Despair is a fatal option
“He knew all the arguments of despair, and would not listen to them. His will was set, and only death would break it.” – JRR Tolkien
We are now seven years into an extended and relentless psyops (psychological operations) campaign being waged against the American people by an unholy alliance of the permanent government bureaucracy and the radical left. Through a combination of lawfare (e.g. Jack Phillips, Barronelle Stutzman, etc.), kinetic action (e.g. BLM riots, Antifa, firebombing pregnancy resource centers), promoting crime (e.g. defund the police), abuse (e.g. trans activism and the sexual predation and mutilation of children), and all manner of other usurpations (e.g. government organized censorship, Covid lockdowns and mandates) the left and their allies among unelected officials are “flooding the zone” in their effort to sow chaos and break the will of the American people.
The left knows, whether the right realizes it or not, that a demoralized populace will stop resisting. Demoralization is a super weapon for facilitating the mass submission of entire populations.
Over the last week or two, Christian children and adults were murdered by an angry trans activist in Nashville and the response of the cool kids was sympathy directed toward the murderer. Former president Trump was indicted and arrested on legally absurd charges and one suspects that it may be the legal absurdity of the charges that is the salient point.
I am not, as anyone who knows me understands, an inveterate Trump booster. I have no direct knowledge of the facts surrounding the nature of his association with Ms. Daniels but it is not hard to imagine, fallen human nature being what it is, that there could be some kind of moral failure involved. (Although it is probably worth noting that Trump seems to be consistently winning in court against Ms. Daniels.). Whatever the moral realities are that attend the seedy allegations, my concern here is not with Trump, per se, but with the twisting of the criminal justice system for political purposes.
A debate rages on the right in regard to strategy being pursued by indicting Trump. Some say the indictment is a “trap” to secure the nomination for Trump, the conventional wisdom being that he can never win in the general election. Others say it will supercharge his candidacy and ensure his inevitable return to the White House.
In a fascinating online podcast series called The Witch Trials of J.K. Rowling (Warning: not for children), the Harry Potter author comments about her own experience on the receiving end of abuse by the trans-activist community. At one point she observes, “the attempt to intimidate and silence me is meant as a warning to other women”.
Whether or not there is some multi-dimensional electoral game being played with the indictment of Trump, it seems inescapable that they are at least wanting to telegraph this much to Trump’s supporters: “The justice system is no longer about the actual administration of justice. The laws as written no longer matter. We at last have our thumb firmly on the prosecutorial scale.” This is meant, like the example being made of J.K. Rowling, as a warning to any conservatives who might be tempted to pursue anything beyond the tradition of conservatives complaining . All of this is, of course, on the heels of the unprecedented harsh treatment of the participants in events of January 6th.
The message seems unequivocally clear – they do not intend to keep arguing with us about all of this. They are going to do everything they can to put resisters in jail. They began laying the social groundwork for this when they started propagandizing conservative thought, not just as wrong, but as morally reprehensible and illegitimate.
There are some indicators that what remains of the American political right is increasingly dazed and confused. They’re angry, to be sure. But in the midst of the coordinated onslaught taking place, their preference for jaw-jaw as the weapon of choice begins to look ever more like impotence. Republican outrage, performed for the cameras in Washington DC, has rather limited appeal when Christian children lie slaughtered in their schools.
The cumulative effect of all of this has apparently been so traumatic that, this past week, one could sense a real “tremor in the force”. Numerous writers and thinkers of a conservative bent came out with pieces of lament and despair, or made similar pronouncements on TV, darkly suggesting that we’re probably doomed. The simultaneous appearance of this despair suggests a kind of mood change in the commentariat. As if the Trump indictment is some kind of breaking point in their minds, a Rubicon of sorts, the crossing of which means once and for all that the republic has been lost.
I want to preface what I’m about to write by saying that I have no crystal ball to tell me how things are going to progress. But I think it is critical, maybe even a matter of life and death, to resist the siren call of despair. What follows are some counter-thoughts that are rattling around my noggin.
