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The Shining City Under Siege
Both internally and externally, the United States is behaving in ways that are losing its credibility as the leader of the free world. But it's not too late to change course.
“It is not true, as Jonathan Swift complained, that nothing is gained by defending freedom. Sometimes something is gained by the defense of freedom: no other, than the consciousness of self-slavery by which the free man is distinguished from others. Because, as I wrote from the island of Lipari in 1936, ‘the property of a free man is not to live free in freedom, but free in prison.’”
Curzio Malaparte, Coup D'etat: The Technique of Revolution, Milan 1948
The United States for decades has been held as the last beacon of freedom, the shining city on a hill, by many countries that have yearned to have the liberties and rights that the American constitution provides. “If we lose freedom here, there is no place to escape to. This is the last stand on earth”, President Ronald Reagan once said.
Yet, for someone who has lived in a free country, and who has known nothing but freedom for generations, understanding the significance of that liberty is oftentimes difficult—let alone recognizing the slow erosion of rights and liberties and rising to the challenge of defending them. You have to lose something to understand its importance.
Sometimes, people that have lived and suffered under communism, understand the ideals that have founded the United States much better than Americans themselves. The way the United States and its Constitution were built, by men with great foresight, able to see beyond the little interests that nowadays cloud the judgement of world leaders and politicians, managed to create a system of checks and balances and strong institutions aimed at protecting the freedoms of its citizens first and foremost.
However, as we saw during the pandemic, even in the United States, the rights and freedoms of the individual can be infringed by an ever-expanding government, using the excuse of a crisis, and setting a worrisome precedent.
United States Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch recently stated that “since March 2020, we may have experienced the greatest intrusions on civil liberties in the peacetime history of this country. Executive officials across the country issued emergency decrees on a breathtaking scale. Governors and local leaders imposed lockdown orders forcing people to remain in their homes. They shuttered businesses and schools, public and private. They closed churches, even though they allowed casinos and other favored businesses to carry on. They threatened violators not just with civil penalties but with criminal sanctions too.”
To the shame of not only Americans, but citizens everywhere, individual freedoms were violated with tacit approval from almost all. The few dissenters were silenced, and any discussion was verboten, by a scary coalition of the media, politicians, Big Tech and Big Pharma.
This is an undeniable fact, with consequences that will continue to be felt. It was done under the pretenses of safety. Because the government—we were told everywhere—knew best. This deeply left-wing—I dare say even socialist—viewpoint was imposed on us all, in some cases even by conservative or center-right leaders, who often showed an enthusiasm greater than their left–wing counterparts. We forgot Benjamin Franklin’s warning that “those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety”.
In communist Albania, from 1945 to 1990, the individual had no rights, no freedoms, no free media, no religion, and no free initiative. The dignity of the Albanian individual was profaned. In line with the teachings of Karl Marx, religion was abolished, making Albania the only country on earth, sanctioning atheism in the constitution. Since we humans need to believe in something, a religion based on God could not be allowed to stand in the way of the communist religion based on an all–knowing, ever-interfering government, helmed by a criminal Dictator.
The communist regime tried to, and in many ways, succeeded in committing one of the most inhumane crimes that exist—the severing of the Albanian nation's historic roots, identity, and heritage, in order to achieve an irreversible distortion of Albanians' historical, cultural, and individual memories. The goal of communism and its followers was the creation of a soulless human being without identity or dignity, who lived in a state of nothingness. This regime replaced the individual with the homo sapiens as a mere statistic, who was part of the herd, and as such, more easily subject to submission. Hence, the individual had to obey, trust only in the Party and the Dictator, and choose them above anything, even before family.
A person without an individual identity, forcibly disconnected from their divine familial bond and historical and cultural heritage, is completely dependent on the ruler (the government, the bureaucracy, or whatever big entities there may be) and cannot help to establish a just and free society. The individual's rights and responsibilities, given by God, were distorted and restricted during communism, damaging the notion of family and corrupting society from within. Communist Albania was made up of a variety of people without identity, economic opportunity, education, or even dreams, surviving within certain physical and mental borders.
As such, the Albanian individual and family were unable to react to the Dictator’s violence, his regime’s suppression of the individual, and the theft of private and state property. Moreover, with the creation of the New Man, communism attempted to usurp in a sacrilegious act the role of God itself. One could read only certain books, watch selected programs, and dress in a specific sanctioned way. For example, you could face prison if you cut your hair in a way that was deemed too Western-like.
