Every year, I publish a variation of my Passover post, with the latest enemy of freedom starring as Pharaoh. This year, Biden is Pharaoh.
For roughly 3,500 years, Jews have been telling and retelling the story of Passover — which is also the story of the world’s first revolt against a totalitarian dictatorship. The story remains relevant because each generation sees dangerous tyrants abusing their people and trying to expand their reach beyond their own borders. As we stare down those monsters, the thing to remember is that those atop the tyranny pyramid care about only one thing, which is that their tyranny remains stable and protected. I’m a little late this year (the past three days have been busy), but it’s still Passover work, so it’s time for this year’s iteration of my annual Passover post.
There are those who, rather than seeing the Passover ceremony as a celebration of freedom (for it celebrates the world’s first successful slave revolt), justice, and morality (insofar as it gave us the Ten Commandments), deride the whole ceremony as the unconscionable and immoral celebration of the Egyptian people’s genocide. The basis for this theory is the way in which God hardens Pharaoh’s heart after each plague, even as Pharaoh seems about to soften and let the Jews go. This engenders the full cycle of plagues, culminating in the death of the firstborn.
Those familiar with the Bible understand that this objection is predicated upon ignorance. The tenth plague, which saw God strike down the firstborn in every family without the Pascal lamb’s blood above their door, was not a random punishment. It was, instead, divine retribution for the Pharaoh’s own decree, in effect at Moses’s birth, that all firstborn Jewish males should be drowned in the Nile.
Also, I was re-reading Dennis Prager’s superb The Rational Bible: Exodus and was reminded that each one of the plagues essentially attacked one of the Egyptian’s many gods. Only in this way could God demonstrate that they were false idols and that he had the power to control the symbols with which they were associated. Of course, for those who see the Passover story as a neo-Nazi story, even that reasoning isn’t good enough.
One can bypass the whole issue by saying that the many plagues, culminating with the firstborn’s death, are nothing more than dramatic license, meant to increase the tension and danger surrounding the Jew’s escape from Egypt. After all, if the exodus had been easy, it wouldn’t have been much of a story. Imagine if Moses had asked, “Hey, Pharaoh, can we go?” and Pharaoh had answered, “Sure.”
That narrative lacks punch and heroism. More importantly, God’s involvement is minimal or, at least, unexciting. Surely it resonates more strongly with the people reliving the narrative every year to have an escalating series of plagues, with the audience on tenterhooks as to whether those pesky Jewish slaves will actually be able to make a break for it.
But frankly, the above reasoning is silly. The Bible is not so superficial. There is, instead, a much more profound purpose behind the ten plagues, and that is to remind us of the tyrant’s capacity for tolerating others’ suffering, as long as his power remains in place.
What Pharaoh discovered with the first nine plagues is that life can go on, at least for the ruler, no matter the burdens he places upon his people. A blood-filled Nile River may, at first, seem appalling, but the red recedes and life goes on. Pharaoh still holds power. The same is true for each subsequent plague, whether lice, boils, frogs, darkness, or anything else. As long as Pharaoh realizes, after the first panic, that he is still powerful, he will always reconcile himself to his people’s incremental destruction.
Sheltered in his lavish palace, Pharaoh might have a theoretical concern that a starving and frightened populace could turn on him. However, provided that he is assured that his people will continue to fear and worship him, their suffering is irrelevant. It is only when the price becomes too high — when the plague struck Pharaoh in his own palace, killing his firstborn* — that Pharaoh is convinced, even temporarily, to alter his evil ways.
Human nature hasn’t changed in 3,500 years. Think, for example, of both the Nazis and the Japanese at the end of WWII. For the Nazis, it was apparent by December 1944 (the Battle of the Bulge) that the war was over. Hitler, however, was a megalomaniac in the pharaonic mold, and his high command, either from fear or insanity, would not gainsay him. Rather than surrendering, the Nazi high command was not only willing to see its country overrun and its citizens killed, but they went along with Hitler’s demand to continue to divert military supplies to the Holocaust. The war ended only when Hitler, facing personal humiliation, killed himself and the remaining high command, see their lives at stake, finally gave up or committed suicide too. Hitler and his commanders were Pharaoh. Only when they, personally, faced a humiliating death would they stop fighting.
The same held true for the Japanese. Truman did not decide to drop the bomb just for the hell of it. Even impressing the Soviets was an insufficient reason for doing so. What swayed Truman was his advisers telling him (credibly as it turned out) that the Japanese Bushido culture would not allow Japan to surrender. Instead, Truman understood that, despite an inevitable American victory, without drastic action, that victory would take another year, and cost up to 100,000 American lives and as many as 1,000,000 Japanese lives (including Japanese civilians).
Truman had two choices: Wage war for at least another year, killing 100,000 Americans and up to a million Japanese civilians, or end the war instantly, with no more American casualties and an estimated 100,000 civilian Japanese casualties. Put that way, the choice was a no-brainer. Not only would he save the military, but he would also save tens of thousands of POWs, both military and civilian. One of the Dutch civilian POWs saved was my Mom, who was on the verge of starving to death in a Japanese concentration camp.
The Japanese high command was Pharaoh. No amount of smaller plagues could stop the command from its chosen path. Only a large plague would swiftly lead to the inevitable conclusion.
