Over the last thirty nine years of studying history and politics, I’ve come to understand a few things. It seems the longer I study, read, and contemplate, the more patterns begin to emerge. I am of the belief that history does have specific patterns, and those patterns tend to repeat themselves over and over again. There are always slight variations, as viruses mutate, but they are essentially the same general virus. The same with history. The time periods may change, and the conditions may alter slightly, but the overall themes remain. If we listen closely, the past will speak to us, truly. The lessons echo throughout time, that echo found in the writings of those that came before us. They cajole us, laugh with us, but mostly, warn us. The problem is two fold: We don’t read them, and consequently, we don’t listen.
In the arrogance of our own superiority we shunt aside the wisdom of our elders, those who wrote volumes on what we are experiencing. We know better, we tell ourselves, because the conditions in our new age are such that we are not subject to the same forces that compelled the behavior which led to your undoing. We’re better because we have better stuff, time has passed, and we’ve learned the lessons.
If that were true, war would be no more, slavery wouldn’t exist anywhere on earth, and we would understand how to deal with dictatorial regimes and the atrocities they commit. We don’t. We don’t because we haven’t learned, or, like the child who refuses to do their homework, we simply do not wish to learn.
Yes, the gifted intellectual or the wonderful speaker can find minute differences, point them out, and craft an argument as to why we need not listen to the voices of the past. These mighty intellects with impressive doctorates weave wonderful platitudes and impress themselves with their arguments, dazzling we inferiors with their soliloquies but missing the point which is: humans in every epoch are subject to the same forces that drive our behavior. Love, lust, greed, sloth, ambition, and the quest for power. These have not changed and will not stop with our time. We are no different, nor better than those that came before us as we are subject to the same temptations.
With that backdrop, what we are seeing in the almost daily violent protests is the manifestation of years of appeasement. This is the very same appeasement that allowed dictators of the mid-twentieth century to grow into menace that eventually enveloped the planet in a world war, the most destructive war in the history of man. Historians get caught up in the minutiae, whittling down instance after instance, and fact after fact, but the plain truth is appeasement is what’s gotten us here, and continued appeasement is going to do nothing but grow the beast. We humans are, if nothing else, an opportunistic bunch, after all.
This is not a partisan talking point, nor is it intended to be. It is a cold, rational analysis of what is happening before our eyes. The problem is that we’ve grown into a culture that prefers excuses for behavior rather than one that attempts to correct said behavior. We’ve learned to rationalize and justify even the most objectively bad behavior under the guise of progress.
Much like the parent at the grocery store who acquiesces to the desire of their petulant child, so many local governments have given in to the loudest voices, preferring to “let their tantrum burn itself out”, rather than bring force to bear to end it. By adopting this strategy, they embolden those voices to move the line of what’s acceptable and what’s not, just as the child will continually test the will of the parent to get what he/she desires.
All one has to do is examine what happened in Seattle with ‘CHOP’, clearly an unlawful creation allowed to exist as an appeasement proposal to the protesters. The police station was ransacked, entire sections of the city were barricaded as in 18th century France, and it became a lawless entity. It was only when the petulant children threatened the Mayor directly, she who opined that there could be a “summer of love”, was action taken. This pattern has repeated itself over and over throughout the cities in our country, with politicians possessing very little political will to bring the violence to an end.
Protesters are more and more emboldened by the day. Blocking streets, harassing pedestrians, assaulting diners at outdoor restaurants, and even being so bold as to block expressways, not to mention lobbing Molotov cocktails and any number of other disruptive and destructive means to garner attention. Through it all, authorities are loathe to do anything about it, preferring the harassment of people and the destruction of property to bad press, or the appearance of not supporting one cause or another. The fear of being seen as strong in the face of violent protests outweighs the safety of their constituents.
It is one thing to protest with picket signs, and quite another to block off entire sections of residential neighborhoods, donning all black and possessing various homemade and non-homemade weapons with the intent to harass and destroy. The possession of weapons and Molotov cocktails is an act of insurrection, and insurrection, in any time period, needs to be dealt with accordingly. If it is not, the boundaries will be pushed further and further until we truly become a lawless society, where the rule of law will be as the Old West.
This does not mean to suggest that the right of Americans to peacefully protest should be impinged, as that very right is guaranteed by the First Amendment to our Constitution, but it does suggest there is a limit to that protest, and that line should be strongly delineated and enforced when violence ensues, else the mob is empowered, and that empowerment becomes the fuel for expansion.
In the end, history teaches us that those who allow the beast to grow, or attempt to harness it wind up as victims. Robespierre, he who led the Committee of Public safety during the French Revolution fell victim to the very method by which he executed others: The Guillotine, but not before he attempted and failed to commit suicide. Violence tends to breed more violence, and as a cancer, continues until the body is consumed. Let us hope that our leaders see the folly of allowing violent protests to continue unabated, for if they don’t, we have seen only the beginning of what is to come.