Ten generations ago our Founders created a new type of nation that had at its core the God-given right to pursue happiness. It was a transformational idea that has enabled us to reach great heights. But recently, much wiser souls have decided to set aside that quaint notion and replace it with something much more important: the government-given Right to Safety.
During the pandemic, misguided governors and mayors all across the country have insisted that we abandon normal life indefinitely so we can be safe. We have been forced to lose our jobs and our businesses, give up cherished activities, and put off major life plans. But we’re all safe. Of course many now suffer from depression. And many have turned to alcohol or drugs. And many have committed suicide or are contemplating it. But, again, we’re all safe.
The Right to Safety movement isn’t new — it’s been creeping into American life for quite a while. Today, in some states, we’re kept safe from plastic straws. And in other states, we’re kept safe from oversized sodas. And in many communities we’re kept safe from flying American flags that are “too large.” The pandemic is just the latest peril from which we must be kept safe — regardless of the impact on emotional health, relationships, and self-sufficiency.
There’s one risk that we cannot take: leaving in positions of power people who believe that it is their job to dictate how and when and where we may live our lives.
When the coronavirus threat subsides and things return to normal, what will all the safe people do? Go rock climbing. Commit to long-term relationships. Put money into questionable investments. Have unprotected sex with strangers. Leave home to pursue a college degree. Ride motorcycles without a helmet. Quit steady jobs to start companies. Smoke cigarettes. Join the military. Eat fatty foods. Write novels in the hope that they will be published. Et cetera.
The primary motivator in life clearly isn’t safety — it’s the unquenchable desire for more life. And that means taking risks to achieve personal goals. We all instinctively balance risk and safety to create an existence that we find meaningful and satisfying. And in doing so we become free to make our dreams come true. But when institutions and politicians start telling us exactly how we must balance risk and safety, the human spirit is put in a vise. By imposing safety on citizens, they remove the possibility of a rewarding life. They crush dreams. And, as we’ve seen during the past seven months, they harm lives and families and communities.
The pandemic has given the Right to Safety zealots the opportunity to ramp up their efforts dramatically. So-called progressive politicians, giddy with power, now restrict freedoms in a way undreamt of in the past. Of course, they aren’t progressive at all, but regressive. They want to take us back to a place where liberty and the pursuit of happiness are not unalienable rights. If these self-appointed guardians continue to succeed, true progress will be a thing of the past.
We are risk-takers by nature. But there’s one risk that we cannot take: leaving in positions of power people who believe that it is their job to dictate how and when and where we may live our lives. We must vote out anyone who feels compelled to decide for us what our risk tolerance will be, and how much happiness we are allowed to pursue. Such elected officials undermine the American spirit by limiting freedom and access to opportunity — the very elements that form the foundation of this remarkable nation. They cannot be allowed to stay in elected office if this country is to survive and thrive.
Ultimately, safety cannot be imposed on us for very long. The urge to live fully is too strong, too natural. We all will reach a point where we will no longer tolerate it. Then we will take steps to correct the problem. Let’s hope it happens sooner rather than later — on November 3, perhaps.
Robert Harris is the author of more than 40 books, including 101 Things NOT to Do Before You Die. He can be reached via his website, artspace5.com.