The only way to destroy an evil institution is to decapitate it. That’s what God did with the 10th plague. That’s what Truman did when he dropped atom bombs on Japan. That’s what the Allies did when they engaged in total war against the Nazis. In each case, the only way to end a tyrant’s rampage of murder, torture, and enslavement was directly hurting the tyrant’s person.
Those who prefer the stability of tyranny to the risks of freedom are the same people who refuse to accept that, under tyranny, the innocents are always going to die, with the only question being whether they will die quickly or slowly. That’s the problem with an evil regime. If you’re unlucky enough to live under that regime, you’re going to end as cannon fodder. Pharaoh will let you die of plagues, and the Nazi and Japanese leadership will let you be bombed and burned, and Biden will open America’s southern border while ramping up the welfare system and pushing Critical Race Theory, a pernicious racial theory every bit as bad as the Nazi’s racial theories. Ensconced in the White House, and surrounded by unelected fanatics, nothing will stop them. The American economy can collapse and whites can become the subjects of actual purges and the Biden administration will continue on its path — as long as the tyrants in charge can retain their power.
People of goodwill must sometimes recognize that the generation raised under tyranny is a lost generation that cannot be saved, whether because it will die under the tyrant’s lash, in the tyrant’s war, or in a war against the tyrant. Sometimes, when slaves finally taste freedom, they fear it. The Bible recognizes this problem, banning the Promised Land to those who were slaves in Egypt. They were a lost generation.
For this reason, when one sees a people groaning under tyranny the most humane thing to do is to destroy the tyranny quickly and decisively even if that process causes people to suffer. Most of them were always going to be lost. Our actions are for the benefit of subsequent generations and, if we are lucky, for those who survived both the tyranny and the liberation.
Protecting freedom for the greatest number of people sometimes demands proactive behavior. And there is nothing more proactive than an overwhelming response when a tyrant starts putting out feelers to see how far he can go. If Chamberlain had done that in 1938, WWII might have been avoided.**
The only way to stop tyranny is to fight tyranny. For liberty-loving people in America, that’s a challenge, because, for the first time in my lifetime, the tyrant is their unfettered government. Still, we have weapons. For one thing, every last one of us needs to stop bowing down before cancel culture. Even non-conservatives need to realize that there is no end to cancel culture. Its practitioners must constantly strive to prove their purity and they can do this only by attacking others.
Today, I put up a post at American Thinker about the push at Oxford University to cancel the entire Western music system (musical notations, Beethoven, Brahms, etc.) because it existed at the same time as the African slave trade. Apparently even then, if Europeans who had nothing to do with and probably no knowledge of the slave trade didn’t speak out, they were complicit! I made a point regarding events at Oxford that I think is relevant here:
I think the Oxford music teachers know this is bunkum. They’re raising it only because they feel that, unless they chime in on the Black Lives Matter issue and show themselves to be on board with it, they will be the next target. Under the tyranny that is BLM, if you’re not with them, you’re against them, and if you’re against them, you will be destroyed in the next purge (and there’s always a next purge).
As I watch the endless waves of BLM stupidity in corporations and academic institutions in the English-speaking world, I’m reminded of nothing so much as the mourners at Kim Jong-il’s funeral. They knew that the secret police were watching and that anyone showing insufficient grief was at risk of being carted off to a concentration camp. That’s why you see videos such as the one below showing thousands of people engaged in hysterical weeping. Yes, they were told that their communist godhead had died, but what you’re seeing in these videos isn’t grief, it’s fear.
We have to stop playing this fear game. When they call us racists, when they subject us to the appalling racist Critical Race Theory, when they use race to justify overthrowing our southern border, we need to speak out even more loudly. We need to fight their ideology at every turn. We need to boycott the woke companies. We need to fund organizations that will handle lawfare for people fired because they exercised their constitutional rights.
Do anything and everything you can think of to push back against this administration. That does not mean violating the laws; it does not mean impoverishing yourself; it does not mean violence. However, it does mean speaking up constantly, withholding what money you can from complicit organizations, and backing down only when your safety is at risk (something, sadly, I know about doing).
With that, I’d like to wish all of you a Chag Sameach (Happy Passover). Whether Jewish or not, I hope that the Pesach celebration serves as an occasion for all of us to remember that, though the price may sometimes be high, both for slave and master, our goal as just and moral human beings must be freedom. So please join with me in saying, as all Jews do at this time of year, “Next Year in Jerusalem.”
*The fact that Pharaoh survived the last of the ten plagues tells us that he was not his father’s firstborn son. Either an older sibling died or Pharaoh was the younger child in a family unrelated to the Egyptian ruling family and, through a coup, seized the throne.
**And yes, I am aware of the argument that Chamberlain might not have been Hitler’s dupe. Thanks to England’s anti-War fervor after WWI, which led to disarmament and the drawing down of her military, Chamberlain might have believed by 1938 that England could do nothing to stop Hitler. That belief would have led him to choose appeasement as the only option. I don’t agree with this view because bullies will back down quickly if their intended victim fights even minimally, but I’ll give Chamberlain the benefit of the doubt because he was a decent and patriotic man.
IMAGE: Moses and Aaron confront Pharaoh (1537). Master of the Dinteville Allegory. As part of The Met’s Open Access program, the data is available for unrestricted commercial and noncommercial use without permission or fee.