Reveling While Gomorrah Burns

“There will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction … Bold and willful, they are not afraid to revile the glorious ones …”

—2 Peter 2:1, 10

“It’s no wonder the faithful have lost confidence in the bishops, because so many of them did such a horrible job on the scandal and still to this day don’t say anything about the worst miscreants. Oh, but they sure will get all over a priest—instantly—who simply speaks the truth.” 

—Fr. James Altman

Today, ash rained down all around me while I pumped my gas. The sky was pea green. Yesterday, it was orange. I could not see the sun either day. Fires have been blazing around the vicinity of my San Francisco Bay Area home for weeks, and the level of smoke and debris in the air has hit critical mass.

While I hunkered under the scant shelter provided by the awning over the gas pump, the people around me went on about their business as though the veritable brimstone falling from the sky were a mere drizzle of rain. An SUV plastered in bumper stickers advertising the homosexual proclivities of its discordantly singing driver tore across the parking lot. Meanwhile, another driver piled out of a car blaring obscene rap music wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with a borderline-pornographic image—in full view of the children sitting in the back seat of the adjacent vehicle.

Is this how people behaved while Sodom and Gomorrah burned? I wondered. 

After everything that’s happened this year, you’d think people would give more sober consideration to the Last Things—that they’d be at least a bit more concerned with making sure the eternal destinations stamped on their souls’ tickets were of a beatific nature. But all evidence suggests otherwise. Here in Gomorrah, even as we drown in ash and choke on smoke from the fires raging all around us, we’re still reveling in our sins, thumbing our noses at God, and castigating anyone who refrains from joining in the libertine fray. 

Worse yet, we’re being egged on by the very “shepherds” who should be correcting our errors. Here in San Francisco, Catholic Charities was busy promoting “gay pride” throughout the month of June. Our Archbishop, Salvatore Cordileone, is chairman of the board of directors of that organization. The selfsame Archbishop has turned a blind eye to the scandalous antics of the notoriously pro-LGBTQ Most Holy Redeemer parish—which did a “gay” version of the Stations of the Cross this past Lent—for his entire tenure, despite numerous complaints from the laity (including me). Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C., Archbishop Wilton Gregory publicly prayed for God to “bless those who take to our streets to protest injustice”—effectively endorsing the recent riots. And while forest fires blazed, the Pope himself was preaching his pet gospel of “climate change” rather than the gospel of Christ. 

The few priests who have the courage to address, and attempt to correct, our iniquities are immediately dogpiled by their viper “brethren” for being “uncharitable” or “divisive.” I’m thinking of Fr. James Altman, who had the audacity to state the simple fact that one cannot simultaneously be a faithful Catholic and vote for a political party that is drunk on the blood of aborted babies. He also had the courage to call out two specific DNC darlings who happen to wear collars—pro-LGBTQ Fr. James Martin, SJ—who once tweeted “art” portraying Jesus as homosexual—and left-wing mouthpiece Archbishop Wilton Gregory. 

Fr. Altman’s words ignited a firestorm. The laity lit up social media with both outrage and support. Fr. James Martin, never one to sit on his hands, tweeted several none-too-subtle responses regurgitating that worn-out line of equivocal, empty verbiage every “Catholic” Democrat spouts for self-absolution: voting-is-a-matter-of-conscience-blah-blah-blah. He also, by his own back-handed admission, advised people to complain to Fr. Altman’s bishop:

Apparently many people took Fr. Martin’s advice, and it didn’t take long before Bishop Callahan issued a very public bit of “private” fraternal correction, with the threat of canonical penalties if Fr. Altman doesn’t fall into line—thus proving exactly what Fr. Altman alleged in his now-infamous homily: any priest who speaks truth is badgered into silence by the hierarchy.

The truths spoken by Fr. Altman—that one cannot simultaneously serve the God of Life and the Party of Death; that the left-wing agenda is contrary to the teachings of the Church—are actually no-brainers that we should be hearing from every priest, bishop, cardinal, and yes, even the Pope. But this is far from the case, and one need do no more than follow the money to find out why. The DNC funnels billions of dollars to the US Conference of Catholic Bishops; the Obama administration alone was a $1.6 billion cash cow for the USCCB. After all, their lifestyles are expensive—and that money’s gotta come from somewhere. I mean, have you seen the places these guys live in?

Here’s Cardinal Dolan’s house:

And how about the Archbishop of Chicago?

It seems even the “modest” ones are pretty darn posh. This one sold for a mere $1.2 million:

Of course the hierarchy is invested in preserving the status quo, at best, and in promoting the leftist agenda at worst—it’s paying off for them, big time. To call their flocks to repentance would require them to rectify their own iniquities—which, as we’ve learned from the endless scandals of recent years, are legion—or else face inevitable charges of hypocrisy from their flocks. They don’t want us to change because they don’t want to change. The more debauched society becomes, the more debauched they can get away with being.

Even as Gomorrah burns, they are reveling in their depravity, encouraging us to do the same, and attempting to silence all dissent.

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths. (2 Timothy 4:3-4)

That time is here. But God will not be mocked. To whom will you listen?

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Spring Cleaning

Originally published by Oremus Press, June, 2020

Do you love God? Are you sure? Just how much? Do you love Him as much as your earthly father—the one who taught you how to ride a bike? 

Let’s find out. 

Pretend your dad’s organized a multi-week family reunion. He has a large, well-appointed home, and he’s hosting everyone in a lavish fashion. A few days into the gathering, a small group of men show up claiming to be distant cousins. Nobody in the family recognizes the men, but they decide to give the strangers the benefit of the doubt and invite them to join the party, which the “cousins” do. 

As the days go by, valuables begin to disappear—first your Aunt Linda’s jewelry, then your father’s coin collection, then the heirloom silver service. It’s obvious the “cousins” are taking these things. After a few days, they’ve given up even trying to hide their crimes, and start behaving like all-around pigs. They trash their rooms, get drunk at dinner (and sometimes lunch), and they flirt with everyone who stands still long enough. After all, they don’t give a hoot in Hades about your dad, so why should they respect his house or the things and people in it? 

If you found yourself in this situation, you would surely do a mop-up job and kick the parasites out of your dad’s house lickety split. You would call in whatever help you saw fit—law enforcement, your buddy from the gym, that ex-Marine who lives up the street, whomever fit the bill—and you would get the job done without delay. You certainly wouldn’t wring your hands and make excuses for the thieves, allowing them to stick around indefinitely on your dad’s dime and time.

So do you love God as much as you love your dad? Would you, will you, evict the crooks from His house? Because right now God’s house is overflowing with criminal impostors, and you are doing absolutely nothing about it. Instead, you, and most of your fellow Catholics, are making excuses for them and using “obedience” as justification for your indolence.

But we do not owe the impostors our obedience. They are thieves in the house of the Lord. They hold no legitimate office because they are heretics. When one worships a false god within the house of the one true God—or anywhere else for that matter—one might just as well tattoo “Hello, my name is Heretic” right across one’s forehead. When one bows down before an idol, or prays to “Mother Earth,” or speaks of the planet upon which we live as though it were a deity whose forgiveness we ought to seek; when one does these things—to name just a few of the crimes customarily committed in the contemporary House of God—that person is committing heresy, plain and simple.

And we do not owe obedience to heretics. Quite the contrary.

Neither do we owe heretics protection from hurt feelings. So let’s stop pussyfooting around about calling a spade a spade and a heretic a heretic. There is no legitimate reason not to do so. It’s not charitable to the heretic to deny or ignore their heresy—to do so is to affirm them on their path to Hell and thereby be complicit in their damnation; furthermore, it discourages them from repenting, which is their only path to salvation. Nor is it charitable to those doing the denying; it makes liars, and therefore sinners, of them all, as they must pervert reality—pervert truth—in order to ignore what is right under their noses. The failure to bluntly acknowledge and condemn heresy wherever we find it is damaging to the spiritual health of everyone involved.

After we have identified the impostors under Our Lord’s roof, we must rid ourselves of them. We cannot continue to sit idly by and allow crooks to run amok in the House of God. Jesus expelled the money changers from the Temple, and we must follow His example. 

