“When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation….”
“Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But 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.”
I’ll try to tell this story without too much personal detail, but I know I am learning a lot, and maybe sharing it will be valuable.
My daughter Social Sphere has a friend she met in a community college class a year or so ago. The young woman has slowly come to trust us, not an easy task for her. She was abandoned, separately by both parents, went through many mostly disastrous foster care situations, and ended up for most of the last decade with grandparents who, to be kind, didn’t have a good track record as parents in the first place. She’s now mid-20s, heading toward a field that can make her independent, but she is not treated like I would expect such a person to be treated. While her grandmother is possibly only misguided but also short-tempered and controlling, her grandfather is continually drunk and verbally abusive. And an uncle steps in with repeated physical abuse.
These miscreant adults were out of town together this past weekend, leaving her home alone but confined by edict to house arrest. So we showed her the choices: stay to face more abuse, or leave. It had to be her choice, which is why this turning point has taken so long in coming. Anyway, we ended up serving as women’s crisis center, without special training or qualifications. And we are directing her toward help. I hope she will improve once she is away from the tyranny.
I am in wonderment at the differences in how she thinks because of what she has been through. Physically she is very strong. That is how she has survived the ongoing abuse for so long. But emotionally, saying no to intolerable abuse is beyond her strength. The idea that, if she does something wrong her so-called family will disown her has been the most terrorizing fear—more fearsome much of the time than the beatings and beratings. When they blame her for things she has no control over, and no reason to foresee, she meekly submits to their “grounding” her (after the beatings). And she believes them when they tell her what a terrible person she is, and that she deserves the abuse for being so bad.
As the Declaration tells us, after a long train of abuses, it is our right, it is our duty, to throw off the tyranny.
Some time back, after she submitted to a particularly bitter six solid hours of haranguing for, trust me, no good reason, I asked her why she didn’t just leave the room. When someone behaves unacceptably, you let them know it’s unacceptable by not accepting it. She was in tears; she didn’t understand, and couldn’t imagine acting in a way that they would call disrespectful—even though she was requiring no respect from them toward her.
There is something enslaving, binding, about suffering abuse; it can only be shucked off by refusing to submit. Knowing when those times are, and how to refuse, are among the skills required of a free person—or a free people.
Looking at the founders, their sense of themselves as free people, with rights given from God, is astounding considering the world’s historical assumptions to the contrary. It is miraculous that they identified the abuses, that they refused to consider suffering them any longer. And it’s also amazing that once removed from the oppressor they worked to remain free rather than to simply submit to a different tyranny.
I wouldn’t say we are under tyranny now—yet. But there are tyrannical elements within what was intended to be a liberty protecting government. Many federal, some state and local. So I continue to question when and how—not to rebel, but to resist. It’s not a matter of “can I tolerate this any longer?” but “should I tolerate this?” And then there’s the question of how do we respectfully show that we will not tolerate what should not be tolerated among civilized people? As a free people, to remain a free people, we must to find the answers.