Today, July 4, 2017, we celebrate our independence, but we also celebrate an idea larger than mere independence. There are nations now that became independent during the twentieth century, yet have retained or created tyrannical and arbitrary governments. On this day in 1776, we declared that we would have none of that. We declared loudly and openly and in plain language an idea that is at once as old as time and as radical as nearly any in history: that we are all created equal and that we are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights. Those rights did not come to us from a king or the State or from any person or institution: they came from God. In the two hundred and forty-one years since, there have been those against us, and they have been against us in reaction to that radical idea, against the idea that we are and by rights free, that our rights and our freedom have come to us from our Creator, that they are individual rights, and that no person or institution may justly take them from us. In 1776, as war waged in our new nation, there were among us loyalists to tyranny. We knew them and recognized them. In the interest of charity, we might excuse or forgive them today. But today, there are also loyalists to tyranny who live among us and pass among us. They enjoy the rights and freedoms and privileges that we all enjoy in this country even as they scheme to take those things away from us. Their goal is to restore tyranny--to return to Old World ways of thinking and living. They are in short unworthy of living in the New World, a radical world in which men and women are free. They might better return to the Old World, if the Old World would have them, where tyranny still lives.
So what does any of this have to do with fantasy fiction? Well, since the idea of the future was created, we have also had a literature of the future. We call it science fiction, a form of fantasy. One of the sub-genres of science fiction is utopian and dystopian literature. The strange irony is that the societies described in those sub-genres are essentially a return to the past, even as the literature is of the future. They are reactionary in the extreme in that they seek a restoration of tyranny and a repudiation of the radical idea of human freedom. We know now that the future has been approaching so rapidly that we can hear and feel its onrush--the winds of the future are as a buffeting wind in our faces. We can say today that the future--meaning, the tyrannical past--is here in the form of a powerful and overreaching State that has denied the parents of a sick infant in their right to remove that child from its control and not only from its control but from its domain. That State demands that the child, as its property, die by its prescription. The future is here. That tyrant is, as it was in 1776, ruthless and arbitrary; it claims for itself powers against human life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It is also, as it was at our founding, the government of the United Kingdom. George Orwell could hardly have imagined such a thing for the country in which he set his novel 1984. (Has any writer of science fiction imagined that tyranny would creep into our lives through medicine, a field whose first command is do no harm?) I find these facts disheartening in the extreme, as we have fought with the British so well against tyranny for the last century. But tyranny lives deep within the heart of the Old World, and given a choice between the values of the tyrant and the values of the free man, those in the Old World would seem forever to choose the former. This is why, for as long as we cherish our freedom, America will be the indispensable nation and a refuge for those seeking an escape from tyranny.
Happy Independence Day to All
May Freedom Ring!
Copyright 2017 Terence E. Hanley