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Why do I care?

by Nicki Fellenzer

April 29, 2002

In a country where complacency grows exponentially, despite disappearing freedoms, despite ever-shrinking security and despite increasing government control...

...people have the gall to ask, “Why do you care?”

In a conversation recently, a gentleman of the liberal persuasion asked me why I care so much about what politicians do if it doesn’t affect me directly. He claimed I should worry about things that affect my life, my family and me personally, instead of worrying about someone losing their rights in California or a piece of inane legislation in Illinois. He asserted life is too short to worry about absurdities that don’t directly affect us. He couldn’t understand why some simple legislative proposition that hasn’t even been enacted into law yet in some faraway state makes a difference in my life. I should enjoy life, he claimed, instead of worrying about minutiae. 

Why do I care, indeed?

Perhaps it’s because I’ve experienced life that was the exact diametrical opposite of what America strives to be that I’m so adamant about protecting our rights and freedoms. Perhaps it’s because my life began in the scummiest, most confined, controlled and restricted place of all -- what used to be called Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Perhaps it’s first-hand knowledge of what passes for "life" in that third-world hellhole that makes apathy antithetical to my nature. Because when you grow up in an environment that nurtures dehumanization, you begin to realize just how important being human is.

But does being human simply entail functioning? Does it only involve breathing and processing necessary nutrients? Does being “human” mean merely “existing?” Or is there something more to it than that?

From what I’ve seen, those who advocate the type of apathy the aforementioned gentleman exhibited have forgotten what it is to be human. They seem to function on the same level as plants, worms and cockroaches –- going about their own existence, happy as long as no one affects them and their way of life. They’re alive and breathing, and that’s the only thing that matters to them. They don’t care what some politician does in Washington D.C., because it has no effect on their existence.

Why should they care if some felon who wrote a bad check when he was twenty years old is not allowed to touch a firearm? They’re criminals. They lose their rights (including the right to self-defense) when they commit the crime. They should know that.

Why should they care if certain types of shotguns are being outlawed? Handguns are just as effective for self-defense.

Why should they care if police in some areas are conducting searches for firearms in people’s homes, violating the Fourth Amendment and effectively shredding the Constitution? If you don’t have illegal firearms in your home, then you have nothing to worry about.

These are the same people who don’t mind the government snooping into their medical records, their employment files, their family history, or their travel habits. After all -- they have nothing to hide, and those who do *must* be committing a crime, and our benevolent government officials are simply trying to protect society.

What does this have to do with being “human”? Maybe that’s what the apathetic and complacent have forgotten. Being human is not merely existing, breathing in air, digesting food and eventually becoming food for worms. As humans we are sentient beings. We possess consciousness and free will, which allows us to make choices. As humans we make a conscious choice to live or to die every single day. And that conscious choice automatically includes the right to self-defense.

In humans, while self preservation used to be an instinctual fight-or-flight response to danger, it’s no longer so. We now have conscious choices to make. Our survival is not automatic, and the choices we make dictate the lives we lead, and whether we live at all. As humans, our conscious thought and our ability to make rational choices separate us from other species, so when those choices are taken away by force, we are beaten down to the level of plants and animals. We are dehumanized, demoralized and destroyed.

This is the kind of society I came from. It was a society beaten, depressed and dejected. It was a society of individuals who didn’t care about protecting and defending their lives, because they had hardly any lives to defend. They didn’t care about defending themselves, because the “self” was beaten and chased out of them from a very young age. The people in this society were taught from diapers on that they, as individuals, didn’t matter, and that the great collective was what dictated rules, set standards and made laws -- that whatever this great collective did was right, regardless of individual positions. They were taught that the “self” didn’t matter, but that “society” and “common good” did. 

Of course, the right to self-defense couldn’t and wouldn’t matter in a society such as that, and ergo, not a word was said -- not a protest was uttered -- not an opinion was raised against the traditional unilateral disarmament of a whole nation. Being the victim was just status quo - whether it be the victim of a corrupt government, the victim of a greedy neighbor or the victim of a thug on the street. Since the “self” didn’t matter, then anything belonging to the “self” was completely discounted. Since there was no importance attached to the individual, the individual’s life could be subjugated and sacrificed as well. Since there were no individual rights, then it would stand to reason that tyranny was the status quo. 

The very ability to reason and choose, which should have been inviolate, was destroyed. But much more than that was destroyed. What that society did was destroy the very thing that makes us human.

And people wonder why I care?

I care because apathy is the first step to dehumanization.

I care because apathy is the first step to surrender.

I care because those in power in the former Soviet Union succeeded in erasing the humanity of an entire society.

I care because the more individual rights we give up, the more freedoms we surrender, and the more of ourselves we relinquish to a not-so-great societal whole, the easier we are to control and subjugate.

I care because it starts small: apathy, complacency and indifference; and it grows like a cancer into stipulation, submission and abrogation of our rights.

Public schools, for the most part, teach students that society must dictate their rights and wrongs -- that society decides what’s legal and illegal -- that society has superiority over the individual. Maybe these people, who can’t understand why I care, have been so indoctrinated into believing that society’s whim is their mandate, that they’ve forgotten what individual thought is. Maybe people who were born and grew up in the United States have grown complacent and self-satisfied with the “it couldn’t happen here” thought constantly coursing through their brains. 

Well, I’ve got news for you -- it CAN happen here. It’s already happening. With every right and freedom we give up willingly for the good of the whole, we abdicate a portion of our humanity -- our power to make rational choices. With every “It’s not happening here, so why should I care?” we abandon free will. With every “Why do you care?” we throw away our power to thwart tyranny.

Why do I care?

Because I’ve lived it in practice -- not in theory, and I don’t care to repeat the experience.


Printer Version

The supposed quietude of a good mans allures the ruffian; while on the other hand, arms like laws discourage and keep the invader and the plunderer in awe, and preserve order in the world as well as property. The same balance would be preserved were all the world destitute of arms, for all would be alike; but since some will not, others dare not lay them aside...Horrid mischief would ensue were one half the world deprived of the use of them... — Thomas Paine, I Writings of Thomas Paine at 56 (1894).

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