America’s future could be Venezuela if we don’t push back
By Bill Connor
After the many years as a failed state, most Americans aren’t aware that Venezuela was one of the top five wealthiest nations in the world a few decades ago. That relative wealth, top within Latin America, continued up until around two decades ago when Venezuela devolved into socialism. Today, Venezuela’s infrastructure is deteriorating, its economy is imploding, hyperinflation has left worthless currency, 75 percent of the population lives in poverty and millions have fled. Importantly, Venezuela went from a thriving democracy, with constitutionally protected rights, to an authoritarian nightmare. Freedom of the press, speech and political opposition are crushed under the weight of a one-party socialist nightmare https://www.thepolicycircle.org/minibrief/socialism-a-case-study-on-venezuela/ America should pay much more attention to how Venezuela fell, as we are showing the same signs they did. Let me explain.
First, it’s important to understand the depth of the problem and why it will be a miracle if Venezuela can change. Unfortunately, socialism quickly snuffs out any means to oppose it, and brainwashes those under it. American University student and Venezuelan immigrant, Andrés Guilarte, warned about what has happened in Venezuela. According to Guilarte, things got so bad that those in the middle class had to eat garbage: “We didn’t even know if we’d have three meals a day … The government in Venezuela … they didn’t care if people didn’t like that, they didn’t care if their liberties were going to be taken or their lives were going to be left out of options.” According to Guilarte, even after such complete impoverishment, many Venezuelans hold fast to socialism. They have been “indoctrinated” in school to love socialism, hate capitalism and believe “that (socialist dictator Hugo) Chavez … was like Jesus on earth.”
Despite Venezuela’s previous success, students are taught to believe pre-socialism Venezuela was a corrupt and terrible country. https://www.heritage.org/americas/commentary/2-students-who-grew-venezuela-warn-about-danger-socialism. It’s so bad that, according to experts, even if Venezuela were able to overturn socialism “few Venezuelan institutions will emerge with much credibility … Much of the judiciary succumbed to the regime’s control long ago, and there is not much of an independent media sector left … The effects of two decades of endless liberationist and populist rhetoric on Venezuela’s political culture will also be hard to shake off.” https://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2019/03/50316/
Before Venezuela’s descent into socialism, the Christian religion was a vibrant force in culture and society, primarily Roman Catholic but with a growing Protestant presence. Like all socialist systems, the government pushed secularism and taught citizens to put their faith in the state. In the case of Venezuela, the government has also attempted to undermine the traditional Christianity with imported competing pagan “religions.” Under socialism, Christian belief among Venezuelans has declined markedly, particularly among the young. Research shows that as government grows, the church shrinks. Adam Kay of Duke University has shown that church and state have a “hydraulic relationship.” Events “that lower faith in one of these external systems (e.g., the government) lead to subsequent increases in faith in the other (e.g., God).” https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/For-God-%28or%29-country%3A-the-hydraulic-relation-and-in-Kay-Shepherd/ed706904ff2959ec495fb0816dcbf2c19b967fdd?p2df .
As Whitaker Chambers wrote in Witness describing how communism drives out Christianity: “The Communist revolution, like all great revolutions, occurs in man’s mind before it takes form in man’s acts.” The Rev. Ben Johnson, former executive editor of the Acton Institute, wrote further on this dynamic: “As socialism makes inroads … it replaces Christian eschatology with a secular narrative. It supplants traditional morality with alternative ends and means for this life. Left unchecked, it erodes both the adherent’s religion and society’s liberty.
The similarities between what happened in Venezuela and what’s happening in America are profound. For decades and getting much worse in recent years, American University students and schoolchildren have been taught that traditional capitalist America is flawed, racist and in need of being transformed. Among 18 to 24-year-old Americans, recent polling shows that only 42 percent have a positive view of capitalism.
The credibility of key Americans institutions, including media and federal agencies, continues to plummet due to perceptions of bias in favor of Democrats and progressivism. Freedom of speech is under attack, including even attempts of Homeland Security to create a department to combat alleged disinformation. As government growth and entitlement spending have skyrocketed in recent years (national debt has gone from around $5 trillion in 2000 to more than $30 trillion today), we have also seen the cratering of religion in America, particularly among the young. Values of the young, particularly regarding marriage/family/sexuality, have become thoroughly secularized. Throughout American history until 2011, more than 90 percent of Americans professed belief in God. In just the past decade, the number of Americans without a belief in God has almost doubled (81 percent) and is only 68 percent for young adults.
The time is now to push back against becoming like Venezuela, as the “cement” of socialism is building up and hardening into place. Our collective faith in God is a critical defense. The proper teaching of American history (and the truth of socialism’s failures) is another key bulwark. It’s past time to limit the power of government and demand better constitutional checks and balances, and integrity and accountability for our federal agencies. The American Constitutional Republic has succeeded beyond measure for more than two centuries, and we cannot be the generation that lost it. God bless America!
Bill Connor is a 1990 Citadel graduate, 30-year Army infantry colonel (ret.) and combat veteran. He is a writer and attorney and lives in the Charleston area.