“The line must be drawn here! This far, no farther!”
– Captain Jean-Luc Picard, Star Trek: First Contact
When Picard says this, it must be admitted, he is not at his most rational. He is leading a desperate fight to stop a terrifying enemy, one which has hurt him, personally, on a most intimate and disturbing level. If they lose, everything he has ever cherished will be gone, like it never existed. As losses and frustrations mount, he is not thinking clearly, not entirely. He cannot tolerate what seems to be another retreat, after a long string of many such retreats, even if he knows, on some level, that it’s the only way to stop the enemy and win the fight. It is, after all, an enemy that just keeps on coming.
Yet, for all his flaws, Picard is right about this much, at least. All he’s failing to see, for the moment, is that the proposed plan is a line drawn in the sand to stop the enemy’s advance at last. But, then again, the plan ends up not working anyway, so, taking that for what it’s worth, he may have been more right than even he knew.
Now, I rush to make clear: sometimes those unpleasant things we call “losses,” “defeats,” “retreats,” and “compromises” really are, in fact, necessary. We cannot bull our way through everything in life. Balance is key, and balance is not found without a bit of flexibility. We do need to give ground in some ways, sometimes in very painful ways, in order to get through this life together.
However, giving up some ground is not the same as giving up all of it by refusing to ever stand firm.
Retreats are sometimes necessary… and sometimes they are the one thing we must not do.
Sometimes, crazy though it may be, the only sane thing to do is stand, stubborn and immovable, against anything and everything coming against us.
It’s a question of priorities. If a middle ground can be found and built upon, it requires a bit of give and take on all sides. If the core of what we protect, be it beliefs, people, or ways of life, can remain preserved with only some peripheral losses, then it is not so bad. But when that core is threatened, when appeasement, compromise, and cooperation fail, and when something keeps advancing, step after step after step, against what we hold most dear… well, that cannot be tolerated.
Tolerance only works when it’s mutual, after all.
There comes a point when retreat is no longer an acceptable option, and it comes long before we are unable retreat.
Then, the line must be drawn and, for the good of what we love, we must win, here and now.
Many people may balk at that, because it risks everything. But when that “everything” is already at risk, then what are we really risking?