"Give us a king"

Published March 14, 2024

By Lib Campbell

The want of a king is not new. Grumbling people fill the pages of history. We gripe about wages. We bemoan our tax situation. We whine about our health care and our schools. We complain about our lot in life, even when the sun rises on a day when employment is high, wages are up and crime is declining. 
Grumbling is part of the human condition. We see grass as greener on the other side. We think a strongman will right the ship and give us a fairer shot. History does not bear such thinking out. “These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you.”
“He will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen.” They will plow his ground and reap his harvest. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best and give it to his insiders. He will take your flocks and cattle and you shall be his slaves. “And in that day, you will cry out to the Lord about your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves.” Scripture says in I Samuel 8, “the Lord will not listen in that day.” 
The slippery slope is greased with election results that have us sliding closer and closer to autocracy. North Carolina is becoming the poster child of choosing a direction not seen in America since the 1940s. Republicans have elected a candidate for Governor who is an election denier, a holocaust rejector, a person who thinks women should not vote. He cannot deny saying these things. His rant is on videotape. 
North Carolina Republicans have elected a candidate for Superintendent of Public Instruction who not only has no experience or training in education, she is a homeschooler who wants to cut funding for public education and take any emphasis on diversity and inclusion out of our schools. If that isn’t enough, she was part of the crowd of insurrectionists who stormed the Capital on January 6, 2021. 
At my age, I could easily get my popcorn and sit on the sidelines watching the circus. I have been active in writing congressmen and presidents; I have marched with women and moms against guns and cheered on Moral Mondays. I could say it is in your court now. But as loud and rank and novel as this show might be, I cannot be silent or complicit while I watch America and North Carolina slip away. Chip. Chip. Chip. One office at a time. The whole democratic experiment, messy as it is, will ebb away into a sunset ‘til it is lost forever. 
Emmy-award winner Ken Burns is working on a new project about the movement toward Nazism in the 1930s. Berlin, at the time, was the center of democratic thought, elitist educations, and abundant opportunities. Burns said it is a slippery slope to loss of rights, loss of voice, loss of choice. Berlin took a precipitous fall and Hitler needed to find an “other” to hate. 
Burns compares what is happening in America today to what happened in Germany. Division is sown to provide an “other” for us to hate. Blacks, Gays, Immigrants are filling that bill. We need to understand the stakes. “Flirtation with autocracy needs to be spoken into.” Sue Gordon, former Principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence, told Burns that the American experiment may not survive for 300 years. Burns thinks we will be lucky to make it 250 years. 
Don’t think there is not a war on women. Don’t think voting rights are not under attack. Don’t think inclusion and diversity will not be challenged at every level. Don’t think our want of a strongman is fantasy. The capitulation of an entire political party to this pursuit of a king is happening before our very eyes. We are numbed to the shock of such complicity and must acknowledge that this is what almost 40 percent of Americans are screaming and voting for. They clamor for a strongman to lift them out of the mire of discontent and grievance in which they live. This is what almost half of us are thinking. 
We are the sum total of our choices. We can choose inclusion, pluralism, justice, civil rights, human rights. We can encourage others to grab onto the great hope of the American dream. We must be informed. We must vote and make our voices heard. We cannot be afraid to speak truth to power. Burns said, “History may not repeat itself, but it surely rhymes.”
The Rolling Stones say it like this, “You can’t always get what you want. You get what you need.” We don’t always know what we need. We crawl through the desert toward the mirage of a king. On our bellies, we are so desperate, we eat sand.  
Lib Campbell is a retired Methodist pastor, retreat leader, columnist and host of the blogsite www.avirtualchurch.com. She can be contacted at libcam05@gmail.com