I recently was up late at night channel surfing before I turned in for the night. When I came across “Braveheart”, an old favorite of mine, I was hooked and stayed up to watch the entire movie. This Mel Gibson classic solidified its place in my “Top Ten Movies of All Time” list. What an amazing movie!
However, if I may quote another of my favorite movies, “There was something there that wasn’t there before.” Namely, a profound glimpse of what is happening in America’s political landscape today. I would like to briefly mention some of the more striking comparisons that I noticed.
1. The Scottish Nobles. In the movie Braveheart, the Scottish nobility are an interesting lot. Before we can truly understand them we must remember where their power came from. In medieval times, the monarchy held all the power, possessed all the wealth and owned all the property. If you were not the king, you owned nothing – not even the fruits of your labor. Taxes were meant to give everything to the king except that which was necessary for basic living. Thus there was no middle class or upper class, just the lower – or common – class. The king, however, could not just tax people and expect them not to revolt. He needed strong leaders that he could trust to be loyal and subjugate the common class in the name of the king. This loyal ruling class were the Nobility, and the king paid them richly in lands and titles. Lands, or property, gave them areas of the countryside that could be harvested for profit. Titles conveyed authority over vast areas of the king’s land to rule and oversee as a consolidation of power. I know this is a rather simplistic view of the times, but the point is that power came from the king to the people, in particular to the Nobles.
From time to time, the Scottish people and lesser nobles would get so fed up with the absurd demands of their English oppressors that they would gather their forces and march to war – led, of course, by the nobles. When the moment of battle came, the nobles, dressed in their finest military garb and flying banners to inspire their armies, would ride to the middle of the field and meet with the representatives of the king. Promptly, without much argument at all, they would be promised more titles and lands if they would march their armies from the field of battle and return to their homes. Nothing changed, except the nobles got richer and the people got poorer. At some level though, the people were able to tell themselves that they marched to battle and “showed the English” that they really meant business this time.
In America, we would like to think there is no comparison to these Scottish Nobles – and indeed there SHOULD NOT be. Sadly, the comparison comes to mind too easily to be ignored. Politicians from both sides of the isle constantly tell the people that they will fight for the principles and issues for which they were elected. Time and again, however, they are promptly bought off with promises of pork and power. When I think of specific examples when this has been very apparent, two recent events come to my mind. Most recently, the “fight” for the Debt Ceiling. For many conservatives, this was an absurd line that could not be crossed. Not “Should Not be crossed”. “Could Not be crossed”. There was no clearer “battle line” that could be drawn. And our politicians proudly took up the call to arms. They inspired us with their banners and speeches. You remember.
Who are we kidding? We’re not kidding anybody. I just think it’s time to put the brakes on all of it. Let’s get really serious about cutting spending, and the way we start is by saying no to increasing the debt limit.” –John Boehner, Dec 16, 2009
Now this money comes from our kids and grandkids who, this year, are going to get stuck with 43 cents out of every dollar the federal government spends; the debt’s going to be laid on them. The American people are shouting at the top of their lungs, ‘Stop, and stop now!’” –John Boehner, Jun 15, 2010
Our nobles, leading us to battle. We rallied and called and protested. And when the battlefield was set and the nobles met in the middle, what happened? You remember.
I stuck my neck out a mile to try to get an agreement with the President of the United States. I stuck my neck out a mile. And I put revenues on the table, in order to try to come to an agreement to avert us being where we are.”
“So for the sake of our economy, for the sake of our future, I’m going to ask each of you – as representatives of the people of the United States – to support this bill, to support this process, and end this crisis now.” –John Boehner, Jul 29, 2011
Compromise. Betrayal. Failure. What so many had fought for, had hoped for, just sold away for undisclosed deals made in the back halls of the Capital. And who pays for it? The people. And, painfully, our children. How could we let this one moment of true import where conviction mattered the most slip from our grasp as if the fate and future of this our precious nation didn’t hang on its outcome? It might as well have been Robert the Bruce and the other Scottish Nobles that led us to war.
