It couldn’t happen here

I was poking around in one of my old directories on my network hard drive and found a file from 1994. Yeah, I’m a bit of a packrat.

It was a Usenet post from talk.politics.guns and talk.politics.misc which I had saved. Yes, I’ve been doing this for a long, long time.

Here is the header with the “bang paths”:

From!!!!!!!!HAMBIDGE Thu Jul 14 12:25:08 1994
Newsgroups: talk.politics.guns,talk.politics.misc
Subject: A Canadian’s Letter to Americans
Date: 8 Jul 1994 13:34:30 GMT
Organization: Bristol-Myers Squibb
Lines: 164
Message-ID: 2vjkl6$
Xref: talk.politics.guns:79300

It was a rather disturbing post which I suppose is why I had saved it. I decided to look on the Internet and see if I could find it via another source. Maybe it was just something someone made up for the Usenet tinfoil brigade. Nope:


Posted: Saturday, July 9, 1994 8:00 pm
BY SUSAN RIGGS Knight-Ridder Newspapers

Government can get too powerful before you know it.

An open letter to my American neighbors:

Like you, I woke up today, got dressed and settled down to a steaming brew and the morning newspaper before heading out to work. Unlike you, I read that dozens of my fellow citizens were arrested for carrying copies of The Buffalo News. The newspaper contained information about a trial here that the powers-that-be did not want us to read. It is that simple.It is now 11:15 p.m. Minutes ago, I turned on the Buffalo television station, hoping to see on my TV what could not reach us through the newspapers. I am now looking at a blank screen. We received about 10 seconds of the trial controversy, and suddenly my screen went blank. A message appeared on the screen explaining that because of the contravention of a ban, the station was prohibiting broadcast of the news. Along with the sign was a high-pitched whistle that sounded like the air-raid sirens the Britons used during World War II.

As I sit here alone, I realize that my blood is running cold at the sound of that whistle.

This could never happen here.

Not in Canada.

You must wonder about a country that would deny its own citizens the freedom to read. As a Canadian, I have done a lot of hard thinking about it. I guess the powers

Susan Riggs is a Canadian citizen living in Ontario. She wrote this article for the Detroit Free Press.

have their reasons for the ban. Censorship always has its reasons, but, believe me, when you are on the receiving end of government censorship, no reason amounts to a hill of beans – and that is why I am writing to you.

It is my hope that you will read the Canadian story and, as your famous columnist Ann Landers says, “wake up and smell the coffee’ – while you still have a newspaper to read along with it.

I have always loved the United States of America, and I know that you are now making critical decisions about the role of government in your lives. Many years ago, we in Canada were at a crossroads in our decision making that is similar to the one you are at now. I wish our decisions back then had been very different. Then maybe I wouldn’t be sitting here staring at a blank screen.

Some two decades ago, Canadians were concerned with how government could best help its citizens. We looked around at countries with a comprehensive social welfare system and envied them their cushions of comfort for everything from universal medical care to national day care.

We were a country that held individual freedom in high esteem. Surely, we thought, it was possible to take the best aspects of socialism and weave them into the fabric of a free society. After all, this was democratic Canada and not the Soviet Union.

Over the next 20 years, we developed an extensive social support network at both the federal and provincial levels of government. The government spent money on every conceivable program. We spent and spent. Still, no one was ever really satisfied.

The spending even now continues unabated, and our national deficit today stands at more than $45 billion. (We are now looking to New Zealand for pointers on how to control our deficit.)

When you adopt an extensive government agenda, you soon discover that all the entrenched programs and layers of bureaucracy become impossible to budge. Much of the population works for the government; about 1 of every 4 Canadians now draws a government paycheck.

People learn to depend on government, and all governments, even those whose leaders warn against this dependency, learn to love the power that flows from it.

As for the threat to individual liberty, newspaper censorship is, frankly, the tip of the iceberg. Government intervenes in our lives constantly, and individual liberties are abrogated in new and ever more imaginative ways each day.

Recently, while on vacation, I rented a car in Seattle and tried to drive into British Columbia. My car was confiscated at the border. When I asked for an explanation, I was told that I had not paid taxes on it – a rental car. Had I been an American, there would have been no problem, but, as a Canadian, I had to pay $200 more for a Canadian rental car in order to continue my trip.

Canadians who dare to get a haircut or a car tune-up across the border are being photographed and prosecuted upon their return to Canada. Why? Because they have secured these services without having to incur the 7 percent goods and services tax slapped onto our ever-burgeoning provincial taxes. Even insurance plans are now taxed.