The pandemic showed that this infringement of rights can occur in any country—even in ones with a strong constitutional system such as the United States. Naturally, even in Albania, or in any other nation suffering the red plague of communism, that did not occur overnight.
In the beginning, it is very difficult to react, because you do not notice what is happening. Later on, it may be too late to react, as happened in my country, which is now still suffering the consequences, even more than thirty years after the fall of the regime. By attacking the US Constitution, the economic and political system and what unites Americans, the road is paved for the bureaucracy and politicians to increase the influence and reach in the citizens’ lives.
Once the individual becomes dependent on bureaucracy, through subsidies, loans, a universal basic income, helicopter money, or other similar methods, it is very difficult to reverse.
Has the West, in the past decades, not built consumer societies dependent on debt, which produce very little? Have the crises, caused by too much government action, not become more recurring and too hard-hitting each time they happen? Do we not live in states of perpetual emergency that somehow take more responsibilities and freedoms from the individual and hand them over to unelected and unaccountable bureaucrats? In most cases, the US has been lucky that its constitution has prevented considerable power grabs, a fate not many countries have.
There are attacks from within the US of a constitutional, economic, military, and social nature, that are awakening the shining city on the hill and ensuring that the Pax Americana comes to an end, to the benefit of actors like China and Russia
Republicans and Democrats are running the country’s finances to the ground by increasing the debt to frightening levels, raising the deficit, and ultimately decreasing the purchasing power of every American and recently increasing inflation due to the money printed unnecessarily by the Federal Reserve, in an irresponsible way.
Socially, progressive orthodoxy in schools, the workplace, and government is dividing Americans and creating a schism that seems difficult to repair. Woke concepts are imposed top-down by politicians and bureaucrats, who use their influence, often through threats and coercion, to make many corporations their agents. The United States has been moving away from capitalism and free markets and towards a more centralized system with high degrees of interventionism. Wherever and whenever this approach has been tried in history, it has led to social unrest, economic decline, and even total collapse.
Geopolitically, China is trying to turn this century into a Chinese one. It is a considerable rival for the West, even though it may be less of a threat than what it tries to convince the international community. Yet, whether China, Russia, or any other geopolitical actor succeeds in toppling the United States as the world’s superpower, depends solely on the US.
America is losing its credibility on the world stage by treating its allies as enemies and by retreating chaotically and without an apparent strategy. Its diplomats and bureaucrats are often accused of interfering in domestic matters and siding with authoritarians and dictators, thus harming not only the democracies or democratic aspirations of these countries’ populations but also US interests in those regions, like the Balkans.
As an example, in Albania, during the dictatorship, the US was seen as the beacon of hope, freedom, capitalism, and democracy. However, on many occasions, American officials have shown clear support for officials of the dictatorship era, who have committed the most heinous of crimes. Many of which have found refuge in the United States over the years.
Nevertheless, I would not like to end this article on a somber note. The United States has survived a civil war, social unrest, “endless wars”, and economic and financial crises. It has done so with the right leadership and forward-looking vision, rooted in tradition, history, the Constitution, and the founding fathers’ timeless principles.
America once again has the opportunity to reverse course, return to the fusionist policies and principles of the Reagan era, cut taxes, deregulate, aim to lower considerably government spending, restore the Fed’s original purpose, encourage private sector investment, innovation and hiring, limit government interference and push for real competition in the markets. These will give everyone the means to protect their liberties, traditions, faith, history, community, and family, ultimately resulting in a stronger nation, more united socially and culturally.
In turn, this will enable the United States to serve as an example and encouragement for the European Union to change course, better preparing both pillars of the West to unite around their common geopolitical interests and build common strategies to confront the Chinese model and win, retaining the balance of power in the West. Otherwise, a repeat of the 2020 liberty infringements, and a continuation of the fiscal insanity and cultural Marxist policies enforced in every aspect of life, will undoubtedly lead to an end of the Pax Americana and a less stable, less secure multipolar world.
Nikola Kedhi is an economic expert and financial consultant, a coauthor of the Constitution of the Center-Right Values of the Democratic Party of Albania, and a contributor to several media outlets in the US, UK, and Europe. @nikedhi95