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Lessons From D-Day, Tiananmen Square, and Polish Freedom About the Pendulum Swing Against Target, Bud Light, and the Woke Corporation

Posted on Sunday, June 4, 2023
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by David P. Deavel
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AMAC Exclusive – By David P. Deavel

freedom

Three historic anniversaries having to do with the struggle for freedom provide an interesting context for the current conservative cheerfulness about the culture wars.

The pendulum is swinging! Or so some people are saying. The beginning of this month has seen a financial shellacking given out to corporations such as Target Corporation and AB InBev (Anheuser-Busch’s corporate name) that has given hope to people on the right. As well it should. The left is very good at exercising economic, political, and bureaucratic power in comparison to the right. Taking the purveyors of Target’s Satanic Pride Month regalia and Bud Light down a few economic notches is a cause for celebration. A few billion dollars of market capitalization here, a few billion there, and pretty soon we’ll be talking about real money.

The kind of money that might make other corporations think the next time they want to push woke ideology on their customers.

But then again, maybe it won’t. The beginning of June also brings us the news that Chick-fil-A, like almost every other major corporation, has a DEI chief and is bragging about “embedding Diversity, Equity & Inclusion in everything we do.” Walmart (Walmart!) declares that no matter what Target does, they will continue to sell Pride items bearing legends such as: “Some people are gay. Get over it”; “Gay AF”; and “Woke up gay again.”

The reality is that Americans face an uphill climb against massive corporate and government power being used to push massive agendas. Too many of us are waiting for a swing of the politico-cultural pendulum.

We shouldn’t. This idea of “the Swing of the Pendulum,” said the writer G. K. Chesterton, was the curse of the nineteenth century and a denial of the dignity of man. It is only when a man is dead that he swings from side to side; when he lives, he stands, plans, makes decisions, builds, organizes, fights, regroups, and fights some more. We must fight the long battle for our country’s future.

If we need a reminder of this important lesson, the beginning of June provides us with three potent anniversaries of events in which people did not merely sit and wait for the pendulum—they acted. June 4, 1989 marked two very different events. On that day in history the Tiananmen Square protests in China came to a bloody end as the Communist government crushed with tanks and rifles the student-led movement demanding freedoms. But on the same day in 1989, Poland, which had also suffered under Communist government, held their first semi-free elections in decades. And June 6 marks the day in 1944 when the then-largest land invasion in history took place as Allied troops stormed the beaches of Normandy in northern France.

It’s easy for us to focus on the two wins. D-Day is ultimately a day of glory, the beginning of the end of Nazi Germany’s terrible reign over western Europe. So, too, Poland’s beginning of an end of the Communist system. Both show that planning, prudence, and perseverance can bring an end to great evils.

The gargantuan undertaking that was Operation Overlord (the code name for the invasion) was not simply a matter of organization. It was the result of planning that had been going on for several years. It involved the logistics of moving huge numbers of men from the U. S., the U. K., and Canada (156,000 on June 6 and over 326,000 after a few days) and equipment (including 50,000 vehicles) and doing so in such a way that they would be a surprise to the Germans. Hence the steady operations over the prior year to make Hitler think such an invasion was being planned for elsewhere in France or even Norway.

While it seems today that it could have been no other way, we know that it could certainly have gone differently. The paratroopers who were dropped in before the landings might not have succeeded in taking out bridges and roads by which German reinforcements could have come and defended the beaches. The weather, which had delayed the invasion by a day, could have been worse—weather forecasters are known to be wrong. Any number of things could have happened to make that day not a day of victory but a day of failure and loss.

But they did not. And that is because there was no waiting for a pendulum to swing back. World War II lasted for six years. It was won by God’s providence, surely. But God provides victories quite often when we pray as if it all depended upon God and act as if it all depended upon us.

Like D-Day, Poland’s fateful 1989 election was the fruit of decades of resistance to Communist tyranny. Who can imagine the end of Communism without the witness and activity of figures such as the bishop Karol Wojtyla, who became Pope John Paul II in 1978? Who can imagine that victory without the witness of countless laborers and citizens who worked to conserve Polish culture and subtly or overtly disobey the Communist government that took its orders from Moscow? As with D-Day, it seems as if this ending was the only possible ending. Yet it was a close-run thing.

The Communist government, which had agreed to hold open elections, held them on extremely short notice with the idea that little time to organize and campaign might yield some victories for the Solidarity party—but not too many. Instead, the Solidarity party captured 160 of 161 seats in the lower house (known as the Sejm) of the Polish parliament and 92 of 100 seats in the senate. Fearful that the election results would be discarded, the Solidarity party urged citizens not to be too jubilant about the election results. They also advanced cautiously, not daring to seize power too quickly for fear of a crackdown. To some, this was a failure of nerve, while to others it was prudence. In the end, however, the stunning victory was a milestone on the way to the first fully free elections two years later and the free Poland that exists today and serves as a beacon of resistance to the woke power of the European Union.   

The anniversary of Tiananmen Square is the saddest, for it marks a perceived failure. Student demonstrators had begun to protest at the end of April in the wake of the death of Hu Yaobang, a Communist Party official who had begun to work for reform of the Chinese political system. By the middle of May, non-student protesters had joined them in much larger numbers—tens of thousands crowding into the Square. Despite martial law having been declared and a quarter million Chinese troops having been sent to the scene, by the end of May there were a million Chinese calling out for the political freedoms long denied them.

When the Chinese military began to fire on the crowds, many of the protesters began to fight back, using sticks and stones against the troops and setting fire to military vehicles. When all was said and done, however, the Chinese troops had killed perhaps thousands of protesters and arrested at least ten thousand more. China’s government was not going to allow the limited economic freedoms they had allowed since the 1980s to be extended to true political freedoms. Nor have they improved. The crackdowns on once-free Hong Kong over the last few years show that, on the world stage, China may be a great power, but it is not a good one.

But just as the success of D-Day and the Polish elections of 1989 were not foreordained, neither was the failure of the Tiananmen Square protesters. What might have happened had some top Communist Party officials chosen differently? The enduring image from Tiananmen Square is that of the lone, unidentified man bravely standing in front of a line of tanks, seemingly halting them by sheer force of will as he held out his hand to signal, “Stop.” Eventually he was carried off, but what might have happened had some of the soldiers chosen to side with him and the protesters?

It is that word “chosen” that keeps appearing. Human beings can allow themselves to be carried away by events or they can choose to fight them. Even when they choose to be brave on the beaches of Normandy or in the polling places of Krakow and Warsaw, they can choose to stop their fight for victory or political freedom. There was plenty of fighting to do after D-Day and plenty of organizing to do after the votes had been counted in Poland.

Those who stop their motion because they believe the pendulum has swung in their direction can quickly find that things have moved away from them quickly. Those who stop because they believe the pendulum has swung away can miss the opportunity to change things when it comes right in front of them. The true lessons of history are that many things are not in our control, but those who are wise and love their country will know that many things are. The pendulum may be swinging, but it swings not out of some mechanical necessity. It swings because there are people pushing it.

Let’s keep pushing that pendulum. Even if, like the Tiananmen Tank Man, we fail, let us be brave enough that future generations will remember us for our love of country and our bravery.

David P. Deavel teaches at the University of St. Thomas in Houston, Texas, and is a Senior Contributor at The Imaginative Conservative.

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