First, one of the mistakes we often make is to assume that there is a mechanistic inevitability to world events. The material world itself has some mechanistic attributes, to be sure, but we are not, in the end, mechanical. We are not inevitably programmable. Human initiative, creativity, and ideas can alter the course of history and create new possibilities. However ascendant the lunatic left seems to be, they can ultimately be undone by the creative initiative of those who oppose them.
Second, it could be that part of the despair emanating from the commentariat is because they have, perhaps unconsciously, intuited that the left’s actions have largely foreclosed the possibility of a deliberative approach to resolving political conflicts. The loss of a deliberative option is well worth mourning, but that does not mean we are therefore out of options altogether. It is regrettable, and in the short run may be more painful, but there are plenty of options available to conservatives which could alter the course of events. But I suspect that reaching that conclusion en masse is probably a process. It’s easy, I suppose, to understand why a group like conservative punditry, which traffics primarily in words, would bemoan the loss of a deliberative approach. But I wish they would stop counseling despair, discover that there is a universe of possibilities, and start thinking more creatively about what those alternatives might be.
Despair is toxic and self-defeating. It amounts to a kind of unilateral surrender. Anyone familiar with The Lord of the Rings will remember that despair was a key weapon of Sauron as a means for disarming those who would otherwise stand against him.
Third, it would help if we resisted the allure of the “quick fix” and started taking the long view. The country and the culture are a festering, fetid mess. But they didn’t get that way over night. So looking for a one-shot miracle restoration potion is probably a recipe for discouragement. We would be well-served by taking the long view and searching beyond the realm of quick fixes, exploring more sustainable ways of influencing the culture. Politics is downstream from culture. “Let me write the songs of a nation, I care not who writes its laws,” said 19th century Scottish politician Andrew Fletcher. Engaging in practical efforts, to impact the thinking of others, is a vehicle for undermining the false sense of powerlessness the left is hoping to foster among conservatives.
Fourth, we should remember that the material world is not all there is. Materialist presuppositions can seep into the minds even of those who otherwise believe in God. We are not alone in this world and we are not alone in this fight. Reality is not confined merely to what can be known from the senses. We are not adrift in a mechanistic, material cosmos without hope. We are not limited to our own resources. There is someone we can ask for help.
Fifth, some of us should reconsider how we’re using the internet. The actual America is a much happier place than the online virtual America. Our ability to impact our flesh-and-blood neighbors for the good is far greater than our ability to change the mind of a single internet troll. Constant bombardment by social media propaganda can foster hopelessness and despair, creating the illusion that things are worse even than they actually are. They’re plenty bad, but they’re not as hopeless as the online universe makes them appear. Engaging with flesh-and-blood human beings, and the natural world, is more real and hopeful than cyberworld.
And finally, those of us who are believers should remember that we have ultimate loyalties that transcend any temporal claims on our allegiance. Among other things, this means that the left is ultimately impotent to threaten us with the weapons they actually have at their disposal. This will actually strike fear in their hearts once they know that our ultimate loyalty really is to something beyond their reach or control. We should spend more time contemplating the likes of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Threatened with death by the power of the state, they not only refused to submit but were openly defiant about their refusal. More than that, they stubbornly resisted despair, whether God was going to save them from their predicament – or not.
“the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us…but even if he does not, we want you to know…that we will not serve your gods” – Daniel 3
Unambiguous and open defiance directed toward the state has a well-documented role to play in the toolkit of those who follow God. Such defiance can also serve as a bracing tonic for any of our neighbors who are in danger of being seduced by the allure of despair. Nourishing our transcendent loyalties will undermine the power of our enemies by rendering ineffective the only weapons they will ever have to wield.
Believers are on the side of the real and the eternal. For Christians, this week of all weeks, the empty tomb of Jesus reminds us that our enemies have been disarmed.
Be not afraid.
“There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.” – JRR Tolkien