Rush Limbaugh lamented on Wednesday that despite thirty years of unprecedented success on the radio, he has failed to persuade a clear majority of our countrymen of the correctness of the conservative philosophy. In fairness, he has created an army of converts. Rush also admitted that there is compelling evidence that this presidential election was stolen and that conservatives had an otherwise successful election cycle. His introspection followed a self-described Debby Downer caller. She asked the troubling question, what have all of our efforts really accomplished? It appears all is lost.
It is a question we all ask occasionally. Particularly as we begin to turn the page on a new year realizing we’ve grown a year older. We ask corollary questions, what have we accomplished and why do we fight for the things we believe in? Especially when the odds and the dominant culture seem so heavily stacked against us. Can we ever succeed?
President Trump will fight on. But Republican Congressional leaders, already waving white flags, only add to our frustration. The adage that courage is contagious seemingly gets lost as you get closer to the swamp.
Winston Churchill, during what were undoubtedly Britain’s darkest days, told his fellow citizens that they must fight on. Whatever the costs. The British were facing an unprecedented external threat. While the threats we face today are mostly internal, they are no less lethal to our republic. Just consider the recent statement by Susan Rice on behalf of the presumptive Biden administration that border controls won’t be eliminated right away. It will take time due to policies put in place by the Trump administration.
Like the sign said at the entrance of Dante’s Inferno, “Abandon all hope.”
It would be so easy and perhaps justified to abandon the fight. With no clear path to victory, why fight on?
History is replete with answers. Moses came down from the mountain to find his constituents had switched sides. He persevered nonetheless. Ultimately turning the tide, leading his people to the promised land.
The babe whose birth we celebrated this week was welcomed into the world as the king of kings. The world eventually turned on him. As Jesus suffered, the very one described as the Rock (upon whom he would build his church) denied he even knew him…three times. But Peter and his cowardly compatriots fought through it and not only built that church, but they also changed the course of human history.
The diminutive Albanian-born nun who would become a Saint for her tireless efforts on behalf of the poorest of the poor in Calcutta provides the best answer to why fight on. You remember that she would go out in the early morning to collect the dead and the very sick from the streets? She would take them back to her makeshift hospital to nurse the living back to health.
The story is told that she was followed around for several days by a reporter from the United States who was there to write a story about Mother Teresa and the work of her order. The journalist was appalled by the squalor on the streets of Calcutta. Mother Teresa would rise before dawn to go out ministering to those very poor people. Most were beyond help. They smelled terrible. Many were covered with flies. Despite her heroic efforts, a majority died anyway.
Finally, on the last day of the visit, the reporter asked a critical question. Reminding her that there were more dead and dying people out on those streets of Calcutta than she could ever help. And that most of them died anyway. The reporter asked, “Why do you do this? You can never succeed.”
Mother Teresa answered humbly with a penetrating truth. She said, “I was not called to succeed. I was called to serve.”
We mortals tend to measure success in our own terms. History has a different yardstick. It is our duty to try to save mankind’s last best hope, regardless of the odds. Things will surely change. Like Mother Teresa, we weren’t necessarily called to succeed. We were called to serve.
Gil Gutknecht served six terms in the U.S. House from Minnesota.