LEVY– Free will: Our secret to survival

FILE - In this image from video provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks in Kyiv, Ukraine, March 6, 2022. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP, File)

In an earlier life, before I abandoned my idealism, I earned a degree in history. Later in life, I earned a certificate to teach high school history. So, I am well-versed in the past. 

As such, my education is quite timely. The world is obsessed with the past. Unfortunately, it is a dangerous box in which American and Western Civilization are trapped.  It is as if history encloses us all in an “escape room” from which actual escape is almost impossible. The doors go from “woke” history to traditional history but never allow us to climb into the future. Our present has become a mass psychosis of nostalgic hysteria.  


And it’s getting people killed. 

For instance, in Ukraine, Vladimir Putin is convinced that Russians and Ukrainians are one Orthodox nation. Therefore, his invasion is not an attempt to mold the future. It is an homage to Catherine the Great and Joseph Stalin. In his mind, he is not invading a foreign land. He is uniting a nation torn apart. The Russian-Ukrainian mutual ancestry predetermined that he must unite the present with the past, even if that union must be sealed with the body parts of 5,000 teenage conscripts.   

But America was supposed to be different. Its very existence as the “New World” is based on a radically different premise. Americans believe that “free will” governs their lives. In the Old World, their heritage was an historical lock box. But, their New World, if only for a short time, was the door through which mankind could escape, where the past and its predestination could be overcome. 

Yet, most recently, that door, too, began to close. 

The movement to establish “critical race theory” declared that, as in the Old World, the future was predetermined by the past. White people whose race once enslaved persons of color were predestined to oppress the descendants of those enslaved. Therefore, riots, looting and tearing down monuments were part of the justice the spirit of those long ago lynched demanded as retribution.  

For too many today, history is still destiny. We are still shackled to that history and act accordingly. 

Democrats still claim that voter ID laws are an attempt to “put y’all back in chains.” They want to take “from each according to his ability and give to each according to his need.” Their goal is to recreate a long-ago failed Marxist experiment. Learning from the Chinese model of authoritarianism, they want to give Cuba, Venezuela and Zimbabwe a second chance. They, too, imagine a future which idolizes the past. 

Indeed, the past is choking our future. But we can break the locks on that prison. Ours must not become the Marcel Marceau generation: mimes covered in white facial cream trapped in a box of our own imagination. That box is not real. To paraphrase Adlai Stevenson, for those who dwell on the past, it is time to pull them, “kicking and screaming, into the 21st Century.” 

In other words, we must reaffirm what the real T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) and the fictional “Dr. Emmett Brown” (Back to the Future) both wisely deduced, “Our future is not yet written” if only we embrace our own free will. 

Ours can be a future where skin color does not matter and where success is open to all who seek it. That future is bound only by the hard work needed to accomplish it and free will necessary to believe in it. 

Ours is a future where placing a colony on Mars is a goal more important than punishing others with “social justice.” If climate change is real, we can adapt to it. We can do all of it without burdening the middle class or the poor. Nor need we declare a new emergency each week or find new ways for government to trample civil liberties. 

Dwelling on the past only promotes pessimism. Too often it is an excuse for tyranny and war.  America’s true manifest destiny must be a future untethered to the past. As Putin pushes us into World War III, the power of our own free will may be our key to survival. 

Robert Levy is a resident of Moore County