The Strength In Numbers

Slowly at first, then more rapidly as the hours ticked by, in came the reports from across the country. From one shore to the other, the bloodthirsty cameras lapped at bodies lain in disarray, strewn across the floors and steps of capitol buildings and city halls. The cameras lingered on the crimson rivulets that traced sorrowful paths down the faces, limbs, and torsos of the victims.

One by one, the reporters dispatched to each scene lamented and bemoaned the presumed inaction of those cloistered—in safety, the talking heads wouldn’t dare let you forget—behind locked doors and security checkpoints mere paces beyond the bloodshed.

And then, one by one, the cameras clicked off. As if reanimated by a new life force, by ghosts, by specters who concealed themselves from lenses and eyes, the bodies began to rise on their own. Some plucked tissue from their pockets to wipe away the guise of death, to absorb the fake blood with which they had bedaubed their faces. Others splashed with water from bottles they had stashed just outside the lenses’ view. They circled, these purveyors of fiction and indignation, blessed again with the breath of life, and lauded each other with hollow self-adulation.

Indeed, as they laid still, the cameras sought precise angles: seven of these ludicrous protestors appeared as twenty or thirty, and a dozen protestors lent their various limbs to a killing field of fifty. Footage spread from newsroom to newsroom and coast to coast at the speed of light, and every conceivable complicit outlet played loops of just enough frames from each meagerly-attended “die-in” to fabricate masses, infinitesimal masses whose bastardized concept of standing for an idea led them to lay down for a fallacy.

Their voices, the resurrected believed, had been heard. The cameras, the media attention proved that they were righteous and cleansed of their sins, for they had stood up to the elite and done all they could for those lost to senselessness.

What feeble minds they coddle, allowing themselves to believe their own fiction.

The very same day, in a quiet, small town somewhere, a toothless brute, addled by his addiction to hard drugs and desperate for his next fix, wrapped his spindly, scabbed fingers around the purse strap of an unsuspecting passerby. His voice must be heard, he felt deep inside: The system kept him down, life handed him only defeat, he believed. Rather than seek the difficult path of betterment, he took from the cruel world what he needed. “Give it up, bi–” he began to utter, stopped suddenly as he spoke when the lights went out.

One valiant stranger clubbed the assailant over the head, sparing the victim.

The stranger did not make the news.

That very day, in a tenement deep in the bowels of an otherwise burgeoning metropolis somewhere, a pregnant teenager sobbed in the stairwell, the bruises and wounds on her face and arms belying the abuse her boyfriend meted out upon her. He deserved more than life gave him, and he blamed her for getting pregnant. His voice would be heard, even if she was the only person to hear it. Had she not fallen to her knees to take the last blow with her face, her unborn child would surely have suffered death in her womb. She knew she had to escape, if not for herself, then for her baby. But she had no means, no family, no chance. Before she was aware of the presence around her, she found herself at her feet.

Two compassionate neighbors stuffed her pockets with the few dollars they could scrounge up and whisked her away to a women’s shelter.

The neighbors did not make the news.

That same day, outside a school in an affluent suburb somewhere, the quiet and awkward girl — who never learned to stand up to the cruelties of other children who themselves never learned to do anything but assimilate — lifted from her car a backpack full of rampage. She drew a weapon from the back seat, took a breath, and steeled herself. She was to have her revenge, and this would be the day, her day. They hadn’t listened to her before, but they would hear her voice loud and clear this day. “I’ll kill those worthless pieces of –” she began to mumble to herself, until her ears filled with deafening sound for an instant, and then only ringing and the whoosh of blood rushing within them.

A fellow student, late to class, saw the armament and powered his car into her before she could unleash the evil inside her heart.

The hero did not make the news.

Independently, four ordinary Americans took to their feet. Swelling within them was a spirit devoid of fear, a spirit free of shackles, a spirit overflowing with individual power. Not one of these four patriots adulated themselves for complaining to someone else, for passing to some easy mark the duty of action. These four Americans did not absolve themselves of staring evil in the face. Each of them that day won a great victory for the Founding Fathers, for every patriot who fought to be American, for each generation that persevered against the forces of evil, for all American citizens.

Conversely, the phony corpses, reveling in the attention of the mass media, won nothing, absolutely nothing of virtue or value. Their self-congratulatory follies served only their self-indulgent, self-absorbed, self-satisfying ends. The throngs that the lustful cameras imagined were weak, inept, incapable. Yet four humble heroes echoed American history: Fifty-six signatories, thirteen colonies, three branches, one decisive action for the good of another.

There is great strength in numbers, numbers that are few but true.

1 Comment on "The Strength In Numbers"

  1. Albert Lannon | July 4, 2018 at 6:42 am |

    I respectfully disagree with the false comparison. The brave individuals you cite took action to help other individuals, and more of us should be willing to do that if we can. The demonstrators were seeking to get public attention in support of government action, legislation, to stop the mass slaughters by shooters. They did it in a way they thought would attract media attention, which it did, knowing that they would be competing for TV time and newsprint space with Melania’s jacket.

    And public support is needed to further any cause with legislators who, once in office, succumb to the lure of Power and dark money donors. I’ve never “died” in a protest, but I have marched and I have sat down many times, and believe that it was our marching millions strong that helped end legal segregation in the South and helped bring the war in Vietnam to its end. Power, from both political parties, only listens when they see the numbers of potential voters threatening their hold on it.

    It has always been that way, despite bipartisan efforts to contain and control the First Amendment. When did “free speech zones” happen? Who decided people need permits to gather and speak their minds? Democracy is eroding, and people demanding change, demanding new laws to protect children from murder, demanding that children not be torn from their parents and put in ICE cages — they want to be heard, they need to be heard, by those who make the decisions. As democracy erodes, they will seek ways to get their words, their message, out. If that basic right of peaceful petitioning is further attacked, as you are doing, and further curtailed, then the 4th of July will only be a nostalgic remembrance of a time when people — many more than 56 — joined together to shout truth to Power in a way they could no longer ignore, a time that was good and necessary all those many years ago, but which, in your eyes, seems to have no relevance today. I respectfully disagree.

    A pertinent article worth reading is in The Intercept: https://theintercept.com/2018/07/04/how-democracy-ends-david-runciman-review/

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