The Power of the Story

Go read Thers and come back.

Sometimes I think it’s America’s relative youth as a country, that we just don’t understand the power of a myth as a motivator. I thought of the Balkans as well as of Ireland, in that even if you’re on the losing end of history for hundreds of years, you have the fire of righteousness to keep you warm.

We do get the underdog story, to some extent. Individual Americans, we get it. We cheer for the underdog team on Sunday and in every multi-plex every weekend. Our most beloved stories are of those who shouldn’t have been able to make it, but who did. Even our religions tell stories, most motivated by early persecution of their adherents, of those who were spat upon by the high society of their times, but who were rewarded in the afterlife while the prosperous burned in hell. The sort of cosmic equivalent of “wait till your dad gets home.”

So why is it we seem so utterly unable to take this into account in our dealings with other, smaller, weaker nations? Why do we seem shocked when those who rail against America find followers in the thousands? Why does it seem incomprehensible to us that this should be an attractive message, one that draws crowds? Why do we blither on about hearts and minds and never see that it’s not about whether we did something right or wrong. It’s not, in fact, about us at all.

It’s about the basic human fact that, as old Bill Shakespeare wrote, “the harder matched, the greater victory.” It’s no real big thing for us to squash a fly of a country beneath our heel, but it is a very big thing for the fly to throw off the boot on its back, slap the great big would-be squasher around and laugh out loud while doing so. Think of it this way. If, as the 101st fighting keyboarders keep telling us, our national manhood is at stake in Iraq and now, by proxy, in Lebanon, imagine what is at stake for the opposition.

Via NTodd.