is for people to provide something from the era that saw our country become free and independent, and during the period which saw our system of government come into existence. I want justification for the exercise of those powers by our government; not merely the fact that the government does those things and the people consent to it.
Right around the time our Constitution was being written John Adams wrote a little something called A Defense of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America. Within that treatise Adams writes, “The moment the idea is admitted into society that property is not as sacred as the laws of God, and that there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence. If ‘Thou shalt not covet’ and ‘Thou shalt not steal’ were not commandments of Heaven, they must be made inviolable precepts in every society before it can be civilized or made free.”
How well does society respect the property of the individual these days? If you ask me, not very much; not if they believe that people can, and ought to be taxed so that the money can then be given to those in need. Yet how many benefits, subsidies and entitlements does our government offer today? More importantly, how well do you think a candidate would do if they campaigned on the total abolishment of these taxpayer funded programs? The fact that very few people would vote for them if they called the total abolishment of such programs speaks volumes regarding the corruption of principles that permeates society these days.
I am not saying we should not be charitable towards those in need. What I am saying is that it should be a voluntary choice, not something that is mandated by government against our will, and often for things which those whose tax dollars fund do not support. George Washington, our very first President under the newly established Constitution made that abundantly clear in a letter to his nephew Bushrod Washington, (yes, that’s his real name, Bushrod), “Let your heart feel for the afflictions and distress of everyone, and let your hand give in proportion to your purse.” (January 15, 1783)
Yet there is ample evidence that proves that many of our Founders did not believe that the government should assume the role of caregiver and provider for the general needs of the people. For instance, in a letter to Joseph Milligan, dated April 6, 1816 Thomas Jefferson wrote, “To take from one, because it is thought his own industry and that of his fathers has acquired too much, in order to spare to others, who, or whose fathers, have not exercised equal industry and skill, is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association, the guarantee to everyone the free exercise of his industry and the fruits acquired by it.”
Of course one has but to read Jefferson’s Inaugural Address to see that he said this ought to be the policy of the government, “Still one thing more, fellow-citizens — a wise and frugal Government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government, and this is necessary to close the circle of our felicities. ” Neither aiding nor restraining them in their pursuits huh; sure doesn’t sound a bit like the government we have today, does it?
I wonder if Jefferson could get elected today if he were to express such opiniona publicly.
Then of course there is this from James Madison’s 1792 speech opposing subsidies to Cod Fisheries along the New England coastline, “If Congress can employ money indefinitely to the general welfare, and are the sole and supreme judges of the general welfare, they may take the care of religion into their own hands; they may appoint teachers in every State, county and parish and pay them out of their public treasury; they may take into their own hands the education of children, establishing in like manner schools throughout the Union; they may assume the provision of the poor; they may undertake the regulation of all roads other than post-roads; in short, everything, from the highest object of state legislation down to the most minute object of police, would be thrown under the power of Congress… Were the power of Congress to be established in the latitude contended for, it would subvert the very foundations, and transmute the very nature of the limited Government established by the people of America.” (My emphasis)
If you recall, one of Ronnie Van Zant’s lines from that song was, “Too many lives they’ve spent across the ocean”; in reference to our bloodlust for war. I wonder how long the American people would support all these wars our government involves themselves in if they were to receive a bill in the mail each month for their financial support of them. I bet that support would soon dry up if they personally were held financially responsible for funding them.
Yet in 1792 James Madison wrote an editorial in which he stated, “…but that each generation should be made to bear the burden of its own wars, instead of carrying them on, at the expence of other generations.” Sounds like, in this instance at least, James Madison and I are on the same page as far as making the current generation bear the cost of its wars, instead of passing the bill onto future generations.
You see, everything I have spoken about so far can be traced back to one simple fact; people have no respect for the property of others; they feel that since it is someone else’s money, let the government spend it as the majority feels best serves their agendas.
But what is property; is it solely the things you can purchase with your money; or is property a word that encompasses so much more? In 1792 Madison wrote an essay on property wherein he says that property is, “…that dominion which one man claims and exercises over the external things of the world, in exclusion of every other individual.” So basically what he was saying is, what is mine is mine and what is yours is yours.
Madison affirms that, “In the former sense, a man’s land, or merchandize, or money is called his property.” So therefore, any action by our government which deprives us of our land, merchandise or money is a violation of our right to own property.
Madison then goes on to say, and this one’s a real kicker, “In the latter sense, a man has a property in his opinions and the free communication of them.” That certainly won’t go over well with the politically correct crowd that tries to silence opinions and beliefs they find offensive!
Then Madison delivers the knockout punch when he says, “He has a property very dear to him in the safety and liberty of his person.” So what he’s saying is that my rights, my liberty, and my safety are my property, and no one, not you, not the government, has a right to deprive me of those things.
What is liberty if it is not the right to live my life as I choose, so long as I do not deprive anyone else of that same right. Yet how many laws have been written that tell me what I can and cannot do, or worse, what I must do to be in accordance to them?
-I cannot own this category of firearm because the government has deemed that only the military and law enforcement, (both agents of the government the defend it more than they defend me as a private citizen) can possess them.
-I cannot consume this food; seek this course of medical treatment, or put this naturally occurring substance into my body because the government has declared it to be illegal.
-I cannot speak openly against groups whose beliefs and ideologies I disagree with without my speech being labeled hate speech; racist; or some other politically correct nonsense.
