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Taming the Beast

People will do what people will do so long as they know they can get away with it. It is past time the adults who have the authority to erect and enforce the guardrails do so.

Yesterday Nancy Pelosi was asked about the destruction of statues. In an exchange that made the rounds on Twitter the Speaker’s lackluster reply was, “I don’t care that much about statues.” The follow-up question was, “Shouldn’t that be done by a City Council or a commission, not a mob in the middle of the night?” to which Pelosi replied, “People will do what they do.”

My immediate thought:

In the last few months I’ve thought often of William Golding’s novel. I read it first as a high school student and then taught the novel as an English teacher. It’s a treasure trove for an English teacher. It’s laden with symbolism and is a quintessential exploration of the nature of man. 

Nancy Pelosi is right: without some system of guidance people will do what they do, and sometimes what they do is destructive at best, murderous and horrific at worst. While it’s not my intent to start from the beginning and discuss man’s fall in the Garden and the subsequent plight of humans to overcome their nature, mankind without any guidance quickly and inevitably unravels spectacularly. 

The goal, though, is to provide guidance, preferably in the early years when kids are malleable and their minds are receptive. So often lately I’ve said, Where are the adults? It’s no wonder the words and images of Lord of the Flies flit unbidden through my mind. 

Simon is my favorite character in Lord of the Flies. He utters many wonderful lines, but my favorite thought of Simon’s comes when the boys with whom he is marooned on an island believe there is a beast sharing the island with them. Many of the younger boys are understandably afraid. The older boys want to hunt down the beast, and it is at this point they discover the true nature of what they thought was a beast (I won’t spoil it for those who’ve not read). Simon, a quiet and deeply introspective observer of all the goings on on the island, says, “Maybe there is a beast . . . maybe it’s only us.” Simon realizes before any of the other boys that what they should fear is themselves. 

Whose job is it to tame the beast? Initially it falls to mom and dad. Soon others enter the picture: teachers, preachers, grandparents, aunts, uncles. We all reach an age at which we are responsible for the beast, but when we fail to tame ourselves there must be societal guardrails in place. Dropping those guardrails for political purposes is a dangerous game to play. 

So yes, Speaker Pelosi, people will do what they will do. The question is What will you do, Nancy? What will Joe Biden do? We don’t know what Joe Biden would do because as far as I am aware no one has asked him. There are three solutions: people can rightly govern their own behavior, they can be corrected by authorities, or, if authorities fail to do their basic job of protecting life, liberty, and property, civilians can take matters into their own hands. The laissez-faire attitude toward the enforcement of basic property laws coming from most of the left is dangerous.

Seattle’s Mayor Jenny Durkan allowed the clearly untenable situation in her city to unravel for days until her personal property was threatened. People died while Mayor Durkan was on Twitter exchanging tweets with President Trump and pretending what was unfolding inside her city was some great experiment in democracy.

It is not only statues that are being illegally destroyed while Nancy Pelosi and others shrug their shoulders; people have died and businesses have been destroyed. As I wrote several weeks ago, pieces of American history that are worth protecting, that we should demand authorities protect, are being destroyed. As anyone with children knows, the mayhem will not stop spontaneously. It will continue and likely grow increasingly more dangerous and destructive until local authorities and, where appropriate, federal authorities, do their jobs. People will do what people will do so long as they know they can get away with it. It is past time the adults who have the authority to erect and enforce the guardrails do so.

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