We’re all encouraged by the idea of being outnumbered, outgunned, or out-trained, yet still winning the day. The month of October gives us two great examples of this from the history of the fight for self-governance.
The first, of course, is the Battle of Gonzales on Oct. 2, 1835. The Mexican government told the people of Gonzales they were coming to take away the town’s cannon. The people had other ideas and stood resolute against the action.
They hoisted a flag over the town, declaring, “Come and Take It.” The people of Gonzales were determined to govern themselves, which meant maintaining their ability to protect themselves.
A short battle between the men of Gonzales against the better-trained Mexican soldiers ended with the people victorious—and keeping their cannon—while the defeated Mexicans beat a hasty retreat.
Fast forward one hundred and forty years, and 7,000 miles due east, to the Golan Heights, at the border of Israel and Syria. There you find the Valley of Tears, where a severely outnumbered Israeli force bested the Syrian army in what can only be described as a miraculous encounter during the outset of the Yom Kippur War in October 1973.
The Syrians and their Arab allies—Egypt and Jordan—planned to invade Israel ahead of Yom Kippur, the holiest of Jewish holidays. In the critical Golan Heights, fewer than 100 Israeli tanks stood against more than 500 Soviet-made tanks backed up by as many as 1,900 other pieces of deadly military hardware.
As the action began to unfold, the Israeli commanders on the ground didn’t wait for instructions from distant superiors who were no doubt enjoying the holiday. They went to work defending their country.
After four days of intense fighting, approximately 70 of the 100 Israeli tanks were lost … but the Syrians were in retreat. The Syrian forces lost some 500 tanks and armored vehicles in a psychologically humiliating defeat. The outcome of the two-week Yom Kippur War mirrored that decisive tank battle in the Golan Heights, with the outnumbered Israelis fighting off the Arab world.
The country’s main intelligence operations hadn’t forecasted the attacks, among other reasons, because of the way their bureaucracy processed reports for later analysis. Yet individual commanders on the ground saw what was happening and acted accordingly, taking advantage of the decentralized nature of the Israeli military at the time.
Self-governance as an operating model, based on Old Testament instructions from God, forms the basis of Israeli society even if it is not necessarily a part of their governing institutions. Without that ingrained sense of self-governance, the Battle of the Valley of Tears and the Yom Kippur War would have gone very differently for Israel.
In Texas and the rest of the United States, our Founding Fathers explicitly sought to frame our government in a way that emphasized self-governance by strictly limiting government. They understood that while a strong leader—a ruler, a king, a dictator—might allow his subjects varying degrees of freedom, only a self-governing people can truly have liberty.
That spirit of self-governance was on full display at Gonzales, where the people were unwilling to live as unarmed serfs. They wanted to govern, and protect, themselves. And they were willing to be faithful to the fight.
The extent to which we value our liberty is the extent to which we will fight daily to protect our legacy of self-governance.