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Joseph Cramer, M.D.: The dangers of following the party line

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 16 2012 4:03 p.m. MDT

The Cold War made us all soldiers. Everyone was not stationed in a main battle tank battalion staring across the Fulda Gap at what we saw as the godless, totalitarian, anti-freedom, one-party monolithic-ruling Communists. Instead, if too young, we practiced hiding under our desks in elementary school in case of an all-out thermonuclear blast.

We stood up against the USSR and all its vassal states because we considered them the "Evil Empire." Sequestered behind concrete walls and barbered wire fences, the Soviets imprisoned dissidents because they could. The Communist Party controlled the elections with a single candidate on the ballot because they could. The single-party rule commanded the people’s lives because they could.

From those days of finding flimsy shelter under my second grade desk and listening to the air raid sirens every Saturday at noon, I am not a fan of one-party rule. I don’t care who the people in control are. Even a righteous, benevolent political party is not immune to the seduction of power.

The potential to be corrupted and to be absolutely corrupted with absolute power is too dangerous for us as a people and state to permit.

Those who believe in modern truth must give pause when a man falsely imprisoned recorded the following words:

“We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion” (Doctrine and Covenants 121:39).

However, what if the single party is the choice of the vast majority of the kind hearted and good intended? The counsel remains “for almost all men.”

The dominion can wear many faces. It may be as subtle as fearing social reprisal for writing a newspaper column about the risk of unrighteous dominion. There are the behind-closed-door meetings, the creation of new rules or bending of the old to stay in power. There is the gradual creep of doing good more and more by energetic laws and less by gentle persuasion.

Feelings of exclusivity and earthly privilege grow because there is impatience for the heavenly rewards of righteousness. Therefore, even good men and women are not the exception to the risk of unrighteous dominion.

At the crux is the inner nature of a person: not their pedigree or religious affiliation, not their accumulation of wealth and especially not their capacity to pat on a back. The nature of a person includes awareness of his insecurities and need to compensate by authority. There is an emotional attraction to power, as moths to candles.

Disposition is the probability how someone will act in a moment of pressure. The biggest temptation is having the opportunity to do good forcefully. There is no greater aphrodisiac, no greater stimulant and no greater addiction.

It is for that reason one-party rule is a threat to freedom. The freedom to be different is subverted. The freedom to see the world from a unique perspective is suspect. The freedom to attempt a compromise or a hybridization of solutions is lost. The freedom to civilly discuss these differences is gone, because to agree with the minority makes the majority appear weak.

One-party rule is the joke of “following the party line.” It is a joke because it is funny if not tragic to watch well-meaning souls follow in lock step with what is said because it is said.

Today, party loyalty reins supreme. It is rewarded with office, money and perks. To advance in the ranks sworn alliances to groupthink triumphs over devotion to balanced answers. Pressure to conform is everywhere. I have seen children terrified by bullies. Groups who demand compliance for their own gain is no better than any schoolyard brute who should not be tolerated.

During the Cold War, there was an enemy with missiles pointed at us. With one-party rule, we can’t even hide under our desks.

Joseph Cramer, M.D., is a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, practicing pediatrician for 30 years, and an adjunct professor of pediatrics at the University of Utah. Email: jgcramermd@yahoo.com

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