|The fervor for führers
One sticky evening in August 1923, “[t]ens of thousands gathered overnight along the … railroad tracks” in Akron, Ohio, “to stake out a good vantage point. The train [they awaited] was hours late, but the hushed crowd didn’t complain. No matter how long it took, they wanted to be there to pay their final respects. President Warren G. Harding, 57, an Ohio native, … had suffered a fatal heart attack Aug. 2, 1923, in San Francisco…. The Republican president’s body was being returned east to Washington, D.C., aboard an 11-car funeral train that had been shrouded in black crepe and purple ribbons. … Millions lined the tracks across the country after [Mrs.] Florence Harding requested that the train travel slowly s
Nor were his policies admirable (but then, whose are?). He imposed tariffs with all their economic tyranny and trouble, “protecting” American farmers at American eaters’ expense. He “sharp[ly] reduc[ed] … the number of immigrants allowed to enter the United States from southern and eastern Europe”, though the Constitution nowhere empowers any branch of the federal government to control movement into or out of the country. He established yet another useless bureaucracy, the General Accountability Office. And “he asked for backing for the nation’s highway system “insinuating the Feds into our automotive lives — as well as urging “government regulation of the radio industry.” The man’s only commendable action seems to have been “privately entertaining friends at the White House with ample supplies of liquor in violation of Prohibition.” Too bad all Americans didn’t follow suit, flouting lethal, corrupt, and bloody Prohibition into immediate abolition and saving countless lives.
Perhaps a few inebriates stood among the “millions” waiting nationwide to honor Harding, but most must have been stone, cold sober. So why did they linger?
Maybe some savored the historical moment or sought a bit of midnight madness. But I suspect the overwhelming majority had confused “patriotism” with “respecting the president.” They likely would have similarly “respected” any occupant of the White House — or of Congress or the Supreme Court. (Intriguingly, I’d bet that’s where our long-suffering mourners draw the line. I can’t see crowds assembling for a local pol, say a mayor or alderman. Nor do they “respect” bureaucrats, either. When the infamous James Clapper of the NSA has eavesdropped on his last phone call, few if any of his victims will lose sleep over his demise.)
Why do we equate patriotism — which the dictionary defines as “devoted love, support and defense of one’s country; national loyalty“with “respect” for the bloodsuckers who lord it over us in office? Shouldn’t our affections belong to the country, i.e., the land with its inhabitants and private institutions that nurture our homes and families? Ergo, “country” is completely distinct from the officials ruining it. And isn’t it really the quality of life in that country, the liberty it affords us to pursue prosperity, vocations, dreams, etc., that should determine whether we “love, support and defend” it? The Venezuelans fleeing their socialist hellhole are sensible, not unpatriotic. Ditto the Cubans who escaped Castro.
In other words, our dose of patriotism should match the measure of liberty a country offers. Our loyalty and love properly go to freedom, never to the politicians fighting to wrest our God-given, inalienable rights from us.
Yet legions of “patriots” mistake the object of their veneration. And no wonder: politicians — and politics in general — get things done. These powerful people can grant our wishes in an instant. Why should we work at demanding jobs, set a good example that we hope others will follow, or practice patience and virtue when a politician can simply pass a law forcing others to pay our bills or behave as we prefer?
Maybe we want top-notch medical care but not the hefty price-tag such care incurs. Bingo: bureaucrats designed Obummercare as “a substantial redistribution of resources from rich to poor (and from healthy to sick),” as one communist brags. Perhaps we despair that addicts high on opioids, heroin, or cocaine will harm our kids. Abracadabra: tyrants unconstitutionally prevent these pitiable junkies from easily acquiring such drugs and severely penalize them when they do. That’s far more instantaneous and gratifying than years of our trying to persuade friends or relatives to kick their habits.
An aide to serial-rapist and president Bill Clinton summarized not only the executive orders he was actually describing but political power’s allure in 1998: “Stroke of the pen. Law of the land. Kinda cool.” But only sociopaths croon that compelling rather than convincing others is “kinda cool.”
Still, the can-do guy has long dominated not only politics but the longings of far too many serfs (and those historians who categorize presidents). They fantasize about a “strong leader” who will “create” jobs, protect them from corporate greed, clean the environment or otherwise produce their idea of Nirvana.
But when that fantasy becomes reality, when a powerful ruler arises who “gets things done,” look out. Any German who survived a “strong leader” named Adolf Hitler can testify to the consequences.
— Becky Akers