Continuing yesterday’s depressing theme, we commemorate today the Grito de Dolores or Cry of Dolores uttered on September 16, 1810. If you are wondering who hurt Dolores so badly, rest assured it wasn’t that. It actually came from a priest, Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla and means the “Cry of Pains” and it triggered the Mexican revolt against Spanish rule.
He uttered memorable words. Pity we don’t know what they are. Various versions exist and they conflict, but clearly he spoke of patriotism, rights, religion and freedom. And the crowd rallied and took up arms and got… well… uh… more speeches about freedom.
They also got eleven years of commotion and war followed by independence in 1821. And I suppose they got patriotism; Mexico still celebrates it. But they didn’t get rights. Mexico was a seedy dictatorship until… well… uh… They are trying these days. But the truth is that the rule of law has never flourished there and still doesn’t.
As for religion, they got a variant of it for a while. The “Autumn of the Patriarch” style of government that prevailed until 1910 was heavy on religion as a slogan and was allied to the church, though its actual conduct was not what Jesus recommended in virtually any way. Then they had another revolution and an incredibly bloody civil war that went on for about a decade and killed perhaps 10% of the populace, following which the church was severely repressed including banning wearing clerical garb in public.
Then there’s freedom. Easy to call, hard to run, as the late great Oakland Raiders quarterback Kenny “Snake” Stabler used to say in the huddle. Without a strong tradition of liberty in one’s political culture, without a habit of self-government in the personal sense, political freedom rapidly deteriorates into licence and anarchy followed by a strong man restoring order and relegating rights and liberties to speeches.
The result is lots of cries of pain, fairly monotonous ones in fact, and a sad parade of hopes that are betrayed or simply crumble.
Somehow people manage to keep the patriotism. But it does them little good in isolation. It can even do harm by making them proud of endless disasters.