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)
The lion will lie down with the lamb, but the lamb won’t get much sleep.
– Woody Allen
When people speak of John Lennon, they often mention his iconic song “Imagine.”. But I never liked the lyrics. The song captured the spirit of the anti-war sixties and seventies. 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.
We all agree that the desired result is a just and peaceful world. But we disagree on how to 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● What will happen if we decide that religion is outdated, but our enemies remain fanatically religious?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 we select peaceful texts from our holy book, but our enemies select warlike texts from theirs?
● What will happen if we are loath to use force to defend our interests, while our enemies shoot down civilian airliners without losing a moment’s sleep?
● What will happen if we beat our swords into plowshares, but our enemies keep their box-cutters 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? In fact, what did happen when John Lennon dreamed of a peaceful world, but his murderer, Mark David Chapman, had very different dreams?
Woody Allen was mistaken. The lamb’s prospects for a long sleep are excellent.
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. It is one thing to resolve to fight to the death, like Leonidas and the 300 Spartans, for the purpose of opposing an invader. It is quite another to go to the slaughter like sheep, for no purpose at all.
In 1940 Britain stood alone against the Nazis. The Soviet Union had made a pact with Hitler, France had fallen, and America had not yet entered the war. Gandhi advised Britain to surrender. 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 ridiculed President Bush’s characterization of 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? We sit and wait until Los Angeles is nuked, or nerve gas is released in the New York subway, or smallpox is spread at the Super Bowl. And then we do something?
Critics of President Bush complained bitterly that 9/11 wasn’t foreseen and prevented. But then they tried to block efforts to prevent another attack. This is self-contradictory to the point of being irrational.
Liberals opposed going into Afghanistan to root out those who planned 9/11. They complain of “racial profiling” if airline passengers are searched. They criticize detention of suspected terrorists. They do this after 9/11. Can you imagine their screams if President Bush had done this before 9/11, and the attack had been prevented? Of course, if 9/11 had been prevented, these security measures would have been called unnecessary, paranoid, and even “Nazi.”
In a huge contradiction, liberals oppose arming pilots, for fear a stray bullet might damage the aircraft. Then they scramble jet fighters to shoot down a hijacked airliner if necessary. This really is irrational.
In another contradiction, liberals try to disarm law-abiding citizens, for fear the mere presence of a gun will turn their neighbors into murderers. But when 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, what are they worth?
Lennon’s dream was impractical, but he meant well. Are leftists equally well-meaning? Despite 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 world with representative governments, where women have equal rights, and where all people are free to practice their religions, or not practice them.
● Imagine a world that is peaceful, because free nations rarely make war on one another, and because hate-filled propaganda will no longer be spread.
● Imagine a world that is prosperous, because free people are more productive, and because military expenditures will be smaller.
● Imagine a Middle East where extremists no longer feel free to rain thousands of missiles on Israeli cities, because they hesitate to anger America.
● Imagine a Ukraine where pro-Russian separatists no longer feel free to shoot down civilian airliners, because Putin fears the American response.
● Imagine an America that once again evokes confidence in its friends and anxiety in its potential enemies – rather than the reverse, as is now the case.
● Imagine an America with a border that is secure in both directions, rather than the current situation: Tens of thousands of immigrants stream into America illegally, while one U.S. Marine languishes in prison for having taken a wrong turn and blundered into Mexico.
● And if you want to let your imagination really run wild, imagine a president in the Oval Office who knows the meaning of truth, rather than the current situation: A president who told Americans, “If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor; if you like your plan, you can keep your plan.” And now, in effect, he says, “If you like your country, you can keep your country.”
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