I took a graduate education course many years ago when I thought I would be a teacher. I changed my mind, but it was a fascinating class and I learned a lot that helped in the raising of my own children who were an infant and toddler at the time. Our professor, who I’ll just call Jorge (his first name), told us a story that I’ve been reminded of because of all the madness in our country lately.
This prof said he had a friend who, when they were both 2nd graders, told little Jorge that he could scare his parents into a corner of his home. Jorge was over at his friend’s house for a playdate when the friend boasted of this special talent that he possessed. Jorge was incredulous about what his friend was saying. It couldn’t be true. Jorge had parents and they never would have been cowed into a corner by their son or any other child. What an outrageous boast from his silly friend.
When Jorge pushed back on this claim, his friend said, “Watch this.” He then breezily sauntered into the living room where his parents were relaxing, and he began to terrorize his mom and dad with hysterical screaming and general raging against them emitting barely intelligible sounds as he moved toward them. They both rose from their chairs and slowly but surely, inched together toward the corner of the room, just as his friend had claimed.
Jorge told us this story to illustrate how an unhinged, irrational child can dominate and negatively affect well-meaning adults and authority figures with whom they interact. It was a cautionary tale for we prospective teachers.
But the reason I’m reminded of this story about Jorge’s intimidating classmate is because I have been reading stories of certain elements in our society who are using intimidation and a lack of respect to override the basic civility, and sometimes common sense, that’s required for a functional society.
Examples are here, here, here, here, and here.
All of the above examples reveal a pervading irrationality, ignorance of/disregard for the laws and traditions in our culture that have prevailed for generations. Many people seem to have lost the ability to reason; they have “feelings” and their own “truth” or they want to ignore the laws and traditions of our land that have stood our republic in good stead for 200 plus years. And too many well-meaning or people with idealogical motives encourage this behavior or exemplify it, dismayingly. Well-meaning types must be careful that compassion is not merely indulgence which can actually harm certain individuals rather than help in the long term.
So, for me, our current situation is like the spoiled child whose story I recalled. Maybe people aren’t screaming (though sometimes they are) at traditional customs, rights or Constitutional laws (natural laws, it could be argued), but the inability or unwillingness to engage with people on the opposing sides of things produces the same results. Those of us who respect how our laws work and realize there are ways to change them through legislation and not by intimidation, and those of us who have moral and religious beliefs about a lot of things (not always the same two groups), and remain silent or refuse to engage, are effectively shuffling off to the corner so the loudest, most demanding people will leave us alone.
I don’t know what the alternative is, other than love, and remaining on the moral high ground, following the rules established in our land. It is rarely helpful to respond in kind to the intimidators. It is better to seek the good, the true, and the beautiful and try to bring others along to those transcendental virtues that will lead to God. We also need to bring people along to knowledge of the ideals of our Constitution and why the rule of law is the best way to move forward as a nation and with each other. And, actually, we can assist the lost and confused to dig deeper than the signs and the headlines or slogans they read or hear to understand the problem with what is actually happening and just how things traditionally work in our democratic republic. The ideal is orderly change, civil debate, legislators who were voted into office by the citizens representing us and so making changes that way. And I’m not referring only to the federal level, but at the state and in cities and townships, too.
Our society can’t keep playing “Calvinball” and expect things to be more ordered, more harmonious, more productive. We can’t continue in this direction of chaos and attempts to oppress opposing views and different values and expect to survive as a country. We are losing our understanding of the importance of community and respect for the unalienable rights we’re endowed with by our Creator. That’s the most troubling part of this for me. We are all God’s children, each of us equal in His eyes and beloved, fearfully and wonderfully made. We are admonished by Jesus to love and pray for our enemies. A tall order, but doable with His grace and necessary for civility and unity, to say nothing about attaining Heaven. We should expect our laws to be upheld by our elected officials as well as by our law enforcement officers. Our houses and our houses of worship should be safe havens. These are longstanding and very basic expectations because they are enshrined in law.
So, my dear blog followers, don’t let anyone force you into a corner. Stand up as the mature, knowledgeable, wise individual you are, as one who is confident that you are loved by our merciful God and help those who need guidance and understanding. So many are lost and afraid, though they may not admit it or even know it. We must, like the adults in that living room should have done, teach the truth to those who don’t know. We need to do it in a loving, reasoned, peaceful way. Nothing good comes of cowering in the corner for any of us…Stand your ground.