By Charlie Johnston
The establishment media has a very big decision to make in the next day or two. The most under-reported current story in America is that, nationwide, Republicans are swamping Democrats in early voting. For over a year, the constant narrative in the establishment media and among Democrats is about unprecedented Democrat enthusiasm which will produce a “blue wave.” Turns out Republicans are a LOT more enthused and motivated.
This site, Target Early, provides constantly updated statistics on the number of Republican vs. Democrat ballots that have been cast in early voting so far in each state. To see what is happening in your state, go to the second column from the right, entitled, “Early and Absentee Votes Cast,” then click on the “Explore” button. As has been pretty consistent the last five years, when real data comes in, it is very different from all the projections and media fantasies.
So what is the decision the media must make in the next few days? Either to keep suppressing the story of just how enormously Republican voters are swamping Democrat voters and hope for the best or let the Democrat rank-and-file know how badly they are being skunked in hopes of ginning up their turn-out. The latter is their best chance of containing the developing red tide – but requires them to admit they have been dead wrong for the last year – again. I suspect they will just let things go, figuring they can always blame Russia for their election night tears.
I am in Dallas right now. It kind of spooked me when, on Saturday night, following my GPS directions to return from an event, I found myself driving down Elm Street through Dealy Plaza, where President Kennedy was assassinated. I drove it again after an event on Monday, this time intending to go that route. On the road, the city has embedded two X’es in the two spots where Kennedy was hit. I get a little shiver every time I drive over those X’es.
The first time I was ever in Dallas was during my pilgrimage, walking through almost exactly seven years ago. The thing that first struck me about Dealy Plaza was how much smaller it is than it had been in my mind’s eye. While first exploring it, I was bemused at all the “conspiracy-theory” talk about what hard shots those would have been for Oswald. I have two highly-ranked professional marksmen in my family – and these were clearly easy shots, complicated only by the presence of trees. I was equally bemused at all the talk about the “grassy knoll.” To “hide” in those completely open, small spots would have been to guarantee capture.
I think for anyone who, like me, has the Kennedy assassination in their living memory, that place is haunted to them. The old Texas School Book Depository always looms up like some dread, primordial monster in hiding to me.
The Old Red Courthouse, dominating Houston Street just north of the plaza, always looks like a church to me, reddened with the blood of that day. When I was walking, after I was done exploring the site, I walked west under the Triple Underpass and found a park just a little beyond it on the north side. I decided to make camp there in the trees on the embankment up to the railroad tracks. It was perhaps the creepiest night of my whole pilgrimage. The famous giant ball on a column of the Dallas skyline (formally called Reunion Tower) was just south of me, brightly lit, and disturbed my sleep throughout the night.
The park was crawling with other homeless, who kept shifting around throughout the night. I was nervous to begin with because the embankment was quite steep – and I was worried if one of the straps holding my hammock up broke in the night, I was going to have one rough tumble. I was glad to move on the next day. Got going early and found a more hospitable, less haunted spot to make camp.
I have since come to love the Dallas-Ft. Worth area and the many friends I have made there. (Pro tip: if you are ever speaking publicly in this area, make sure to call it the Dallas-Ft. Worth area. Folks in Ft. Worth are touchy about that, as my first host when I was traveling and speaking here made clear to me early on. I started calling it the Dallas-Ft. Worth-Arlington area, but my host drily informed me that was overkill. I guess folks in Arlington aren’t so touchy. But why would they be? They are home to both the Dallas Cowboys and the Texas Rangers.) The Dallas-Ft. Worth area has a vibrant Catholic community, a vibrant Evangelical community…and thrums with the energy of people working and producing things. The University of Dallas (or UD) is to the Catholic community of the southwest what Steubenville is to the same community in the Midwest – only more so. UD alumni are as enthused about their Catholicism as alumni of the University of Alabama are about their football team.
After my first trip here, I felt queasily that all of Dallas was haunted. But after several trips and many friends made here, the haunted section of Dallas has been reduced for me to that little triangle contained by Houston, Elm, and Commerce Streets, called Dealy Plaza. I suspect that for all people who have the Kennedy assassination in their living memory, that triangle will remain haunted for them to their death. And somehow the two X’es embedded in Elm Street make me want to cry and cringe whenever I pass over them.