But how can we do this? With tar and feathers? The guillotine? Torches and pitchforks? Of course not. The means available to us are nothing even remotely so dramatic or absurd, but far less simple.

We should start by insisting upon authentic leadership. We must demand that our bishops call one another to account when they stray from orthodoxy. Write letters and emails, make phone calls, flood diocesan offices with the cacophony of your voices and picket them physically. Protest bad decisions, and praise good ones. 

Vote with your feet and your wallet—if you have a lousy, heterodox priest at your current parish, stop supporting his heterodoxy by paying his bills, and stop parking your pants on his pews. Find an orthodox priest, and transfer your attendance and financial support to his parish—no matter how much farther you have to drive. 

We have to better support and reward our good priests and stop letting the bad ones slide by continuing to blindly, silently follow them. These wolves in shepherds’ clothing are desecrating your Father’s treasures. Stop rewarding them for doing it by continuing to show up at their parishes, stuffing their collection baskets, and making excuses for their words and actions. You wouldn’t tolerate it if they treated your dad disrespectfully—how much less so should you tolerate such behavior toward your God by those consecrated to His service?

Nobody else can do this janitor job for us, and we should stop expecting that to happen. Just like at dad’s reunion, we must call in whatever help fits the bill—the prayers of the saints and Our Lady; the support of solid, orthodox clergy; frequent Confession and Communion; prayer, fasting, and almsgiving—and take care of this most serious business. Will it be easy? Heck no. In fact, writing letters, making calls, and even just staying informed will be time-consuming and energy-draining. Will it be quick? Again, no. This process of slowly shutting out and loudly shouting down the wolves among our shepherds will likely take many years to bear fruit. But the light at the end of the tunnel is bright indeed—if only we can claw our way into it.

So let’s get started on a Spring cleaning without delay, shall we? We may be a little late in the season, but better late than never. And just think of how beautiful God’s house will be, once all the filth has been washed away … 

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The Coming of the Fourth Reich

Originally published, in part, at The Stream, May, 2020

“Working together, we will … advanc[e] progress for every community.”

Nancy Pelosi

“That we will work for this community—let that be our vow.”

Adolf Hitler

Name-calling an ideological opponent a Nazi has become de rigueur these days in certain circles. The term gets bandied about so early and so often in so-called debates that it has virtually lost all meaning. This is unfortunate—not only because the actual Nazis inflicted some of the worst destruction upon this planet humanity has ever witnessed, and don’t merit having their name whitewashed of its justly negative connotations, but because usually the one hurling the epithet—generally some flavor of Leftist—better resembles the insult than the one being accused.

In fact, the American Left has evolved into a chilling mirror image of the NSDAP, or Nazi Party. Their mindset, motivations, goals, and the methods they’re employing to achieve those goals are all eerily reminiscent of the same characteristics in National Socialism. 

Both ideologies are predicated on an “Us versus Them” mentality in which particular groups of people are vilified while others are exalted. The heroes in the Nazi narrative were “racially pure” Aryans—in other words, the whitest of white people—whereas the villains were essentially any type of minority, particularly Jews and anyone of non-Aryan race. Today, the American Left has become obsessed with the exact same people; they have simply reversed the roles, placing minorities of any stripe on a ridiculously high pedestal, and vilifying white people, especially white Christians—indeed, to many Leftists, the phrase “white Christians” is redundant, as they believe Christianity is synonymous with whiteness

Nevermind that most Leftists are white; they have created the concept of the “ally”—a “person that actively promotes and aspires to advance the culture of inclusion through intentional, positive and conscious efforts”—in order to circumvent that contradiction. The leadership of the NSDAP—which contained a handicapped member in addition to many others with predominantly non-Aryan traits— was not exactly a paragon of the Nazi Superman ideal, either. But coherence is and was virtually irrelevant to these ideologues.

I hardly need prove the Nazis’ fascination with whiteness and virulent opposition to non-whiteness—the millions of corpses speak for themselves. But what about the Left? Have they really become obsessed with minorities? Perhaps not with the individuals themselves, but certainly with the politics of classifying them, then exploiting the division that results therefrom. As writer Amy Chua noted: “Because the Left is always trying to outleft the last Left, the result can be a zero-sum competition over which group is the least privileged, an ‘Oppression Olympics.’” Matthew Yglesias wrote in Vox: “The Great Awokening is fundamentally about race.” And The New York Times Magazine declared in 2017, “For better or worse, it’s all identity now.” Nothing has changed since.

One need look no further than recent Democratic Party antics for hard evidence. Congressional Democrats have introduced no fewer than 85 minority-related bills and resolutions since 2019. And at a recent commencement address at Mount Holyoke College, Nancy Pelosi dutifully trotted out her party’s oppression credentials: “I bring special greetings on behalf of the House Democratic Caucus – which I’m proud to say is more than 50 percent women, people of color & LGBT [m]embers.” Then there are the internecine quarrels, which often revolve around race. The New York Post summed up the situation nicely:

Hoping to copy Sen. Kamala Harris, who scorched Biden over his opposition to school busing nearly 50 years ago, … Sen. Cory Booker is preparing his own assault along racial lines … faulting Biden’s criminal justice plan and calling him the “proud architect” of a system that led to mass incarceration of minorities.

The glorification of, and fixation upon, minority status is complimented by the vilification of the majority. The Post continues:

Some of their ideas sound anti-white. The increased frequency with which the “racist” tag is thrown around is one manifestation, with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez suggesting that even Speaker Nancy Pelosi is guilty. Another is that Rep. Ilhan Omar can give an interview where she says that America should be more fearful of “white men” than Islamic terrorism — and the left defends her as being misunderstood.

This anti-white bent in the leadership is reflective of the sentiments of the Leftist masses. Twitter, for instance, is a cesspool of anti-white rhetoric. One typical example: 

Sarah Jeong, a former member of the New York Times editorial board, is infamous for her anti-white tweets, including such gems as “oh man it’s kind of sick how much joy I get out of being cruel to old white men”; “Dumbass f—-ing white people marking up the internet with their opinions like dogs pissing on fire hydrants”; and, “The world could get by just fine with zero white people.”

Then there are the white-only re-education camps and “segregated safe space[s] for white students to talk about their racism and white privilege” at American universities. Add to that the poster campaigns telling whites and Christians to “check your privilege.” Not to mention the endless articles—accusing whites of being unable to recognize their inherent and unavoidable racism; claiming “white men must be stopped” because “the very future of mankind depends on it”; and asserting that “white boys” shouldn’t be allowed to talk in university classes—the list goes on.

A correlated contempt is directed at what the Left sees as a cohort of the white majority, namely, Christians. In the abstract of two studies which “explore[d] everyday discrimination experienced by conservative Christians in a secular university setting,” the following results were reported

In Study 1, 42 conservative Christian students documented 87 [a]nti‐Christian incidents in one week of diaries. Incident frequency and type … paralleled past research of more traditionally studied target groups. … In Study 2, a general sample of university students rated their sympathy for Anti‐Christian, Sexist, and Anti‐Black Racist incidents. Students had less sympathy for Anti‐Christian incidents than for Anti‐Black Racism and Sexism, though Christian students were more sympathetic to all types of prejudice.

In other words, Christians are being discriminated against as often on university campuses as groups we traditionally think of as victims of discrimination. Furthermore, nobody cares, even though Christians care deeply about injustice toward others. 

The message from the American Left is clear: minorities are good, and the majority—which happens to be white, and, to a lesser degree, Christian—is evil. Leftists seem to feel just as strongly about this paradigm as the Nazis felt about its mirror image.

But we mustn’t ascribe consciously nefarious motives—to either group. At least not to the laymen. That’s another trait they share: a fervent and sincere belief that their actions are and were both selfless and in the best interests of the communities they favor/ed. In other words, they really believe/d they are and were doing the Right Thing. 

