Won’t Back Down

Our experience is replete with examples of both backbone and inflexibility. Intransigence inevitably has a positive connotation in our culture. Stand up for what you believe. Do not take a step backward. Live free or die. The American Revolution was not won by ambivalent soldiers: “Yeah, I don’t know. Maybe taxation without representation is okay. Who am I to say?” Defensive tackles in the NFL do not last long with an attitude of, "Maybe I should reassess my attitude of assailing opposing quarterbacks. It's getting darned unpleasant at the line of scrimmage what with all that pushing and grunting and besides, those offensive linemen must have their point of view."

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Nor has history been kind to Neville Chamberlain. His name is synonymous with not having the courage of his country’s conviction. Winston Churchill is much preferred: “...we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.”

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                  Winston Churchill

Another popular stance is believing in your--well--beliefs. He stood up for what he knew was right; he never backed down. "Stubborn as a mule" is spoken with respect. All well and good--unless you've spent any time with actual mules. What if what you're standing up for turns out to be that which should have been sat on? History is filled with examples of good folks refusing to back down from what they knew was the proper course. But invariably, there is someone of the other side who was just as mulish. We admire Churchill; Stalin not so much. And if there were ever a man who "held fast to his beliefs" and "wouldn't back down," Stalin fit those descriptions. If you have any doubt about the accuracy of my assertion, just ask 30 million dead Russians. Stalin is remembered for many qualities, an interest in the opinions of others not among them.

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                            Malcom Brown

I'm sure Malcom Brown is a nice person, all 6' 2" and 320 pounds of him. I imagine he earned every nickel of his $1,473,167 salary last year playing defensive tackle for the Patriots. But I don't care all that much about his feelings. I started as a Dolphin fan in the late 1960s when the team began and my allegiance has never wavered. Indeed were Malcom Brown to be traded to the Fins tomorrow, I would be his biggest supporter. But as he is currently playing for the Pats, I can not in good conscious wish him well. He earns his million dollars salary by forcing other folks--notably the centers, guards, and tackles of the opposing team--to literally take a step, or as the case may be, many steps, back. Just to make sure his opinion is known, he frequently knocks those players onto the turf, onto their tushies, or into the middle of next week. To the best of my knowledge, he does not talk about his feelings with players of the rival squad on a given Sunday afternoon.

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“Fight to the last man” is an appropriate paradigms for war, especially when the alternative to perseverance is death or enslavement--neither an ideal outcome. “Never take a step back” is the only way to earn a million dollars salary as a defensive tackle in the NFL, although admittedly weighing several steak sandwiches north of 300 pounds is also a plus. But here is our thought experiment for this Tuesday morning: is armed conflict or professional football the appropriate paradigm for progressing as a family? Do you want to be known as the person with whom it is futile to argue? Do you want to be the person whose job it is to smash people into the ground? Or might a little gentle conversation go a long way to achieving "peace in our home"? Is geopolitics the appropriate archetype for family communication? Is smashing your entire body into other large humans the model for a happy household? 

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                   Thomas Hobbes, Author

Wouldn't you rather be in the same foxhole as your children? Wouldn't you prefer an outlook of "we're in this together"? Bellum omnium contra omnes" wrote Hobbes. "The war of all against all" might be the way to view the threats and misery outside your home. Inside your four walls, don't you want your children to know that they can count on you to keep them safe? Rather than fearing that you are the one from whom they need to be protected?

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                Hobbes, Tiger.
Not who I was talking about at all.

One thought on “Won’t Back Down

  1. Robert McGrath

    In a family situation, you don’t want to be the person who is always right and won’t back down. If there’s more than one like you there will be irreconcilable conflict. In the end most will develop an “end around” game and just never tell you things. My daughter was five when she told me, “Dad, people that know everything don’t know one thing: that nobody knows everything”. Pretty sharp for a five-year-old. Know-it-alls become comical, they are flawed as all humans are. They just don’t see it.
    The question becomes: when to be authoritarian and when to be in the same fox hole. Know-it-alls stifle communication which is essential for parenting. It is better to get along like team mates. That way the child will listen when it is time to speak like a coach.

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