Optimistic Pessimism

I’ve been thinking and feeling for a while that since the results came in from the 2020 election, our existence has felt a lot like an occupation or an exile in our own land.

I know what I write is generally pessimistic, sometimes I exaggerate or enhance as tools to increase attention, but I do try to diagnose situations honestly and realistically, at least as I see them and I’m always open to the possibilities I could be wrong, and in many cases, I truly hope I am.

But something I recognize is the importance of putting things into perspective.

Let’s call it optimistic pessimism for lack of a better term.

To that end, when I get down about our situation, I turn to Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s “Gulag Archipelago” as a reference point to measure liberty lost and the evil a state-controlled society can do. When compared to Solzhenitsyn’s experiences in the Soviet Gulag, we are still in pretty good shape. While we are seeing the same game plan the Soviets were using, the fact remains we are still largely free, and we are still blessed with the ability and tools to fight.

Over the past week or so, I have been thumbing through my weathered and dog-eared copy of “Gulag”, looking at the things I have highlighted or underlined over the years, and I ran across this passage:

“Unlimited power in the hands of limited people always leads to cruelty.”

How true that is.

Some would say that power in the United States is limited by the Constitution, but I must sadly inform those people that while we had a great 13 year run of constitutionality (1790-1803), we have been an extra-constitutional country since the decision in Marbury v. Madison in 1803 made the Supreme Court the sole arbiter of constitutionality. Constitutionality has been a matter of degree for over two centuries, and only over the past 30 years or so have people in power decided to completely toss it out the window.

I noticed that at some point, I had underlined that quote and scribbled in the margins across from it that there are two kinds of power, real power and perceived power, and that more often than not, perceived power does more damage.

I have been around cattle all my life. I have had to deal with more than one unruly bull – if you have ever tried to get a bull into a chute to load him out or to medicate him, you know they are a bit claustrophobic and getting into tight spaces isn’t a natural process for them. 99% of the time, they are ornery and prone to disagree vociferously with what you want them to do. There is no doubt in a face-to-face confrontation, even an adolescent bull has more physical power than a human, but with a few cracks of a whip or a couple of shocks from the business end of a cattle prod, that power dynamic shifts from the physical to the mental and the human gains control over the bull (most of the time, that is!).

You sell your bluff.

It is the same for people. We get shocked a few times or take a couple on the nose, and suddenly, we are less likely to rebel and more likely to comply.

I know there are still questions and distrust about the integrity of our elections, especially in key states where the Democrats control either or both executive and legislative bodies and processes, but I do believe our political system can be salvaged.

Something else Solzhenitsyn wrote also stuck with me. He said:

“Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either — but right through every human heart — and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years. And even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained. And even in the best of all hearts, there remains… an un-uprooted small corner of evil.

Since then I have come to understand the truth of all the religions of the world: They struggle with the evil inside a human being (inside every human being). It is impossible to expel evil from the world in its entirety, but it is possible to constrict it within each person.”

Think about that in terms of how we recover our nation. Taking unlimited power back from limited people involves three things:

  1. You must understand the differences between real power and perceived power.
  2. You must stay informed and clear-eyed about the national, state and local issues. They say charity begins at home – well, liberty does as well.
  3. You must get engaged at the local level – now. Please don’t put it off.

While perceived power is the most pervasive, it is also the easiest to defeat. Stopping it simply involves saying “Not just no, but Hell no. I’m not doing that.” Doing so forces the entity using the perception of power to validate the source of that power – something that is impossible to do because it doesn’t exist.

Understand the truth about the issues and prioritize. I think we all know that election security is at the top of every Republican list since the debacle in 2020, but honestly, in a heavily GOP state like Utah, not too many people get excited whether a Republican wins an election 75-25 or 68-32. The margins are simply beyond the left’s ability to cheat. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t pay attention, but it is far more productive to be focused on what the Utah State School Board and the unelected state bureaucracy is up to – because more damage is done quietly as state agencies promulgate administrative law than any legislature can do out in the open.

Get engaged in the political process. It’s not difficult. Find out which committees are taking public comment and comment. In Utah, we have a caucus system and process that gives people the opportunity to get directly and personally engaged. Our state GOP caucuses come up every two years, the next one is on March 8, 2022.

The only purpose of the neighborhood caucus meeting is to elect new precinct party officers and delegates. People might be in the halls campaigning for some candidate or cause, and there might be some other fanfare or short discussions but electing delegates from your neighborhood is the reason everyone is there. Since all the candidates for the delegate spots live in your neighborhood, you already know or will know very quickly whether a particular candidate is the best person to represent you within the party. You do not need an in-depth knowledge of political terms and processes to simply cast a vote for those candidates.

It’s easy – but powerful. Those delegates vote on the direction of the GOP at the state level. Precinct officers have a huge impact on turnout within a given precinct. You may think it isn’t important in a state like Utah, but keep in mind that, over the past few election cycles, Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada have gone blue (and Arizona is trending that way).

Take nothing for granted. We can win.

Be the ornery bull that doesn’t comply.

Make them get out the cattle prod.

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