In his in-depth exploration of the National Socialist psyche, The Law of Blood, Johann Chapoutot encapsulates the Nazi mentality: “We must act for … the German people … and we must act for the community, not for our own personal interest.” Similarly, the Holocaust Encyclopedia states

A cornerstone of Nazi ideology … was the creation of a “national community” … that would transcend class, religious, and regional differences. … All “racially pure” Germans … were obliged to aid those who were less well off and sacrifice time, wages, and even their lives for the commonweal.

As for the Social Justice Warriors of the American Left, Philip Carl Salzman writes

The point of “social justice” ideology is … to relieve the powerful of their sinful oppression, and the oppressed of their terrible wounds. This is seen as an ethical fight: virtue is with “social justice” activists working for the welfare of the belabored, and against the power of the oppressors.

And what is/was the object of all these good intentions? Curiously enough, the goals of both groups are analogous, as well. Essentially, the average adherents of both philosophies intend/ed to redistribute power from those they hate/d, whom they perceive/d to possess it in great supply, to those they heroize/d, whom they perceive/d to be the underdogs. 

Average Nazis, for example, hated the Jews, in part, because they believed Jews controlled world events, foreign governments, and international commerce, among other things.

 By suppressing and ultimately eliminating Jews, Nazis believed they were merely removing a legitimate threat to themselves and others. They strove to remove the power they believed the Jews possessed by removing their rights and wealth, redistributing the latter among more “worthy” Aryans, thereby shifting Jewish power to their racial comrades.

Sound familiar? How often does the American Left talk about “income inequality” and “wealth redistribution?” Do you really think they’re talking about redistributing the wealth of rich blacks, rich Asians, or rich Muslims? And do you really think it’s about money in and of itself? When it comes to economics, many, if not most Leftists are outright socialists (as was Hitler) who believe the words of Marx: “The extent of the power of money is the extent of my power.” Their true goal is a redistribution of power—the redistribution of wealth is merely a means to an end.

But those were and are the goals of the masses. The goals of the leadership were and are far more insidious. 

For the leaders of the NSDAP, the true goal was the acquisition and concentration of power among a small, elite group—namely, themselves. And control within Germany was not enough. They wanted nothing less than world domination. As the song “Es Zittern die Morschen Knochen” in the Hitler Youth songbook declared: “For today Germany belongs to us / And tomorrow the whole world.”

And make no mistake, the political leaders of the American Left are bent on acquiring and consolidating power, too. If they truly believed in uplifting the poor, oppressed minorities about whom they constantly lecture the rest of us, they would “redistribute” the hundreds of thousands of dollars they make in donations from Washington lobbyists. And Nancy Pelosi, Queen of the American Left, would never think of appearing on late night television with a $20,000 freezer stocked with $12 per pint ice cream while 20% of the nation is unemployed–if, that is, she really believed in Leftist rhetoric. 

So why all the lofty, if divisive, rhetoric if the people at the top don’t really believe in it? 

Simple—it’s a red herring.

Divide and conquer is a time-honored strategy, and this is exactly what both the Nazi Party leaders and the political leadership of the American Left were and are engaged in. As long as they could/can keep the people focused on their divisions and fighting amongst themselves, the leaders were and are free to quietly snatch up ever more power for themselves. Hitler even used this tactic when dealing with his underlings, intentionally assigning overlapping duties to multiple people in order to foment diversionary squabbles, which he believed would prevent any individual subordinate from acquiring enough power to overthrow him. 

Incidentally, he was also well-known for his lofty, if divisive, rhetoric.

Actions speak louder than words, however, and the actions of the Left-wing political leadership are clearly those of a cadre of would-be tyrants bent on acquiring, then hoarding, all the power they can sink their claws into. Their responses to the coronavirus pandemic reveal this reality in Technicolor detail, with Democratic governors and local officials imposing ridiculous authoritarian measures like banning the sale of seeds and plants; restricting the ability of big box stores to sell so-called “non-essential” items, including clothing, (which, last I checked, was a daily necessity); and outlawing drive-in church services while allowing abortion clinics to remain open.

By their junior-dictator behavior, the leaders of the American Left reveal they are no different than the leadership of the NSDAP; they merely lack a Hitler figure. And perhaps they haven’t quite thought of taking over the world … yet. But if history is any indicator, it may only be a matter of time.

*             *             *

A great deal of work is required to brainwash a nation into cooperating with a hostile takeover. But both the Nazi Party and the American Left have proven themselves up to the challenge. And both groups have used the same tactics and platforms to coerce the masses into playing along, virtually without resistance.

For example, both groups have understood that the best way to achieve success is to start at the bottom. After all, as Hitler stated in his biography, Mein Kampf: “Whoever has the youth has the future.” Consequently, both groups made the conquest of their respective countries’ educational systems their premier priority.

“Nazi schooling and extracurricular activities sought to inculcate racial hatred to an extraordinary extent. The entire curriculum … was used to convince the young of the importance of race and the inferiority of Jews, blacks, etc.” state scholars Nico Voigtländer and Hans-Joachim Voth in their research on Nazi indoctrination and anti-Semitic beliefs in Germany. Furthermore, “after 1933,” states the Holocaust Encyclopedia, “the Nazi regime purged the public school system of teachers deemed to be Jews or to be ‘politically unreliable.’” The site adds, “While censors removed some books from the classroom, German educators introduced new textbooks that taught students love for Hitler, obedience to state authority, militarism, racism, and antisemitism.” Apparently, this methodology was extremely effective, as Voigtländer and Voth found that those schooled under this system “are still markedly more anti-Semitic today than cohorts born either before or after.”

American schools have, similarly, been turned into left-wing ideology factories, their principal product being indoctrinated youths. This is true for both K-12 public schools and for colleges and universities. 

If one searches the web for “left-wing bias in public schools,” one can find countless examples of kids being indoctrinated therein. For example, an upscale school in Chicago planned an all-school social justice day with events such as “Developing a Positive, Accountable White Activism for Racial Civil Rights.” New Trier High School in Winnetka, Illinois scheduled an “All-School Seminar Day” aimed at “understanding today’s struggles for racial civil rights.” One workshop was designed to explore “the methods and regulations used in the U.S. to deny or limit the voting rights of various minority groups.” Then there were the “Appropriate Alliances: Working in White Spaces” workshops. “White Spaces” day required students to discuss “how white students can help break down stereotypes and other types of structural racism in white spaces” and to “address why white guilt is an ineffective form of acknowledging racism.”

But perhaps the most exhaustive and troubling account of a personal confrontation with public school “progressivism” was penned by George Packer, staff writer for The Atlantic, who identifies as left-leaning. He extensively documents New York City schools’ “relentless focus on race,” and notes:

In one middle-school hallway a picture was posted of a card that said, “Uh-oh! Your privilege is showing. You’ve received this card because your privilege just allowed you to make a comment that others cannot agree or relate to. Check your privilege.” The card had boxes to be marked, like a scorecard, next to “White,” “Christian,” “Heterosexual,” “Able-bodied,” “Citizen.”

Packer concludes by discussing Mayor DeBlasio’s initiative to integrate NYC schools. “The Department of Education[’s] … entire focus was on achieving diversity, and on rooting out the racism that stood in the way,” he writes. At a public meeting to discuss the integration plan, “We were presented with a slideshow that included a photo of white adults snarling at black schoolchildren in the South in the 1960s.” He recalls: 

Part of the initiative mandated anti-bias training for every employee of the school system … One training slide was titled “White Supremacy Culture.” It included “Perfectionism,” “Individualism,” “Objectivity,” and “Worship of the Written Word” among the white-supremacist values that need to be disrupted.

On the other side of the country, the state of California has adopted a program that is equally biased toward left-wing ideals. The history and social sciences curriculum alone has been blatantly constructed in such a way as to train young people to see the world through a race/ethnicity-based lens. It mentions “race” 22 times, “immigrants” 35 times, “ethnic/ethnicity/ethnicities” 14 times, and “diverse/diversity” 16 times. Furthermore, it mentions “black” (in reference to race) 49 times, but “white” (in reference to race) only 6 times. That’s far from a balanced approach—and it’s obvious whose history takes precedence. They haven’t forgotten to bash religion, either—a stated goal of the curriculum is: “Students should understand the intense religious passions that have produced fanaticism and war.” 

