It was the early morning hours of September 30, 1938. The major European powers had been meeting in Munich, Germany, for several days. Purposes of the conference were to discuss the future of the Sudetenland, land that held immense strategic importance to Czechoslovakia. British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain hoped to avoid another world war. In order to do that, Britain, France, Italy and Germany – without the presence or approval of Czechoslovakia – signed the Munich Agreement, conceding the Sudetenland to Adolf Hitler.

In the years to follow, Germany, under the control of Adolf Hitler, immersed the world into chaos. When the dust settled in 1945, over an estimated twenty million soldiers and over one million civilians had perished. As is common knowledge today, Hitler also ordered the genocide of almost seventeen million innocent people, with six million of those people from Jewish descent. Other victims included homosexuals, individuals with disabilities, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and prisoners of war.

Chamberlain walked down the road of appeasement. Basically, he buried his head in the sand. There is an old saying that goes, “If you give a mouse a cookie, soon enough he’ll want milk.” Chamberlain gave Hitler a cookie, hoping he would scurry back off to Germany and enjoy his treat.  In less than one year after the Munich Agreement, Hitler invaded Poland and came calling for his milk. Had it not been for the brave men and women who laid down their lives to stop his reign of terror, there is no telling what the landscape of this world would look like today.

And yet, here we are entering the final month of 2011, with an American culture that increasingly embodies Neville Chamberlain’s concept of reckless ignorance. Looking back on the past decade, especially the past three years, the American way of life has become one of excuses and appeasement.  We settle for much less than we deserve, much less than we are. Accountability has become taboo in the United States. Schools are no longer about learning important and useful information that will aid students after graduation but are about teaching for a test that will earn them grant money from the federal government. College is no longer about receiving a well-rounded higher education but is about indoctrinating youth to believe liberal arguments when it comes to societal issues. Political institutions are no longer about serving the will of the American people but are about ensuring that the non-representing representatives in Washington do not lose their seats of power.

If the United States of America is ever to survive these tumultuous times, everyone must learn from Chamberlain’s lesson. Appeasement never works.  No matter how far one buries their head in the sand, no matter how much one tells himself that everything is lollipops and rainbows, it doesn’t amount to a hill of beans in reality. Unless we stand up for what is right – even when it’s tough or unpopular – we are doomed to repeat history. Another British Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill, stood up for principle and stood against appeasement. He once said, “Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never – in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”

A cure will never be found for this ‘Chamberlain disease’ our country is suffering from unless the way Americans view themselves as individuals and the way they view the government changes. Those willing to sacrifice liberty in order to give government more control over their lives are digging their own graves. Government in the United States was never meant to be as large or as intrusive as it has become.  The Founding Fathers all championed for limited government, but due to the Progressive Era of the early twentieth century and the flawed liberal ideology that dominated the federal government for decades, our generation believes that the government had ought to take care of us from cradle to grave because they have been brainwashed into a belief system that ensures government knows best.  In that progressive world, would all of the problems individuals face be non-existent?  Would everyone be happy and free?  Of course not, because despite communistic propaganda, utopian society is not possible.  There will always be issues to face, problems to solve, obstacles to overcome.  We’re human – it comes with the territory.

What we as Americans should do is begin to restore within ourselves those attributes that we read about in children’s books when we were younger – honesty, hard work, morality, responsibility, compassion. The American people must remember that we are entitled to nothing more than life, liberty, and the chance to find happiness. Those rights come from our Creator – not from the president, not from Congress, certainly not from the United Nations.  Every person is endowed with rights when they are born.  No one promised life would be easy.  No one promised that there would be food to eat, water to drink, clothes to wear or a computer to Skype with friends on.  We are promised the opportunity of achieving, not only the necessities of life, but of achieving our highest hopes and dreams.  That is what makes the United States of America, as President Ronald Reagan referred to it, “the shining city on the hill.”

The United States is a unique and special place, a nation that gave the world its first true taste of freedom.  I believe that, despite our current sinking state, we still have the opportunity to save ourselves.  Our rights are being taken away, one by one, and it is long overdue for us to stand up for those rights – the God-given rights of all human beings, including the unborn.  We have to stop giving cookies to the mice of American society.  If we continue to appease conformity, if we continue to appease the partisans in Washington, if we continue to appease the sense of entitlement, soon enough there will be no cookies and no milk left for anyone to enjoy.

Joseph O. Turner | Mary Washington College | @odieturner