Protests? Thank God we can hold them. But when they trample life, health, or property in an attempt to terrorize people over the results of a fair election, they cease to be effective or good. The complete counter-productivity of the election protests contains a lesson for all of us, no matter our political stand.
I keep thinking of 1970s and ‘80s Poland. If anyone had reason to protest in recent history, it was the Polish people under post-World War II Communist rule. A tyrannical regime did everything it could to squash them. Catholics and Jews suffered intense persecution as the government sought to abolish religion and mandate loyalty to Communist ideology. Workers were often jailed without reason, and people of faith (especially in fields such as education) were fired and replaced with the regime’s followers. The government manipulated prices of necessary items so that even basic foods were out of financial reach for average citizens. In those times, the victims could have gone out and pillaged, burned, and demanded their way through violence, and many in the world might have called it justified. But Lech Walesa and Pope John Paul II had faith that evil could be defeated through something objectively good.
This Holy Father didn’t focus on hate; he didn’t tear down the people on the opposite side of the battle from him, and he certainly didn’t stand around griping. Instead, he built up what he loved. He found two good things to strengthen—the Polish people’s faith and Lech Walesa’s courage. This wise pope didn’t incite. Instead, he threw himself into reinforcing and fostering the truly good things that he sensed could empower the people in his care to withstand the trial and overcome it. Lech Walesa, in turn, strengthened the courage, dignity, and determination of the members of his Solidarity movement. And it worked, eventually leading to the destabilization of the entire Communist regime, election of Walesa himself as president of a newly freed Poland, and the fall of the Berlin Wall.
We do well to learn all we can from the story of Poland’s victory. Every one of us can turn our time and effort towards nourishing something that’s objectively good. For many, it’s the home, our family’s faith, our spiritual life, or our financial health. For others, it’s more along the lines of public service. Either way, we strengthen people against the darkness that’s taking aim at our nation’s collective heart. The paradox is that, very often, the best way to fight something that’s wrong is actually to turn, for a while, in the opposite direction, shoring up something that’s strong, right, and good instead.
The force of something objectively good has God’s power and will behind it, and when we get on that train and start shoveling coal into the firebox, it often defeats the evil with surprisingly few casualties for us.
That could be a wise path to choose. Less time burning other human beings’ stuff, griping about the state the world is in, and affirming the power of all the fears that terrify us the most means more time building up the things—and souls—we can really affect deeply.
We can do a lot of good that way, and it’s a powerful way to fight.