Watching the news these days, when I get past the anger and profound sadness at what I see and hear on a daily basis, all that comes to mind is this scene with the incomparable Viola Davis from the movie “The Help;”
Something has happened in this country that I never thought I would see. I have been rendered afraid to speak my mind. I have been rendered mute. Not because I don’t have conviction of what I believe, but because I do.
Whether those of you who don’t agree with my point of view on things believe it or not, this feeling that I have is not unique to me. Nor has this feeling softened or blurred my belief of what is right and wrong. If anything, it’s hardened my commitment. It’s strengthened my beliefs.
This constant outrage and self-righteous preaching and re-writing of history that is going on reminds me of all of the books I’ve read about the resistance movement in France during the second world war. Despite what the folks who call themselves “The Resistance” today might think, they are actually employing the tactics of mental warfare employed by the other side in those dark days of the German occupation. Yes, all those who are calling out anyone who doesn’t believe what they believe and feel what they feel, who attempt to ruin or shame or humiliate anyone who dares ask questions or challenge their groupthink mantras, those who are calling anyone who supports one candidate instead of their candidate Nazis… are, in fact, the real Nazis.
One doesn’t have to spend much time in the small villages and town squares of France that were once occupied by the Germans to begin to understand the depths of depravity foisted on the French population by the Nazis. Several years ago, my first real understanding of this came when I visited La Musee de la Resistance in L’Isle Sur la Sorgue, in Provence. The Germans were not able to simply march through France and take it over because the people were weak. Not at all. The French people endured unspeakable horrors. Knowing that most of the military aged men were away at war, the Germans simply tried to enslave French women and children. They terrorized them, they intimidated them, they tried to turn them against each other, and they slowly but devastatingly stole the most important activities of their daily lives and culture. It didn’t happen quickly. Slowly, bit by bit, day by day, insult by insult the Nazis tried to wear down these people by rendering them speechless and powerless.
The Nazis seemed successful, for a time. But they didn’t understand the indomitable human spirit of the French citizens, the women in particular. They mistook silence for acquiescence. They mistook femininity and maternal instinct for softness and submission. They mistook survival instinct for surrender. Most importantly, the Nazis started to believe that by pillaging and breaking down these communities, they were subduing anyone who dared defy them. The Nazis thought that by turning worlds upside down, destroying churches and seizing the property, homes, and even wives of the French soldiers, they were building themselves up and they viewed the power they’d granted to themselves as an aphrodisiac. They literally thought they were irresistable.
What they didn’t understand was what strong solder the anger and bile the French felt for the Nazis was creating. The humiliation and fear they had sowed in these communities also united them in secret, hidden ways that would have never occurred prior to the despicable hate crimes of the German soldiers. When churches and communities are destroyed, it’s more than cultural. It’s personal. The cries of relief from the eventually liberated French were accompanied by a low, guttural moan of defiance and resolve to regain what they treasured most from their nearly lost culture. Yes, when the free world stormed the beaches of Northern France those young soldiers from America, Canada and England were able to surprise and overpower the German hold on Europe and turn the tide of the war. But the liberation of the French didn’t happen without the assistance and wiliness of so many in the French countryside who fed, hid, sheltered and protected those soldiers at great risk to themselves and their families.
So sleep well in your self-satisfied bubble tonight, feeling accomplished because you’ve wrongly, self-righteously, and without an ounce of self-awareness of your own hatred, smugness, and ignorance branded half your fellow citizens racist homophobic maniacal neanderthals. Keep enabling and praising the twenty- and thirty-something children who are actually your masters – they know that your need for them to admire and “be friends with” you allows them to say or do anything with no consequence. They may smile with you in family pictures, but they mock you and see you as nothing more than a mindless simp, a useful idiot. Look at the empty, dead eyes of these completely unaccomplished, arrogant, miserable young people burning cities, murdering innocents and tearing down statues while filming themselves with cell phones that you’re likely paying for, flaunting useless college degrees that you’ve paid for…it’s so cool that you can say how “woke” you are and how evolved you are because you’ve got such a “brave” kid who is “speaking their truth to power.” You have passed along your own perpetually outraged mindset to them. But unlike you, they were raised to be enabled and empowered with a complete lack of respect for and ignorance of history, life, law and the meaning of real independence and freedom. Their whole lives have literally been all about them.
We could have had dialogue, but you insisted on monologue. We could have had healing and forgiveness, but you insisted on ripping open old wounds and beating dead horses. You don’t want change, you want to remain mired in past miseries and injustices. Your goal isn’t mutual understanding or mutual forgiveness. Your goal is destruction.
To paraphrase Teddy Roosevelt, you will soon understand that millions of us may be speaking softly, but we understand the importance of big sticks. Don’t be surprised when you’re surprised by the force you’ve created and unleashed.