National Center for Constitutional Studies
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Sufficiently Remembering the Captivity of Our Fathers
The other evening I happened upon a television movie that I had heard a little about and which only took a few minutes of viewing to totally captivate me into spending the next three hours to watch it. The title: Karol: The Man Who Became Pope.
While he was alive, I had a growing respect and admiration for Pope John Paul II. In trying to keep his church together, he seemed to always be a man of hope, of charity, of courage in standing for principles of morality and virtue and of basic human rights. Yet I had little idea of his early years which, no doubt, molded him into the man he became.
Karol Wojtyla was born and raised in Poland. He enjoyed the arts, particularly acting. He had a gentle spirit and seemed to always be one whom people loved because of his ability to inspire hope and confidence and goodness in others. During the Nazi occupation of his country, death was all around him as he witnessed the ruthless killings of his friends, particularly those priests of the Catholic Church whom the Nazis were attempting to annihilate. He felt called into the priesthood of his church because people needed comfort and guidance in a world of tyranny and murder. When the Russians drove the Nazis out, there was hope that peace would be restored. But that hope was short-lived when the Polish people realized the Russians were as ruthless as the Nazis. Furthermore, the attempt to stamp out religion seemed to intensify. Karol seemed to be able to stay just under the radar of the Russian spies who could never seem to connect him with any rebel or anti-government movement. His message to the people was always one of hope, courage, kindness, and faithfulness to God. Eventually, upon the death of the previous pope in 1978, Karol Wojtyla’s incredible talents for human compassion, love, and leadership were recognized as the church leadership reached behind the iron curtain into a communist country and named Karol to be the leader of the world’s largest Christian denomination—Pope John Paul II.
As these tragic scenes in war-torn Poland were shown, the thought kept coming to my mind: this is what happens when there is no good government to protect the rights of the people. The people’s property, lives, religion, and families are all at risk. I found myself silently expressing gratitude for America where we can be free from fear and move and believe and do what we choose. But it is the memory of these tragedies of history, of which there are far too many, which seem to be necessary to bring us to a realization of what we have here and of the need to promote and perpetuate it.
The Vivid Memory of Living under Tyrannical Rule
It seems that the most effective leaders of people have been the ones who have a memory of the past. Not only the leaders, but it seems that a people are most likely to have peace and prosperity only as they remember what it is like to live under tyranny. They seemed to be more watchful of encroachments upon their liberty. They seem to be able to pick up more readily on dangerous trends in society and more readily give the warning sounds to others.
In ancient Israel, Moses wanted the people to “Remember this day, in which ye came out from Egypt, out of the house of bondage….” (Exodus 13:3)
Later, when the people of Israel asked to have a king, the Prophet Samuel had to remind them what it is like to live under a kingly government where the rights of the people would be smashed and the people would become his servants and slaves. (1 Samuel 8:5-19)
When another group of people barely escaped the destruction of Jerusalem in 589 B.C., a later leader admonished them, “…have you sufficiently retained in remembrance the captivity of your fathers?”
Americans really need not look outside our own history for examples of the brutality of tyrannical government. Thomas Jefferson outlined them for us quite well in the Declaration of Independence. A sampling from the Declaration of Independence will suffice. Among dozens of grievances against the king of England, Jefferson wrote:
Celebrating the Constitution –Freedom from Tyrannical Rule
As we know, the Constitution of the United States represents the first successful attempt in modern times to permanently reject tyrannical rule by setting up a system of government based on principles which are meant to limit the power of our rulers. But how will we keep our Constitutional system alive and vibrant unless we remember what tyranny is like and why it is to be repulsed? How will we guard against those who say these Constitutional principles are old-fashioned and not needed any more unless we have a vivid memory of the tyrannical rule from which our fathers were fortunate enough to escape? The principles of this document only come alive when viewed in contrast to the stark reality of what life is like without these principles.
Former Secretary of Agriculture Ezra Taft Benson outlined the five fundamental principles of our constitution specifically designed to keep us from ever again falling under tyrannical rule. He wrote:
PS – A special thanks to our supporters for the tremendous success of NCCS’s project to flood the nation and its schools with A More Perfect Union DVD and our Pocket Constitution.