Jewish World Review Feb 14, 2014 / 14 Adar I, 5774
Mobs I have known
By Paul Greenberg
It was long ago in a different South -- the days of freedom riders and freedom songs, of SNCC workers and sit-ins. The bad old days of
One day somebody in the newsroom of the Pine Bluff (Ark.) Commercial, where I was the editorial writer back then, said a bunch of kids staging a sit-in at the
I must have stood out in my old blue-cord suit and narrow 1960-ish tie and eyeglasses with the thick frames. Because I heard a mounting murmur behind me: "He's with the Commercial," which was always an incitement in those days. For our editorial views were well known, and well despised.
The murmurs behind me began to mount. "That's him, all right! Get him!" No hero I, and with no taste for martyrdom, I began to walk slowly, deliberately away. No hurry. I proceeded down the broken old sidewalk next to the
Mobs are like that. One minute simmering, the next explosive. Mercurial. A mob has no need for a leader; it has a mindlessness of its own. You can never tell when it will crystallize, and what it'll do when it does. It has no intelligence, just a kind of blind instinct. The individual is lost in it; the mob moves of its own.
Another mob I once saw: It was long ago in a different America, but not too different. It was just after
The national convention I chose to attend that year was the one of his now leaderless
What little the party had of an establishment -- most of it looked on leave from the
The whole arena turned into a sea of sympathy for its fallen hero. And admiration. Which I had to share even if I'd never been a big Wallace fan, to put it mildly. He finally persuaded the delegates to let this cup pass from his lips. There wasn't a dry eye in the place. Including mine.
Then, within minutes, the chairman of the convention had to announce a news bulletin: the jury verdict in the case of his putative assassin,
All those emotions from long ago came flooding back the other Sunday when I opened the paper and spotted a front-page headline: "Egyptians die, dance marking '11 uprising." The Arab Spring continues to turn into an ever deeper Arab Winter.
The anatomy of revolution is at its inexorable work again as hope turns to despair stage by stage. The revolution that overthrew
It may be only a matter of time before this latest Egyptian general-emperor-savior is standing in the same dock his predecessor now occupies. The iron wheel of revolution is relentless, crushing those who suffer from the delusion they are in charge of it -- until it rolls over them.
The great exception to this deadly cycle was our own revolution, perhaps because it sought not just liberty, but liberty and order. It was in its way a deeply conservative revolution, seeking to conserve the rights the colonies had long enjoyed against a parliament that had set out to revoke them one by one. Even then it would take a long train of abuses before the colonists, even after the Revolution had broken out, would declare their independence.
The reluctant revolutionaries would first produce the flowing periods of the Declaration of Independence: "... that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness...."
Then, a tumultuous decade later, they would bequeath to us the sobering, law-bound language of the Constitution of
In short, the opposite of ever churning mob rule.
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