Picture, if you will, the Charles Atlas weight building ads that for decades appeared in magazines across America. Charles Atlas was an Italian-American who created and marketed a popular bodybuilding course. Though Atlas’ name was actually Angelo Siciliano, he legally changed it after being told his physique resembled the statue of Atlas, the Greek titan.

The mythological Atlas, punished for attempting to topple the head god Zeus, was confined to bearing the weight of the world and the heavens on his shoulders for eternity. Hence the statue of the bent but muscular Atlas holding up the world. Hence the commercially inspired pictures of the well-muscled Charles Atlas who taught American men how to get buffed.

Drawing from the mythological Atlas, novelist Ayn Rand in 1957 authored her 1,000-page novel titled “Atlas Shrugged.” A stern libertarian who, unlike most anti-statists was an avowed atheist, Rand came from Russia to the United States in 1926. She became an eloquent opponent of collectivism and the leading literary proponent of capitalism. Rand had reason to reject collectivism. The Bolshevists disrupted her family’s comfortable life and confiscated her father’s business. Her family almost starved under Lenin’s socialism.

Given academia’s ingrained leftist ideology, we can be sure that few if any universities made Rand’s books required reading. Even so, “Atlas Shrugged” has been rated in several surveys (Library of Congress and Book-of-the-Month Club among them) as the second-most-influential book of all time behind the Bible. The book’s central theme is the evils of tyrannical government.

A child prodigy, Rand understood what was happening in Russia. Enthralled by America’s freedom, bigness and particularly the skyline of Manhattan, she cried “tears of splendor” upon viewing it. Contrasting America to Russia, Rand became an American citizen and an anti-communist activist.

There is no Atlas holding up the world, but something or Somebody is. We know that physically the planet we live on is suspended in air, but that awe-inspiring reality is not of great moment in turbulent 2020. Currently we must give our thoughts to more immediate realities such as human civilization, behavior, governance and keeping tyranny at bay.

For ages man’s major enemy was tyrants and their tyranny. For centuries man yearned to be free but was everywhere in chains. In ancient Greece glimmers of political freedom appeared, but only glimmers. Actually not until 244 years ago did there emerge on the globe a momentous, radical, and lasting revolution that freed man from kings, queens, princes, dukes, popes and the like. 244 years is not a long time. Chronologically, America is still a babe in arms.

Americans, a freed and self-governing people, sullied their character and defiled their claims of equality when they tolerated slavery and segregation. Those ills, however, were addressed. Americans have since elected and re-elected a Black president. But even the election of a Black citizen to lead the nation has not tempered the anger of domestic, racist terrorists. Crime, particularly vandalism, rioting, and murder is raging. Many political, business, and religious leaders are excusing the rioting. The vandals are justifiably venting, these leaders claim.

Figuratively, the mythical Atlas is shrugging. He cannot station himself securely and hold us up when free people reject the results of their elections. In 2016 the losers rejected election results, igniting civil unrest. They, not the winner of the presidential election, caused Atlas to shift his feet in order not to fall.

If political conservatives lose the election next week, they must accept it and sharpen their persuasion skills during the next four years. If they follow the bad example of their liberal counterparts of 2016, incivility will persist. If liberals lose the election next week, they too had better consider the chaos their refusal has caused. To lose and then continue fighting as the loyal opposition is noble. To lose, become a crybaby, and attempt a coup is ruinous.

The socialism Ayn Rand fled is the socialism that awaits us if Americans elect the wrong person. Socialism is an economic system in which the means of production and distribution are totally in the hands of the government. When private producers are destroyed (a la Marx, Lenin and Bernie), free enterprise is destroyed.

Public schools and Medicare are not socialism. For Karl Marx, socialism was the transactional, interim social state between capitalism and communism, a fact Democrats don’t like to admit. Americans can have it if they wish, but choosing it will negate the courage of the ragtag farmers and small businessmen who only 244 years ago whipped the world’s most powerful empire, thereby giving a new nation constitutional government.

If America shrugs next Tuesday, the world will shrug also, heading straight back to tyrants and tyranny.

Roger Hines is a retired English teacher and state legislator who lives in Kennesaw.

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