Victory from Defeat

The crowd scenes in the Bible make me flinch. When it truly counts, they call for Barabbas, and always will. Pilate may keep Jesus. Asked for their opinion, on what to do with Him, the crowd shouts, “Crucify Him!”

My own experience, from nature as it were, confirms this. It is true I don’t like mobs. My dislike of them became more or less settled at the age of six, when I had to be rescued from a crowd in Lahore, demanding the massacre of captive Indian nationals. The crowd did not get its way, on that occasion. Meanwhile, in their enthusiasm, they butchered one another.

That, in retrospect, was when I became a Tory. Years would pass before “Christian” came into it. But I noticed that Christians weren’t into crowd scenes either, except when they were liturgical, and tame.

I mention this because, in my view (from north of the border), America is descending into crowd scenes. And can expect more after The Election.

Predictably, Trump is blamed for the violence and disorder, which includes violent attacks on his supporters. This isn’t a mystery, to this “innocent abroad.” For the rioting and looting is not done, equally, by both sides. One, fairly consistently, prefers law and order; the other is more inclined to qualify this. And lawbreaking, to make a political point, is nearly the monopoly of just the one side.

Being blamed, because someone hates you, is an experience I have shared with many others. It may be true I teased them, but I thought I was being dry. The ability to spot a remark made in humor seems to disappear as one becomes politically engaged.

That Jesus, Himself, was capable of dry humor, might be illustrated from the Gospels, to those with ears or eyes. Don’t tell this to the most politicized theologians, however. They wouldn’t think it funny.

In an essay long ago, I once gave many examples. But consider just this one: “The poor you will always have with you.” I, at least, noticed that this was dry.

Please note that I am not comparing Trump to Jesus. But if an angry crowd in, say, D.C., or Seattle, were asked for their opinion, I know what it would be.

It is interesting to me that one side is predominantly Christian, if we include the non-Christians who are culturally affiliated with them. They buy guns, perhaps, more plentifully, but are hesitant to use them. Whereas, the other side is predominantly “post-Christian,” in its beliefs and attitudes.

I leave gentle reader to observe which is which.


I do not know which side is winning. I’d not be surprised if either side won the election; or neither, and we only had convulsions. At this point, in the “polarization” of “left” and “right” – of people who still like America as is or was, and people who think it needs immediate changing – it becomes almost pointless to be a predictive hack.

For “everything is seemingly spinning out of control,” to quote an old blogging mantra. With ten days left until the counting starts, even the most confident wonder what will happen that could affect the last-minute result.

That it will be followed by crowd scenes, however, is fairly universally predicted. I noticed a poll that said 56 percent of Americans were expecting “civil war.”

Owing to my curmudgeonly nature, I will not agree with them. But the crowd scenes do seem pretty much assured. And there is nothing I could write to change this.

The reason I still hope for eventual tranquility is that even under intense provocation, the side that I frankly prefer seems to hold its fire, and accept election results. Of course, there will be a few hotheads. But in the main, people who believe in law and order tend to exhibit it. Except, of course, once a totalitarian order is imposed, whereupon this becomes a moot question.

Christians, traditionally, go quietly to their martyrdoms, and who am I to gainsay them? With a few choice exceptions (Lepanto comes to mind), they are used to losing. This was true of Catholics during the Thirty Years’ War – not being Protestant, I will not speak for them – and in many other circumstances when, despite having a fairly substantial majority (in the Middle East, for instance, during the rise of Islam), coercion was turned against them.

My examples from history could also go on, for this is the way the world works. I’m never surprised to lose. In the current context, I expect to lose even if that Trump gentleman wins the election.

To my view, positive emotions tend to prevail over negative ones in the longer term. But my idea of the longer term would not please an efficiency expert. Sometimes, the background decency takes centuries to deliver a Christian win.

But, “Why worry?” There is not a thing that any individual can do, once the dye is set, except, if he is enterprising, become a saint. This, and miracles, have sometimes made a difference, but voting is not a “force multiplier.” Not even acid sarcasm works.

Christ put this fairly clearly: not to worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. (This was dry, incidentally.)

He did not mean things would get better, as the Pollyannas argue. Nor did He mean, necessarily, that things would get worse. He only meant we have been set down on a planet where things happen, including those we might regret.

It follows that foresight is for today, not tomorrow. Prudence (that “rich ugly old maid, courted by incapacity,” in Blake’s memorable phrase), though truly among the virtues, may be obviated. And once again, there is nothing we can do about it.

The key thing to know, faithfully from our history, is that our victories generally begin with defeats. That is why we should never despair about losing. It happens, but within a larger scheme of things.


*Image: El Expolio (or The Disrobing of Christ) by El Greco [Sacristy of the Primate Cathedral of Saint Mary, Toledo, Spain]


David Warren is a former editor of the Idler magazine and columnist in Canadian newspapers. He has extensive experience in the Near and Far East. His blog, Essays in Idleness, is now to be found at: