Rules for Witnesses

David Stokes
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Posted: Aug 09, 2009 12:01 AM
Rules for Witnesses

There is a scene early on in the movie Patton, where the feisty general watches the forces under his command do battle with those led by the legendary German Panzer leader, Erwin Rommel.  To prepare for this particular skirmish, “Old Blood and Guts” studied the writings of his adversary, prompting the memorable line uttered in a gravely voice by actor George C. Scott: “Rommel, you magnificent bastard, I read your book!”  

Later, the general found out that Rommel himself had not actually been present for the confrontation, but he is comforted by an aid: “If you defeat Rommel’s plan, then you defeat Rommel.”

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It is a fascinating thing when an adversary ironically uses a methodology that was previously owned by an opponent – especially when he does so with surprising effectiveness.  When a football team known for its excellent running game throws the bomb on the first play from scrimmage, when a home run hitter bunts, and when a political adversary takes a page from the book of the other guy, well – you gotta love it. 

Under any credible definition of the phrase “dazed and confused” there now appears the look on Nancy Pelosi’s face.  Yes, that one.  That, “we are the good guys, why are people giving us a hard time, they must be Nazis, or just nuts” look.  Surely you’ve seen it.  I have had a persistent “where-have-I-seen-that-look-before?” feeling when seeing the speaker’s visage on the screen, but it took me a while to make the connection.

The date is December 21, 1989 – the place Bucharest, Romania. Nicolae Ceausescu, the man who had ruled his country with an iron first for a couple of decades, was on his balcony trying to address an increasingly unruly crowd.  It was a moment of truth for the dictator.  The look on his face – one of complete incomprehension – was one of the Kodak moments capturing the scene at the end of the Cold War.   

That look might be described by my grandkids as: “clueless.”   Others might simply say that it is a facial expression that begs the question, “what the?”  But it is a look that is botoxed in place for Ms. Pelosi.  And that same expression has recently been found on the faces of many members of the House and Senate as they have gone home to meet with constituents.

Sadly, the time has come in America where recess is no longer any fun.

What Nancy Pelosi is seeing is her side being on the receiving end of some of the kind of methodological medicine the left has been forcing down the country’s throat for quite a long time.  I recently got around to reading Saul Alinsky’s book, Rules for Radicals.  Yes, I know I should have done so long ago, but I thought I had a good enough grasp on what the man said back in 1971 via the thorough treatment his musings have received from the conservative punditry.  

I was wrong.  My bad.  Every American should read it.  It’s chilling. 

I believe what we are now witnessing is a case of people being, as the saying goes (and as is actually used in Alinsky’s book) “hoisted with their own petard.”  Fire is being fought with fire.  The reflexive dismissal of angry citizens showing up at town hall meetings these days to give Washington insiders a piece of their mind as somehow orchestrated, notwithstanding.

This is not a top-down campaign with a few sinister puppeteers pulling the strings.  The opposition to liberal health care machinations and other stuff is very real.  What they see as orchestration is actually mobilization.   And it is only the beginning.   We are, I think, on the verge of seeing one of the great collapses of political popularity and good will in American history.  The nation is on the verge of a Network moment, where “Yes, we can” is being drowned out with cries of “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.” 

George Washington died because of misguided notions about how getting the bad blood out via leeches would cure his ailment.  It was a case of a cure that killed.  Sure, his cold was gone, but so was he.  In a sense, the draconian measures some would use to remake our nation’s fabric, from health care, to national security, to the economy itself, are somewhat akin to bleeding the nation en route to restoration.  All this will do is make us weaker.  Or dead.

I shared a sermon last Sunday at my church based on a haunting passage from the writings of the prophet Jeremiah called, A Dying Nation At A Crossroads.  The prophet was a patriot, but he knew that sometimes patriotism involves even more than waving a flag – a stand must be taken.  His message was:

“Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.” Jeremiah 6:16 (New International Version)

Jeremiah was speaking to a nation at a pivotal moment – a time that called for clear thinking and action.  They had been on a slippery slope for a long time and the clock was running out.  Nothing short of a return to what made them strong – even great – in the first place would correct the problem.  

The week Winston Churchill traveled to diminutive Fulton, Missouri to deliver his most famous speech - the one that talked about a sinister iron curtain born of Soviet expansionism – Time Magazine published a review of two recently publish books.  One was a work by Frederick L. Schuman, the Woodrow Wilson professor of government at Williams College, called Soviet Politics.  It was basically a defense of the Soviet system.  The other was by Saul Alinsky, who had written Reveille For Radicals, the spiritual ancestor of his 1971 work.  The title of the review was: Problem Of The Century.  

The reviewer suggested that, “the dominant problem of the 20th century is the reconciliation of economic liberty with political liberty.”   He saw this issue resolved in Schuman’s book by simply “liquidating political liberty.”  He saw Alinsky’s ideas in a little more favorable light, suggesting that it was written with a “burning honesty” and that the author had “glimpsed a vision which is greater than his ability to put it in practical terms.”

In other words, the review for Time saw something constructive in what Alinsky was saying in those days immediately following World War II and as the Cold War was just barely being noised about.  But he indicated that only time would really tell. 

In fact, that reviewer did not live long enough to see the fruit of Saul Alinsky’s attempt to put his vision into those “practical terms” in Rules For Radicals.  He died 10 years before that.  His name was Whitaker Chambers.  

He never got to write a review of that book, but he did write one of his own and it became a classic called simply, Witness.  It was his treatise as a man who had once been a communist, even an agent.  Then he had seen the light and spent the rest of his days fighting, at a great personal price, his former faith.  Along the way, he exposed a traitor or two, gaining him the wrath of the liberal elite in America, though he has long since been vindicated as a truth-teller by many infallible proofs. 

He began his book with a letter to his children, letting them know the nature of the struggle and the craftiness of the enemy:

“Communists are bound together by no secret oath. The tie that binds them across the frontiers of nations, across barriers of language and differences of class and education, in defiance of religion, morality, truth, law, honor, the weaknesses of the body and the irresolutions of the mind, even unto death, is a simple conviction: It is necessary to change the world.

It is not new. It is, in fact, man's second oldest faith. Its promise was whispered in the first days of the Creation under the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil: ‘Ye shall be as gods.’  It is the great alternative faith of mankind. Like all great faiths, its force derives from a simple vision. Other ages have had great visions. They have always been different versions of the same vision: the vision of God and man's relationship to God. The Communist vision is the vision of Man without God.

It is the vision of man's mind displacing God as the creative intelligence of the world. It is the vision of man's liberated mind, by the sole force of its rational intelligence, redirecting man's destiny and reorganizing man's life and the world.

The Communist vision has a mighty agitator and a mighty propagandist. They are the crisis. The agitator needs no soapbox. It speaks insistently to the human mind at the point where desperation lurks. The propagandist writes no Communist gibberish. It speaks insistently to the human mind at the point where man's hope and man's energy fuse to fierceness. The vision inspires. The crisis impels.”

Too bad Mr. Chambers didn’t live to see the demise of such thinking.  But then again…