A black market has sprung up, mainly in liquor and cigarettes, which carry the heaviest taxes. Don’t think that the taxes will end there, though.

Once it takes hold, monopolization by government soon spreads to nearly every aspect of your life; in the Toronto area alone, we have six separate municipal governments and one super-municipal government (the “mother’ of all local governments) called Metro, which exists to oversee the others.

You will find that after a time, your state and federal governments – even those of a different political stripe – will join forces to make their task of tax collection easier.

Our entire education system, up to university level, is governed by a centralized bureaucracy called the Ministry of Education, which dictates what can and cannot be taught in the schools and how it is to be taught. Universities are mainly government-funded.

I realize that the issue of government-run programs is particularly important to you now because of the state of your health-care system. I sympathize with you completely. I cannot imagine a world where one could be left bankrupt because of illness. I also think that you are on the right track with your solutions. If anyone can devise a workable system for medical care, it is you.

I suggest that you look upon it as you do your police protection: a guard in place for the physical and mental well-being of your citizens. The real danger in socialized medicine is the attitude of entitlement it engenders.

The stories you have heard about us are largely true. It is not uncommon to pick up a newspaper and read about “The Frightening Wait for Cancer Therapy’ here in Ontario, and the situation is no better in the other provinces. There is a shortage of the most advanced diagnostic technology. Thousands of the health cards that ensure access to medical care have have been issued erroneously.

We do wait two hours for an appointment booked weeks in advance. Despite our world-class doctors, many patients can’t get treatment in time because of overcrowding. When you are faced with a life-and-death medical situation, you don’t mind paying whatever it costs. Under the government-dominated medical system, however, you can’t even buy your way in – unless, of course, you go to the United States.

The sound of the air-raid siren on my TV has stopped, at least for now. As the politicians love to say, this is my “defining moment.’

Writing is my great love, the part of me that can never be censored. This letter was difficult to write, and no one up here knows that I have written it. All these issues are not just personal; they are professional, too.

I am employed in administration at a prominent Ontario university that has historically enjoyed a high degree of autonomy. Last summer, my president wrote a letter to the staff explaining that the government had expressed an intention to take a more active role in the management of university affairs. He described this as an enormous threat to our autonomy as a free-thinking institution, and in the end the government retreated – for now.

As I sit here tonight, it is simply beyond my comprehension that such a well-intentioned and beloved country as my own could go so far astray so quickly. And it is all the more remarkable that it has taken place without grand conspiracies or intricate plots.

Indeed, most Canadians are as offended by the images of totalitarian government as you are. We shared your joy at the fall of the Berlin Wall and the crumbling of the Soviet bloc; we value freedom. And yet we have fallen into a trap where we are not free.

As with that other well-known road, we traveled this one with the best of intentions.

To those who would dismiss me as an alarmist, I issue this invitation: Read our newspapers, watch our news broadcasts (what is left of them) and see for yourselves. Prove me wrong. I wish you could.

When you make critical decisions about the role of government in your life, please think about me, about this letter and about Canada.

Really think about what it could mean when you hear about a government initiative that sounds too good to be true. Thank God for a free press, even when you find yourself criticizing the media for broadcasting stories that you would rather not hear about. The recent publication ban is not the first one. There are others, and their numbers are growing.

Listen and learn, America. Cup your ear to the wind and hear the blood-chilling wail of the siren whistle as it drifts down across your border.

If just one of you reads this letter and pauses, even for a moment, to think about what unchecked government can do, then it has been worth the writing.

I have faith in you, America. Your road is tough and not perfect. Nothing is. Your road will keep leading you to freedom – the freedom to read and think and be exactly who and what you are – if you only let it. Treasure that freedom, love it and resolve never, ever to let it go.


9 thoughts on “It couldn’t happen here

  1. Good, yet chilling stuff. I can predict the response from those here who really need to read it:


  2. The founding fathers were very smart men. They studied Latin, Greek and philosophy, both ancient and natural. Having been on the receiving end of the heavy hand of government power, and won a revolution to get away from that capricious hand, they had some strong opinions about the relative power between the people and the government.

    It’s all there in the Federalist papers. With regard to the second amendment, who are “the militia”? The whole of the People, it is written, less a few elected officials. What arms are they referring to? All the terrible implements of the soldier, they clarified, without being specific to make, model, caliber, style, et ceteras, as they knew those would change over time but the important thing was that the sovereign people would never be outgunned by their servant government.

