The nice thing about the long view of history is that it’s a beautiful picture.
It may take decades, even centuries, but eventually the truth all comes out. Arrogant dimwits in positions of power, so insufferable during their reigns, become the subject of acid biopics and tell-all biographies. The people who apologized for them, and benefited from their patronage, wind up looking sinister, or criminal, even to their own grandchildren.
My Greek father-in-law had a memory of Nazi collaborators being run off a cliff, to their deaths, shortly after the Allied victory. The women who slept with the oppressors got their hair cut off, and their faces rubbed in the ash, and their naked bodies put on display. In the long story of history’s final justice, the American Revolution represents one of the few instances where, for the most part, losers were graciously forgiven for betraying their neighbors—but they had to live with the shame of having been wrong for the rest of their lives. (Imagine a July 4th celebration seen, perpetually, as a reminder of your own bad judgment.)
More broadly, the people who nurtured tyranny with their silence have to live with their cowardice, though it is no longer given the state’s seal of approval. Everyone knows who didn’t speak when their neighbors were carried away. All the cowards will tremble, at the Great White Throne, when they can’t say the words, “When did we visit you in prison?” because Jesus knows the answer: “You never did.” They were silent when they carried away the Jews, the political prisoners, the men and women of conscience, and they justified their cowardice by hiding behind their children, or their position, or their forlorn promise to act decisively, “someday.”
There’s a fellow on YouTube who chronicles the final hours of men within the Nazi high command. One day, they have final authority over the very lives, bodies, and fortunes of their fellow citizens, and the next day they are scrambling for a new set of clothing, a new identity, and safe passage to a hut in a field somewhere, on the other side of the globe. Most of them never evade justice, and their frantic, last moments of bad acting and borrowed clothing make them look all the more hideous—and culpable.
This rhythm of history is as old as scripture. God gives it His approval. He tells us, repeatedly, not to “fret” over the wicked because they will be cut down, without warning, “like grass.” The false friends of Job—the fellows who got all high and holy, as they refused to believe Job’s lament—had to face the potential wrath of both God and Job himself, who was given final authority to condemn or forgive them. Sometimes God allows His children to share in the glory of condemning false friends and executing wicked rulers. Ask Moses or Ehud or the prophet Samuel or Oliver Cromwell or George Washington about that.
Unfortunately, the power of the present, the weight of the current regime, can be blinding. We have a bad habit of merely assuming the men with the badges and the guns and the academic credibility are actually standing on the right side of history. We are quite capable of quieting a conscience that puts us on the dangerous side of the law, or even our loved ones’ approval. The false wisdom of an ignorant mob can be frightening.
So speaking now to that mob:
If you are one of those people who said absolutely nothing when COVID public health policy shut down your neighbor’s restaurant, and their life’s work, you will be seen by history as a coward—and not just the run of the mill coward. You will be seen as so frightened for your own stinking hide, you were willing to take the food out of your neighbor’s mouth. It’s not like you didn’t have the courage to face machine gun fire or restrain a bully with your fists. You were afraid of a microscopic virus so weak it killed less than three in a thousand. For that, you were willing to take children out of school, destroy jobs, shutter churches, cancel graduations, isolate families, and hunker down behind your laptop—condemning, and even censoring, anyone who didn’t agree. In the long history of pitiful, blinking germaphobes, you will be seen as the most pitiful and wretched of all. You wanted the world to stop because you were a little nervous about a scratch at the back of your throat.
Moving on, if you are among those people who witnessed the January 6 protest in Washington, D.C., and you characterize the entire event as “insurrection,” you are a special kind of coward: You are moronic ignavus, both a coward and a moron. You know that millions of people did not fight police, or break windows, or steal government property. You know that, by comparison, the June 2020 George Floyd protests in Washington, D.C., where the leader of the free world was forced to take sanctuary in a White House bunker, were far closer to the definition of “insurrection,” but you are perfectly willing to apply your own prejudice to the busy work of enslaving your neighbors. You are willing to rat out anyone who even exercised their First Amendment rights on January 6. You want them all in jail. For that, someday, you will be seen, by history, as having more in common with Adolf Eichmann than Rosa Parks.
Are you a big fan of cancel culture? Do you actually enjoy ending the trade or employment of any neighbor who isn’t sufficiently woke, by your standards? Do you call people “racist,” and “misogynistic,” and “bigoted” if they don’t endorse the Frankfurt school’s attempt to get us all hating each other on the basis of our identity? History is going to be very unkind to you because you will be seen, someday, for the kind of cruel Pharisee you really are. You will go down in history as a hideous busybody without a life of your own. You don’t actually know what you believe you know, but you’re anxious to be seen as tolerant by directing intolerance at the currently approved enemies. Your grandchildren will laugh at the memory of you running around, perpetually, in defense of people who never really wanted your help.
Still worse, are you one of those people who see progressive, corporate orthodoxy shutting down your neighbor’s financial and social media accounts, only to claim “it is not as bad as it could be”? When your neighbors see themselves as victims of a new Gestapo or the new slaves on the plantation, do you wax indignant and scream “trivialization!” You will be seen as the “rationalizing coward.” You see a man getting hit in the head with a shovel and you console him by saying, “well at least you weren’t burned to death.” Your children will see you as the sort of coward who saw all the signs of approaching tyranny and found a way to take solace in it “not being that bad,” until it did get that bad and there was no way to stop it.
Conversely, did you speak out against COVID insanity? Did you lose a job for not taking the jab? Did you defend the little shop that endured a cancel culture campaign? Did you risk the wrath of your relatives for speaking truths that the mob didn’t accept? Were you brave enough to be a father and not a false friend?
Take comfort. When we sing the words “land of the free and the home of the brave,” we are thinking about you.