Another perfect example of this happened in the 108th and 109th Congress. From 2003 thru 2006, for the first time in modern history, the Republican party controlled both houses of Congress and the Presidency. What an opportunity to reverse decades upon decades of fiscal liberals and having to compromise! Now the fiscal conservatives were in charge and the people would finally see the principles they had fought for become reality in the Federal Government. You remember.
Compromise. Betrayal. Failure. The deficits of the 108th and 109th Congress and the Bush Administration GREW! The size of the Federal government GREW! Entitlement spending GREW! Once again our leaders rode the wave of the people’s discontent to power only to betray the principles of those who put them there. And once again our children were burdened with the cost of their insatiable ambitions.
We must remember that in America, unlike medieval Scotland, power comes from the people to the government! We must elect leaders that will carry our cause into battle without compromise! Compromise has been the bane of sanity in the Western world, especially since the end of World War II. Historians can argue over why that has occurred, but we must reverse it. There are some principles that must never be compromised. Sanctity of Life. Build strong families. Live within our means. Self reliance. Nation of Laws. Protect our borders, language, and culture. Individual Liberty. The list goes on. These are things which only maintain their integrity when they are whole. Water them down just a little and they fade away.
2. Braveheart. In the movie, William Wallace was a man who had lost everything as a child and was raised in another country by his uncle. When he returned to Scotland, he wanted only to marry his childhood sweetheart, farm the land, and live in peace. He quickly found that a life of peace could only come through the defeat of the tyranny that had gripped his nation. Edward Longshanks was intent on the continued subjugation of the Scottish people in order to further solidify his own rule, so he paid off his English nobles by allowing them absurd authority over the personal lives of the Scots (see prima noctes). The people were fed up and were on the verge of rebellion, but lacked leadership that was willing to champion their cause to the end. Enter Braveheart. Wallace possessed one quality that the Scottish Nobles did not have. He was not just frustrated or upset. He was, in his words, “well beyond rage”. In his mind, the world was so upside down that there could be no talk of compromise until it was upright once again. The people followed him because he embodied their feelings exactly, whether they totally understood it or not. Wallace clearly saw what was needed to remedy the situation and was willing to see it through to the end. All the while, he did not let the end justify the means – rather, he lived by a code of honor that he expected from those who followed him. Wallace also possessed one insight that the nobles did not share. Power – true power with meaning and longevity – comes from the people not the king or the government.
You’re so concerned with squabbling for the scraps from Longshank’s table that you’ve missed your God given right to something better. There is a difference between us. You think the people of this country exist to provide you with possession. I think your possession exists to provide those people with freedom. And I go to make sure that they have it.
Where are our Bravehearts today? I’m not talking about warriors who paint their faces to discourage their foe. I’m talking about political leaders who do not compromise their (our) principles when the battle for those principles is imminent. Political leaders who clearly see the line between sanity and ruin. Political leaders who are determined to follow a personal code of honor as they right the wrongs wrought by corruption. Where are our political leaders who are guided by their principles and not their pockets?
3. Freedom. The same battle cry yelled by William Wallace is the same cry we shout today. Freedom! But Freedom means nothing if we forget what we are yearning to be free from. Tyranny. Oppression. Corrupt Government. Taxation without Representation. Religious Persecution. These were problems that the founders of this nation were all too familiar with. So in order to protect their infant nation from falling back under the control of these evil practices, they wrote two documents for the very purpose of protecting our future Freedom – the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. And to this end, these documents LIMITED THE POWERS of the Federal government and “reserved to the states and to the people” all powers not expressly granted. This is the very bastion of our Freedom! Without it, there is nothing to stop the eventual return of those evil practices that we yearn for Freedom From.
So, if you haven’t watched Braveheart in a while, I encourage you to spend a few late nights searching for it on the ol’ tube. Perhaps I’m just seeing similarities that aren’t really there. Or perhaps there is more to this movie than kilts and claymores. What do you think?