Twenty years ago I was friends with a woman who had left the Catholic Church. It troubled me. Eventually, she told me what had happened. She is an American Indian and was orphaned while very young. She was raised in a Catholic orphanage in the southwest that was mainly for American Indian orphans. The woman had not a mean bone in her body, but I could literally feel the anguish in her as she finally spoke to me of how they were all treated like dirt, many physically abused, and all repeatedly reminded how worthless they were. It was an uglier story than I am going to tell here.
It caused me some sorrowful contemplation, though. I thought of how officials who use their authority to abuse little ones betray the faith…and I wondered who would be held responsible on the last day for such things. Luke 17:2 – “It is better for him if a millstone is hung around his neck and he is thrown into the sea, than that he should cause one of these little ones to stumble.”
Along with her story, the woman told me that my friendship had helped her see that Catholics can be good, kind people – and that it was not the religion, itself, which had driven her away, but the ugly people who lorded over her while professing a faith they did not live. I was grateful for that…and pray that I will live witness of my faith by how I live and treat people, facilitating ultimate reconciliation for all of good will, including those who have been wounded by betrayers.
A few days ago I wrote about a man I met who had left the Catholic Church for the Orthodox because of the assault on Scripture and the Magisterium from within the ranks of the hierarchy and because of the defiant covering for and actual promotion of rank abusers. Though I firmly stated my Catholic faith and my resolve, I said I did not condemn anyone who chose such a course in these terrible times. Several people twisted my words to have me saying it was perfectly acceptable and okay to leave the faith.
In the next week, I will write about the heroic course that we are all called to – the authentic apostolate of the laity. We are called to be heroes, like St. Francis, to be builders renewing the edifice of our beloved Church, founded by Christ. But the same Christ who loves us will gently receive back into His graces those of good will who were wounded and driven away by people they should have been able to trust. As for those abusers, their enablers in the hierarchy, and those in the laity who justify any abuse so long as it comes from a cleric, it is they who will be held to account. It is they who I condemn. Even now, they are measuring themselves for their millstones.
I sent a stark note to my team about a week ago, then out to the network of leaders and regional coordinators around the country a few days later. The links I add to the text have appeared in the news since I wrote this. I present a very slightly truncated version of it now to you:
“I wanted you to know that I will publish “The Apostolate of the Laity,” the third piece in The Ballad of the Ordinary Man before the election. I am in Dallas right now…doing the little I can of ordinary work to hold back the darkness.
As I have said publicly, I think the Republicans are going to shock the pundit and political classes once again. I could be wrong…I have been before, though I am right on such counter-intuitive claims a lot more often than I am wrong. The key here is that both poles in America are fully aroused. That means this election will tell us, more than anything, where we stand, who we have become. Even though I expect Republicans to win quite handily, that does not mean I think things are settled. Now what follows is temporal analysis, and not to be treated as prophecy (though it is well to remember that my analytical speculations are informed by all my experiences, including my visitations). The fundamental thing is that I am sure I will get some of the details wrong – as I often do – but the overall sweep will be dead-on.
The problem is that in America we no longer have competing groups who prefer different means to fundamentally accomplish similar ends. This is a truly existential division. The aspirations of normal people and the right are utterly incompatible with the aspirations of the left. One must win and the other must lose – and I am not just speaking about elections. The whole founding of this country was about establishing a haven where, more than anything else, the right of people to be left alone by their government except for truly necessary things would be acknowledged and respected. Contests in the rest of the world, even in Europe (with some mild mitigation in England) were a battle over who would impose their will on the people of their nation. America was designed to prevent anyone from imposing their will as sovereign. This was why process recognition of fundamental rights – that even the greatest majority could not impose upon – were so very important. In America, the winning party could govern, but was prevented from ruling. Implementation of that was always a bit ragged, but that was the ideal, the lode star which America sought to be guided by.
