I spent Monday running some errands, taking my 11 year old to the doctor, and reading while I watched the USA in the opening round of the World Cup. 

The soccer first. For the unaware, the World Cup is the Olympics of the sport. Held every four years, the Cup pits national teams against each other in a tournament for global bragging rights. It’s being held in the Middle Eastern nation of Qatar this go around, and a fair amount of controversy has overshadowed the games themselves. 

Corruption has swirled since the hosts were announced in 2010. It’s universally believed that the nation basically bought the games for $7 million. Corruption at a staggering level. It is also believed that some 6,500 slaves died constructing stadiums for the event. In early 2021, UK newspaper The Guardian published a detailed investigation on the tragedy. 

The nation is one of the worst on record for human rights. Women are second class citizens. Homosexuality is a crime. There is no freedom of press or religion or security from the government/theocracy/police. Rights are subjective and dissent is punished harshly. 

It’s a very bad place. But the West has largely ignored the region. It took the Qatari government banning alcohol sales for any eyebrows to raise here at home. Such is the way of the world. 

To the book. After Thanksgiving break, I’ll teach the novel 1984. It’s a classic work of literature, but my own high school days was my last reading and I needed a refresher. I watched the game while I read, and I grimaced at the similarities between the work of fiction in my hand and the work of fact on my television screen. 

1984 tells the story of an oppressive government that sees all, knows all and rules all. It is the most famous example of what can happen as our freedoms are chipped away by those higher on the economic ladder.

Freedom is fragile. We have this false notion that America and the dream she represents is unbreakable, a bullet proof idea that will stand the test of time. However, the story of the world has been shaped with a sword and the citizens of mother earth have almost always lived the lives of the serf. 

From the Patriot Act to the listening device with the Apple emblem stamped across it, we have allowed our freedoms to slowly erode in exchange for games and circuses and distraction and frivolity. Each passing year, Big Brother encroaches more and more and makes itself a larger part of our lives. Religion is minimized. The family is ridiculed. The lawsuit rules all. The threat of legal action, rather than the sword, now shapes the world. 

The message is no longer do what is right. Now we are guided to not be the oak in the storm. The oak breaks. Be the reed because it always falls when the tempest comes its way. 

It all reminds me of the quote:

“First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.

“Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a trade unionist.

“Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

It all makes me sad.

(Josh Beavers is a teacher and a writer. He has been recognized by the Louisiana Press Association five times for excellence in opinion writing.)

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