This trend is not just happening in the “blue” states, either. The Pacific Research Institute reports that, nation-wide, “Among English teachers, there are 97 Democrats for every three Republicans,” and “among health teachers [there are] 99 Democrats for every one Republican. … among high school teachers overall, there are 87 Democrats for every 13 Republicans.” 

And how have Christians fared in this gambit? As far back as 1986, when Dr. Paul Vitz published his research on “the degree and nature of bias in 60 social studies and history textbooks used by 87% of public schools across the United States,” the answer was not good. “Not only was there no God being thanked by the Pilgrims in the first Thanksgiving, but the study found that almost every other reference to the Christian influence of early America was systematically removed.”

Drown the children in divisive racial theory, scrub the textbooks of all conflicting information, repopulate the teaching staff with those who are friendly to the cause … didn’t we just read about someone else doing the exact same thing?

Clearly, the Left-wing conquest of our public schools is a fait accompli. But what about higher education? If anything, the situation there is worse yet. Our colleges and universities, once safeguards of independent thought, have devolved into “safe spaces” where conformity to the “social justice” agenda is strictly enforced, and deviation therefrom is penalized, often harshly. Where Winston Churchill is regarded as a symbol of white supremacy, and “race workshops” teach that, if you expect people to be on time, you’re a white supremacist. Where professors preach that all students should be mandated to take courses on white privilege and casually tweet that they want “white genocide” for Christmas. 

The situation for Christians in higher education is at least equally appalling. In recent years, Christian students have been denied admission to, and expelled from, colleges and universities on the basis of their faith alone. One student was asked to remove a cross necklace, lest it offend others; another was given zeroes on assignments for refusing to agree with the professor’s anti-Christian bias; and yet another was ordered to stomp on a piece of paper with Jesus’s name written on it. Some schools have shut down Christian clubs simply for being Christian. And, although this author knows of only one specific university which hosted “a training session for students and faculty that teaches that Christians—especially white ones—‘receive unmerited perks from institutions and systems all across our country,’” this message is clearly being disseminated by virtually all of them.

Our institutions of so-called higher education have obviously become nothing more than vehicles for a higher degree of Leftist indoctrination. 

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Neither the Nazis nor the Left have been content to merely co-opt their nation’s educational systems. Both groups had/have a far more holistic approach designed to infect the minds of the masses via virtually every available means. They have particularly focused on methods of communication. 

One such instrument is the press—both groups set out to control the news media, and both groups achieved smashing successes. 

When Hitler came to power in 1933, there were over 4,700 daily and weekly newspapers in Germany, of which the Nazis controlled less than 3%. Within months, they had demolished any semblance of a free press: 

The Propaganda Ministry … control[led] the content of news and editorial pages through directives … transmitted through the party propaganda offices to regional or local papers. Detailed guidelines stated what stories could or could not be reported and how to report the news. Journalists or editors who failed to follow these instructions could be fired or sent to a concentration camp. Reflecting in his diary on the press’s loss of independence, Goebbels, a one-time journalist, wrote: “Any man who still has a residue of honor will be very careful not to become a journalist.”

The latter statement could easily apply to contemporary America, as our press has become almost equally biased—unlike the Nazis, however, the Left was not able to achieve such a feat virtually overnight. Their stranglehold has been applied slowly, over the course of decades. The Media Research Center notes that, between 1976 and 1992, journalists cast their ballots for Democrats in presidential elections an average of between 76.1% and 89% of the time. And in 1996, 61% of newspaper journalists self-identified as “liberal or leaning left,” compared to only 15% who identified as conservative. Investors Business Daily, on the other hand, reports that, although in the 1970’s the ratio of Republican to Democrat journalists was roughly equal, today, Democrats outnumber Republicans four to one.

The bias of the press is plainly evident when it comes to their treatment of Christians. Vice President Mike Pence’s wife, for example, was attacked by multiple news outlets, including the Washington Post, CNN, and The New York Times, for returning to a teaching post at a Christian school. And let us not forget the factually incorrect smear job virtually every major news outlet was all-too-eager to slap together against the Covington Catholic School student whose crime ended up being nothing more than attending a pro-life rally in a MAGA hat. Some outlets have even gone so far as to equate Christian faith with hate and bigotry.

The noxious tentacles of both the NSDAP and the American Left extend/ed well beyond the press, however, and deep into the communications forms of the arts and popular culture. To achieve this end, Hitler established the Reich Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, putting Joseph Goebbels in charge. The Ministry “ensure[d] that the Nazi message was successfully communicated through art, music, theater, films, books, radio,” and related media. 

While only 15% of German films produced under the Nazis were overtly propagandistic, they were the most widely attended, “account[ing] for one in four or one in five cinema visits.” Some of them are infamous to this day: notable examples include the documentary Triumph of the Will, as well as the anti-Semitic films Jüd Suß and Der Ewige Jude

The latter film had an eponymous exhibition that traveled the country in 1937, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors. It provided “a comprehensive depiction of the invidious Otherness of the Jew, through pseudo-scientific descriptions of Jews’ business practices, their personal morals, their dress, their external physiological characteristics, even the nature of Hebrew typography.” An accompanying exhibit of “degenerate art” showed Germans what was no longer aesthetically acceptable, while the contrasting Great German Art Exhibition just down the road was designed to highlight the new Aryan ideal.

The Nazis advanced the indoctrination of the people via popular forms of mass domestic communication, too. They produced an affordable radio called a Volksempfänger (people’s receiver) and made it widely available—it was extremely popular. Germany also became the first nation to introduce regular television service in 1935. Via these platforms, the Nazis pumped their propaganda into the homes of virtually every German citizen.

The American Left’s appropriation of the arts and popular culture has been no less comprehensive. All one need do is turn on the television or read the current movie listings for proof. According to Rotten Tomatoes, a movie and TV review site, the current top-rated comedy TV show is Feel Good, which received a 100% positive rating from critics. It revolves around the “intense” romantic relationship between two women—Mae, who believes she’s “transgender, or like nonbinary, or whatever the terms are these days,” and George, who has only ever dated men prior to meeting Mae. The number three comedy TV show is Sex Education, a show about the sex lives of children below the age of consent, in which the main character’s best friend is homosexual, and plots revolve around subjects such as masturbation and a chlamydia outbreak at the school. 

As for movies, among the top-grossing films for 2020 was a movie called Knives Out, “ a shamelessly pandering, politically trite, vicious and virulent piece of racial propaganda” in which “all the white characters are portrayed as morally, ethically and intellectually revolting.” The Latin American immigrant nurse, Marta, however, “is portrayed as a near saint, so much so that she is literally incapable of lying without vomiting.” 

Can you imagine the roles in Knives Out being reversed? Such a film would never make it to theaters. And can you imagine a show about a heterosexual Christian couple’s courtship, or homeschooled children, performing equally well as Feel Good or Sex Education? Hardly. The American Left may not have a Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, but they clearly don’t need one. They’re doing the same job equally well without it.

But perhaps the most frightening communications-related conquest made by both groups is that of language itself. Both groups had and have very effectively transformed common usage of their native languages to suit their own agendas.

The Nazis were particularly adept at coining new terms. “Raßenschande” (“racial disgrace”), “Parteigenoße” (“party comrade”), “Untermensch” (“subhuman”), and “Übermensch” (“superman”—generally referring to the ideal Aryan) are all examples of words invented by the Nazis to drive their agenda. They were also skilled at politicizing existing words, imbuing them with new meaning—the Holocaust Encyclopedia, for example, states: “Certain words such as ‘Volk’ (‘the people’) and ‘Fanatismus’ (‘fanaticism’) became synonymous with the official party line of the Third Reich.”

