These words came to me last night as I was sitting in a Starbucks in Occoquan, Va. waiting for the traffic on 95 to die down. I was reading the Washington Post and then the New York Times, then my cellphone news feed...you have to wait a very long time for the traffic to die down in Occoquan.
There were stories of good people doing nothing while innocent people were victimized. There were stories of decent people being railroaded by a tiny contingent of malcontents demanding their way or the highway, dressed up bullying. Other stories spoke of learned men and women who should know better, giving in to the shrill, unhinged demands of pampered children whose combined life experiences could be shoehorned into a thimble. Everywhere, it seemed, loud and angry people were demanding this and that while beleaguered adults looked on helplessly unable or unwilling to push back.
Some will say that the problem in our day is that we have lost our moral compass, having rejected absolute truth, having no longer a North Star, we have been set adrift in a sea of moral ambiguity. To which I say...bull****. Sure, maybe a few cloistered academics have fallen for the everything is relative claptrap, but the average Joe knows evil when he sees it. The problem is not that we have no convictions, the problem is that we have lost our confidence in them. Without the moral courage that convictions demand, we have become moral cowards, passive bystanders watching a small pack of losers taking over the world.
Then I read a story about the Trump campaign. He has opened his mouth at a campaign event and some fresh absurdity has proceeded out of it. But it hits me at a Starbucks in Occoquan that Donald Trump has captured lightning in a bottle. His seemingly fearless attack on political correctness, his willingness to say whatever he thinks, consequences be damned, resonates with a people who have grown accustomed to standing on the sidelines passively taking whatever the elites have dished out. Trump has given voice to the morally timid, the bystanders of modern life. They hear him saying harsh things, even rude, dehumanizing things...and it pulses with something that has slipped away from them over the last fifty years...power.
But if conviction without courage is cowardice, what is courage without conviction? Donald Trump may indeed have courage, but to what end? What exactly are his convictions? It's terribly hard to tell at this point. How would the man govern? Would he be conservative? Fiscally prudent? To his supporters does it even matter? For me, nothing could possibly matter more. For, although it is a good thing for a man to have courage, if not enlisted in the service of moral conviction yields terrible results.
Two famous motivational speakers, Jim Rohn and Zig Ziglar used to debate what was more important, education or motivation? Zig would say, "You've got to motivate people first, Jim. You can always educate then later!" Jim would reply, "No Zig, if you motivate an idiot, all you will have is a motivated idiot who will arrive at disaster quicker!"
While conviction without courage is cowardice...courage without conviction is chaos.