A Mob for All Seasons
I watched the six-time Oscar winning movie, A Man for All Seasons, again, the other night, and I was reminded of how the issues of times gone-by are still the issues we are confronted with today. The issues may be dressed up differently, but they are the same; basic human and civil rights. In this case, freedom of speech was on trial which also included freedom not to speak.
The movie is set in 16th century England, legal scholar Sir Thomas More is pressured by King Henry VIII to approve his illegal divorce, and subsequent remarriage to Anne Boleyn. Thomas More refuses to publicly affirm the King’s plans because they went against his religious principles, and also violated the laws of England. More never publicly objects nor does he prevent the King from divorcing his wife and remarrying, he simply won’t endorse those actions. In an effort to compel More’s public consent, the King requires every official to take an oath legitimizing his illegal actions, or be charged with treason. More refuses, and is put on trial. As opposed to offering facts and reason to persuade More to change his mind, the King uses intimidation and force. To his credit, More stays true to his beliefs, yet ultimately suffers fatal consequences.
In 21st century America, not only can’t we publicly contradict the left-wing orthodoxy, we must publicly affirm it. We are compelled to say certain words, use state-mandated pronouns, verbally affirm an ideology we do not believe, approve behaviors that go against our conscience, or we will be cancelled. In More’s trial, the question arose to meaning of More’s silence; does silence mean consent or dissent? The court ruled that silence equals dissent, and More was convicted of treason. Today, we are told “silence is violence”. No one is immune, whether you are a celebrity, college professor, teacher, Christian store owner, or pastor, you must agree with the liberal social ideology or you will face down the mob.
In the 1954 Oscar winner, On the Waterfront, the message was the opposite, you must stay silent. Silence is good. If you talked, if you ratted out organized crime on the docks, the mobsters would kill you. So, to save themselves, everyone on the docks was “D and D” meaning, “deaf and dumb”. The dock workers knew very clearly, if they talked, they would be killed.
Marlon Brando’s character Terry Malloy, has his own crisis of conscience when he unwittingly sets up a fellow dock worker to be killed because the dock worker was about to testify against the crime boss. Brando’s conscience eats at him to the point that he considers testifying against the mob about the murder. When pressured by his brother to keep silent, Brando sums his years of silence, “I’ve been ratting on myself all these years.” He realized that staying silent, allowing the crime to persist around him to save himself actually hurt him and the other dock workers more than it helped them.
This past week in Minneapolis, a witness for the defense in the Derek Chauvin trial had his home vandalized. It was splattered with pig blood and a severed pig head left outside the door, a not-so-subtle message of what will happen to anyone who goes against the accepted narrative. Truth did not matter. Not unlike King Henry and the crime bosses, they used fear and intimidation to get to compel or suppress the speech they want.
California congresswoman, Maxine Waters, was very clear about the consequences if the verdict came back as not guilty. Waters told a mob in Minneapolis that if Chauvin was not found “guilty, guilty, guilty… We gotta stay on the streets…We’ve gotta get more confrontational. We’ve got to make sure that they know that we mean business.” The message was clear, return a guilty verdict or else. The verdict that was read yesterday may very well be the correct one, but we will never know because these past two weeks, the jurors were not unbiasedly deciding whether Derek Chauvin was guilty or not guilty, they were deciding whether they wanted their houses firebombed or not.
The recent threats of packing the Supreme Court by the Democrats is a veiled threat to the 9 existing members of the court, if you do not rule the way we want, we will pack the court, dilute your authority, and turn your court into an arm of the legislature. The message was clear, and either consciously or subconsciously, each Justice will be considering these other external consequences to their decisions beyond Constitutional fidelity.
Every step of the way, the far left is using any means necessary to circumvent the processes of government, corrupt the system, and create their desired result through pressure, threat, compulsion, and intimidation. Every one of our rights is in jeopardy. Speech is only free if it’s free of compulsion or threats. Courts are only fair and unbiased if the judges and jurors are free from pressure and intimidation. Sadly, too many of our leaders choose political expediency over foundational principles.
Prior to his trial, one of Thomas More’s close friends, the Duke of Norfolk tried to convince him to go against his conscience, and take the oath like everyone else. He told More, “Thomas, look at those names. ... You know those men! Can't you do what I did, and come with us, for fellowship?” More replied, “And when we stand before God, and you are sent to Paradise for doing according to your conscience, and I am damned for not doing according to mine, will you come with me - for fellowship?”
Thomas More was executed because he stayed true to his beliefs, and listened to his conscience. He refused to sacrifice his soul to save himself. Unfortunately, we are confronted with a similar dilemma; we are continually threatened to go against our beliefs, defy our conscience, and go along with the state-sponsored narrative, or be canceled, lose our jobs, sacrifice our livelihoods. This is the price of freedom, the cost of conscience. But as Thomas More knew, the price of going against your conscience, defying your beliefs, is far more profound and eternal, then going against the mob. So, when confronted with these types of decisions, it’s best to follow Shakespeare’s advice, “To thine own self be true.”
Judd Garrett is a former NFL player, coach, and executive. He is a frequent contributor to the website Real Clear Politics. He has recently published his first novel, No Wind.