Why the “Forlorn Hope” Matters in the Fight Against the Deplorables and Trump

By vacating the 4th Circuit’s decision in favor of Gavin Grimm in Gloucester County School Board. v. G. G. and sending the case back for re-argument Monday morning, the U.S. Supreme Court endangered the ability of Trans kids to access public spaces in most of the country.

Meanwhile, just over two miles away, the White House tried again to impose a de facto ban on Muslims entering the United States, in violation of the Constitution and decades of precedent.

Given that my body is still sore from facing off against Deplorables, Nazis, White Power activists and worse on Saturday in Berkeley (where Trump supporters freely deployed pepper spray and other chemical agents and who— in one case — battered a 70-year-old grandmother without any effective response from the police hanging around the outskirts of the park) it seemed the week wasn’t getting off to a great start.

Then I remembered the role of the Forlorn Hope — -and I smiled.

For those of you who aren’t fans of 16th-19th century warfare, the Forlorn Hope was what they called the soldiers who were the first to storm the enemy’s fort or fortified position. In French, they were known as the enfants perdu (literally — “lost children”) which was probably a more accurate description given their high casualty rate.

The Forlorn Hope had a rough job, because they had to meet the enemy ahead of their own army’s vanguard and ideally breach the former’s walls. While this was a high risk enterprise for those involved, the potential reward was worth it, at least to the high command. Under the customs of war, if the Forlorn Hope succeeded in breaching the wall, the defenders were expected to surrender. If the defenders refused to give up at that point, they risked being massacred when they ultimately did surrender.

Even after war became more civilized and armies stopped murdering each other for not following the rules about wall breaches and capitulation, those who first met the enemy usually had a great influence on the outcome of the fight. If they were able to drive the OPFOR (mil-speak for “opposing force”) back, they could spread panic in its ranks. If they seized key positions, they might win the battle before it began in earnest.

Which brings us back to our present situation. Those of us who are actively engaged in opposition to Trump and his Deplorables (in whatever manner is appropriate for us) are the Resistance’s Forlorn Hope. We resist not only for tactical reasons (whether it’s to secure safe bathroom access for Trans kids or to oppose the Muslim ban) but for the strategic reason of tying down as much of the OPFOR as possible so that the vanguard of the Resistance can catch up, followed by the main body of the army made up of all the people who don’t yet feel personally threatened by Trump and his goons.

Seen in that light, events like today are frustrating, but expected. In countering them, we’re not on defense — we’re literally storming the enemy’s walls. Eventually, like all tyrannies created by human agency, those walls will be breached and mastered. Until then, we have the honor of being the first to fight.

Avanti! (Forward!)