By Matthew Delaney
Like many of the Bible’s parables, the tale of the golden calf tells us about more than just what it intends to.
When Moses returned from Mount Sinai after 40 days with the Ten Commandments in hand, he found that the Israelites had made a golden calf their new pagan idol. Obviously, Moses was distraught. God was infuriated, and 3,000 people were slaughtered over it.
The story is about the error of worshipping a false god. But this parable is also a reminder about how important it is for your beliefs to be represented in our physical world.
The Israelites knew their faith in God was justified. He had just led them out of Egypt. But he wasn’t there anymore, nor was Moses. Their belief in God alone wasn’t strong enough to endure without a totem of his presence to draw inspiration from. They grew anxious, drifted from the truth, and ultimately paid for doing so.
I bring this up because converting their beliefs into a pillar of the public domain is a gift that so many on the left have. And it’s a fire that needs to be fought with fire, or else those who don’t fit their orthodoxy risk irrelevance.
Take the recent “pig law” in California.
The law requires the state’s pork suppliers to have their cages be a certain size for humanitarian reasons. It’s one of those clunky regulations that will make your bacon purchases more expensive and could reportedly change the industry at the national level.
But it works because it creates an image in your head. Pigs cramped in their pen, squealing incessantly as they walk over each other’s filth right up until they’re slaughtered. Movies like Food Inc. and Blackfish have depicted our complicity in animal mistreatment because we like how they taste or how they look doing tricks at SeaWorld. People don’t have to try hard to support a proposal that addresses our ugliness (because it was the people who voted for this, after all).
A thought led to a mental image that eventually became a tangible part of our world via new legislation, and now it could influence the future of pork consumption. That’s what power looks like.
Though in our hyperconnected world, we don’t need to wait for Hollywood to give us an actual visual and unlock our imaginations. We all have phones in our pockets that can sell an argument to social media crowds better than the most airtight logic ever could.
Think about it: If we only had statistics on police killings of unarmed black men, would Black Lives Matter even be a thing?
Of course not — it’s gruesome cellphone videos that create a visual so potent it overpowers the raw numbers. Press conferences with crying mothers and marches full of raised fists drive the message home that something must be done.
Unfortunately for activists, the movement hasn’t produced enough panic to have its dream of defunding the police come to life. People (including black people) intuitively understand that police provide them security.
The Covid-19 pandemic, on the other hand, has provided the perfect mix of sheer terror to transmute the left’s internal fantasies into external realities.
You can see that with how the government handled the eviction moratorium lapsing. The Delta variant is surging. Pessimism about the pandemic is rebounding. The thought of millions of Americans having to pay back rent or go to court — and that Congress, not Biden — had to do something about it, created a sense of dread.
Well, Democratic congresswoman Cori Bush did act… but not by drafting a bill. She camped out like a homeless person (with private security) in front of the Capitol for nearly a week. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention bailed her out with its unconstitutional extension of the ban, which legal experts expect will be shot down in court.
Oh well. They still bought themselves a few more weeks of treasured political capital with their base. Apparently, the right image will let us think it’s okay for the CDC to write our laws. If you think I’m kidding, then where is the outrage over bureaucrats, whom we never voted for, illegally threatening jail time and fines for those who “disobey?”
Here we are again: We watched the left’s thought of “housing is a human right” become a reality because we think some pampered nutjob of a congresswoman represents this issue. The lesson there is that we rarely need a good icon to embody a belief; we’ll accept a terrible one just so we can familiarize ourselves with it.
That’s also why the left hates Donald Trump. Our 45th president wasn’t (intentionally) good at much, but he was damn good at attaching his slogans to the real world.
Calls to “Build the Wall” were met with efforts to build a complete wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. His famous Make American Great Again hats were a symbol of pride in simply being American, which Barack Obama’s presidency made us feel like was passé.
Trump eschewed the normal flaccid Republican behaviors and offered up big, bold visions instead. More so, he brought them to life while championing values of self-respect and personal strength.
Just like with Bush, were these necessarily good embodiments? Not really. They were a bit too tacky and unpolished — a lot like Trump himself. They didn’t reach as many people as they could, and unlike Bush, Trump doesn’t have a media who will do the heavy lifting for him.
But they gave people something that speaks for them without having to open their mouths. Again, that’s what power looks like.
It also cleared the way for guys like Christopher Rufo, the Critical Race Theory antagonist. Now, some of you may remember that I’ve had my problems with Rufo. However, his ingenuity of associating anything sketchy the left does regarding race to an academic term has created a movement.
Rufo has become the avatar for both workaholic dads and soccer moms who don’t want to see their children corrupted by race essentialism — or the belief that race determines everything in your life — that school systems across the country are taking up.
This isn’t really a conservative issue, it’s a human issue. We see the beliefs of one side of the spectrum personified in every which way to push the day’s agenda. It gives this nation’s left-wingers a larger influence that doesn’t match how people feel.
Then again, if there’s no representation of other beliefs in the form of an object or a person, the crowd will naturally go where they can at least identify what the issue is about, if not the issue itself.
Filling that gap is important to promote ideas outside of those of our cultural overlords. If we don’t, we risk drifting and ultimately paying the same price the Israelites did.
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