Possible Responses to Tyranny: From Handbills to Hand Grenades

Written by Wes Walker on January 10, 2014

With the endless parade of scandals and abuses stemming from the halls of power, people are getting restless, and sizing up their options.  Those options range from peaceful action, all the way to taking up arms.  So, when the options range from handbills to hand grenades, or dialogue to dynamite, what questions need answering before a decision is made?

Besides the obvious — fighting a civil war isn’t Hollywood and glory, but dirty, brutal, and devastating for both sides — you’ll need to do some serious cost-benefit thinking; this option makes no sense if less-devastating options have not been exhausted.

Imagine, for a moment, the hypothetical worst-case scenario, in which people see no other option.  What happens then?  What can history teach us?

Much has changed since those colonies took their stand.

First, and foremost, you face a very different problem.  You’re not challenging the unjust rule of a foreign king or nation, but abuses suffered at the hands of your peers, many of whom came to power by the ballots of your friends and neighbors.

Forcing the British military to surrender brought a clean break to foreign influence.  But if arms were taken up, what military objective would deliver a victory in this case?  A coup?  What then?  If elections repeat previous patterns, what has been gained? And yet, to forbid a vote is to kill the very thing you mean to save.

What about unity?  The colonists had much to unite them.  Shared values, ideas, culture and history were prerequisite for their cooperation in fighting for independence.  They had enough common ground to work together.

Is that still true?  Is there a “sense of community” now?  Would people pledge their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor today?  Unlikely… you can’t even safely shop on “Black Friday” anymore.

The once-noble idea of “Community” has been bastardized to mean the voting-blocs community organizers have carved us into.  We’re so segregated by age, color, status, politics, sex and whatever else, that any former sense of “community” has been eclipsed by distrust and petty tribalism.

Imagine the shots that rang out in Lexington and Concord were heard by a modern “community”.  Could it still have birthed a United States of America?  Maybe a mish-mash of squabbling city-states as unstable as Nineteenth-Century Europe?  Or would the Revolution have been DOA under some Redcoat’s boot simply because nobody showed up when the “fit hit the shan”?

Leno, Kimmel and Stewart make a good living mocking the American electorate’s naivete. Supposing conditions actually met every criterion the Framers would consider “justifiable use of force”, what would happen?  If shots rang out today, who would answer?  Would that same electorate step up, or stand back, and “let the Authorities handle it”?

When I raised the importance of ideas, logic, and dialogue last week, some viewed that option as a cop-out and excuse for inaction.  Not at all.  It is an invitation to the hardest kind of work.

What made the American Revolution different from other revolutions, if not the ideas that drove it?  

Powerful ideas, presented well, can overthrow some of an enemy’s defences better than a frontal assault.  It can also turn foes into allies, especially if they formerly misunderstood what you stand for.

Remember the indifference of the electorate?  That’s untapped potential — Reagan knew it. They don’t live and breathe politics.  They pick up scraps here and there from Hollywood, Music, or a TV soundbite, and form vague opinions.  They can still be won over;  I’ve seen it happen.

Here’s how that works:  Why are the wealthy viewed as evil?  Are they uniquely selfish? No — but the public has “bought in” seeing them as perpetual Hollywood villains.  “Heroic rebels” are always politically Left, and “intolerant kill-joys” are always on the Right? Well, that’s interesting…Tell me again who’s forbidding you to buy a Big Gulp, or put Doritos in your kid’s sack lunch?

Laying out the actual values and track records of both camps paints a very different picture from the narrative we’re fed.  If we get better at that, we can change some minds.

Example: if certain Churches realize they’re lockstep with a group that opposes 100% of the Ten Commandments, might they start to question their party’s “moral high ground”?  Not everyone, true … but many.

Prior to the American Revolution, important ideas reached critical mass in the public perception.  This is where publishers, handbills, and cartoonists helped shape public opinion, and started the conversation.  But it didn’t … couldn’t stop there.

These ideas became the talk of the town, where ordinary rank-and-file men and women (unsung heroes) shared them with others.  Even the Sons of Liberty needed Benjamin Edes (printer) and John Gill (of the Boston Gazette) to ensure their message was heard by the public.

Today’s enemy is not some foreign army, but a malignant idea undermining your nation. That idea is bleeding away strength, unity and vitality.

Take action?  Yes!  Get involved, run for office, make policy, change culture — absolutely!  Get as loud and disruptive as you need to.  But for anyone considering violence for political ends, I ask you:  In a country where free people vote, doesn’t trying to change culture through politics get it backwards?

Coercion and force are the domain of weak men and petty tyrants.  Conservative values are grounded in precious freedoms.  Force of arms cannot and will not make your neighbors embrace those values…but persuasion might.

Image: Courtesy of: http://acsworldhistorytwo.wikispaces.com/B%29+Renaissance

Topics: Persuasion, Responses to Tyranny, American Revolution, Pamphleteers