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Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

The Politics of David & Goliath

Everybody loves the underdog.

We relish a touching Cinderella story from time to time–the bravery and selflessness that come from reaching for a goal when the deck seems stacked highest against you. Legends are whispered to eager children and legacies passed through the generations about the qualities of one man against seemingly impossible odds.

The David and Goliath narrative is so powerful because we intrinsically connect with David–we all remember the chip on our shoulder, the times we’ve had to prove ourselves, the person or group that held us down until we rose from the perilous depths.

Nobody wants to be Goliath. Nobody believes they are Goliath. Not even shot-putters and South Beach bouncers. It seems as though Planet Fitness is cashing in on that sentiment these days:

Yet as much as each individual American identifies with David, one thing is for certain:

The world sees us as Goliath.

We’re quick to point out that we’re the only remaining superpower in the world (unless it behooves us to recognize China, or group in a resurgent Russia and pioneering India). We spend more money in one day than most sovereign states make in a year; we throw away enough food every day to feed the entire world–and feed them well, many times over.

On the global scale, we are the Yankees, the Red Sox, the Phillies, the Duke Blue Devils, the LA Lakers, the Boston Celtics, the New England Patriots and Manchester United, all rolled up into one indomitable team fit with drunken,  fans and a really large, irritating mascot.

Which is totally cool! I’m a huge fan of our team and cheer every season, but…

…How is it a surprise to us that we are so despised?

I grew up in the country; for the first several years of my life I was certain that the term “backwoods” had been coined in my little podunk town in rural America. But for all the bragging we kids did growing up–for all the boasting about whose trout was bigger or how long you could hold your breath under water or who could run to the corner lightpost fastest–one thing our fathers taught us (and the wide-open spaces which we roamed reminded us) was to be humble.

Today, folks (especially on opinion-radio and television) decry the supposed death of “American exceptionalism,” as though the president should be an overly exuberant cheerleader running around the world chanting “We’re Number One! We’re Number One!” These same folks expect that the rest of the world has no pride of their own and should simply bow down to our far-superior way of doing things.

Where did we learn those manners?

Back where I come from, that hubris got you several hours shucking corn and trimming hedges while your friends laughed and had a good time down the road. It was not to be tolerated. The lesson was always this:

No matter how big you think you are, you’re never too big to be humbled.

And yet here we are, again. The eyes and hearts of the world are on the people of Egypt (as they were in Tunisia and will soon be in Yemen), and yet we hear countless media rants about how America must do this, or America must do that.

Yet the worst of it is: we eat that stuff up! We keep reading and watching this false news and imagine that somehow the people of Egypt aren’t aware of the history and example of the United States; that somehow, today, we must take direct measures to affect a course of action to support a particular side in this growing conflict. But there’s a problem for us Goliaths…

I cross-posted last night’s post on Motley Moose, where hubiestubert presciently commented the following:

You have folks poised to complain no matter what stance the President takes.  

He’s pallin’ around with terrorists if he sides with the protesters,  thanks to the Muslim Brotherhood, or he’s supporting a despot and  against FREEEEEEDOM if he sides with the seated and legal government.  

He will be the President who “lost” Egypt, no matter who wins  out, because the Anguish Brigade doesn’t really care either way, just  that this will be Obama’s Katrina Moment. And no matter the  outcome, in their mind it will be, because that is the narrative that  has been decided upon.  

…Do too little, do too much, don’t do anything, folks are  poised to paint this as a tragedy for the US.

If you live in the black-and-white world that media personalities inhabit, the choice is either: Stability (that roughly translates into “oil” coming from the marionettes of Murdoch and the Koch family), or Instability (which translates to Islamic extremism, terrorism, a government that we don’t like, and higher oil prices [mostly the latter]). The question these people ask is not, “What is the will of the people?” but rather, “What’s in it for me?” We’re big and strong and powerful; we have McDonald’s and Wal-Mart; what do you have?

Just that little slingshot?


The worst move for the United States is to fear. The twenty-first century will not be remembered by posterity for the end of theocracies or Islamic republics; we have no right to tell a sovereign people how to govern themselves. If we stand up and say, “You’re wrong, and we’re going to do this for you,” how can we ever expect to curb the hate spouted off at us–and how can we truly wish to avoid violent outbursts from “the wronged” at our doorstep?

History has been wrought with bullies who have all met the same demise. Benevolence–not belligerence–is the cause of this new era of humanity.

(If we can’t learn this lesson, I’m sure there’s still some corn to be husked back at my place…)


  1. IL JimP

    is that some of the people who say the US must do (fill in the blank).  Would decry anything that the US does.  Help us!  Stay out of our business!  These are all no-win situations.  it’s best just to stay out of them as much as we can.

