You cannot do wrong without suffering wrong. Justice is not postponed... Every secret is told, every crime is punished, every virtue rewarded, every wrong redressed, in silence and certainty. -- Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Compensation"
Among the great failings of the present is its essentially complete relegation of the past to...well, to the past. We know so little about what has gone before us that we cannot know where we stand today...nor can we confidently estimate, present trends continuing, where we're likely to stand tomorrow.
My memory sometimes acts unbidden. It tosses tidbits from long ago into my present-day consciousness, at which point something in my psyche demands that I reflect on the wherefores thereof. This morning, as I attempt to ready myself for a three hundred mile drive in the face of continuing agony in my upper back, is such an occasion.
A little earlier, I found myself remembering a phenomenon from my undergraduate days, the "monkey wrenching" protests against retailers that sold produce grown and harvested by the "oppressed" migrant farm workers of the West and Southwest. If you've ever heard the name of Cesar Chavez uttered in a tone of reverence by some sanctimonious leftist, you've encountered the roots of the thing.
The migrant farm workers were overwhelmingly Hispanic immigrants to the United States. A high proportion of them were here illegally. Farm operators paid them low wages for their labors -- mainly tending and harvesting various food crops -- because so many of them were eager for the work. It was an early manifestation of the "jobs Americans won't do" effect that's drawn so many low-skill workers over our southern border. In the Sixties and early Seventies, Cesar Chavez and others attempted to organize them into a nationwide union, the United Farm Workers, for the usual reason: to limit the supply of farm labor, and thus to drive up the average wage paid to those fortunate enough to be admitted to the union.
American college students, ever ready to award themselves a mantle of moral superiority founded on no more than flattery and propaganda, "assisted" in this effort by obstructing trade and traffic at markets that sold produce from the West and Southwest that lacked UFW approval.
It was, of course, moronic. It was a low-grade form of vandalism: it interfered with peaceable others attempting to conduct trade in an orderly manner while producing nothing of value for anyone else. Neither is it recorded anywhere that this activity, predominantly a Northeastern phenomenon, had any effect beyond irritating other shoppers and bestowing a spurious glow of righteousness on the college kids who undertook it. But it took a brave youngster to say any of that explicitly to his self-righteous coevals during those years. One might as well speak favorably of Richard Nixon, or come out in support of the War in Vietnam.
I don't remember any such occasions of courage among my classmates. Certainly I didn't express myself in such a fashion. But the larger point is more important: I knew that several of my classmates felt as I did -- i.e., that the whole oppressed-migrant-workers scam was nothing but a gambit to advance old style unionism, even then well recognized as a serious brake on the fortunes of manual and other low-skill workers. We knew better but we said nothing.
My point, if I have one -- and at this hour of the morning that's always open to dispute -- is that moral courage was a scarce commodity. The courage-in-numbers provided by standing among hundreds or thousands of fellow dupes, some of them with bullhorns, routinely dwarfed the resolve of those of us who saw more clearly and reasoned from a better moral basis.
I've recently been in touch with local and regional representatives of the John Birch Society. Recent encounters with some of Robert Welch's speeches, and with G. Edward Griffin's biography of Welch, got me wondering how an organization so well grounded in American history, that promulgates principles so wholesome and so authentically American, could have been so brutally slandered for so long. I've concluded, tentatively, that the degree of moral courage required to condemn dishonesty in political rhetoric, in the face of the snarls, denunciations, and implied threats of the Left, has become so rare as to approach extinction.
If my memory of my college days is accurate, our moral courage has been dwindling for a long time. It's a different sort of courage from that required to face live fire, but it's just as critical to the survival of our Republic. Ask Patrick Frey, Stacy McCain, or Aaron Walker.
What might we do to resuscitate it? As Robert A. Heinlein once wrote, who are the heirs of Patrick Henry? Are there any left among us? If we can nurture a fresh crop, isn't a proper acquaintance with our own history, as an individualistic, fiercely independent people, the best imaginable place to start?