“Our forefathers struggled veraciously to protect against tyranny.”

This one gets filed under “wiser than he knew.”

It’s true: the truth will set you free, from tyranny or any other destructive delusion. And as far as I can tell, most of our forefathers were struggling honestly, dealing truthfully, as they brought a new form of government into the world of the 18th century. My American Lit class just discussed the Declaration of Independence last week: many were surprised that the Declaration’s assertions and resolutions rest on a long list of evidence that clarifies and justifies the fateful decision to throw off the tyrant.

Justice Lewis Brandeis put it figuratively but made the same point: “Sunshine is the best disinfectant.”

I don’t think my student meant to talk about the great sword of Truth, though. What did he mean?

The first and most readily explained possibility is “voraciously.” It’s only one letter away, and we might legitimately say they fought with great hunger, with an insatiable appetite, for freedom—freedom from the tyranny of George III, and freedom from the tyranny of disharmony that can impose unpleasant decisions as a way of quelling conflict (thank you, O Constitution)… and then freedom from the tyranny of the majority (thank you, O Bill of Rights). Their hunger for liberty was vast, and it prompted and enabled their struggle.

But I don’t think that was in his mind either.

Most likely candidate: “ferociously.” Only two letters different, and of the three possible adverbs the most appropriate (and obvious) to modify “struggled.” But I think for ferocious fighters we’d have to look at the stalwart foot soldiers of the Army of the Revolution, not at the educated and principled gentlemen (for the most part) who articulated its cause and steered its aftermath.

Not sure about that word “protect,” considering that the Revolution began to rid the Colonies of tyranny, not keep it out before it got in. But that’s a far less interesting issue here, and we’ll move on.

What makes the original statement so compelling right now is the current political season, or so far perhaps we should say “circus,” and the loudest of the media that keep us informed on it. Most of the candidates are claiming to have plans to protect against tyranny, although they don’t all agree on what that tyranny might consist of. But most of them, despite struggling ferociously by means of charges and countercharges and claims and counterclaims, and perhaps struggling voraciously, driven by a hunger to rule the nation or attach a nice title to their names or reshape the nation according to their notions, are not paying a whole lot of attention to the truth—or, at least sometimes, are deliberately turning their backs on Truth because she would interfere with their ferocity. And too few in the media are calling them out, and too many are urging them on.

Especially in a democracy, a form of government that depends entirely on the informed voter, the best way to protect against tyranny is to struggle veraciously: tell the truth, and demand the truth.

Let my student’s sentence, as written, serve as a Call to Arms!

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About RAB

Teacher of English writing and literature (college-level); academic-freedom activist; editor and copy editor; theater director, costumer, actress, playwright. View all posts by RAB

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