  2. that the neocons have always had a voice in the media. A lot of those voices you hear out there are from the usual cast of suspects (e.g., Kristol and ilk).

    I think you’ve covered it pretty well. Here’s what I expect to hear.

    1) This is confirmation that Bush was right.

    2) Run for your lives! The Islams is coming!!!1!

    3) OMG! Obama has been supporting a dictator.

    4) Obama did too much.

    5) Obama didn’t do enough.

    6) Cairo surrender speech.

    7) Don’t touch Israel’s aid.

    8-29) fill in the blank ________

    Unlike you, I don’t think Murdoch and the Koch brothers care about stability all that much. This kind of event is great for Murdoch’s media empire. Revolution – the ultimate reality show. As for the Kochs, they love the price of oil going up. They probably make an obscene amount of money every time the price goes up $1 per barrel.

  3. is that there is always someone better. There is always someone crazier.

    That no matter how confident you are, no matter how prepared you are, no matter how organized you are, shit happens. And it can happen fast.

    Bouncing taught me to be humble.  To talk first, keep my hands where people could see them, and never underestimate anyone.  The scrawniest and littlest guys were the ones who often gave us the most problems.  While I was bouncing a skinhead show, I got stabbed three times by this tiny little fella, AS I was taking his buddy down.  Just reached across his buddy and stuck me with a Swiss Army knife.

    Not bad. 9 stitches total. Three per, and the ribs did their job and kept the little bastiche from doing any serious hurt.  And the little fella went from being ejected for being drunk and disorderly, to assault with a deadly weapon.  Overall? Not a great night. After I got done at the hospital I had to go down to the police station and give my report.  Not the night I was hoping for.

    My buddy Bob fell on the cat like a ton of bricks. Maybe 120lbs of cranky skin, versus nearly 300lbs of pissed off Scotsman.  Not a good night for him either.

    Now then, I was bucking about 175 then.  Not huge by any means, but on a 5’6″ frame, it’s not bad.  I wasn’t really worried about most folks–even my buddy Bob tended to be careful when we sparred, because while he had height and weight on me, I’m a mean little SOB and I’ve been doing this a while.  The above incident gave me a very painful reminder that no matter how well trained you, no matter how many guys you have backing you up, crazy and pissed off can trump good judgement, and crazy only needs a second or two to do you a serious hurt.  

    I try to bring that lesson home to folks when I teach them. That if you are going to walk in a path where you expect some kind of hurt to come or to dish out, that you be careful, you be prepared, you be organized in your thoughts and actions, and know that no matter what, the situation can turn bad very quickly, and by accident.  You have to enter situations with some humility, or you are going to get blind sided.  The best way to deal with these situations is to not enter them in the first place.  To talk folks down, to diffuse, to deflect, to always try to avoid conflict.  

    Not to say that violence doesn’t have a place. Not to say that defending yourself or others is never justified.  But it’s the above lesson should always give us pause before simply rolling into a joint without being aware that things can go bad.  As a nation we should have learned that in 1812. In Vietnam. Heck, recently in Somalia. In Afghanistan. In Iraq. But, we have the luxury of a plethora of well trained troops that we don’t seem to mind spending to throw at problems.  What bothers me on this, is that the folks who make these decisions are insulated from the consequences.  Who glorify it even.

    If you’ve ever been shot at, or you’ve ever heard a bone break right next to your ear, you realize very quickly that there is no glory in it.  Glory is something that other people, who are far and away from these sorts of things, call it.  Be it the boxing ring, be it a police beat, be it taking a patrol out to find weapon caches, be it making a grab to bring a warlord in. But on the ground, in the ring, it’s painful and scary as hell.

    We can glory violence, when we aren’t involved. We can romanticize it.  We cheered our boys on in WWII, and we glorified the men who stormed the beaches at Normandy, and I thank Spielberg for making that scene as ugly as he did.  Not because it was cool, but because it brought home a bit how terrible a price we ask young men to pay for us.  I am thankful to Ridley Scott for his Black Hawk Down for not candy coating what was a simple and routine sort of action in Somalia, that turned into a clusterfuck, because we underestimated folks.  Figured we had God on our side, and were invincible, and to be fair, the teams that dropped into Mogadishu that day were outnumbered 25 to 1, and of 123 men involved, only 18 were killed.  By any sort of measure, that was an amazing feat.  

    But, at the time, it gave us pause. We pulled out due to public pressure, and we abandoned the mission, and consigned the region to more unrest by our collapse and retreat.  

    We need to be aware of the costs. We need to be aware of the rigors that we expect of our troops. We need to honor their sacrifices.  We need to use those troops wisely, and understand fully that they are prepared to give their lives to our cause, so we’d best make it worthy of that trust.

    We did that a bit more, we might not have folks quite as pissed off at us as a nation.  

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