Remembrance of Things Past; Anticipation of Things to Come

Posted on 2023-06-22
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It was a contemplative and somewhat melancholy Father’s Day for me last week. My Dad passed suddenly last November, so this was my first without Dad in this world. It was also the first in which I am the oldest father in my family line. In fact, except for an aunt three years older than me, I would be the oldest in my family line altogether. I was the first of my generation born on both my father and my mother’s sides, so it was likely that this day would come. At 67, I just didn’t expect it to come so soon. On Dad’s side of the family, most live to their 80’s or 90’s. Mom’s side was more volatile, with a distinct cohort dying young, a few with astounding longevity (a great-grandmother lived to 107 – full of spit and vinegar to the end), but most who died of natural causes living into their 70’s or early 80’s. Paradoxically, then, I am old but very young to be the patriarch in both lines. I suppose it makes sense: I got into serious local politics when I was 16. For a long time, I was the youngest, by far, in the room of local movers and shakers. My peers averaged almost 30 years my senior. Now, I become the youngest of the old guys who are patriarchs.

I am very proud of the line of fathers I come from. Both my Dad and my maternal grandfather were good men, better than they realized. Dad was a farm boy from the south. He had a quick, agile mind, a lively sense of humor and a big personality. He dreamed of becoming a lawyer, but his circumstances never made that a possibility. He became a union leader locally who was consulted frequently on contract interpretation by his national. After retirement, he became (at the request of his church) a Protestant fundamentalist pastor. Dad was marked by intellectual integrity and principled courage. Lacking formal training and somewhat hobbled by dyslexia, he would often make a partial case, but his agile mind made him the only person I ever really worried about in debate (which we LOVED to engage in). When he studied deeply on a subject, he was as formidable an intellect as I have ever encountered. My conversion to the Catholic Church, ironically, deepened his faith dramatically. He began studying Christian history intensely. It might first have been to gear up for debates with me but, as I said, he had great intellectual integrity. We talked often of the faith and he took great delight in all the discoveries he made on how deep the faith really runs. Dad was a Pentecostal Minister, but he and a local Methodist Minister often subbed for each other at their respective churches…and no one batted an eye. I’m not sure how Dad fit in so well with his fellow Pentecostal Ministers. It is a hotbed of anti-Catholic sentiment, but anyone who dared smear Catholics in Dad’s presence were told tartly that if he wasn’t Pentecostal he would be Catholic – and that they should be more respectful of the mother of all Christians. He pulled it off, though. Despite his easy friendship with people from all walks of life, Dad got stars in his eyes when talking to lawyers, even the dopey ones. It is what he wanted to be and, privately, he always felt a little intimidated by those who were. I tended to downplay my professional work with family, but it delighted Dad that so many lawyers and judges sought my counsel.

My maternal grandfather, Newnan Rider, drank more than he should all his life. But he was everybody’s friend. My Dad’s brother, Uncle Harold, once took a road trip with Poppo Rider (my term of address for my grandfathers) from Chicago to Birmingham and was amazed that, at every truck stop they pulled into, at least one person would say, “Hey Rider, what are you doing here? How’re you doing?” Near the end of the trip he asked Poppo, “Do you know everybody, Newnan?” Poppo just muttered that he liked people and knew a lot of them. After he died, we discovered a chest full of military medals in his closet from his service in World War II. He never talked about it – and seeing the numerous medals for bravery under fire, I couldn’t help but wish he had. But he hated talking about the war.

My paternal grandfather, Wilbert Johnston, was renowned throughout several counties for his prodigal physical strength (none of which he bequeathed to me). But he was the kindest, gentlest man I have ever known. In crisis, he soothed everyone around him. He made you feel safe and loved. But Lord help anyone who managed to provoke that gentle, even-tempered man. They didn’t do it twice. The only reason he was not better than he thought was because he just didn’t think that way. Whatever came, he just worked to deal with it. Whenever disaster befell anyone close to him, he insisted that all would be well – and quietly went to work to make sure it was.

I come from peasant stock, but it is good, hardy and noble peasant stock. All of these were men who made the world a little better for their having passed through it. It is a great heritage. I pray that I add to it.


Some commentators and political folks are saying that conservatives have gotten a lot better at organizing boycotts because of the tanking of Budweiser, Target, Disney, and Fox. These folks completely miss the point. No one organized a boycott of any of these. Their downfall came because of the spontaneous revulsion of normal people at their offensive antics. The revulsion was entirely organic without a lick of manufactured outrage.