Abraham Lincoln did, indeed, free the slaves – but that was never his priority in the Civil War. He thought America unique in the history of the world – a nation (that) had the organic ability to heal its own ills and offenses and continually grow into a better and nobler version of itself. He was convinced, from the early 1840’s, that slavery was on the course of ultimate extinction – and that America was the only nation in the history of the world which could organically rid itself of this great evil. Thus, his top priority was the preservation of the Union. Its loss, he believed, might forever deprive the world of a system capable of healing and improving itself from great evils. To accept the possibility of division was to concede that parts of the nation could dissolve themselves, ultimately leading to a balkanization of America and snuffing out the hopes of unified self-government forever. At the time, neither the north nor the south thought in such terms. Both were committed to liberty and self-government as they understood it. Neither believed that a negotiated settlement leaving two independent nations would lead to balkanization. But for decades after his break with the Catholic Church, Martin Luther did not imagine there would ever be any Christian Churches other than the Catholic and the Lutheran. In fact, most observers for almost the first century after the break thought that ultimately one would prevail, Catholic or Lutheran, and that Christianity would be one again after the dispute was finished. No one imagined the balkanization of Christianity in that first century…though their confidence fell as more and more broke away from each other. Once Luther established the principle that Christianity could divide from itself in times of dispute, the principle was adopted by every sect that disagreed. And Christians were no longer one. It was a significant blind spot in Luther’s – and almost every contemporary’s – mind over the ultimate consequences of such division. Fortunately, it was not a blind spot in Lincoln’s mind – so we preserved liberty in unity for another century and a half.
Over the last century, that commitment to self-government under liberty and law, leaving the sovereign people alone, to their own devices, except for absolutely necessary things has gotten increasingly tattered and frayed. Just a century ago, a liberal was defined as one who believed in radically de-centralized government that emphasized individual rights. Re-defining liberalism to the old model of heavy centralization with citizens subject to state power was one of the greatest semantic coups in history.
Now we are confronted with, at least, a substantial minority that is NOT committed to liberty, self-government, and objective standards of law. It is why we “normals” are at a disadvantage. We largely just want to be left alone, to live our lives as we wish so long as we don’t impugn on the same right of any of our fellows. But the left is determined to impose its will on everyone, determined that all must bend the knee before its power and will. It is not sufficient that they can live as they choose; they demand they must be able to force their neighbors to live the same way. This is how all totalitarian movements advance. Since the French Revolution, they almost never declare their aims candidly. Rather, they purport to advance their aims defensively – mentally creating through propaganda, and then oppressing – some “enemy of the people.” For the French, it was the aristocrats (a more honest time…the French aristocrats actually DID oppress the people, though not as brutally and murderously as the ‘friends of the people’ who took over did.) For Lenin, it was to defend the workers by establishing a “dictatorship of the proletariat.” Russia got a dictatorship – and the proletariat learned what truly brutal, murderous oppression was. In Germany, Hitler maintained that the Germans were being oppressed, the life being sucked out of them, by the Jews and foreigners. China was the mirror image of Russia – only Mao mobilized rural troops instead of the urban troops Lenin relied upon. In all cases, the point was the same – that one group had the absolute right to impose its will on everyone in society and that dissenters were to be punished, imprisoned, or executed as enemies of the people. That is what the substantial minority I mentioned is about in America now – imposing its own will on everyone, who must behave as subjects. They do not accept American norms, they do not believe in freedom. All totalitarian movements are messianic; messianic without a Messiah, the one true God. Ironically, the one, true Messiah rejected the idea of coercing subjection, even if many of His followers often failed to live up to His command on the subject.
The atheist left has abandoned the mask – and has decided to accomplish its will by any means necessary. While I do think Republicans will win surprising gains, I worry that many complacently believe that will settle the matter. All of the totalitarian movements I mentioned above, with the possible exception of the French Revolution, were decidedly minority movements. But they were minority movements determined to accomplish their goals by any means necessary. When they did not prevail, they engaged in sabotage, assassination and terrorism until a weary people submitted. As people wearied, leaders who knew better started deluding themselves that submission would not be so bad. In France (I kid you not) the King thought he could weather the storm with better communication and public relations – even after the storming of the Bastille. In Russia, other leftists thought they could control Lenin through the Duma – a representative assembly. That didn’t last a year…and Lenin executed many of his more moderate fellow travelers on the way to his dictatorship, the proletariat be damned. Both conservative politicians and establishment industrialists thought they could control and manipulate Hitler as chancellor. Again, many of them were ultimately executed for their hubris. People weary of strife are the most vulnerable because they are most prone to self-deluding wishful thinking, almost incapable of imagining the ruthlessness of messianic totalitarians.
