By Charlie Johnston
I have taken on a couple of intense projects so have been out of pocket for a week. Sorry.
For decades, the bulk of the movies and TV thrillers I watched invariably, in the end, revealed the bad guy to be, A) the businessman, B) an NRA member, C) a pro-life activist or, D) a Christian believer. It was annoying and predictable – but something one had to endure to enjoy an otherwise good thriller. Imagine my enthusiasm as it is being revealed that the real bad guys are mainly taken from the “tolerant” left. Besides the crumbling narrative of Russia collusion, where the bad guys are all left-wing elitists in the Justice, Intelligence and other Deep State Agencies, a growing number of minorities and left-leaning folks are discovering that the people trying to shut them up are all hard leftists. It ranges from Candace Owens, to Diamond and Silk, to Kanye West…and to this gay man who has decided that he, too, is leaving the thought plantation of the left.
When I was in politics I watched for what an opponent accused us of without evidence – and then directed opposition researchers to focus on that aspect of the opponent. People tend to project their own frame of mind onto others – so when someone makes random accusations against you, they are usually not revealing who you are, but who they are. Right now, in real time, it is proving true in the larger culture. I reckon TV and movies will keep smearing the usual suspects, but it has to unnerve them to know that when they do, what us normals will see in our minds is, A) the environmental activist, B) a lefty Congressman, C) a Planned Parenthood Operative or, D) a Social Justice Warrior (SJW).
Democrats and the media are tying themselves in knots trying to find another word to describe the spy or spies the Obama administration embedded in the Trump campaign, as if calling them “informants” or some such will change what actually happened and how offensive – and maybe criminal – it all is. Shakespeare said that a rose by any other name would smell just as sweet. I say that a spy, by any other name, placed by the government in an opposition campaign, smells just as rank.
You would think they would start learning by now. Shortly after the Superbowl this year, the Philadelphia Eagles confirmed that almost all the players would attend the White House ceremony honoring their victory. Then, the day before the event was to happen, they said only one, two, or maybe three would show up. It was a ham-handed attempt to embarrass Trump. But if one thing has become clear it is that, whether you are an arrogant, pampered athlete or a hostile foreign head of state, try to punk this president and he will punk you back twice as hard. Just weeks before, North Korean dictator Kim Jung Un got cutesie with Trump to try to gain concessions before next week’s summit in Singapore. Trump cancelled the summit – and Kim fell all over himself to get the summit back on. When basketball stars LeBron James and Stephen Curry defiantly said whichever team won the NBA finals, they wouldn’t accept a White House invitation, Trump jauntily told them not to worry; neither would be getting an invitation. Meanwhile, Trump publicly offered to listen to specific recommendations from NFL players to correct actual injustices, just as Kim Kardashian gave. He’s calling their bluff. If a few take him up on it, I have no doubt he will listen. But most will just prefer to posture and virtue signal. I can’t wait until a new football league is formed so I can watch professional football once more. All the Eagles stunt accomplished was to prove that the NFL is still comprised of mulish, malicious, pampered jerks, regardless of any front office policy adjustments. I’m not coming back to the NFL. We’ll see how many others are.
However narrowly written, at least the Supreme Court’s decision in favor of Jack Phillips in the Masterpiece Cake case did not do violence to religious liberty. A thing that is rarely noted, though, is that the Supreme Court (under the Constitution) CANNOT abrogate religious liberty. It is probably rarely noted, though, because the courts have routinely been ruling on executive orders they have no authority over, usurping legislative authority they do not have to make laws from the bench, ruling on areas where the Constitution gives the president plenipotentiary authority, and intruding themselves on matters of war and peace – which the Constitution strictly forbids them from, reserving all such matters to the executive and the legislative branches. The judiciary has progressively made itself into the supreme branch of government, becoming an undemocratic, unaccountable oligarchy ruling over the land. Podunk federal district judges think their authority trumps that of the president and the legislature. Thomas Jefferson worried that the checks on the judiciary were not strong enough to keep it from drifting into an attitude of unaccountable supremacy and ultimate judicial tyranny.
We do have checks. Congress has the power to vacate Supreme Court rulings – and even to remove certain subjects from the judiciary’s jurisdiction altogether. Congress has the authority to impeach federal judges who abuse their power or venture into matters on which they have no Constitutional authority. The Supreme Court could enact quick, energetic rulings slapping down lower court rulings that are brazenly contrary to the law and Constitution. None of these things happen, though. Judges like being supreme, playing as if they are little presidents or little legislatures with more power than the actual things. They like making the final decisions on things the Constitution says are none of their business. The legislature has gotten happy with enjoying the perquisites of office without having to deal with the responsibilities, so mainly postures and preens. The judges think this behavior makes them more powerful, not realizing that it undercuts their actual authority. This, too, is something that must be reined in before it becomes a crisis. (Actually, it already is – but in a time when crises abound, it is on the back burner). It is time to take up Jefferson’s concerns anew and end judicial usurpations before it becomes the full-blown judicial tyranny he feared.
After any tragedy in the nation, leftists have taken to sneering at people’s prayers, saying that they must do more than this. Of course I, believing, with St. Teresa of Avila, that we are called to be God’s hands and feet on this earth, largely agree with the sentiment. But action without prayer is barren and counter-productive. What we suffer from is NOT too little action, but too little prayer. Walter Williams, in another of his elegantly simple pieces, marvelously illustrates what is at the heart of the problem. When we banish prayer, when we dismantle the moral foundation of the culture, tragedy follows and grows. There is a great dragon that stalks the land. It is the dragon of degeneracy and disorder. The left calls it freedom. I call it slavery. Action uninformed by prayer and morality feeds the dragon. It is prayer – and only prayer – that will form a free people capable once more of effective action. Let us pray – and pray fervently – that we may slay the dragon of depravity that breeds terror and tragedy in our lands.
On Saturday, June 9, I had the joy of worshipping with Bishop Rene Gracida as he celebrated Mass in his private chapel on the occasion of his 95th birthday. A small group of friends, including the three generations of a family that help him, participated in the Mass with him and then went out to lunch. We chatted about the state of the world, the state of the Church, and listened to anecdotes from a life well and fully lived. Bishop Gracida’s home is graced with wonderful pictures that encompass much of the history of the Church over the last 60 years. My favorite is a picture of Gracida and then-Bishop Karol Wojtyla, just before he was elected Pope.
Bishop Gracida is a hero of mine. While we occasionally have somewhat different takes on the issues of the day,
he lives what he preaches with fidelity and fortitude. When he speaks, he speaks boldly. On the fundamentals of the faith and fidelity to Scripture and the Magisterium, he is rock solid. He is an ardent defender of life, marriage and the family. He is a sign of hope to me. While I am not ready to sign on to his prescription on how best to renew the Church, I admire how carefully and coherently he makes his case – and how he grounds it fully in Church history. For those of you who read his Abyssum blog, you may not see how carefully he considers what he is going to say, how seriously he takes his duty to the faith and the Church and, most especially, how tenderly and carefully he takes his duty to the faithful. He is a man who causes me, on the occasions when we disagree, to carefully examine my own position for flaws – for no matter who is more right or more wrong, I know that the positions are prayerfully animated by profound love for the Church and the faith on the part of each of us. Though we had conversed through emails, the first time I ever visited with him, two years ago, I was struck by how much our conversation was dominated by his tender concerns with how best to give witness that would build up the faithful he still ministers to. His blog reveals his great courage. How I wish that all of you could see his great and tender heart. I am so grateful that he is my friend.
The first thing I noticed when I went to visit him two years ago was the brass door-knocker on his front door. It was a squirrel. I am pleased to report it is still there.