By Charlie Johnston
I have been wrestling with a nagging virus most of this week. Sorry, but you are going to get recaps of old pieces for the most part until next week. I am going to try to just completely rest and rid myself of this bug. But I also need to do some serious contemplation. The riots in Chicago last Friday to stop the Trump Rally were more serious than anyone yet realizes, I think. It is a harbinger of a vast ratcheting up of violent public confrontation.
Just after the mild economic meltdown in 2008 I was talking with a friend of mine who is a public official. I told him this had the potential for unleashing deep, long-term danger in our already fractured culture. Ever since the 60’s the progressive left has played a dark shell game with our democratic sensibilities. On matters of public policy, if they win a referendum, they say the matter is settled. If they lose, they seek out a corrupt judicial oligarch to overrule the judgment of the electorate. Failing that, they exercise the violent veto of riot. They usually get at least part of their way.
I told my friend, though, that these coercive gains are won at the sufferance of the great majority, who would rather avoid a fight if they can. What, I asked, happens when the rioters are met with a larger mob than themselves, filled with generations of resentment at this bullying?
An iron law of both economics and human behavior is this: what you reward you get more of and what you punish you get less of. For generations now, we have been rewarding the progressive left for riotous coercion.
Regular readers here know I am not at all a fan of Donald Trump. Yet when I hear the media and commentators state that he has created a climate of violence at his events, I chuckle with grim amusement at the irony. Trump has fantasized about hitting back at those who disrupt his events, but those fantasies are almost entirely defensive. The man who is our sitting president has openly urged his supporters to aggressively confrontational tactics. He has told his people to “get in our enemies face,” that when opponents show up with a knife, his people should respond with a gun, and repeatedly exhorted his troops to “punish our enemies.” When Mr. Obama speaks of his “enemies” he is not speaking of Iran or China, but of Republicans, Christians, and anyone else who disagrees with any particular of his agenda. He has weaponized the bureaucracy to use its power to punish those with political views he does not share. He has encouraged rioters who have mobilized against local police – regardless of the veracity of their claims – acts which have led to the assassination of police officers around the country. That is what fomenting a climate of violence looks like, not fantasizing about giving the rioters back a little of their own.
The progressive left has long sought to impose its will on everyone by any means necessary. That is why you see bakers, florists, owners of banquet halls and county clerks jailed, fined and bankrupted if they persist in living their Christian sensibilities. It is why military and public officials who dare to publicly proclaim Christ have been being purged and fired. Almost everyone other than the progressive left just wants to be left alone – to live and let live. They do not seek to impose their will on anyone, just to be left alone. They are routinely called bigots, racists and troglodytes for their quiet tolerance. They are lectured by people whose faces are contorted with rage about charity and love. They are hectored about tolerance by people who scream for the head of any public figure who dares to say he thinks the traditional definition of marriage is the right definition.
The progressive left has gotten away with its bullying because we have preferred peace and quiet to a fight over various discrete issues. We have enabled them by rewarding the violent veto of riot with success.
I was not surprised when the media tried to blame the left’s hissy fit in Chicago on Trump. I was absolutely horrified when Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio joined the media in laying the blame for the organized riotous behavior of the progressive left on…Donald Trump. When the supposed voices of reason, Cruz and Rubio, join in enabling the riotous coercion of left-wing thugs in hopes of transient political advantage, the republic is already lost. It caused me to have great sympathy for Trump supporters. For all his bluff and bluster, he is not surrendering to the forces that have routinely screamed that anyone conservative or Christian is a racist, terrorist hater. I have long suspected that the reason God allows this bizarre election season is to publicly demonstrate that there is NO one currently in political life equal to the particular challenges our long disorder has finally brought to a head. Now I am certain of it. There is NO political solution to this spiritual, cultural crisis.
We have reached a critical point. The great mass of people are waking up to the reality that there is no particular issue that, if appeased, will satisfy the progressive left. The progressive left will make war rather than respect the rights, liberty or freedom of conscience of any who don’t march in lockstep with them. After decades of trying valiantly to be left alone, everyone else is figuring out that they must either forfeit their liberty or resist. Even now, many are sadly resolving that they will have war rather than forfeit their faith and their freedom. After decades of being rewarded for exercising the violent veto of riot, the progressives are now rewarded even by the supposed guardians on the right. So we will have more such displays – just at the time the great mass are deciding they will have no more. Thus so the conflict rises and grows malignant.
The devil’s ways are many and subtle. It is not the sin of others we have most to fear, but the hidden sin and vanity in ourselves. I am contemplating how to prepare you for the challenges of the extensive and growing civil strife that are now at our doorstep. It is one of the reasons why I have put such emphasis on public Eucharistic and Marian Processions this year. Before we can do any good, we must put on the armor of Christ. To that end, I hope you will take a look at this, one of the finest documents ever written in the English language – and the perfect direction for Christian preparation for persecution and strife. It is the late Rev. Martin Luther King’s letter from the Birmingham Jail. The only English exhortation I rank as highly is Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address.
This is going to seem a quiet weekend. Two Saturdays ago, I walked in the Public Eucharistic Procession around Planned Parenthood in Denver with almost 2,000 of the faithful. . Last Saturday, I was one of the pole-bearers of the canopy over the Eucharistic Monstrance in the Public Eucharistic Procession following the close of the Men of Christ Conference in Milwaukee. There were over 3,000 people there. This Saturday, I am going to stay at home and prepare for Holy Week.