Imagine there’s no countries, it isn’t hard to do.
Nothing to kill or die for, and no religion, too.
– John Lennon, “Imagine,” 1971
United Kingdom votes to leave European Union. Angry voters cite concerns over globalization, uncontrolled immigration, and loss of control over daily decisions.
– News report, 2016
Rebellious voters lash out against elites.
– Headline, New York Times, 2016
John Lennon’s iconic song “Imagine” is still widely played, but I never liked the lyrics. The song captured the spirit of the anti-war 1960s and 1970s. Its theme still appeals to many on the Left. They see his desire to abolish nations and religion as a way to prevent war. But they don’t explain how a world government – with no restraints from rival governments or religious values – could avoid becoming tyrannical.
And now, with the experiment of the European Union, we have evidence that supra-national governments can indeed become intrusive and undemocratic. We have confirmation that the farther away from the people the government is, the less it feels any obligation to do what the people want – or even to ask them what they want. Being ruled by a remote elite is not what Lennon imagined, but it is the reality Brits rejected. And this November, Americans may reject it, too.
We all agree that the desired result is a peaceful world. But we disagree on how we can achieve it.
● What will happen if we decide that nations are obsolete, but our enemies remain fiercely chauvinistic?
● What will happen if we decide that religion is outdated, but our enemies remain fanatically religious?
● What will happen if, in Lennon’s words, we go on “living for today,” while our enemies plan for the future?
● What will happen if we have few children, while our enemies have many? As Mark Steyn points out, “The future belongs to those who show up for it.”
● What will happen if we select peaceful texts from our holy book, but our enemies select warlike texts from theirs?
● What will happen if we beat our swords into plowshares, but our enemies keep their beheading knives razor-sharp?
● What will happen if we give up nuclear weapons, but our enemies continue building theirs?
● What will happen if law-abiding citizens are disarmed, but criminals and terrorists aren’t?
● What did happen when John Lennon dreamed of a peaceful world, but his murderer, Mark David Chapman, had more violent dreams?
President Obama imagines a world without nuclear weapons, but he does nothing while fanatics in Iran build nukes. On the contrary, Obama reversed longstanding U.S. policy, promising not to retaliate with nuclear weapons against an attack using chemical or biological weapons. We do not have chemical or biological weapons, so the threat of nuclear retaliation was the most effective deterrent we had.
What is the result of Obama’s peaceful imaginings? He made chemical or biological attacks more likely, while doing nothing about the ongoing nuclear threat. Liberals confuse imagining something good with actually doing something good. In this, liberals resemble small children, who have difficulty distinguishing fantasy from reality.
In contrast to Lennon’s lyrics, consider this:
Pale Ebenezer thought it wrong to fight,
But Roaring Bill (who killed him) thought it right.
− Hilaire Belloc, “The Pacifist”
A good way to evaluate people is to discover what they are willing to speak up or fight for. Lennon’s dream is of a world where there is nothing worth fighting for. Some people find this dream beautiful. To me it’s a nightmare.
Nonviolence is good only if it produces good results. Gandhi used it successfully against British colonialists in India, and King used it successfully against racists in America. But they were lucky in their choice of enemies.
Gandhi’s error was to generalize his success against the British into a universal principle. He advised the Jews not to resist the Nazis, believing that their suffering would affect Hitler. It did – it thrilled him.
Gandhi went on to advise Britain to surrender when it stood alone. This could have allowed Hitler to conquer all Europe, while Japanese fascists dominated Asia. The world would have descended into a new Dark Age. If bad advice were an Olympic event, this would be a sure gold-medal winner.
Gandhi advocated nonviolent resistance, but at least this is a form of resistance. Nonviolence is often confused with pacifism, in which one does not resist evil at all. Indeed, many people have trouble recognizing evil, much less resisting it. These people castigated President Reagan when he called the Soviet Union an “evil empire.” They ridiculed President Bush when he characterized terrorist states as an “axis of evil.” It wasn’t that they didn’t think these states were evil, but that they couldn’t recognize evil in the first place. They now call terrorism “man-caused disasters,” a term that is devoid of moral content − which is the basic problem.
In a few, easy steps we go from nonviolent resistance to evil, to no resistance, to not even recognizing evil. What will happen if this view becomes common? What will happen if terrorists plan even more destructive attacks, and attempt to obtain nuclear, biologic, or chemical weapons?
Liberals try to disarm law-abiding citizens, for fear the mere presence of a gun will turn their neighbors into murderers. But when North Korean and Iranian fanatics build nuclear weapons, liberals advise doing nothing, in the hope that the weapons won’t be used. This crosses the line into insanity.
Isn’t freedom worth fighting for? Aren’t the lives of our families and fellow citizens worth protecting? Isn’t there anything worth dying for, even human dignity? If our ideals aren’t worth fighting for, they are just meaningless blather.
Lennon’s dream was impractical, but he meant well. Are leftists equally well-meaning? After all the evidence of history, can they really believe that the best response to dangerous fanatics is to do nothing?
Imagination is a wonderful gift. But don’t confuse the world you imagine with the real world. If you want to imagine a better world, don’t imagine one that is perfect, and thus unattainable. This absolves us of responsibility to do anything except sit in smug self-righteousness. Instead, imagine a world that is somewhat better, and thus attainable through our hard work.
● Imagine a Middle East with representative governments, where women have equal rights, and where all people are free to practice their religions, or not practice them.
● Imagine a Middle East that is peaceful, because free nations rarely make war on one another, and because hate-filled propaganda will no longer be spread.
● Imagine a Middle East that is prosperous, because free people are more productive, and because military expenditures will be much smaller.
● Imagine a Middle East that no longer threatens the world, because terrorist networks have been rooted out.
● Imagine nations that control their borders, so that those hostile to their way of life will not pour in and overwhelm them.
● Imagine sovereign nations that band together out of common interests, rather than subservient provinces ruled by distant elites.
● Imagine politicians who owe their allegiance to their own citizens, rather than to distant elites.
Now there’s something worth imagining. In fact, it’s worth fighting for. Can it be achieved? We’ll never know unless we try. See you on November 8, Election Day.
Many people, especially leftists, share the ideals of Lennon’s song “Imagine.” But I prefer more traditional music:
Men of Harlech, stop your dreaming,
Can’t you see their spear points gleaming?
– “Men of Harlech” (Welsh traditional)
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