The Times 

Letter to the Editor


December 31, 2020

To the Editor:

Obedience is not a virtue.

Exacted from slaves, dogs, and very young children, obedience is an essential component to a well-run society, but not necessarily a free one.

For the tyrant, the despot, the emperor, a well-run citizenry results when its people are taught to do what they are told. This is more easily achieved when the people implicitly and unquestioningly trust their political, religious/scientific, financial, and medical leaders. These leaders generally communicate with the citizenry via mass media, oratory crafted by professional speechwriters, and decree. The primary mantra is,

“Listen to the experts. Follow your leaders. Obey the authorities. They know what’s good for you.”

The shining example of a good citizen in such a society is the one who not only obeys, but coerces and compels the obedience and compliance of others. A common, non-complimentary term for such a person is tattletale.

They are very obedient.

What they are not, however, are exemplary of qualities that people who reside in the the U.S. proudly insist we have long possessed: freedom, kindness, generosity, tolerance, compassion, independent thought, and, most important to our legendary interpretation of who we are, the maverick spirit of the pioneers and popular movie characters.

As we leave 2020 behind, people sigh: “I’m glad 2020 is over! Bring on 2021.”

But 2021 is simply a number, achieved by flipping a calendar page. The ugliness, the fear mongering, the uncertainty, the seeming randomness, the pivoting, the tattling, the hostility that characterize 2020 will nip our heels into 2021 as long as being obedient remains the primary characteristic of who we are.

Obedience is not a virtue. It is a tool of control.

Carolyn Henderson


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