The site continues: “Other terms were created as euphemisms to hide acts of terror. For example, in the language of the Nazis, ‘Sonderbehandlung’ (‘special treatment’) meant execution, and the term ‘Endlösung’ (‘final solution’)” referred to the planned genocide of the Jews. The mobile killing units sent into Eastern Europe during World War Two were “Einsatzgruppen” (“task forces”), and “Evakuierung” (“evacuation”) referred to the forced transfer of Jews from their homelands to death camps.

The Left is equally devious when it comes to inventing new terminology, or repurposing existing words and phrases, to serve their ends. For example, a system of hiring which enforces the preferential selection of minorities regardless of talent, training, skills, or experience is termed “Affirmative Action.” The logical, and immemorial, variation in incomes across the population is “income inequality.” Fluctuation in meteorological phenomena—something as old as the planet itself—was first termed “global warming,” and, when that failed to hold up under scrutiny, became “climate change.” Illegal aliens are “dreamers.” And the sum of the various facets of Leftist tyranny described throughout this piece? That’s “social justice.”

Like the Nazis, the Left has also created more than its fair share of euphemisms meant to conceal the distastefulness of particular subjects and to excuse specific atrocities. Unborn babies are “products of conception”; meanwhile, “abortion,” itself a euphemism for the murder of the unborn, has its own substitute terminology: “termination of pregnancy,” or “termination procedure”—euphemisms for a euphemism. The ability to legally murder one’s pre-born child is termed “freedom to choose,” “reproductive rights,” or even “women’s health.” A man who pretends to be a woman—or a woman who pretends to be a man—is “transgender,” and the medically-sanctioned mutilation of that person’s genitals is termed “gender reassignment.” The Left even has a euphemism for its own extreme agenda—they’re not Leftists, they’re “progressives” … because the slow march toward tyranny is progress, doncha know? 

This system of linguistic totalitarianism is called “political correctness.” And all of these things I’ve just said? That’s “hate speech,” because it defies that system. But don’t think such rebellion happens without consequences—if these norms weren’t ruthlessly enforced, no one would comply. Those who fail to toe the semantic party line, even accidentally, can be punished with fines, loss of employment, and even imprisonment. Then there’s the army of Karens (of both sexes) on social media ready to pounce on anyone who says anything even remotely off-script:

The Left has very successfully transformed this country into a place wherein a tiny minority controls what the majority is allowed to say, in spite of our enshrined First Amendment rights. And because they have camouflaged their authoritarian agenda in “social justice” lingo, the masses have passively fallen in line, in spite of their misgivings. But to those of you who are dutifully playing along, changing your pronouns to match the shifting whims of the tragically confused (who should be directed to proper psychological care rather than reinforced in their delusions), or altering your terminology for various groups of people to match the socially acceptable phrase-dujour (going from “black” to “African-American” to “person of color” to whatever’s allowed this week, for example,) take heed: “He who controls the language controls the masses.” These are the words of Saul Alinsky, icon of the Leftist movement and author of the infamous Rules for Radicals, which is dedicated to “the first radical known to man who rebelled against the establishment and did it so effectively that he at least won his own kingdom — Lucifer.”

*             *             *

I see seemingly reasonable people wishing death on others and laughing at escalating suicide and addiction rates of the white working class. I see liberal think pieces written in opposition to expressing empathy or civility in interactions with those with whom we disagree. I see 63 million Trump voters written off as ‘nazis’ who are okay to target with physical violence. I see concepts like equality and justice being used as a mask for resentful, murderous rage.

Keri Smith

And so here we are. Thanks to a carefully constructed, decades-long, multi-pronged, and extremely effective cultural assault by the radical Left, everybody hates everybody else, and they’re not afraid to say so—all too often, they act on it. 

But this has all happened before. Sure, the actors have shuffled their roles, the setting has been shifted, and the names have been changed to protect the guilty. The script, however, is virtually identical.

So what comes next in this horror story? We must look back to see what’s ahead.

The Holocaust Encyclopedia states:

Propaganda … encouraged passivity and acceptance of the impending measures against Jews … as these appeared to depict the Nazi government as stepping in and “restoring order.”

Has the Left “encouraged passivity and acceptance of impending measures” against our civil and religious liberties that “depict the government as stepping in and restoring order?” What would you call the relentless push for gun control laws that happens after every mass shooting? Or the attacks on and insinuations against our right to free speech that follow every so-called hate crime? Or the closing of our churches during the current COVID-19 pandemic? If these don’t qualify, I’m not sure what would.

We’re clearly in a similar, though admittedly not identical, state of chaos to that which existed in the early days of Hitler’s reign. Now what? Let’s turn once more to the Holocaust Encyclopedia: “Propaganda … also served to prepare the German population, in the context of national emergency, for harsher measures, such as mass deportations and, eventually, genocide.”

“National emergency?” I think a pandemic counts. “Harsher measures?” I’d say forced unemployment, commodity rationing, indefinite de-facto house arrest orders, and a freeze on public worship qualify as much harsher measures than any we’ve seen before in our lifetimes. 

Am I suggesting that we’re headed toward a genocide? Not necessarily … but I’m not willing to rule it out. Particularly where it concerns Christians. In addition to all of the evidence of anti-Christian sentiment and activity in this country I have already presented, consider the following:

George Yancey, author of So Many Christians, So Few Lions, distributed a survey “with open-ended questions to a group of progressive activists” regarding their sentiments about Christians. Answers he received included: “Kill them all, let their god sort them out”; “A torturous death would be too good for them”; “I’d be a bit giddy, certainly grateful, if everyone who saw himself or herself in that category were snatched permanently from our societal peripheries, whether by holocaust or rapture or plague”; and “I am only too well aware of their horrific attitudes and beliefs—and those are enough to make me see them as subhuman.”

The Nazi leadership often used the term “subhuman” in reference to Jews, Slavs, and other non-Aryan races. And note the use of the term “holocaust” as one of the preferred methods for the elimination of Christians. 

But it’s not just in the minds of activists that we are under attack. It’s in the courtroom, too. There are a ridiculous number of religious liberty cases currently being litigated. The Little Sisters of the Poor are headed to the Supreme Court … for the third time. And speaking of Supreme Court veterans, remember Jack Phillips, the Colorado baker who refused to make the homosexual “wedding” cake? He’s back in court, too, this time for refusing to make a “transgender” cake. Meanwhile, Catholic Social Services has also brought a case to the Supreme Court. They are suing the city of Philadelphia over its decision to sever ties with foster families who partnered with CSS because of the agency’s faith-based objection to placing children with homosexual couples—“even though Catholic Social Services has never actually received any complaints or accusations of discrimination, nor has any same-sex couple ever actually approached the adoption agency for foster placement.”

Let’s not forget the latest attempts to legislate away our religious freedoms. The 86th Texas legislative session, for example, recently attempted to pass a bundle of so-called “anti-discrimination” bills that would have effectively banned the practice of traditional Christianity under threat of fine and even jail time. And in California, a legislative attempt to dissolve the seal of the Confessional was recently made in the name of protecting children.

Then there’s the long list of political appointees and judicial nominees who have been challenged by Congressional Leftists, just since the beginning of Trump’s presidency, on the basis of their Christian faith:

Article VI of the U.S. Constitution states that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” But the Left doesn’t care about the Constitution—indeed, their whole agenda hinges on a slow, but complete, erosion of the rights enshrined therein, thereby rendering us unable to resist the implementation of their dystopian daydreams. Divide and conquer, remember? They’ve already divided us—now they’re working on that second part.

So, although we may not necessarily be headed for a genocide—at least not yet—we are most definitely heading toward tyranny. In fact, it’s nipping at our heels, and as Christians, we have particular cause for alarm. The time has come to stop ignoring the teeth marks and start beating off the wolf who’s trying to devour us.

How do we do that?

For starters, don’t allow the fact that we currently have a conservative president to lull you into a false sense of security. The Left has been at this for decades; no matter how effective the leader, no single person can undo the vast cultural legacy the Left has created—the indoctrination of our youth, the degradation of our entertainment industry, the biasing of our news sources, the policing and perversion of our language, the normalizing of discrimination against Christians—in a mere four, or even eight years. It’s up to us to clean up our culture by resisting, and, where possible, reversing, the goose-stepping march of tyranny across all the same fronts the Left has so effectively subjugated.

