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When Good Men do Nothing

Distracted, deceived, divided.

by Kathryn van der Pol
Loyal 9 member Kathryn van der Pol is the creator of the School of American Leadership curriculum and, with her husband, proprietor of the Liberty Garage in Houston Texas.


"All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent" (An old adage attributed to Thomas Jefferson).

"Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends than that good men should look on and do nothing" (John Stuart Mill, in an address at the University of St. Andrews in 1867).

"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing" (Edmund Burke).

“A failure to call evil by its name inevitably leads to more evil acts in the future. Evil acts, in themselves, are the greatest source of scandal. When the perpetrators are not called to account, then they are emboldened to do even worse deeds” (Bishop Thomas Olmsted).

Tyranny is evil.
What is tyranny other than the abandonment of the rule of law?
Laws constrain behavior not only of citizens but of government officials.
When government officials no longer follow or uphold the laws, tyranny results.

The evil of tyranny has slithered into our institutions like a serpent. It generally advances in four steps.

First, we are easily distracted.
When the veteran hospital scandal made the news and significant pressure was being applied to correct the abuse of power and deception, the story of the swap of US citizen Bowe Bergdahl for Taliban soldiers stole the headlines, and we lost focus on the veteran hospital scandal. I am using this simply for illustration purposes, but you can think back to the passage of Obamacare, the NSA scandal, the IRS abuse of power, the government spying on the Associated Press and think of the myriad ways that we were distracted.

Next, we are easily deceived.
For example, we were told that Bowe Bergdahl was a prisoner of war who was legally traded by our government for five Taliban commanders held in Guantanamo. Now The Washington Post reports, “The Obama administration broke the law when it exchanged five Taliban commanders for a captured U.S. soldier without giving Congress 30 days notice, according to a review by the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office.” So, we are lied to.

Third, we are easily divided.
Historian Carroll Quigley, who wrote in favor of such deception for power, explained the process of "divide and conquer." “The argument that the two parties should represent opposed ideals and policies, one, perhaps, of the Right and the other of the Left, is a foolish idea. . . . Instead, the two parties should be almost identical, so that the American people can ‘throw the rascals out’ at any election without leading to any profound or extreme shifts in policy.”

In the final step, we are destroyed.
I don’t mean physically destroyed, necessarily; but our heart is destroyed. We no longer feel anything. We’re cold on the inside. What about the people who see what is going on and do nothing? They have gone cold, too.

Thankfully, we haven’t quite reached this point. But we are close. We can’t trust our media, or our government officials, and maybe even ourselves to follow the laws much less tell the truth.

Goodness and evil are both actions. The lack of good action allows evil to spread. The old adage (wrongly attributed to Alexis de Toqueville) is worth remembering. “America is great because America is good. When America ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.”

So, how do we rid our house of the serpent of tyranny? You can’t be nice to snakes. They don’t listen to their reasoning, either. The only way to get rid of a snake is with a stick— in this case a pen. But there are many sticks—petitions, protests, and primaries. You have to find the right sticks for every snake.

Tyranny must be called out for the evil it is. We must call it by its name. That is the first step: confront.

The second step is expose. Tell everyone you know and ask everyone you know to do the same.

The third step may be the hardest. It is to unite. We don’t do that very well these days. We have become so divided ideologically that we forget that there are principles that trump political party. These principles are the same for all of us: namely Life, Liberty, Pursuit of Happiness, the rule of Law, and the Bill of Rights.

Standing in unity with people you don’t agree with politically may feel strange, but for the evil of tyranny to prevail, all it takes is for us to be what? To be silent. So, let’s unite on fundamental principles that we are a country under the rule of law, not of men; that we believe that the role of government is to protect life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

The final step is to create a stand list. What do you stand for? We all have the same twenty-four hours in a day. How we spend our time is largely in our hands. Wayne Greeson writes, “When good men do nothing, they are no longer good. Many have the mistaken notion that good is merely the absence of doing that which is wrong. Not so! One is good not merely because he does no evil, but because he is actively working for what is good. ‘Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.’ (James 4:17)”

So, let’s use our day to pursue good actions and create something positive that will help others now and in the future.

Here’s my stand list: preserve the rule of law; protect the Bill of Rights; and promote love of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.
Will you join me?


31 Aug 2014
at 09:30PM

This is awesome! Love the Greeson quote. The "stand list" is a great call to action. Making mine now...and borrowing several of yours. Visited the Liberty Garage link...so cool. thanks Kathryn for this article and the things you are doing in fight for preservation of freedom.

31 Aug 2014
at 10:20PM

Thanks for that great article Kathyrn! Education is key, we need to wake up everyone we can. And do good, and be good, and spread love! I'm amped up by these quotes. I'm with you Kaythrn and with Loyal 9.

Fear can only prevail when victims are ignorant of the facts.

- Thomas Jefferson

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