The left in America is there. After they lose, I expect them to double down on their “resistance,” to include increasing episodes of domestic violence, rioting, sabotage, and assassination while their rhetoric will insist they must do this to ensure “equality.” The temptation will be overwhelming to come to some compromise with them, to delude ourselves that we can negotiate with madmen drunk on dreams of supreme power. Every concession will be met with the demand for “more.” Like an alcoholic, for those drunk on power, one more is never enough. The question is whether normals can summon the will to act decisively without adopting the brutal, capricious methods of the atheist neo-fascists. I have been thinking a lot this year that we are probably going to need to establish places of “exile” for the radical political criminals who won’t accept defeat – either a remote part of Alaska or some large islands. Sounds tough…but not nearly as tough as brutal civil war. And the left, like jihadists, will NOT stop until it believes it cannot win, by any means.
I know some pray that economic health will calm everything down. It was irrelevant in France, Russia, and China – and while a triggering factor in Germany, a return to economic health advanced the revolution rather than containing it. The economic health issue presumes that, at bottom, in America, we all seek the same ends. That is no longer true. When imposing their will on all becomes the lodestar of a substantial minority of the population, economic illness can trigger a revolt, but economic health cannot contain revolutionary pressure.
The events that are unfolding are designed to reveal to all who everyone is, who we are at our core. We do get to choose, but it is a hard, rocky path we must navigate. If we give in to hate, we lose. If we give into sentimentalism that enables the aggressors, we lose. If, after seeming to have lost, we give in to despair or make common cause with our tormentors, we lose. In every public act of brutality, there are four types of people involved: Oppressors, the oppressed, bystanders, and defenders. We must be defenders, whatever the odds seem at any time. Complicating matters is that our institutions have failed. The Church is true, but the hierarchy has failed when it has not outright abdicated loyalty to Christ. I am thankful for Donald Trump. I very much doubt he will be able to keep from being overwhelmed by what must come, but he has bought us time and focused our attention. That is why I called this, from the start of this year, “The Ballad of the Ordinary Man.” This time, it is ordinary people, doing little things with great love and fortitude, who will renew both the Church and the world. Salvation will not come from any government. Salvation will not come from the hierarchy. Salvation will come through ordinary people living their ordinary work with great love and fidelity – and, as always, it comes only from Christ. Governments can help, the hierarchy can help, but it will avail little. Victory in the elections will not win the battle, but it will fortify us for the war ahead. It is a growing firm resolve on our part to become a holy people again that will empower noble leaders, in both the state and the Church, to exercise effective leadership once more.
Being holy does not mean, in this world, being sinless. Something I almost never speak of, except once with my Priests, was that early in this century, Our Lord appeared to me and told me He had made me holy. It terrified me, for I was a sinful man, given to the sins of weakness. I tearfully disputed it for several years. It was right around the Feast Day of Our Lady of Tepeyac in 2002 when Our Lord appeared to me and tartly rebuked me. “I have made you holy for my purposes, not yours,” He said, “and you are NOT to gainsay it again.” To be holy is to be entirely the servant of the Lord and His will, despite your continuing faults and sins, to do the most right thing you can think of, acknowledging God, at every step. It is why I candidly admit my faults as soon as I know them. I am an unworthy, fumbling servant as are each of you…but each of us can press on to do the most right thing we can think of under God, despite those faults. We cannot do it if we do not acknowledge those faults. All of you, too, are called to be holy. Know what it means and live it with growing refinement and wisdom – and do NOT let the satan pull you from your way because of your faults, which are always before you. Despair is just a variant of vanity.
As I said, I probably have some details wrong, but the next year will almost certainly be bloody and frightening, unless the atheist left finds and submits to God again. Pray for them, make sacrifices and do penance for them as you do for yourself. We are all going to be transformed – but the seed of who we will be is being formed by who we are right now. Strive to do the right without despairing of your many failures. When you fall, as you sometimes do in even ordinary times, get up with the firm resolve to begin again…every time, even if it is seventy times seven times a day.
God DOES have a plan. But a part of that plan involves proving each and every one of us through a fiery trial. In the long term, almost all of us will live to see a world transformed – and then to look back in amazement at how our sins helped enable the horror that came upon us. In the long term, we have the certainty of the joy of the apostles on the occasion of the Ascension – realizing that what we thought was the end is actually the beginning. How much joy we feel then is dependent on the fidelity we live while we think it is the end. In the short term, the road ahead is rocky and full of poisonous snakes.”