The Song of That Siren, Hope

Having been a combatant in more family and political squabbles than I dare count, I am finally beginning to understand Patrick Henry’s powerful lament about the trickery of “hope.”

Make no mistake: I believe Christian “hope” is a good thing—because the hope there is based on solid ground. But false “hope” is a bit like a temptress, a sexy lie—the buxom girl at the bar who is rebounding from her seventh husband, inviting you to a temporary solace that will be more expensive than it’s worth.

False hope is a cheap trick, a siren. It turns you into a beast. On March 23, 1775, at St. John’s Church in Richmond, Virginia, Henry threw cold water on sunny hope itself. It was no longer safe to hope in England’s good intentions. It was time to begin taking a solid account of England’s actions. It was time to crucify our own sunny estimate of the enemy. 

Henry warned his fellow Americans: “We are apt to listen to the song of that siren, [Hope], until she transforms us into beasts.”

There is a point in any family fight, or any political struggle, when a fair-minded person begins to think, hopefully. It is when they begin spouting things like:

  • Surely, once my [aunt, brother, sister-in-law] understands I was only trying to enforce an objective standard about who gets to use the mountain cabin for holidays, he or she will soften up and come around.
  • Surely, once we reason with them, the British ministry will admit they are violating basic English rights when they attempt to tax us without our consent? Right?
  • Certainly, when the public understands Hillary Clinton thought she could conduct official state business on a private email server, then fair-minded people will hold her to account. Right?
  • Of course, even machine Democrats wouldn’t excuse Ted Kennedy dumping a female staffer in a river to drown, and then not reporting it until morning? No one that evil could retain the public’s trust, right?
  • Surely, when a federal judge is made to understand a January 6 prosecutor was privy to attorney-client communications, the judge would entertain motions for dismissal or mistrial. Right?

All of you could come up with far better examples. We live in a season ripe with a double-standard bumper crop.

But guess what? Your enemy doesn’t care about your claims about justice. Your enemy stopped entertaining contrarian opinions long ago. They would be happy to see you in jail, dead, bankrupt, or all three. They don’t care about nuance. They see the little old grandma standing on the outskirts of the “Stop the Steal” rally in Washington as roughly on par with the over-zealous window breaker or a dude taking a swing at a capitol cop. We are all the same to them—“insurrectionists” even if the vast majority of us, by the millions, came just to register our worries about unfair elections.

If you are like me, your mind wanders back to the summer of 2020, when President Trump had to take sanctuary in the White House bunker and rioters tried to burn down an historic church. There doesn’t seem to be any special Justice Department task force assigned to that one. Surely, you are tempted to think, hopefully, our “justice for all” court officers will treat all this political excitement equally, right?


Shortly after the Stop the Steal rally in Washington, D.C., I thought to myself, “When wiser heads look at the actual facts, they will limit their prosecution to people who vandalized the Capitol and picked a fight with cops, right?”

I could not have been more naïve. Let’s be honest with ourselves. A D.C./New York judge and jury will never give a fair shake to a J6 defendant or a former Republican president. The same jury that concluded Hillary Clinton attorney Michael Sussman had lied to the FBI but didn’t deserve punishment? How do you think you would fare against people sucking various forms of the dole from the state? You attacked their “sacred” piggy bank—the one you filled with your tax dollars. They won’t lose any sleep if you die in prison.

In our personal lives, sometimes we have the ability merely to shun the toxic people in our lives. Sometimes we can achieve the peace that comes from leaving implacable enemies in God’s hands. We stop putting false hope in a reasonable discussion and we shut the door and change the locks. We wait until the hardened hearts soften.

But when a politicized justice system threatens jail time for anyone who disagrees with it, mere shunning won’t help. We need to remember, at the outset, they view themselves as being at war against us. An effective defense begins in knowing your enemy and understanding, fully and finally, that he is your enemy.

He who has eyes to see, let him see. He who has ears to ear, let him hear.

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About James Patrick Riley

James Riley is the owner and operator of Riley's Farm in Oak Glen, California and the creator of "Courage, New Hampshire," a television drama seen on PBS stations across the country. The father of six children, Riley performs "Patrick Henry" and supervises a living history program visited by hundreds of thousands of school children. He holds a degree in history from Stanford University.

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