Principled Means, Principled Ends

These are precarious times.  We find ourselves confronted with growing social and economic instability and an uncertain future.  We do not want to sit on our hands.  Yet, unprecedented complexity and uncertainty make it impossible to know what to expect.

How easy it would be to let emotions rule, tipping the future into chaos and endangering the very goals we wish to secure.

It is with this in mind that I take up where I left off in the previous post (June 9).  I see two pragmatic reasons why political violence will not get Americans where we want to go.  One is tactical.  The second is strategic – and the more important.

Any patriot preparing today for armed resistance in the tradition of 1776 will pit himself against an extraordinary opponent.  He will be outmaneuvered and outgunned by fully militarized police possessing the most advanced surveillance technology and backed by massive firepower.

The mythic ideal of the citizen soldier remains deeply engrained in the American psyche.  But the plain fact is, if you imagine a heroic Star Wars scenario in defense of freedom and justice you are indulging in fantasy.

I am not interested in arguing about this because there is a much bigger problem, and it is this:  Who exactly do you intend to fight?

American law enforcement agencies and the United States military are served by loyal, committed Americans.   These are our people, our sons and daughters, friends and neighbors.  They are working people, they have families, and they care about the future.

It is our responsibility to win them over, not beat them up.  They should be approached respectfully, with persuasive argument and attractive example.

As I wrote here last week, violence committed by Americans against Americans would contradict the rationale behind the impetus to violence itself.   It would be self-contradictory, pitting us against one another and subverting the integrity and viability of the American Idea as a guiding force for the good.

Our views on politics or government, the integrity of the Constitution, or the corruption of principles, are all serious matters.  But, public servants, police officers and bureaucrats are not the problem.

We must respect these people, not just as a matter of principle, but because we need them. They are essential to a constructive solution.

Americans are not to be persuaded when we are attacked, not for some high-minded cause or anything else.  When faced with hostility we naturally close ranks, and clear thinking stops.

Even the misguided rebellion of tiny splinter groups will be destructive to the cause of liberty.  Any resort to force can easily lead to cascading consequences in which violence begets violence in a downward spiral, tearing the fabric of the republic and threatening the progress of constructive action.

Furthermore, it is simply not necessary.

Change is needed that is real, lasting, and built on the solid ground of dependable communities – not quicksand.  I never said this would be easy, so let me be clear – the skills, attitudes, and discipline that create and build community are at the heart of what we need to learn to create and build the future.

This is more than a matter of survival.  For thousands of years community has formed the foundation of civilization.  The essential concern in the present hour, and the basis by which to judge constructive action, must be the spirit and the quality of the future we wish for.  It is the means that determine the end.

This is not a theoretical nicety, but hard-nosed truth.  Understanding it will determine success or failure.

We are capable of being decent, patient and forbearing, of cooperating to resolve practical problems and even saving each others’ lives.  Personal principles, values and views must certainly be respected.  But, rising above our differences will be essential if we are to identify shared values, ensure comprehensive security, and begin to build a stable social economy for the future.

Going to war with our fellow citizens would make no sense.  Indeed, the ends we seek could be delayed by decades and possibly destroyed by impractical or intemperate courses of action.

Tom

Next week: A Foundation Based on Values

A note to regular readers: Thank you for all the comments, ideas, and perspectives shared in recent weeks, especially on the Facebook page.  You are a valuable “reality test” for me as a writer.  This project would be impossible without you.

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