THE REDEMPTION OF REBELLION
Tweaking His Royal Stupidity's Nose

July-August 1992By Mark P. Shea

Mark P. Shea is a graduate student in adult education at Seattle University.

I love a good rebellion. I suspect most of us do. We root for the underdog. We delight in the jester who tweaks His Royal Stupidity’s nose. We side with Groucho when he shows the pompous senator up for a fool. A capacity to see the rightness of this is a measure of our humor and health.

Going further, we can see this particular grain etched into deeper places within. The tickle of laughter at Groucho touches in us a nerve of valor and heroism as well. We are moved by the courage of the black children who walked past the angry crowds to their first day of class in an all-white school. We feel something stir inside (and I speak as a committed Catholic) at Martin Luther’s words: “Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me.” We are attracted to the resolve of the American colonists who pledged “our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor” in their struggle for independence. We stand with the Kurd, the Salvadoran peasant, the student at Tiananmen Square, and the nine-year-old girl in the sweat shop against systems that eat rather than bless human beings. Here again we find we are rebels at heart.

Rebels at heart. It really does go that deep. Something in the world is way out of whack, and it’s always the little guy who foots the bill. An Indian proverb says, “When elephants fight it is the grass which suffers.” The Big Shots, Top People, and Pharaohs build their empires and fight their wars — but with someone else’s sons and daughters. That’s why we like the story of the Exodus: God yanks the grass carpet out from under an elephant’s feet. Jumbo winds up with a trunk­ful of gravel while the grass gets spread out on a nice sod farm well-stocked with sprinklers and earthworms.

We also like the Old Testament prophets, and for similar reasons. “These are the words of the Lord,” cries Amos:
For crime after crime of Israel I will grant them no reprieve, because they sell the innocent for silver and the destitute for a pair of shoes. They grind the heads of the poor into the earth and thrust the humble out of their way. Father and son resort to the same girl, to the profanation of my holy name. (Amos 2:6-7)
The prophets speak, not only for God, but for every sick and tired Jack and Jill who ever got fed up with people stealing land from Indians, or killing babies for a buck, or robbing the treasury to create enough ammo to destroy the earth 20 times instead of merely 10. The prophets were accomplished rebels.


You have two options:

  1. Online subscription: Subscribe now to New Oxford Review for access to all web content at newoxfordreview.org AND the monthly print edition for as low as $38 per year.
  2. Single article purchase: Purchase this article for $1.95, for viewing and printing for 48 hours.

If you're already a subscriber log-in here.



Back to July-August 1992 Issue

Read our posting policy Add a comment
Be the first to comment on this story!