“..If I am a man of God, let fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty.”
The Crowd-Building Power of Standing Your Ground
I touched briefly, yesterday, on the enormous power ignited when a tyrant miscalculates and picks on the wrong man, but I don’t think I explained the reality from the perspective of history. The power of a small, righteous tribe is simply enormous; it’s the sort of stuff that keeps Herod’s nights chock full of nightmares.
Background: The simple fact is that we are born cowards. Bravery comes naturally to very few. Courage has to be “screwed up” for a reason; for heaven’s sake, there are Klondike Heath Bars in the freezer and at least 5 binge-worthy documentary seasons on Netflix, and you are getting in a scrap now? We’ve got it pretty good, Morty! If we’re just quiet, maybe the bully will pass along and go pick on someone else.
Unfortunately, this sound advice, so appropriate on most occasions, is downright combustible when the wicked have blood in their eyes. Apologizing, speaking softly, bowing your head, giving false confessions–all of that will only further inflame the inquisitor. The polite, hard-working people of this country, or any country, have the unfortunate capacity of “speaking softly” when they should be yelling. We simply absorb endless griefs. For years, prior to President Trump, we watched the estate tax gobble up family farms and businesses. It was an outrage. We sympathized. We prayed. We consoled. But we daftly just assumed a world of injustice. Someone with orange hair and a swagger came along and pointed out the injustice, and spoke defiantly about it, and — poof — away goes the death tax. (“Oh, that’s right,” says the polite conservative, “that was terribly unfair, wasn’t it?”)
Just think about the trainloads of grief-stories you process from your friends: business people forced to subsidize a fraudulent workers compensation system, land owners forced to produce $70,000 in development fees before they can even contemplate the design of their retirement home, college students forced to apologize for their “white privilege.” Frightened single women forced to wait two weeks to purchase a gun, even as a maniac is stalking them. Taxpayers expected to fork over their money, on time, and obey the law, even as illegal border-crossings go unpunished and are later subsidized at the expense of the law-abiding taxpayers. Think of the elderly fellow who wonders if he can pay for his gall bladder surgery, even as his taxpayer dollars pay for gender reassignment surgery in the military. Imagine the mother who has to watch her child groped by a decrepit TSA pervert, (one of those federal “civil servants” who get a month of time off the very first day on the job.)
You’ve got thousands more of these stories yourself. Our social media feeds are full of them. We shake our heads. We curse. We sign petitions. We send an email into the Congressional black hole. We live with ever increasing tales of pure injustice and we assume it will “all get worse.”
But then someone, somewhere, both says it and means it: “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.” Although this anger is not uniformly rewarded, history has also seen friendly mobs respond to these focused acts of defiance. Certainly, almost nothing happens for the better without them.
In 1765, the American colonists grumbled about the stamp act, but almost everyone thought it would simply be enforced. They didn’t like it, but it was about to happen. What are you going to do, brother?
Well, in Boston, a secret society calling themselves the “Loyal Nine” put a stuffed effigy of the stamp-master at the end of a noose, and the image galvanized the public. The simple clarity of defiance brought people out into the streets and before long, across the continent, publicans in their nightshirts were being dragged out of their homes to solemnly declare their newly found aversion to taxation without representation. It was all too hot to handle. Parliament eventually gave up a year later.
The story, of course, is as old as the Bible. When the children of Israel were oppressed in Judges, Chapter 3, the Lord didn’t lift up a regiment or a division. He raised up one single man — a southpaw, who stuck a knife in the belly of the king and called it a message from God. The courage of one man raised an army behind him, and after a few victories, no one was paying tribute to Eglon, the Moabite, anymore.
Righteous defiance, folks, is absolutely intoxicating. It fills stadiums. It gets people talking and voting and dancing and shouting for joy. It can even change curriculum over time, as the story is eventually written by the victors. We look, now, at the sea of wasted intellects we call the millennials and we worry about law-making bodies filled with free-stuff socialists, but generations, and hearts, can be turned — ponder this — by one man acting courageously. Even millennials — facing years of college debt and a lifetime of burdensome taxation — might just be susceptible to a happy warrior able to make the victory look within reach. How much better if, instead of relying on one man, we cultivate a culture of defiance? How much better if our churches spoke righteous defiance from the pulpit? How much better if we, as a people, became known as the bad hombres you don’t want to annoy?
It can all change for the better very quickly, as quickly as David’s sling or Ehud’s knife. Those of us who suffered through the Neo-Marxist “social and economic trends” view of history forget that individual men and women are primarily responsible for changing history. If Benjamin Franklin hadn’t leaked Governor Hutchinson’s letters to the ministry, the true darkness of British intent may never have been known. If General Stark hadn’t encouraged Washington to attack Trenton, we might not have had the victory necessary to revive the cause. If Rosa Parks had not said “I’m sitting in front,” separate but equal might have lingered another decade.
Sooner or later, one of these young millennials just may tell the nation, “I’m not paying my grandparents’ debt. I’m not paying for fat federal pensions and free abortions and farm subsidies and elective surgeries and bureaucratic junkets to the far east. I’m mad as hell and I’m not taking it anymore.”
He may just draw a crowd too large to put in prison, or large enough to put him in the White House.
Either way, it all begins by picking a fight.