Gongol.com Archives: January 2024

Brian Gongol

January 6, 2024

News We've been someplace like this before

Ignorance is a powerful accomplice to evil. Malice can do a lot on its own, but the ignorance of bystanders and good people makes it easier for evil to prevail. Ignorance manifests itself in lots of pernicious ways, but one of the worst is when it causes people to think their experiences are unique in human history. ■ Consider these words: "We must elect Presidents who respect the law and the other institutions which surround the Presidency. We must strengthen those institutions in ways which increase their effectiveness and their ability to check unaccountable Presidential power." They could easily have been spoken on the campaign trail in 2024 -- but they were put to paper 49 years ago by then-Senator Walter Mondale, in a book entitled "The Accountability of Power: Toward a Responsible Presidency". ■ It is rarely the case that our problems are entirely new. Even when factors like technology play a role by introducing novel details to the situation, most problems have precedents. And the good must take the time and commit the effort required to become aware of those precedents, because people doing good are almost always a step behind the people doing bad. That's the nature of being on defense, rather than offense. ■ Three years ago, evildoers attacked the United States Capitol in an effort to halt the peaceful transfer of political power. Today, some people try to defend the act, or even to profit from it -- politically or financially. ■ On this distressing three-year anniversary, these words are apt: "There is no grievance that is a fit object of redress by mob law", and "Let every American, every lover of liberty, every well wisher to his posterity, swear by the blood of the Revolution, never to violate in the least particular, the laws of the country; and never to tolerate their violation by others." ■ Smart, timely words. But not contemporary in the least: They were spoken by a young Abraham Lincoln in 1838, more than two decades before he would become President. ■ The America of that time was often openly violent in ways that we would consider intolerable today, and Lincoln knew that the untamed violence of the mob and the embrace of "by any means necessary" thinking were poisonous to the American experiment. If we want to continue preserving that experiment, we have to be alert to the troubles that came before -- not as false consolation that everything will turn out right, but as a sourcebook of ideas for how to combat the evil within.

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