So begin by boycotting public schools and Leftist higher education. Don’t hand your children over for re-programming, thinking you’ll somehow be able, even in your physical absence, to shield them from the barrage of left-wing ideas to which they will most certainly be subjected. Instead, choose to homeschool, if you can—Hitler banned it and Harvard is trying to, so it must be a good thing. Or find a charter or private school that isn’t pushing a Leftist agenda. It may be less convenient and more expensive, but it’ll pay dividends in the long run.

Secondly, boycott the mainstream media. Leftist news is news with an agenda; agenda-driven news is fake news. There are plenty of reliable outlets—find them and support them.

Thirdly, stop spending your hard-earned money on propaganda posing as entertainment. The people who make it, and who make money from it, hate you, and want to destroy everything you believe in. When you hand them a paycheck, they donate it to causes and candidates devoted to obliterating your way of life. So stop bankrolling your own demise, already.

And lastly—but perhaps most importantly—stop playing their word games. The blogger known as Bookworm said it well: 

Remember, when it comes to the Left, these euphemisms are not about respecting people’s feelings. After all, this is the same Left that has no problems calling you bigoted, stupid, homophobic, racist, a Nazi, etc., … Instead, these euphemisms are about ignoring reality in fealty to a totalitarian political ideology. Feelings aren’t a part of war and this is war being waged through the headline and the dictionary. Your weapon is verbal truth.

Remember, he who controls language, controls the masses—and also controls thought. When you buy into their divisive and obscuring language, your vision becomes clouded, and all you can see are our differences. What we need is unity. We need to move beyond all these petty distinctions; race, class, gender—do we really need to keep fighting the battles of past centuries? Doesn’t it make more sense to just move on already? After all, how are we supposed to overcome our differences if our differences are the only things we allow to define us?

So, in the words of a song that was popular in a parallel time, let’s call the whole thing off. Let’s start thinking clearly, and for ourselves. Let’s brandish our weapons boldly—let’s speak truth, always, and fight the fascism of phony phraseology. The battle to take back our country, and defend our faith and freedoms, can begin just that simply: with a single honest word.

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On Bishops and Bellyachers

I was in the grocery store when I snapped. It was two months into lockdown. As an immune-compromised person, I’d begun my Coronavirus journey cautiously—staying in, and wearing an N-95 mask if I had to go out. My roommate had been shopping for the items we were unable to get delivered. So it’d been some time since I’d experienced the outside world, and the transformation was jolting.

Perhaps it was the decimated dairy case—particularly perplexing because I’d read that many dairy farmers had dumped their milk for lack of demand. We, however, were clearly suffering from an acute lack of supply. Perhaps it was the purchase limits on other items I knew farmers were being forced to trash due to an alleged drop in demand—like potatoes. Perhaps it was the one-way aisles and big red Xs taped to the floor in the checkout line at designated standing positions, making me feel like so much herded cattle. Perhaps it was the saran wrap over the keypad on the card reader—as if customers wouldn’t touch it just as often as they would’ve touched bare buttons; as if saran wrap were self-sanitizing. Or perhaps it was the flip-flop on single-use plastic bags. The San Francisco area municipalities deemed them a grave environmental evil and banned them several years ago. But now they’ve done a 180: reusable bags are now the public nuisance because they might spread the virus, and single-use plastic has been restored to a-okay status.

It might’ve been any one of those things that ruptured the shackles of my complacency; more likely it was the accumulation of all that nonsense in addition to the stupidity and government overreach I’d been reading about in other regions. At any rate, the real enemy had revealed its monstrous face, and it wasn’t a virus: it was the renunciation of reason and the fetishization of fear. It was the mad dash toward despotism being made in the name of safety. I’d seen the enemy, and I’d made up my mind to wage war against it, even if I went to jail or caught my death of COVID-19—or both—in the process.

I fear life amidst tyranny more than death of any kind.

So when I heard about the Liberty Fest rally at the California State Capitol on the 23rd, there was no question about my attendance. As a Catholic, I felt it was imperative to protest the closure of churches, and as a writer, I felt it was important to bear witness.

I’d read that there’d been arrests at previous protests, so I made preparations for that possibility. I coached my roommate on what to do if she received my call from jail, and gave her my father’s phone number in case she needed to raise bail. I then contacted my dad, who is sympathetic and supportive, and advised him that if my roommate called, he could rest assured that I hadn’t broken any Constitutionally valid laws. 

Then I set out for the Capitol.

What I found there was nothing short of exhilarating. It was a little slice of normal—the old normal, the real normal. A tiny island of nerve and pluck in a seething ocean of worry and panic. A party at a funeral. The mood was positive, excited, energized. And the crowd was diverse. Although some leftist outlets have chosen to focus their reporting on the presence of “extremist groups,” I saw nothing of the kind as I circulated through the crowd. 

I did see families and individuals of all races, tattooed bikers both male and female, beautiful Latinas dressed like 1950’s pin-up girls, dark-suited pastors, military members in uniform, a blue-haired religious liberty protestor, a hippie drum circle, and a man in a Guy Fawkes mask.

The majority of the people were like me—there to protest the closure of churches. I’d estimate that 65% of the homemade signs were religious liberty-related. I decided to talk to these people. 

I spoke to countless Christians from all over California. I spoke to Presbyterians, Baptists, Methodists, and other mainline Protestants. Outnumbering them were the Evangelicals—they came from so many different churches, it makes my head spin.

But out of all those names and faces, two stand out: Emma Gonzales and her daughter, Donna Estrada.

What makes these two ladies special? They’re the only Catholics I met. Of the countless Christians I spoke to, only these two shared my particular faith.  

They seemed surprised to meet a fellow Catholic. They’d attended every lockdown protest at the Capitol, in spite of the great distance from their home in Southern California. At the previous rally, they’d brought a bundle of rosaries Emma had made to give away for free. They’d had only one taker—just one person was willing to accept a free rosary. This explained why they were surprised to meet me; they’d not really encountered any other Catholics in their protests.

I was shocked. I expected more. I expected better. I’d spent I don’t even know how many hours on social media reading Catholic-penned posts complaining about the closure of our churches and the failure of our bishops to do anything about it. But when an opportunity for action had presented itself, those same “fed up” people had chosen to stay on the bench and let others play the game.

I couldn’t help but think about our local bishops and their lack of decisive action. I live across the street from a Catholic church, and via their bulletin I’d received several updates about the bishops’ alleged actions to promote re-opening our churches. These updates were generally trite and empty assurances that our leaders were leading, but were occasionally slaps in the face to anyone reading between the lines, such as this quote from Bishop Michael Barber in a recent parish email:

When I was interviewed by KGO Channel 7 and KTVU Channel 2, I made the point that if churches follow the same safety protocols as Safeway or Home Depot or the tattoo parlor, why can’t we reopen?  I think it is reasonable and absolutely necessary we follow safety procedures.  It is not reasonable, and it is a violation of our religious freedom, if the government tells us we cannot reopen “because we are a church”.  As a diocese, we have voluntarily closed our churches for worship.  Nevertheless, I declined to sign the petition to reopen on Pentecost.

He might as well have said, “I’m putting on a tough face for the press, but when the cameras stop rolling and it’s time to actually do something, I won’t, even though I know it’s ridiculous to assert that an abortion clinic is safer than the house of God. Oh, and in case you forgot, I’m responsible for taking away your Mass—I did this voluntarily.” 

Then there’s San Francisco’s ironically named Archbishop Cordileone, who recently wrote

I am also well aware of the spiritual distress that so many of our people are experiencing due to the unavailability of attending Mass in person.  I therefore wish to send you this communication to update you on steps we are taking to reopen for public Mass here in the Archdiocese of San Francisco. 

