It takes physical courage to demonstrate against an oppressive regime that is willing to kill you, as brave Iranians have done this month. Moral courage is less necessary. When someone holds you in chains, it is obvious that you should break them. All honor, even so, to those who risk their lives.
Spartacus would have understood – and approved.
It takes something else entirely to fight against friendly fascism. When the government offers cradle-to-grave security, who says no? Not the average American, to judge from recent events. The ordinary American citizen has neither protested trillion-dollar deficits nor the federal takeover of automobile companies. Now, a new poll shows support, by a wide majority, for a government administered health insurance plan like Medicare (The New York Times, June 21, 2009).
What does it take to say no to a state that, unlike Iran, wants not to shoot you but to smother you with its embrace? It takes: knowledge of the track record of nanny states in Europe and Canada, with their inadequate services and bankrupt budgets; skepticism about the plans of the elite, with their inevitable loopholes for the privileged few; a prickly fortitude that sets greater store by the freedom to fail than by the security of being told what to do; education in the civic tradition of western democracies and republics, from the Greeks and Romans on; religious faith in the divine mercy that allows the individual to struggle against enslavement by his own emotions, a drama in which government’s role is to step aside.
Perhaps Iranians know all that. Americans once did.