Way back when, during my high school years, our English class read “Lord of the Flies.” And though too young to grasp the power of the story then, it’s bothered me plenty in the last five years.
Permit me a refresher on the story. During World War Two a group of English school boys are evacuated from England by air, and the plane crashes. The pilot is killed, leaving only the boys alive. Finding themselves on a deserted island, the kids try to organize into a functioning unit.
The wheels come off almost as once, as two groups emerge. One faction agrees to cooperate, while the other descends into depravity. Those favoring cooperation seek (through logic and science) a way to be rescued. Those choosing muscle undermine that effort, reveling in bloodsport, killing wild pigs, and intimidating weaker boys.
The novel reads as an allegory of disintegrating humanity, pitting good order against savagery. Though published in 1954, William Golding’s book has taken on a prophetic urgency made evident by the lawlessness before and after the 2020 election.
In a haunting parallel to the breakdown of order on the island, Trump’s mob attacking the Capitol came as an inevitable outcome of law breaking. Riffing irrational diatribes, this flawed man chose to incite violence to maintain power. That his misinformed followers eagerly climbed on the bandwagon proves how fragile democracy can be when infected by evil. The physical fury of that day seemed an aphrodisiac for his private thugs as they stormed America’s Alter of Reason.
And it’s no wonder the mob chose to vandalize our sanctuary of law. This guy disdains justice, indifferent to the sacrifices made by generations before to preserve it.
Good government rests on an educated, committed electorate. Mindless violence is the tool of the lazy and weak. Blind fury only destroys, and in truth that savagery lives in all of us. It is up to each one of us to make that choice, to awaken the “better angels of our nature” for the good of us all. It is well past time for America’s trial by the mob to end.
Unlike the school boys in “Lord” no one is coming to our rescue. And that reality leaves no alternative but to discipline ourselves to preserve the gift of democracy.
Handed down from our elders, the work in that domed building is the last line of a free people.
Gail Chumbley is the author of “River of January,” and “River of January : Figure Eight,” a two-part memoir. Both titles are available on Kindle. Gail has also written two stage plays, “Clay,” and “Wolf By The Ears,” exploring antebellum America.