This is deadly to the woke left. It is the spontaneous, exasperated response of the quiet man – and it sweeps all before it. No manufactured outrage or microaggressions can hold a candle to it. It is a visceral colossus which, once aroused, cannot be stopped. It is deadly because, once normal people realize what a dog’s breakfast they are being served in one area, they start looking in other areas. It is a snowball running downhill.

The woke left is agitating at all areas of culture and society, trying to subdue normal people and harness them to the left’s abnormal will. That seems a smart play for cultural revolutionaries who hold almost all the levers of formal power in our degraded society. But when a certain critical mass is reached, normal people spontaneously say no – by their actions even more than their words. Once this backlash begins, it feeds on itself and grows.

The leftist establishment has power to create a lot of damage and violence. But the backlash has begun and will grow, sometimes in shocking leaps. The left will keep trying to crack down harder but are now confronted with a waking Sampson who will use his chains to pull down the pillars supporting the baleful temple the left has erected. The backlash has begun. Our renewal is at hand. Do not be frightened by the terrors that now beset us. These are the birthing pains of renewal.


At a private gathering a few weeks ago a fellow got me aside and quietly asked if I was doing a Mr. Miyagi on them. I grinned and told him that all he needed to worry about for now was…wax on, wax off. (If you don’t get the reference, see the original 1984 movie, The Karate Kid).

As Shakespeare said, there is a time and tide to the affairs of men.

Most movements do not fail because of a lack of action, but because of a lack of prudent discipline and shrewd action. Action without skills and discipline is just so much noise. Before you can act effectively you must build the habits – and habits of mind – that give you a chance for success. Otherwise, you just engage in impotent flailing that, to quote Shakespeare again, only amounts to so much, “sound and fury signifying nothing.” (Sounds like a Congressional committee, doesn’t it?)

In 1995, with a solid candidate, I set about the business of confecting a very rare conservative victory in a statewide Republican primary, I had a lot of people wanting to be anointed the coordinators of their region (I had divided the state into 17 regions). I looked for people who did things and focused on the work. One evening a fellow in the Peoria region was pushing hard to be named head of the region. He told me of his experience in previous conservative efforts. He noted that in one effort they only came away with 27% of the vote. “But,” he added enthusiastically, “we really kicked butt with _____. We got 31% of the vote.” I peered at him and said drily, “I intend to win.” Looking at me with baffled astonishment he said, “That’s impossible. We can’t do that in Illinois.” After weeding out all the activists who thought futile and stupid gestures were action and those who thought angry, impotent statements were victories, we won. Before election day, the team I assembled started to proudly call themselves, “Charlie’s No-Name Army.” I loved those guys…and they brought it home…with relentless and diligent effort. No posturing, just work.

We are about to take things to the next stage with CORAC. We have spent two years assembling the tools we all need to build a functioning, healthy society in collaboration with each other. We have assembled a mass of people who enthusiastically work together, both building their communities and the skills we need to work together as all the institutions we used to rely on crumble and fall. If you just worked from the material our teams have already assembled and kept contact with your regional neighbors you would have almost all you need to survive and thrive through the worst social dysfunction to come. You would also participate in rebuilding a healthy society that works. We are going to take root from the ground up by putting an intensely local focus on things. We have the infrastructure in place and tools at the ready. Now we build aggressively.

To that end, I will announce details of our retooling and expansion at the Michigan Field Day in Brighton, MI on July 8. Then, on July 16 at 4 p.m. Eastern Time we will hold a national online meeting to unveil it to all and to talk directly with you. Details on both of these events will be released shortly. Many of you have been generous with your time, your talent and your donations. Prepare to gear up. And please, keep those donations coming. As we expand our reach and efforts, expenses expand, too. (Not to worry…I have no intention of replacing my trusty 2002 Subaru or moving out of the downstairs of my dear friend, Bob Sheich’s, house. My only focus is working with you to cooperate with God in rebuilding society anew.)

We will make no futile and stupid gestures out of frustration. We will not consider an angry complaint a victory.

I intend to win.

Wax on, wax off.

If communication goes out for any length of time, meet outside your local Church at 9 a.m. on Saturday mornings. Tell friends at Church now in case you can’t then. CORAC teams will be out looking for people to gather in and work with.

Find me on Twitter at @JohnstonPilgrim


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