By Charlie Johnston
National Review’s Dennis Prager penned a column a few days ago that has caused me great contemplation…and some regrets. He notes that ancient Jews did not blame the Romans for the destruction of the Jewish State in 70 A.D., but the Jews, themselves, for engaging in gratuitous hatred of each other.
All my life, I have been involved in politics, either by running campaigns or by covering them for media outlets. I am like an old warhorse whose martial blood rises at the sound of cannons. I’m an idiot. I have been telling friends since 2007 that traditional politics is a dead man walking. Our problems are not political or technical, but spiritual and cultural – and we will find no solution in the realm of traditional politics. Those races I have helped in since then have been a matter of living solidarity with old friends I trust…and because it is what I know.
Yet comes the sound of the cannons of the political primaries and here I have been caught several times snorting and pawing the ground. Several times I have spoke disparagingly of Donald Trump, as if I was a partisan who has a horse in this race. I am the guy who has said consistently that our next stable national leader will not come from the political system – and I have been telling my Priests that since early 2008. So what in heaven’s name am I doing stirring up partisan rancor over something I am convinced will not happen or be proved irrelevant if it does?
It has had its effect. Several readers have written in with their own partisan comments – encouraged, no doubt, by the fact that I have indulged mine a few times. As of Monday, I put a stop to clearing partisan political comments while I cleared my head on this. I owe a particular apology to a reader who goes by the screen name of jwjohn. He had penned a couple of over the top comments attacking Ted Cruz weeks or maybe a month ago that I did not clear. But yesterday he penned a pointed comment that was perfectly acceptable, but just at the time I was having regrets.
I owe a profound debt of gratitude in my developing thought to my old friend, John McConnell, who posts here occasionally as John McFarm. I have known him for well over a decade – and his Mom for at least four decades. He is one of the most honorable men I have ever known and has often been an inspiration to me. I have always known him to do the most right thing he can think of. He is a Donald Trump supporter. It is all too easy for folks who think like me to be dismissive of Trump – and to be tempted to be dismissive of those who support him. But I can’t be dismissive of John. I know he loves his God with great passion and he loves this country with nearly the same passion. So I really got to thinking.
What if the system in America is completely corrupted at the structural level? If that is so, you need to bust up the saloon, not just work within the system. Trump, more than any other candidate, seems likely to bust up the saloon. More than any other candidate, he seems likely not to cravenly go asking the United Nations for permission to defend ourselves. My fundamental problem with him is that I do not believe he has a Godly solution he would build on, that busting up the saloon is all he has. And I fear that even then, he may end up making a deal with the people he now denounces. But I understand the appeal – and I agree that this saloon needs an overhaul, not just new management.
Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio are more to my taste. They are more traditional officials who I believe are committed to the Constitutional System. But if the system is corrupted at the structural level, going in and working within that system would only lock in the cultural disorders its perversions have visited on us. If they are going to work within the bounds of traditional give-and-take politics, that means that the imposition of gay marriage by judicial fiat on the whole country and abortion on demand will remain. It means judicial and unelected bureaucratic lawlessness and imperiousness will remain unchecked, except around the edges. I hope, but I am not sure, that neither man would feel constrained to ask the United Nations for permission to defend ourselves.
We are in a trick box. Business as usual is not going to cut it to get us out of what has brought the Storm upon us. The truth is that none of the options seems strong enough to rescue us, though some seem likely to deepen an already severe crisis. People, frightened by what is upon us, naturally look to the means they have always used to try to steer out of the danger, even when those means are hopelessly corrupted. We should not take offense at each other for that.
I have failed here. I have been telling all my closest friends for nine years that traditional politics is a dead man walking and we will not find a solution to our cultural and spiritual problems in the political realm – that a spiritual and cultural response is the only answer. Yet I have caught myself making shallow political comments, as if I don’t believe my own consistent description of how this Storm would progress.
I have said that God has a plan, akin to the one He mounted to save France at the end of the Hundred Years War, a plan that human imagination cannot now fathom.
I have often said, throughout my life, that the leaders we choose are usually not the cause of our problems, but a symptom of what we are as a people. More than at any other time in our past, I think this election cycle is not about the candidates, but about who we are. Will we let the “gratuitous hatred” Dennis Prager speaks of poison our regard for our neighbors, all of whom are struggling to make sense of how to right this damaged ship in dangerous and uncharted waters?
I will not ban comments on politics altogether, but I will clear no more comments simply advocating for or disparaging a particular candidate. God has a different plan. We don’t have to avert our eyes from what seems to be happening around us to acknowledge that. But we will act as the Family of God in recognizing the reality that, without a spiritual and cultural response, this ship cannot be righted. It begins with a renewed embrace of Our Lord and Our Lady, public witness of our faith through Eucharistic and Marian Processions throughout the country, and a steady commitment to acknowledge God, take the next right step and be a sign of hope. That is from whence Rescue rises – and that is where our focus will stay.
Next week, I will work vigorously to put together support for all of you who are willing to work with your Priests and Bishops to make a public proclamation of your faith in these dark times through mounting public processions.
My apologies for sometimes acting as a political commentator instead of what I am called to be. I will do better.