The thing is, his “communication” says little to nothing about any concrete steps toward re-opening. It’s just mumbo jumbo about how he’s “been joining [his] brother bishops in California for our weekly videoconference meetings to discuss the current situation”; how he’s “consulted with top experts in the fields of health care and epidemiology”; and his “form[ing] a committee of pastors and lay people to draft safety protocols.” The whole thing sounds like a bureaucratic shell game designed to distract the laity into thinking Big Things are being done, while in reality the action being taken is Big Fat Nothing.

Adding to the absurdity of both bishops’ stances is the fact that they have kept churches open for private prayer. Apparently that’s safe, but Mass isn’t. The people sit in the same pews. They breathe the same air. They pray to the same God. And they take the same safety precautions that could be taken if Mass were to be offered. But one is kosher while the other is verboten. This makes absolutely no sense unless the Liturgy itself is somehow virulent. 

Perhaps that’s what the bishops privately believe. 

Both bishops take great pains to emphasize their cooperation with state and local authorities, including Governor Newsom. Bishop Barber writes on the Oakland Diocese’s website that “the Catholic bishops of California are working with the Governor’s Office.” And Abp. Cordileone states that, when it comes to the resumption of public Masses, “We all agree that we should do this in sync with government regulations.” 

In a state like California—which has all but declared open war on Catholicism—working with the political leaders and following regulations is like pushing the self-destruct button. In a battle to save your life, you cannot “work with” someone who wants you dead. To trust such a person to consider your best interests—to count on them to help you survive—is not only naive, it’s suicidal.

And the fruits of the bishops’ efforts to “work with” the state government—California’s guidelines for re-opening churches—reveal this in spades. The government is attempting to regulate virtually every aspect of our worship, down to the manner in which we receive Holy Communion. And they’re attempting to prohibit the cornerstone of the Eastern Catholic Liturgy, without which there can be no service whatsoever—singing.

So much for “working with” the authorities. Looks like that strategy didn’t exactly pay off.

If our bishops really had our spiritual health in mind—if they were really lionhearted—they would’ve followed the example of Minnesota’s bishops and re-opened our churches in defiance of Newsom’s stay-at-home order. There’s no reason why limiting attendance and social distancing couldn’t keep people equally safe at Mass as the identical provisions have for in-church private prayer. It raises the obvious question: why don’t our bishops want us to go to Mass? There’s no possible answer that isn’t either frightening, disgusting, infuriating, or some combination thereof.

I’m reminded of the adage I’ve heard the parish old timers use often: We get the leaders we deserve. My experience at the Capitol affirmed this. Are you a discontented Catholic, angry that we have complacent cowards at best, and criminal perverts at worst, as bishops? Then stop acting like a complacent coward yourself. Stop bellyaching on Facebook about how bad things are and start working to make them better. Get out of your comfort zone and into the battle zone. If you’re not willing to make sacrifices to save and sanctify your Church, don’t be surprised when your Church is the thing being sacrificed.

We are all, collectively, the Body of Christ. While you sit on your La-Z-Boy hiding behind whiny tweets, the rest of us can accomplish nothing. The fingertips may wish to move forward, but if the other parts are too indolent and fearful to budge, the entire body languishes. So quit assuming someone else will solve our crisis; the hierarchy is a pack of wolves, and your fellow laypeople are as lazy as you are. Stand up already, and awaken your snoozing Catholic friends, too. 

The time to act is now. And the right person for the job is you.

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The Last Time I Slow-Danced With Death

Originally published at The Stream

It seemed so Providential. So heaven-sent. So meant to be. And perhaps it was. Perhaps I will never really know for sure.

What I do know is, when I saw her email sitting in my inbox, my heart skipped a beat. My article on ancient child sacrifice and the modern abortion epidemic, in which I’d quoted this woman—interviewed while seeking an abortion—had only been up for about three hours. But she had obviously seen it—why else would she be emailing me? 

I swallowed the lump in my throat and opened the message. I fully expected to see a string of curses and epithets directed at me personally. What I found, however, surprised me. The message was respectfully written—complimentary, even; and, although the author did take issue with some of what I’d written, she’d done so in a cool-headed and reasonable fashion. 

This was clearly not your typical hysterical, off-the-rails, rabid pro-abort. I decided right then and there to try to change her mind.

Since abortion was temporarily outlawed in her state due to the coronavirus pandemic, I figured I had a bit of time to work on her. So I decided to take it slowly. In that first reply to her, I focused on thanking her for her civility and trying to explain the writing choices with which she had taken issue. I also expressed my compassion for her situation by explaining that I myself was post-abortive.

Late that night, she wrote me a beautiful, heartfelt reply. She included grisly details of her medical condition, which was severe. She also described her dire financial situation. She’d been living paycheck-to-paycheck as a single mom, without any familial support, until she lost her job entirely as a result of the pandemic. She even included a photo of her two adorable sons. All of this made me feel incredibly close to her in spite of the hundreds of miles between us. She ended by expressing her belief that pro-lifers are zealots who force their beliefs onto others and disregard women’s rights.

Well, I had to respond, not only because of her misconceptions, but because of the bond with her I now felt. However, I didn’t want to respond with words alone. I wanted to respond with concrete resources and solutions to help her choose life, because the obstacles she’d presented were both real and daunting. 

This is where social media proved its merits. I posted that I was seeking support services in her area. Within minutes I had the names and addresses of crisis pregnancy centers, phone numbers for pro-life counseling hotlines, and a dozen other life-affirming resources, all in her general vicinity.

Having gotten my ducks in a row, I sat down to write my reply. I thanked her for sharing so much with me and told her how privileged I felt that she had given me such an intimate glimpse into her world. Then I answered her complaints about pro-life “zealots”:

I wish you could be a fly on the wall in my apartment–better yet, in my mind and my heart. … After I read your heart-rending message, I spent the entirety of my morning and early afternoon combing through my contacts, making phone calls, sending emails—hunting down people in your area who are prepared to help you in a tangible and substantial way. 

I then listed all of the resources I had gathered for her, and said: “If you knew how many people were involved in obtaining this information—people who have all been touched by your story … your perception of ‘people like me’ might soften.”

Lastly, I told her a bit of my story. I told her about the two abortions I’d had—how they’d damaged my mind, body, and soul in ways that I will regret for the rest of my life. I told her I wouldn’t wish what I’d been through on anyone, and particularly not on her. I pleaded with her to at least consult the resources I’d listed and explore all of her options before making a decision that would change her life forever.

Within minutes, she replied. She said she hadn’t read my entire email, but promised to do so later. “However,” she continued, “I want you to know I’ve already obtained access to an abortion, with much difficulty, so I didn’t want you to continue using your time to seek resources for me. I do appreciate your empathy.”

My heart sank, but I made a conscious decision not to abandon hope. After all, she only said she’d “obtained access,” not that she’d gone through with it. I made an urgent plea for prayers via my social network.

At this point, I was connected to someone who personally committed to paying all of the mom’s expenses over and above what the pregnancy centers could cover—including her rent, utilities, and medical expenses. “I am not limited in what I can give,” this saintly woman said in a very emotional telephone conversation. “Please give her my number and ask her to call me.”

So I made a last-ditch effort and sent another message. I notified the mother of this new offer and gave her the benefactor’s name and phone number. “As for me,” I concluded, “I will still be here, no matter what you decide. If you ever need to talk, you know how to reach me.”

After that, I played the waiting game. I tried to distract myself with a sewing project, but still found myself jumping every time I heard the new email notification on my phone.

Finally, her reply came: “I am no longer pregnant…” The words were a kick in the gut. I felt dizzy. I almost couldn’t read her closing words of thanks for my concern, time, and empathy as the tears began to flow.

I was beside myself. A child had been murdered. And a woman—a woman to whom I had come to feel deeply connected—was now broken in a way that could never be fixed this side of eternity. I didn’t know what to do. I wanted to tear my hair out.

I got in my car and started to drive. As I got on the freeway, I finally felt sufficiently alone to unleash the scream I’d been restraining deep within. “Why, God? Why, why, why … ” I couldn’t stop wailing. 

I still haven’t figured out the answer.