-I cannot retreat into my home and be free from the prying eyes and ears of the government’s massive surveillance apparatus that monitors and records everything we say; Orwell must be rolling over in his grave over that one!
-Our right to keep and bear arms, the keystone of all our liberty, is being taken from us with nary a whimper of protest; all because the people crave safety over freedom to defend themselves against a tyrannical government.
I could go on and on and on about the liberty we have let slip through our hands all in the name of comfort and security, but what good would it do when the people of this country believe it is the purpose of their government to provide those things for them.
Yet the Declaration of Independence clearly states that those signing it believed that our liberty was a gift from our Creator. So if you call yourself a Christian, who are you serving when you let God’s gift of liberty slip through your fingers without even a whimper of protest; let alone a full blown revolution?
In 1785 James Madison wrote something that some call his Magnum Opus; something that is regarded as an artist or writer’s most important work. This particular document is known as Madison’s Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments. In it Madison wrote, “It is proper to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties–we hold this prudent jealousy to be the first duty of citizens, and one of the noblest characteristics of the late Revolution. The freemen of America did not wait till usurped power had strengthened itself by exercise, and entangled the question in precedents. They saw all the consequences in the principle, and they avoided the consequences by denying the principle.”
We have not taken alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties, nor have we taken alarm at the second, the third, the fourth…the fiftieth. We have sat back and let liberty be taken from us all because we don’t have the same courage and sense of duty towards liberty that flowed through the veins of men like Jefferson, Patrick Henry, Samuel Adams, Joseph Warren, and so many others.
The Declaration of Independence tells us, “…when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.” It does not say it is our choice to do so, it says it is our DUTY to throw off such government and provide new Guards for our future security.
We have failed miserably – myself included – even though I at least recognize it, while most bow down and ask their government to deprive them of more of their liberty in the name of comfort and security.
I want you to read something that, unfortunately, is rather lengthy. Yet I think it aptly describes how government has assumed the role of parent and guardian for all the people’s needs, while at the same time denying them their liberty.
This comes from Alexis de Tocqueville’s book Democracy in America, and I think it pretty much fits our society today, “Above this race of men stands an immense and tutelary power, which takes upon itself alone to secure their gratifications and to watch over their fate. That power is absolute, minute, regular, provident, and mild. It would be like the authority of a parent if, like that authority, its object was to prepare men for manhood; but it seeks, on the contrary, to keep them in perpetual childhood: it is well content that the people should rejoice, provided they think of nothing but rejoicing. For their happiness such a government willingly labors, but it chooses to be the sole agent and the only arbiter of that happiness; it provides for their security, foresees and supplies their necessities, facilitates their pleasures, manages their principal concerns, directs their industry, regulates the descent of property, and subdivides their inheritances: what remains, but to spare them all the care of thinking and all the trouble of living?
Thus it every day renders the exercise of the free agency of man less useful and less frequent; it circumscribes the will within a narrower range and gradually robs a man of all the uses of himself. The principle of equality has prepared men for these things; it has predisposed men to endure them and often to look on them as benefits.
After having thus successively taken each member of the community in its powerful grasp and fashioned him at will, the supreme power then extends its arm over the whole community. It covers the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd. The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided; men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting. Such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.”
Then there is this, shared with me this morning by my friend Misty Graham which was the inspiration for this whole rant, “As the state grows, one’s sense of self-ownership is destroyed, liberty is traded for ‘security,’ the human spirit diminishes, and the citizenry increasingly thinks and behaves like dependent children.”
Much as dependent children cannot live without the support of their parents, most people today could not survive without the state, or government, and the ability that it gives them to use it as a means of living as parasites off the wealth and freedom of others.
In 1850 Frederic Bastiat wrote, “Man can live and satisfy his wants only by ceaseless labor; by the ceaseless application of his faculties to natural resources. This process is the origin of property.
But it is also true that a man may live and satisfy his wants by seizing and consuming the products of the labor of others. This process is the origin of plunder.
Now since man is naturally inclined to avoid pain—and since labor is pain in itself—it follows that men will resort to plunder whenever plunder is easier than work. History shows this quite clearly. And under these conditions, neither religion nor morality can stop it.
When, then, does plunder stop? It stops when it becomes more painful and more dangerous than labor.
It is evident, then, that the proper purpose of law is to use the power of its collective force to stop this fatal tendency to plunder instead of to work. All the measures of the law should protect property and punish plunder.”
Our government, by your consent, has become an agent of plunder. It plunders the wealth of some so that it can give it to those in need; it plunders other countries who happen to be sitting atop something our country requires to survive, (like oil); it plunders the liberty it was established to protect and defend all in the name of keeping those who fear liberty safe and comfortable.
There is but one destination for the path America is on, and I fervently hope that God decides my time on this planet is at an end before we reach it. The people of America today no longer respect the property or the rights of others; that is the problem. It is a question of a lack of morality and virtue that lies at the bottom of all our other problems. And, as John Adams said in a letter to the Massachusetts militia in 1782, “We have no government armed in power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Our Constitution was made only for a religious and moral people. It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other.”
It was a firm adherence to the principle that liberty was God’s gift to us, and that it was our sacred duty to defend it at all costs that made America great. It is only by a return to those principles that we can ever hope to make it great again; and I don’t see that happening anytime soon.
So go on, worship your government, bow down to it and beg it to keep you safe, comfy and secure. Me, I’ll keep throwing stones at your illusion of freedom; hoping that one day it shatters and you realize that ‘…there’s things goin on that you don’t know.’