For too long, the bad guys lean on the decency of the good guys as they push the boundaries. That only ends one way for the good guys…
First things first, congratulations to all those who ran and won for the June 20th GOP nomination contests across Virginia. TRS is proud to have called every race but one, which means that not only are my MS Excel spreadsheets still tip-top, but our core assumptions on the 2023 elections are — for the moment — sound.
In short, 2023 is shaping up to be 2021 — not 2022.
Second things second, congratulations to all those who had the guts to put their names on a ballot for public consideration. Few people know what the feeling is like to have lost an election. Old advice has taught me that the next best thing to winning an election is losing one, where there are no phone calls to make, no radio interviews, no pesky columnists…
Now the fight moves on to the loyal opposition (sic) of the Democratic Party, which has emerged far more out of sync with Virginia values after evicting common sense liberals such as Chap Petersen. Senate Democrats are in trouble — and they know it.
What’s more, they ought to be in trouble. Which means our majorities will have work to do in January 2024 rolling back the policies that have harmed our children and our communities. First things first — Republicans have to carry the day. Any activity which harms this goal is the opposition and should be treated as such. Kindly… but as such.
Most traditions on the Fourth of July center around hamburgers, hot dogs, and a few beers. If you’re more inclined to watch movies rather than endure the Virginia summer, you might have watched films such as 1776 — or if you are more Faulknerian in your tastes, Gettysburg and the charge of the Virginians up Cemetery Hill.
For myself? The Pianist.
In one pivotal scene, the elder Szpilman is seen walking on the sidewalk carrying his groceries when two German soldiers walk by. The German soldaten force Szpilman to stop and ask why he did not make his obedience while they passed. Szpilman apologizes by doffing his hat, only for the German officer to slap him in the face.
As a final insult, the German points towards the sidewalk itself:
“Euer das Gehweg is verboten. In der Gutter mit dir!”
Herr Szpilman nods compliantly and moves from the sidewalk — his sidewalk — and into the gutter.
The Szpilman family’s story in The Pianist begins as rather prosperous middle-class family. Initially appalled by first set of limits, they inevitably succumb to them all.
Limits on where they can work.
Limits on where they can sit.
Limits on using public spaces.
Limits on private spaces.
Limits on where they can physically live.
Limits on where they can be seen.
Limits on with whom they may be seen.
Limits on how much wealth they can carry.
Limits on what they can buy and how much.
Limits on where they can walk on the street.
Limits on where you can go without proper paperwork.
Limits on where you can go without wearing an armband.
Does this remind you of anything at all?
Yet in the name of decency — and there’s the word that deserves interrogation — the Szpilman family complies with every drip and every drop of restrictions on their freedom, somewhat because they have no means to resist, and somewhat because they want to demonstrate that they are more decent than those who are demanding the exceptions. Yet mostly, they are relying on the decency of their oppressors in the hopes that by showing decency they might escape the barbarians.
Watching the film, one inherently begs the cast of characters to do something, to resist. Yet we know their fates. These men and women at the time were negotiating with the devil for time — and losing.
The Roman satirist Juvenal writes in one of his Satires (Book VI):
ille sapit que te sic utitur. omnia ferre
sit potes, et debes. pulsandum vertice raso
preabebis quandoque caput, nec dura timebis
flagra pati, his epulis et tali dignus amico.
In treating you thus, the great man shows his wisdom. If you can endure such things, you deserve them; some day you will be offering your head to be shaved and slapped: nor will you flinch from the stroke of the whip, well worthy of such a feast and such a friend.
Too often we see manufactured crises come to the forefront of American politics asking us to sacrifice something that is ours — rights, property, self-defense, basic human dignity — in the hope of decency.
- Surely a decent person would sacrifice a little bit of freedom for pejorative safety?
- Surely a decent person would give way to violent outbursts from mobs in the name of social justice?
- Surely a decent person would pay higher taxes for a public good (no matter how shoddily it is provided)?
- Surely a decent person would accept limitations on their freedom (and the freedom of others) in order to protect against Islamist terrorism, domestic terrorism, illegal immigration, legal immigration, pornography, violence in our media, and the bogeymen of the day?
- Surely a decent person would permit a lesser evil in the face of a greater evil — wouldn’t you?
To bring things full circle, surely a decent person would walk in the gutter if it made someone else feel better — right?
Of course, those who object will always be branded as indecent people who deserve the penalties their accusers have in mind.
No Worse Tyrant Than Someone Who Means Well
What should follow from here is not a call for indecency or incivility in modern politics. God knows we have far too much of that today.
Yet it should be a warning. That too often, the barbarians lean on decency in order to effect change or push policy, most often in violation of basic civil liberties and inherent human rights.
We all instinctively know these efforts are misguided and even oppositional to what most of us identify as American. Yet for some reason — in our luxury and let’s use the word, decadence — we permit the infraction so long as it doesn’t impugne on our bread and circuses.
July is a long and hot month, one which lends itself to books, reading, movies in air-conditioned beach houses, visiting Virginia’s historic places, and long walks once the sun finally sets on God’s Country. Consider this month how decency is abused by those who claim to “mean well” and consider further — whether our forefathers would have tolerated similar abuses.
After all, that which is decent are the fenced proprieties of civilized order. Which does not require an indecency of our own to defend, but as the old saying goes, “…and shepherds we should be, for thee, my Lord, for thee…”
Shaun Kenney is the editor of The Republican Standard, former chairman of the Board of Supervisors for Fluvanna County, and a former executive director of the Republican Party of Virginia.