    “But the founders never could have envisioned fully semi-automatic assault clips with shoulder things that go up!” comes the bleeting of the historically ignorant (either innocently or willfully and maliciously). They didn’t have to. They were not concerned with the actual arms themselves as much as the power that flows from the barrel of the gun, to paraphrase someone that got something right once for all the wrong reasons. In their day, they knew of privately owned cannon loaded with grapeshot, and they were accepting of that.

    But what the founders envisioned, and were actually trying to prevent, was fully automatic assault political powers. It is well past the time for legislative and executive powers to be returned to the political equivalent of single shot muskets.

  3. friends:

    yes, it could happen here. about 10 seconds after we give up our guns. they shall take mine from my cold dead fist. simple as that.

    john jay
    136 s.e. 8th avenue
    milton freewater, oregon 97862

  4. joe:


    oh, yes it could. about 10 seconds after they take our guns. they shall have mine when they take it from my cold dead fist.

    john jay

    p.s. speaking of censorship, a previous comment identical to this one was just put up, and then disappeared. canada, on a small scale? the broadcast from buffalo interrupted?

    • It was nothing I did. For some reason they got caught in the spam filter. I have released all of them. If you would like I can delete some of them to avoid the near duplication. Your choice.

  5. “I also think that you are on the right track with your solutions. If anyone can devise a workable system for medical care, it is you.”

    There’s that Central Planning mental disease, imbedded like a poison pill in a warning about excessive government power– The idea of the smart people getting together among themselves, a High Council, using their superior understanding to “devise a system” that will be forced upon everyone else (who are presumed from the outset as fundamentally inferior, otherwise they wouldn’t be deemed in need of central planners). The founding premise then is that a small clique of elites is needed to control the inferior, incompetent, masses. You all know where that leads (it ends up where it began, with an indictment and condemnation of Humanity) so why would you ever be surprised when it leads there?

    As long as you carry the latent virus for Central Planning Disease (CPD), no amount of intelligence or knowledge, or skill with statistics, can save you. Quite the opposite; the greater your abilities as a carrier of CPD, the greater the threat you pose to Mankind.

    Timo; “The founding fathers were very smart men.” See? Right there are the seeds of the Central Planning disease. It’s not about the men or their smartness. It’s about the simple, fundamental principles they were trying to convey. If we make it about the men, if we foolishly build pedestals and put our heroes upon them, then out come the slander brigades, showing us how imperfect the men were, and they were imperfect, and…well, you know the drill. Don’t ever make it about the people. Some of them owned slaves, they were smugglers, they had mistresses, yak yak yak, and now the principles, the only things that matter, are all lost in an endless argument about individual credibility and merit.

    I am sure that the founding fathers would rather you grasp and uphold the principles they loved enough to die for, than uphold them as icons, heroes or gods. Thus if you celebrate the men, you’re dishonoring them by missing their point.

    The truth does not belong to men who lived hundreds of years ago, for they are not its authors. Though no man can claim to be the author of truth, it nonetheless is here, for you, now.

  6. Lyle, are you in the habit of reading people’s minds through the internet? Because I think your filter is faulty.

    The only reason I mentioned that the founding fathers studies Latin, Greek and philosophy is that it is manifestly true that only the exceptionally motivated student today does so. There are plenty of intelligent people today, as intelligent as the founding fathers, in fact, but the ground floor for what is considered ‘educated’ today, the level of effort required today, does not compare. So much so that to be ‘educated’ is no longer a word that automatically implies that one is intelligent. Furthermore, I’ve seen plenty of otherwise intelligent people not have the otherwise basic smarts that a plumber does.

    When I recognize them as smart, I recognize that for what they produced, not by their credentials. There were plenty of Latin, Greek and classically educate people in the founding father’s day that were quite happy with the status quo. The founding fathers produced something exception and experimental. To the extent that the experiment is failing today is entirely due to the experimenters (we as a nation) not following the written procedure. It is not a fault with a perfectly good procedure written by smart men who discovered some eternal truths the hard way.

    I’ll put it to you that one can be intelligent, one can be educated, one can even be considered wise by others, but when the Gods of the Copybook Headings drop something self evident like “If you squelch the ability of the people to speak their mind, communicate their thoughts, and get redress for wrongs committed by government, they’re sooner or later going to hang you from a tree” right in your proverbial lap, the smart people take the hint even while the ‘intelligent’ and the ‘wise’ and the ‘educated’ come up with reasons to try again harder.

  7. The essential difference is that the USA has two things that other countries do not: a real Constitution that intends to limit the powers of government (however unsuccessfully in practice), and the right to bear arms. Consider by way of contrast countries like the UK, which have no constitution, or countries like Holland that have a document that calls itself a constitution but that — by its own words — the courts are required to pay no attention to.

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