Rebels

I remain both amazed and amused that there are so many self-proclaimed rebels in the modern USA. Everywhere I look there are individuals and groups muttering, fulminating and threatening to overthrow this that or the other.

On one level, it is kind of logical that one would find a rebel mindset in a country that is only 230 or so years old in its modern form, a country founded by rebellion against colonial subjugation.  On another level, there is no current credible existential threat to the physical survival of the USA. (As one humorist sad in Harvard Business Review many years ago, “we may be the world’s biggest debtor nation, but let’s just see them try to collect!”). There are plenty of supposed threats, but they seem in many cases to be the kind of threats that people were making dire predictions about 40+ years ago, and those fears have yet to be converted to reality.

Here are my condensed thoughts on what I term “The Rebellion Thing”. Standard disclaimers apply.

  1. It is 230+ years since the USA was created. This makes it, when compared to many countries, an adolescent. However, adolescents eventually (mostly) mature and move into a new phase in their lives. The ones that do not eventually wear out their welcome. Being a rebel is cute at 16, tired at 26, tedious at 36, puzzling at 46 and a real turn off at 56. Holden Caulfield and James Dean were only attractive because they were young and you could think “they don’t know any better”. The people that cannot quit being adolescents usually end up as figures of eye-rolling fun. You might think they are cute in small doses, but you wouldn’t want to spend much time with them. They always seem to be looking for something to rebel against.
  2. Famous rebels who obtained success via the overthrow of their opponents, in many cases, made a poor job of actually governing. The founders of the modern USA are one of the shining exceptions. Notice that they actually took time out from rebelling to think long and hard about what they wanted as an end result. The end of British rule was simply a stopping point on the journey. It was a tactic, not the whole strategy.
  3. Vague unspecified “I’m a rebel <insert bellicose snarling words>” statements don’t answer the question “what are you rebelling against”. Fine-sounding statements like “I want my country back” or “don’t tread on me” are also merely vague statements of discontent.
  4. Being a rebel doesn’t automatically make you a poster child for freedom. It is a feature of history that many rebels, when placed in positions of power, ended up rapidly becoming authoritarian despots. Behind many self-proclaimed charismatic rebels lies a dangerous mix of narcissism and conceit.
  5. Rebelling against fundamental items of reality like the federal government, taxes etc. doesn’t make you look principled and valiant. It tends to make you look like the second coming of Don Quixote. If you want to rebel against those entities or ideas, have at it, but bear in mind that everybody who tried that prior to you has, to varying degrees, failed. This probably suggests that the odds are not in your favour. Have you considered, you know, voting for different candidates? Like, candidates not belonging to the mainstream political parties that you always whine about. Just thinking out loud here…
  6. If you want to appear to be a credible rebel, it probably isn’t a great idea to use the battle flag of a defeated secessionist movement as an emblem. Defeated losers in wars generally don’t get a do-over. Who are you? The Black Knight from “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”?
  7. You need to either back talk up with action or risk being seen as a keyboard warrior, a member of the 101st Chairborne. Threatening to “march on Washington” because of some perceived slight or injustice tends to make you look like the small child throwing toys out of the pram because they couldn’t get their way.
  8. Martyrdom is always a good last resort if you really want to take dramatic action. However, you have to be really ready to go through with it. See (6) above. Talking tough like Ted Nugent and then hoping that people forget about it might work for some less thoughtful individuals, but it probably won’t lead most people to take you at all seriously. It’s this little thing called credibility. Even martyrs get mixed reviews in the annals of history.
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