Former Czechoslovakian President Václav Havel knew better than most what it feels like to live under tyranny. He not only lived through the communist occupation of Czechoslovakia; he helped to end it. He was under constant surveillance by the secret police and went to prison multiple times for defying the communist regime. It’s no wonder the people quickly elected Havel as president after kicking out the communists in 1989.
In his classic political essay called The Power of the Powerless, Havel notes an intriguing idiosyncrasy of life under tyranny. When communism was at its height, businesses everywhere would display signs in their windows reading “Workers of the World Unite.” There was no legal requirement for grocers to display this sign. Most didn’t care about politics. They were just trying to run a business. If you wonder why they would acquiesce to tyranny in this way, Havel has the answer. He wrote that the true message of the sign was not one of solidarity with communism. The sign was really saying “I, the greengrocer XY, live here and I know what I must do. I behave in the manner expected of me. I can be depended upon and am beyond reproach. I am obedient and therefore I have the right to be left in peace.” Havel could see that most of those businessmen, like many today, were willing to make some concessions to a loud mob so they could live without controversy.
Václav Havel was able to see beyond the sign to the soul behind it. Conservatives today need to do the same thing. It won’t take a repeal of the First Amendment to silence most Americans. All it would really take is a little social and political pressure. Patriots of America, listen to me when I tell you that we cannot allow ourselves to be silenced. When the pressure is on, that is the time when our voices are needed most. We have to be loud, we have to be knowledgeable, and we have to be firm in our convictions. From grocers to garbagemen and from policemen to politicians, every one of us has a say in the direction of America. Don’t be silenced!