My whole life, I’ve been a patriotic American above anything else. My family has been in this country nearly 200 years before it was a country. The first ancestors to bear my name left England for the Massachusetts Bay Company around 1600. More came later to places like the ports of Virginia. They were farmers and grocers, mostly. And they were patriots, all. Of my male ancestors, nearly all wore the uniform and served their country. One of my ancestors took his Oath of Allegiance at Valley Forge under General George Washington. There are no wealthy men in my family tree, but all worked hard, served when they were called, and loved their home and the opportunities it gave them and their families.
My grandfather and grandmother met while they were both serving in World War II. She was an absolute firecracker – the strongest and most irrepressibly optimistic human being I have ever known. My grandfather was one of the wisest souls I’ve ever met. They both instilled in me, as did my mother and my father, that the way to be truly happy in this life is to make sure that your life and your work make the world better for others. They taught me that the deepest form of patriotism is to care about my fellow man, and to bring that caring into reality through my work and my actions. I’ve believed that as long as I can remember, and tried in earnest to live it, even when I fell woefully short of the mark.
What’s happening in the country today hurts me in a place I can’t seem to reach. It’s not like a painful bump you can rub away, or a sore muscle or bruise you can ice. It’s deeper, more elemental. Like a tumor the doctors can’t find, but which you can feel killing you a little each day it goes on. I’m watching my country fracture along made-up lines, invented by those with an agenda to win power, propagated by those whose ambitions are easy to manipulate, and carried out by those who don’t know enough to realize that they’re exchanging one tyrant master for another by their actions. I’m seeing our most productive, innovative, constructive citizens demonized and punished by our least productive, least successful, most destructive. I’m witnessing the ridicule of reason, the criminalization of free thought and expression, the suppression of individuality. I’m seeing the disintegration of the individual soul by groups of people bent on dehumanizing that which they want to destroy. This always comes first, the dehumanizing. It’s important because you can’t have a conscience or a soul and do these kinds of things to other human beings. It’s unspeakable, unthinkable. You have to make those other people “them” first. “They” can’t be “Us,” or we’re killing ourselves, burning our own cities, looting our neighbors, destroying our own life savings. What kind of person could even consider such a thing?
Next comes the justification. One “We” have shattered into “Us” and “Them,” we need a “Why.” Anything will do, really. It’s a foregone conclusion. All that’s left is the advertising campaign. I mean, we’re going to kill and pillage and destroy and burn and persecute and steal and plunder no matter what anyone says. What’s needed now is a rallying cry we can scream as we do it so that we all feel justified. And if we win, we can shout it even louder and say we did it all “for the cause.”
The Cause. What is the Cause? Why, it’s power. To what end? What will we change, gaining this power we seek? Nobody knows. Oh, there are ideas thrown around, but no practical means by which to realize them. Things that were once expensive will become free for everyone, they say. Things we want will be ours simply because we want them, we’re told. People like doctors will work for free because their work, their labor, their knowledge is ours by right. People like police officers will leave us to ignore the laws we choose to ignore, but will sweep in and punish those who so much as speak against us. Media will support us, tell our side of the story, and we’ll quash anyone who deviates or challenges the narrative, because a challenge to the narrative is a challenge to peace and harmony (although it’s really just a challenge to our hold on this idea of power we’re chasing). Who will manage the programs that administer all the free things we’ll give away? Where will the resources and minds and money come from to make them all work? We don’t know. The only answer we have is to ridicule you for your ignorance when you ask us about it.
Remember, challenges cannot be tolerated. “How” isn’t part of the process. Haven’t you been listening? Only “what” and “why” and “who” matter. The “what” is power for the sake of it. The “why” is because we want it and others have it. The “who” is, naturally “Us,” and not a single one of “Them.” There is no morality in getting there. No ethics or principles are required. Only winning. Only the end result. The hypocrisy is laughable, but it is a weaponized hypocrisy used to good effect throughout history. “We” will decry “Them” for lying, for being unprincipled, for being intolerant, for causing all our society’s problems. And when they point out our lies, our lack of principles, our deep and abiding intolerance, and the fact that we caused most of the problems we claim to be angry about, we’ll deflect. If our efforts so far have been successful, most won’t even realize they’re doing it.
This kind of thing creates a firestorm of a different kind. This isn’t the firestorm of riots that turn businesses and life savings and hard work into smoke and ash and piles of rubble and ruination in our cities, although you can track its effects by those smoldering remnants. This is a firestorm of the soul. It consumes that last sacred resistance – the resistance to harm our fellow man, purposely, vengefully, selfishly. We aren’t naturally wired to do such things. It takes radicalization to get there, but it’s what I’m seeing all over the place today. The process of radicalization in its final stages. Swarms of radicals now descend on cities like locusts in the plagues. They come from all over the country to wreak havoc in the name of whatever cause will allow them to get away with it. They beat people, burn businesses and homes, destroy the offices of governments and the courts. When confronted, they cry “foul” and want to be saved by the very police they riot to defund. It is such bald hypocrisy, such contrived manipulation, it can lead to only one outcome.
If it were nations at war over an ideology, the leaders would hold a summit. They would meet, hear each other’s arguments, and find a compromise. But who is the leader among anarchists? Who leads the burning and pillaging? To whom do we send the invitation to the summit? Without a leader, you have a mob. When a mob determines to destroy that which we hold dear, when there’s no one with whom to reason or negotiate, you have a fight. Whether you want it or not, whether you’d like to avoid it or not, you are in a fight. When they burn your homes and businesses, when they beat you for the color of your hat, when they throw feces and lighted gasoline at you or drag you from your vehicle to kick you to death, when they fire at you as you retreat and then burn down the courthouse that would serve as the place for their reckoning, they are not “protesting.” They are attacking. They’ve already chosen a side. They’ve already declared themselves “Us,” and declared you “Them.” They will organize and gather and travel from place to place with the exact same agenda, and they’ll do so, gaining strength and support in the same way a schoolyard bully does – through success without resistance. Eventually, those who understand will stand up. Eventually those who’ve dealt with bullies will recognize the situation for what it is, and they will determine to handle it the only way one can. They will fight back.
The pain I feel writing this is a numb ache that will likely last longer than anyone expects. It pales in comparison to the sharp, acute stabbing pain I felt at realizing for the first time it was true. Coming to terms with the cause of the pain is something I’m trying desperately to do, because I already know what side I am on in all of this. My conscience, my oaths, the blood in my veins and the patriotism in my DNA will not allow me to sit and watch my beloved America burn, or see my fellow Americans subjugated. There’s no part of me that could exist in neutrality, and since I will not live as a subject, that leaves only one path. I am a human being, and as such am deeply, hopelessly flawed.
While I strive to live an upright and virtuous life, I am neither as successful as I’d like to be, nor as disciplined in the effort as I should be. My country may share that characteristic. It regularly falls short of its ideal, short of its potential. But what it is, even in its shortcomings, is something incredible. Nurtured, pushed forward by those who want to achieve the best in us all, She is the greatest successful experiment in self-governance ever devised by mankind. I see what America aims to be, and I have already sworn my oath to support and defend Her. I will always work toward that ideal, and I will always strive to see America’s shortcomings as I see my own – honestly, but as something we can fix should we choose to.
My pain comes now in knowing that it may first require defending her against those who seek to cure the disease by killing the patient. For years, I’ve hoped that was just pessimism and frustration. That it wasn’t as bad as all that, and America would always be bigger than these sorts of problems. I still hope so. I hope so. But I’m limbering up for the fight it seems we’re already in.