Recently, I posted a link regarding the now-infamous potty-mouth remark about countries not Norway. The source was a piece in National Review, nicely explaining how that sort of behavior was not acceptable. My point—that conservatives did not approve—received some comment, with one suggestion that conservatives usually don’t say a word. My response suggested that this happens out of fear, but the retort was “Out of fear or lack of courage?” Perhaps the distinction escapes me. Feel free to jump in.
Today I shall attempt an allegory to share what I see. An allegory is visual, an extended metaphor: “the expression by means of symbolic fictional figures and actions of truths or generalizations about human existence,” says Merriam-Webster. The two most famous ones are Plato’s Cave (explaining truth and his theory of forms) and The Pilgrim’s Progress (in which Christian travels from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City). Follow the links only if you want to, as there is no test and neither applies to what I’m going to say, but you could expand your experience if you do; notice lack of “should.”
Imagine that at one time we were all tight-rope walkers. Each of us, suspended about a swamp of alligators, tread slowly and carefully using our long poles for balance. We knew that if we were not careful, we would fall to our destruction (or at least disgrace) in the pools below. Other tight-rope walkers were around us. Sometimes the ropes crossed each other, and we navigated carefully around each other so as not to cause either too much discomfort or fear.
A Great Change occurred, however, when someone decided not to obey the propriety of the passing and balancing. Let’s call him the Clown. He was not good at walking on the ropes anyway, so he said he would not follow the rules and just scream out at others from below. Who cares about the alligators! Unfortunately, some of the walkers, perhaps half of them and principally those that despised him, also decided to get down, immerse themselves in the same slimy waters, and forget the boundaries that once kept them and the others safe. They thought nothing of throwing trash and rocks up at those who remained, not caring that they might come crashing down to their destruction. Yet the others tried bravely to continue their walk even though the balancing became more and more difficult.
Did the ones who remained have lack of courage or were they fearful? I know people who will not tell anyone that they voted for the Clown for fear of losing their jobs. They remain silent and let the others assume what they will. Not that they are always angels: some take their balancing poles and whack away at the hecklers below. Consider the story breaking today of the Pico Rivera teacher/councilman who let loose with vulgarities about the military being “the lowest of the low” when a student entered his classroom wearing a Marines t-shirt. He is in retreat after receiving—let us say—unkind responses. And death threats. I don’t worry about the military members hearing his diatribe: those people are standing well before The Star-Spangled Banner starts playing at their base movie theater. They don’t sing but instead watch the accompanying video of soldiers kicking in the enemy’s door.
So where are you? Tempted to dissolve a relationship because your fellow (insert noun) voted the wrong way? Consider everyone in the opposite camp (choose one: ignorant, racist, ___phobic, mean-cruel-cold-callous)? Waiting for justice? Those still trying to balance with restraint believe that they need to be left alone, that they can have the peace of their convictions. That seems doubtful. I’m not even sure they have a safety net.