The Ones Who Walk Away
There is a 1973 science fiction or fantasy story, depending upon how you define those terms, by Ursula K. Le Guin titled “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas.” Le Guin got the name for the fictional city of Omelas from a fleeting glance in her rear-view mirror at a road sign as she drove away from Salem, Oregon. Omelas is a utopian place, whose citizens spend their days and nights seeking pleasure, recreating, or working, if they choose. Everyone has enough to eat and places to sleep without having to toil for it, a true paradise. However, beneath the city a child is imprisoned in horrible conditions. It isn’t explained why, but the existence of Omelas is dependent on the continuous torture of this child. Le Guin was obviously setting up the moral quandary which is the spine of the story.
Most citizens of Omelas have accepted the bargain, barely thinking about the shackled child below the streets. A few, though, are troubled enough by this situation that they cannot. Sooner or later the troubled ones simply walk away from Omelas, turning their backs on all they know. When the Walk Away movement began, Le Guin’s story resonated loudly in my head.
I am not a scholar of Le Guin’s work, but from reading her and about her one can glean that she was a feminist and an anarchist. Her honest, old-fashioned leftism viewed a practical anarchism as an end goal achievable and worth striving for. I don’t agree with, but do feel an empathy for, those bitter old anarchists. After using them as cannon fodder, the socialists pulled a cynical bait-and-switch. The people who call themselves anarchists today wink at each other, understanding “anarchist” as a convenient cloak to hide under and a hammer with which to wreck the hated system (which at least works) on the road to a socialist uberstate (which won’t). Would Ursula K. Le Guin, were she still alive, feel welcome on the Left? Hard to say. The mere fact that she wrote “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” argues that she would not. The story demands debate and dissent, which modern leftists appear to abhor.
Step by step over the years the Democrats have retreated farther away from the truth, burrowing deeper into the comforting warmth of their big, beautiful lies. They pity and scorn those who can’t, or even hesitate, to follow them in that deep. The leftist must hold in contempt those who don’t agree with him completely. Even the slightest doubt creeping in will corrode the foundations of his beliefs, which are built not even on sand but on air and arrogance. The vitriol also serves to keep leftists in line, knowing they will be mercilessly attacked if they break ranks.
And yet, a growing number can no longer manage the moral gymnastics required to be a Democrat today. Slogans like “speech is violence and violence is speech” are not confined to the pages of dystopian novels anymore. The Democrats bellow them with passion while out for nights of burning, looting, and shooting those who speak their minds or even just try to eat supper outside a cafe. Louder than the chants in the streets are the screams of the shackled and tortured child Truth beneath the edifice of the Democratic Party. Saner Democrats, those not mesmerized by the power they imagine is almost within their grasp, have woken from their slumber to this nightmare. Reluctantly, they turn their backs on all they know, and walk away.
Have all of those wayward Democrats become Republicans? Probably not. Just because they can no longer stomach the hypocrisy of the Left doesn’t mean walkaways are ready to rebrand as conservatives. At least not yet. Like the walkaways in the story, they only know that they can’t remain where they are.
Americans, underneath it all, are a very practical bunch. We’re willing to try almost anything if it looks like it could work. But, in the end, the idea does have to work or we will drop it and not look back. The underlying strength of our system is that the people really do get the final say over matters. We are the ones who will suffer the most from poor decisions. The people deserting the Democratic Party are simply exercising that option with their feet.
The nub of our problem is that the elites have become unwilling to submit to review by those they serve, the public. Our masters in Washington know better than us, otherwise they wouldn’t be in charge. Marching in lockstep to the drumbeat of their infallible diktats is our only acceptable action.
The situation calls to mind an incident at the dawn of the Progressive era. In 1912, denied the Republican presidential nomination, Theodore Roosevelt walked out of the GOP convention -- literally issued the call from the podium and walked out the doors -- to find another hall about a mile away and founded his own, ill-fated, Bull Moose Party. That time, Roosevelt only drew away enough Republican votes to elect the Democrat, Woodrow Wilson. In 2016, a time less prone to the shenanigans of party bigwigs (GOP bigwigs anyway), Donald Trump successfully whisked the GOP away from the establishment. No wonder the people who used to run the GOP call themselves “#NeverTrumpers.” Trump stole the whole darn thing right out from under them by simply saying what he’d do and then doing what he said. Honesty from a politician? How unfair. How revolutionary!
The first walkaway, surprisingly enough, was Donald Trump. He walked away from the Democratic Party some time ago. Then, he walked away from the Republican Party when he found a similar flavor of arrogance at the higher levels there. To everyone’s amazement, Trump took the bulk of the party with him.
Like the Chinese Communist Party, who watched the Soviets collapse and fear that fate, the Democrats look upon the reform of the GOP with dread. The contagion of peasants holding their betters accountable is a death knell for the cult which the Democratic Party has become. Once an alternative to the two false choices presented before 2016 emerged, voters flocked to it. Even armed with special prosecutors, impeachment, riots, and a global pandemic, the Democrats can’t hope to win a fair election. Their voters have had enough. The closing lines of Le Guin’s short story read, “…they seem to know where they are going, the ones who walk away from Omelas.”