FRONT ROYAL, VA — All this rubble around the Christmas tree… every news cycle brings new gifts, so many untold stories, so many issues swirling by. Troubled times abound in such gifts – like, you know, our celebrated democracy! Hey, that's the gift that keeps on taking.
As Prufrock puts it, "And this, and so much more?"
Yes, so much more. Rummaging through the rubble toward the end of the year always turns up questions worth asking. The problem arises when we're confronted with something so obvious that asking the question sort of answers it – because some questions are so obvious that nobody ever bothers asking them. The right-brain lobe recoils. Or something.
Take the issue — the brand name, really — of "Social Justice." From the national level of the bishops' conference right down to the parish level, the brand is hot, kind of a "Happy Meal" with angel's wings, drawing left-wing activists like a magnet. That's fine, in itself — the pews are usually pretty wide — but then comes the sneaky sleight of hand, followed by the blind eye. That's always a dangerous combination — and it's ubiquitous.
First the Social Justice agitator's political agenda mysteriously acquires the status of eternal truth, with a trailing train of anathemas for those who disagree. But second, and more perverse, there follows a willful refusal to see the real truths that radical politics has crowded out. Suddenly, eternal verities taught by Holy Mother Church since time immemorial are merely "backward opinions" of those "old men in Rome," while women's ordination, higher taxes, and free contraceptives are self-evident truths that demand justice — or else.
At work here is Augustine's observation that refusal to love God, and His Truth, necessarily gives way to idolatry — amor sui, love of self, even love of an appetite so banal as a party platform. I'm not sure Bob Dylan is an Augustinian, but he's right: "You gotta serve somebody," and the City of Man serves itself. In Narnia — and here — "the Dwarfs are for the Dwarfs." Moreover, the agenda-as-gospel always comes coated with a religious label. So the bait and switch is so transparent that it's hardly worth talking about.
Is justice still a Cardinal Virtue? Well, nowadays, people don't have to worry about being "just" because justice isn't personal any more — it's the mass-produced product of a benevolent, loving government. But in an age that celebrates diversity as its highest good, the question arises, "Who are you to tell me what's just?" When diversity reigns, it's pretty hard to have anything in common — community, an understanding of the common good, or even the ability to "communicate" at all. Thomas Hobbes, call your office.
All this leads to a question that pops up when I'm called to jury duty: if the "twelve men and true" deliberating a case share no principles, values, understanding of simple truths, or even language itself — well, how can we be expected to render a just verdict? How can anybody?
Sometimes things are so obvious they hurt. Take Bill Clinton's latest resuscitation. Here's an impeached president, a notorious cad who still preys on his former lovers, a veritable Poster Boy for the War On Women, lawyered up and steadfastly refusing to deny that he's a rapist, lest Juanita Brodderick sue him for libel. Should this hollow husk of a man really be appointed Our Nation's Elder Statesman by acclamation?
Other questions bubble up through the rubble. Are public schools really so bad because teachers don't get enough money? Would crony capitalism somehow disappear if Republicans ran the joint? And why are we still in Iraq, which George W. Bush's blunders (well, I hope it wasn't on purpose!) delivered into the arms of Iran? And why has Hillary Clinton promised to keep sending billions of taxpayer dollars to the world's most corrupt "democratic" government in Kabul for ten more years? And why is she Secretary of State anyway? And speaking of Secretaries of State, why does Madeline Albright, the hopeless incompetent who thought killing half a million children in Iraq was "worth it," now stand to make hundreds of millions in "liberated" Kosovo? And she's not alone. Democrats and Republicans alike — many of them my friends and former colleagues — are making untold millions from the Iraq and Afghanistan invasions.
Is war really Hell, or is it just the insider's stairway to Heaven?
Is war really Hell, or is it just the insider's stairway to Heaven?
Does grade inflation really make the student smarter? It stares every family in the face, from Kindergarten ("Great Job! Everybody gets a trophy!") right through grad school (Georgetown Law actually raised the grades of those already graduated to make them "competitive" in the job market. Hey, guys, Greater Job!). And why do students take on college debts that could buy a house to finance a worthless degree? And do some high school teachers really stay home from graduation because they can't stand to see so many illiterates receive diplomas?
This one hits close to home: does your I.Q. really go up twenty points when you get a government job? And why does the Washington Post report this week that government worker morale is at a "new low," when Obama has hired a hundred new government workers a day since he was inaugurated? And why is Washington the richest region in the country? And speaking of the government, why do TSA agents, among the least educated and poorly vetted of all government workers, get to touch hundreds of children a day in ways that would send a Catholic priest straight to prison?
And how does the Mexican government dare complain about America's chintzy welfare benefits for millions of illegals when it chains American prisoners in Mexico to their beds and tries to extort bribes from their parents in the states? Does giving away ten million free Obamaphones (courtesy of the taxpayer) really help the poor? Does John Boehner really represent the Tea Party? Will Dick Lugar go home to Indiana? Did Chris Dodd go home to Connecticut? Will Congress ever go home? Will we ever be able to keep ours?
And why didn't doctors warn us that Fluoride rots teeth? And why don't environmentalists complain that the artificial hormones in The Pill are polluting our rivers and streams and destroying our aquatic wildlife? Where's PETA when we need them? And speaking of The Pill, will our bishops please tell us why contraception is wrong? Wouldn't that help us fight the HHS Contraceptive Mandate? And speaking of bishops, how come so many of them stayed on after they protected all those child abusers? Sure, they came down pretty hard on the priests — including innocent ones. But a lot of guilty bishops enabled abusers for years. Why didn't they go to jail?
"Why don't environmentalists complain that the artificial hormones in The Pill are polluting our rivers and streams and destroying our aquatic wildlife? Where's PETA when we need them?"
And speaking of Catholics, Notre Dame has just launched an office to nurture gays and lesbians. Will the Fighting Irish give heterosexual activists equal time? And speaking of gays, do their "rights" really include suing Catholic homeowners who won't rent them a room in their B&B?
"Your Social Security Is Safe": is that true? And speaking of safety, did Homeland Security buy half a billion rounds of deadly hollow-point ammunition to keep us safe? Why doesn't Congress ask them? And speaking of Congress, why don't they read the bills they pass? And is Augustine right? Is the libido dominandi the dominant lust of the City of Man? If he is, why don't we ever hear condemnations of the lust for power, Mr. Speaker?
Ethanol wears out car engines and connectors, and destroys small machinery — along with driving corn (= food and feed) prices sky-high worldwide. Yet it's never mentioned in Congress. Ditto inflation. It ruins our savings, impoverishes the poor and elderly, and fuels our national decline. So why do both parties stand up and cheer when the Fed's printing presses start rolling? And why has my generation — the Baby Boom generation — degenerately infected virtually every sector of our society that it has inhabited? Was it the Flouride?
Questions, questions. Some will never be answered, alas.
Did Joe ever say it ain't so? Did Shane ever come back? And Alfie, what is it all about?
From Under the Rubble archives
From Under the Rubble is copyright © 2012
by Christopher Manion.
All rights reserved.
Christopher Manion, Ph.D., served as a staff director on the Senate
Foreign Relations Committee for many years. He has taught in the departments
of politics, religion, and international relations at Boston University,
the Catholic University of America, and Christendom College, and is
the director of the Campaign for Humanae Vitae, a project of the Bellarmine
Forum. He is a Knight of Malta.
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