Fire or Water?

Written by Jimmy Mengel
Posted January 7, 2021

Dear Readers,

Yesterday was a very disturbing day in American history.

We witnessed the storming of the Capitol building under the winking direction of the leader of the free world. I don't care where you stand politically; it was a disgrace to our democracy and to civil decency. 

Now, I’m all for protest — I’ve participated in many myself. But protests only work when you don't poison the message you seek to convey. They don't achieve anything when they ignite the flames of hate and burn down — literally and figuratively — the face of something you stand for.

We witnessed that yesterday.

These weren’t students peacefully marching against an unjust war.

These weren't freedom fighters raging against Jim Crow laws by silently sitting at a lunch counter.

These weren't oppressed people protesting colonialism by going on hunger strikes. 

This was a fire stoked by the lies and self-interest of someone with the power to quell anger, not incite it. The ability to elevate the debate, not debase it. His words yesterday were those of a man that was backed into a corner like an animal, and he reacted much the same... 

When Trump held his rally prior to the riots, he did so with a specific purpose. He wanted to whip his supporters into a frenzy in order to make a solipsistic scene for he himself to enjoy. The president knew quite well that a violent attack on the Capitol would certainly not overturn the election he was so personally humiliated by.

During the rally, he even had the gall to come out to "Fortunate Son" by Creedence Clearwater Revival. In the iconic anti-war protest song, John Fogerty sings: “I ain’t no millionaire’s son.” He was singing about all of the wealthy people that were able to avoid serving in Vietnam while those less fortunate were marched off to die.

I don’t care where you stand politically. That is simply sacrilegious coming from someone who is literally a millionaire's son. He also was able to dodge the draft — like so many other "patriotic" politicians before him — in part due to that wealth.

(And don’t get me started on pumping the crowd up with "Macho Man" by the Village People. I suspect he has never seen a picture of the Village People. They were probably not the macho men he was seeking to channel.)

The point remains that this wasn’t a call for a peaceful discussion on the merits of voting laws. It was a call to arms.

In his famous Cooper Union speech before he became president himself, Abraham Lincoln said:

Your purpose, then, plainly stated, is that you will destroy the Government, unless you be allowed to construe and enforce the Constitution as you please, on all points in dispute between you and us. You will rule or ruin in all events.

Lincoln was speaking about Southern Democrats, by the way. If Lincoln was running today, he could have deployed the same words against Trump's actions to similar effect.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand that we all have frustrations regardless of our politics, race, gender, or economic status.

There is plenty to be angry — in fact, downright furious — about. There always will be, and there will always be people with different reasons for feeling it. To quote from another violent and deadly riot, I don't have any faith in "Can we all get along?" 

But that is the reason the Founding Fathers set up the Constitution in the first place.

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

We can have democratic elections. We can have peaceful assembly. It’s the reason we have the First Amendment in the first place — so you can share any opinion you have in an attempt to elevate those that don’t agree with you and make a thoughtful argument that they may consider.

But there’s one caveat that anyone who’s studied the First Amendment has heard: You can’t yell "fire" in a crowded theater.

In my opinion, that’s what President Trump did yesterday when he enticed the takeover of the Capitol of the United States.

All of us are worse off for it…

We saw it last year on the other side, with police brutality protests turning violent as demonstrators burned down their own communities. We watched as U.S. citizens turned guns on one another instead of sitting down and discussing their differences like civilized men and women.

What did that accomplish?

The violence and destruction simply turned people who disagreed into mortal enemies. Those on the right simply dug in their feet and doubled down on their existing opinions. This is happening now on the left in their denunciations of Trump supporters carrying out the same self-defeating playbook.

We simply can't go on like this or we'll be looking directly into another civil war. And I would have to bet that almost every clear-minded American would rather fight their opponents with words then stand face to face with them in violent, deadly conflict.

I'm speaking as a father. I'm speaking for mothers, sons, and daughters. We all fall into one of these categories and deserve to live in peace and prosperity regardless of our differences. It is high time we started listening to one another.

The violence has to stop.

Fire is one of nature's most destructive forces. It feeds on itself and leaves nothing but a barren landscape in its path. We've seen what it has done to us as a nation.

Water is the lifeblood of humanity. Without water, you can only survive for a few days. As we know, water is fire's worst enemy.

What we need now is less fire and more water.


Jimmy Mengel

follow basic @mengeled on Twitter

Jimmy is a managing editor for Outsider Club and the investment director of several personal finance advisories, The Crow's Nest, and The Adventure Capitalist For more on Jimmy, check out his editor's page.

*Follow Outsider Club on Facebook and Twitter.

Heal Your Ailing Portfolio Body