Lenin (April 22, 1870) and Hitler (April 20, 1889)were born this week . The former brought Communism and death to millions in Russia; the latter brought Nazism and death to millions in Germany and, through World War II, many other places. As a result of these two men’s beliefs and totalitarian regimes, millions of people lost their freedoms, and war and destruction wracked not only Europe but also countless countries around the world.
On April 17, 1961, U.S.-trained Cubans landed at the Bay of Pigs to rescue their country from the clutches of Communist dictator Fidel Castro. But at the last minute, the United States reneged on its promised air support, leaving the invaders to a fate of death or imprisonment and the people of Cuba to generations of oppression and poverty. The next year, the Soviet Union moved missiles to Cuba, only 90 miles from U.S. soil, in a direct threat to our freedoms.
This week also marks the anniversary of the Doolittle raid (April 18, 1942), the first U.S. attack on the Japanese homeland after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and the Warsaw uprising (April 19, 1943) against Nazi oppression.
On April 18, 1775, Paul Revere and William Dawes made their midnight ride to warn the citizens of Lexington and Concord that the British were coming to confiscate their weapons and arrest leaders of the colonists’ efforts to retain their freedoms. And the next day, blood was shed as those citizens stood up for their freedoms.
On April 19, 1951, Israel’s Knesset established that day as Holocaust Day, pledging to Jews everywhere, “Never again.”
Also on April 19, 1993, federal agents attacked and burned the compound of the Branch Davidian cult in Waco, Texas, killing 76 people. (Others, including four agents, had been killed earlier.) Two years later, to the day, Timothy McVeigh exploded a bomb that destroyed the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, killing 168, including innocent children.
Do you see the theme that unifies all of these anniversary events? At the core is the fight for or against freedom.
The American colonists believed in freedom and wanted it so badly that they shed their blood to ensure it. Lenin and Hitler hated freedom and took it from people and sought to ensure that they never regained it. Weak-kneed politicians thought so little of the price required to retain it that they tried to appease dictators, even sacrificing the freedom of some countries’ citizens to ensure their own continued peace, all in the hope that the dictators would not attack their own freedom. It didn’t work, of course, and more blood had to be shed to undo the results of their foolish appeasement.
Whenever the leadership of free peoples is weak, vacillating, or compromising of freedom, dictators taste blood, see opportunities to conquer, and the attack the free people of the world. Governments–even free ones–also tend to accumulate power, taking away freedoms from their own people. At some point (when the totalitarians think that they can get away with it), they begin to use their power to oppress certain groups. Such oppression increases incrementally until the people are no longer free. Then some people strike back, often desperately, foolishly, and self-defeatingly. Other people suffer in silence–until they can no longer tolerate it. Then they say, “No more!” “Never again!” “Don’t tread on me!” “Give me liberty, or give me death!”
Sadly, when too few people say “Enough!” even more people must later say “Never again!” Meanwhile, how many people must perish?
How highly do you value your freedom? At what point do you say, “Enough! No more!”?