Quite some time ago, in a comment thread over at Crunchy Cons, the subject of leaving America for some other country came up. It was off topic to the thread, but I did mention that I had about ten items or "warning signs" on a sort of list; if these things came to pass, or enough of them to be seriously alarmed about, I would take it as an indication that like my Catholic ancestors who came to this country in the first place, the time would have come for me to preserve my faith and that of my family by considering going elsewhere.
I was asked to provide the list, but declined since the whole subject was, as I said, off topic to the thread. I did offer to email it to those interested, but nobody seemed to be interested enough to email (though since some people must carefully preserve anonymity at that site I supposed it was possible that they simply didn't want to contact me with a personal email address).
I've been considering posting it all here, and since I'm in an appropriately apocalyptic sort of mood today, have decided to do so. Of these ten warning signs that it may not be possible for serious Christians to remain in America, I think that two of them are pretty near complete; two more are in progress, three are "threatened" in that we are always hearing credible voices talk about the likelihood that they will come to be, and three, thank heavens, have been completely stalled in recent years and are unlikely to become a reality here for some time.
So, in no particular order, here is the list:
1. The repeal or effective abolition of most of the First Amendment protections. I think this one is concerning because of the sort of thing we've seen happen in Canada, where even mentioning certain Bible passages can get you fined or punished. Whether we will reach a similar point here in America, where the freedom of speech, religion, assembly, the press etc. comes under fire because it allows people to express what is increasingly being called "hate speech" remains to be seen.
2. The repeal or curtailing of the Second Amendment. I think no form of tyranny would succeed in America without the right of the people to keep and bear arms being abridged or altogether abrogated. At present, the right of the people to own firearms is not under widespread assault, though various challenges to the limits of the Second Amendment are frequently made.
3. Cultural decay which reaches or exceeds toxic levels. It's hard to argue with this one; more young Catholics lose their faith by extended contact with our increasingly ugly culture than for any other reason, I suspect. The culture we live in is constantly against the good and the decent; witness only the pervasive filth from Hollywood and elsewhere which continually sells the message that chastity and purity are themselves twisted and perverse, that what is immoral and indecent is actually normal and good.
4. Morality/virtue under constant attack. This goes very much with number 3, but is different in that it refers not only to the culture. The State itself sells immorality to our children, or hands it out for free in the form of birth control and condoms at free school-based clinics. Doctors are told to maintain "neutrality" and offer their young patients every manner of aid to fornication; the conscience rights of health care workers which permit them to avoid the evil of abortion and contraception are also under attack by an amoral society. Even in the schools, the teachers are constantly reminded not to impose their "values" on their students; education must be hostile to virtue in service to the gods of secularism.
5. Homeschooling is highly regulated or forbidden. Thank goodness, we're not there, but every step we take toward establishing a federal system of education is one step closer to the abolition of homeschooling, or at least a level of government interference in it which would require the same values-neutral, amoral secular approach as the government schools must take. Vigilance is necessary here; complaisance will lead to regulation and then proscription, I'm certain.
6.Freedom of movement attacked or curtailed. So long as Americans are free to leave states which are less free and move to states which are more free, any plan to create a totalitarian state here will be likely to fail. I see this as an essential precursor to the sort of regime from which one can only flee--but luckily, there are, as yet, no general prohibitions against Americans being as mobile as they would like to be.
7. National ID and/or excessive government tracking of private affairs. Ever since the events of September 11, 2001, there have been various calls for a nationalized, government form of identification, or plans to make state drivers' licenses into a de facto national i.d. card. I sympathize with law enforcement and their daunting task of tracking and stopping criminals and terrorists from carrying out plots against our country; but I see the ability to register and track all the activities of all Americans as something which should be alarming to anyone who values freedom. The totalitarian governments of the twentieth and twenty-first century show us that this ability, in the hands of any centralized authority, becomes a means of controlling the people. I find some of the developments in our nation in this regard, such as a court decision that allowed law enforcement to demand identification from people without any probable cause that they are involved in a crime, to be worrisome.
8. Private property rights excessively controlled or removed. On the one hand, we are not in this position; on the other, the Kelo vs. City of New London decision is pointed to by many as a corruption of what the principle of eminent domain really means. A government that can take your property and give it to be used, not for a road or needed police or fire station or some similar public use, but for private, commercial development which principally benefits some private owner, and only secondarily a state or community, is a government that can impoverish anyone it likes, whenever it likes.
9. Nanny state policies pursued and implemented. This has been ongoing for the duration of the lives of most people who are reading this; and while the desire to provide health care, retirement funds, welfare for the poor, and similar things are not in themselves bad, the recourse to confiscatory taxation as the means of providing these things often offsets any good provided by government aid, especially in terms of the impact on the middle class or working poor. The greater the level of taxation, the greater the likelihood that more and more people will be dependent on the government to provide them with some benefits; and the more people rely on the government to provide them with the necessities of life, the less free they are, the easier to control, and the easier to manipulate in terms of voting behavior and the like.
10. Family sovereignty overruled by state controls. The more decisions about how to raise, care for, educate, etc. our children are made for us by the state instead of being made by us on behalf of our children, the more we are at risk of losing any notion of proper family sovereignty, the proper place of the family in relation to the state. When the state has too much control over the family, it is easy for the state to control all of its citizens in ways that are antithetical to freedom. Imagine, for instance, if a situation like this one involved not only a child who is in the center of a custody dispute, but children in intact families whose parents have chosen to homeschool them for religious reasons. I hope we are far away from that sort of thing, but the precedent set her is a cause for concern.
I'm sure there are other warning signs out there for people concerned with freedom, especially religious freedom, to pay attention to. But these are the ten I have pondered, when I've wondered if things could ever get so bad in America that it would be wise to think about the path many of my ancestors took to get here, and what they were escaping from in their home countries. At this writing, it seems as though it would be extremely unlikely for all ten to become realities in my lifetime, and it may be that the tide is turning in a different way, and that America will become a freer and more hopeful nation in years to come. Still, some of my Catholic ancestors probably couldn't imagine a time when their home countries would become hostile to them for their ideas and religious beliefs--yet their descendants, with few possessions and great courage, undertook arduous journeys to escape that unthinkable hostility.