I’m trying to console myself with the knowledge that I proved pro-lifers to be deeply caring people to someone who had thought of us as cruel would-be dictators. I’m trying to console myself with the knowledge that God transforms all evil into good. I’m trying to console myself with the hope that I planted a seed that may someday blossom into a conversion.

Yet a baby is still dead. A woman is still irreparably wounded. And my heart is still shattered.

But was it worth the fight? Absolutely.

Will I do it again? You’d better believe it.

Will I lose more battles? Indubitably. 

And I will inevitably suffer additional heartbreaks that’ll hurt just as much as this one. 

But here’s the crux: I know I am doing the right thing, because it honors the Author of Life. 

And nothing else matters.

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Child Sacrifice in the COVID-19 Era

Originally published at OnePeterFive

“It’s very difficult for us to recapture people’s motivations for carrying out this practice … Perhaps it was out of … a sense that the good the sacrifice could bring the family or community as a whole outweighed the life of the child.” — Dr. Josephine Quinn, on Carthaginian ritual infant sacrifice

“The reasons and need for abortion (health, severe diagnoses, financial, protection of family resources, etc) do not go away during a pandemic. In fact, they are likely to be exacerbated.” —Jen Villavicencio, MD 

In the midst of, and as a result of, our current global pandemic, the battle over abortion has escalated to a fever pitch. Five states—Ohio, Texas, Oklahoma, Alabama, and Iowa—have declared abortion non-essential, and have effectively banned the procedure for the duration of the outbreak. Planned Parenthood and so-called “abortion rights” groups, however, have filed lawsuits against all five states, and it remains to be seen whether these bans will be upheld in the higher courts.

Meanwhile, the abortion lobby is pushing back hard, not just against the bans, but for increasing access to unsupervised DIY medical abortions, arguing that prescriptions for abortion pills should be made available via telemedicine, without an in-person appointment at any point in the process— allowing women to literally flush their children down the toilet without any supervision whatsoever. 

Both sides are gearing up for a fight to the finish. And the coronavirus may be what definitively propels this nation in one direction or the other—toward sane provisions for the protection of life or irretrievably further into the black hole of the culture of death.

Did anyone see this coming? If we didn’t, we probably should have—because where God has been abandoned, societies have always devolved into using child sacrifice as a means of solving their problems, especially in times of crisis.

The ancient Carthaginians, for example, sacrificed newborns at locations called tophets. It is thought that these sacrifices “may … have been seen as a philanthropic act for the good of the whole community,” states Dr. Josephine Quinn, a lecturer in ancient history at Oxford. Some experts conjecture that these sacrifices were instruments of population control and  that well-to-do Carthaginians used them as a means of preserving their wealth.

Child sacrifice is a well-documented facet of early Mesoamerican cultures. For example, at El Manatí, an Olmec “sacred place” dedicated largely to the worship of water, archaeologists Ortiz and Rodriguez unearthed countless bones of “newborn (and possibly unborn) human babies,” including “infants whose bodies had apparently been dismembered and/or cut into sections” interred alongside figures of pagan deities.

Franciscan Friar and missionary Bernardino de Sahagún documented the child sacrifice rituals of the Aztecs in great detail. One of their gods, Tlaloc, required the tears of these children to wet the earth, else the rains would not come—so they believed. Consequently, if the children did not cry, priests would tear off their fingernails prior to the sacrifice.

According to researcher Andrew K. Scherer, the Maya also performed child sacrifice in a variety of circumstances. Infant sacrifices, for example, might be performed to appease supernatural beings who might otherwise have eaten the souls of more important people.

In Peru, the Chimú people sacrificed children “to appease the El Niño [weather] phenomenon,” according to archaeologist Feren Castillo. The later Inca culture drugged their child victims with alcohol and coca (the leaf from which cocaine is made) prior to their sacrifices, which were performed on a variety of occasions, including during wars and natural disasters.

Today, two of the most common justifications for abortion are financial unpreparedness, and a desire to control family size—echoes of Carthage. Another common justification is the prioritization of personal goals, like career and education, over the birth of a child—me over you—echoes of the Maya. Bernie Sanders thinks abortion can help save the world from climate change—echoes of the Aztecs and Chimú. Planned Parenthood dismembers pre-born children and sells their parts for profit—echoes of the Olmecs. 

What’s perhaps most disturbing, however, are the echoes of the Incas. Like them, many are using a natural disaster—in our case, a pandemic—to justify the slaughter of our children.

Take, for example, Heather Artrip, a Texas woman currently seeking an abortion who said: “I … would like to have a third child at some point. Right now is not ideal considering we are experiencing a global crisis, a pandemic.” Then there’s Kamyon Conner, the executive director of the Texas Equal Access Fund, who claimed now was a ‘particularly bad time’ to restrict abortion, since coronavirus-related unemployment is making it even more difficult to financially support a child, and women may worry about the consequences of being pregnant during a pandemic. 

Meera Shah, chief medical officer for a New York City area Planned Parenthood affiliate, stated: “Abortion care is essential and life-affirming, especially now when there is so much insecurity around jobs and food and paychecks and childcare.” She continued, “People are really thinking hard about continuing their pregnancy right now. It feels scary for a lot of people.” She also stated that she has noticed an uptick in their number of abortion appointments.

If women are so scared to be pregnant right now that they are considering and choosing abortion, the environment on social media is certainly not helping. Dr. Jasmine Patel, Ob-Gyn, tweeted: “By postponing abortions, you are sentencing a woman to pregnancy that has more risks [sic] for her health and transmission of #COVID19.” Lara Adams-Miller, a self-proclaimed “biological healthcare professional” (whatever that means), tweeted that the state abortion bans are “particularly sinister in light of how at-risk pregnant women are to srs covid-19 [sic] complications.” Kae Bender likened unplanned/unwanted pregnancy during the pandemic to “torture,” and Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL, called it “inhuman.” 

And then there are the folks who are overtly advocating abortion as a response to the pandemic, like Heather4amazon on Twitter, who stated: “What costs more resources[:] 1) a doctor’s visit and a couple of pills[, or] 2) months of prenatal visits and birth[,] resulting in a hospital stay[?]” And, perhaps most blunt of all, Hayley Vecchio said this on Facebook:

You might be thinking that modern-day abortion, although perhaps done for the same reasons, is not the same as ancient ritual infant sacrifice. For one thing, where’s the ritual? 

Believe it or not, it is not at all uncommon for women to engage in some kind of ritual behavior around their abortion experience. This phenomenon is described in Dr. Susan T. Poppema’s book Why I Am an Abortion Doctor:

Some women … stage what amounts to rituals around the procedures. A patient came in recently with her partner and brought candles, clearly making the experience a ritual way of saying, “I am proud of myself for making this choice, also sad about the choice.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. A simple web search yielded dozens of pre-scripted abortion rituals. I found several combining neo-paganism with Judaism, for example, including this

Bless You, Rachamaima, Compassionate Nurturer of Life, who helps us choose life. Amen. I was on the abortion table when this prayer just came to me, addressed in the feminine … Divinity here is a compassionate, female gestater of life … During the abortion, my partner kept whispering the prayer in my ear, over and over, the syllables incantatory.

Another quasi-Jewish abortion ritual has two parts—“the first is for casting out, and the second is for purifying, or cleansing.” It involves multiple people, includes scripted prayers to the “Divine Presence,” and utilizes two bowls of water—one of which is meant to represent the mikveh, the Jewish ritual bath for purification—and bread crumbs. The perversion of the mikveh into an abortion ritual appears to be fairly common. Then there’s this Judeo-pagan “self-birthing” abortion ritual, also involving a mikveh element, which focuses on affirming one’s own “inner beauty and Divine sparks,” and “involves blessing of the newborn/renewed self.” It is essentially self-worship.

But don’t think the Jewish tradition is alone in this behavior—far from it. The Pregnancy Options website has very conveniently compiled abortion rituals for and from virtually every faith tradition, including a Native American ritual, a Buddhist ritual, a pagan ritual, and a ritual “based on Christian and … African-American [c]ultural [t]raditions” involving “a plant, water in a container … a white candle, a glass or metal bowl (in which paper can be burned)” and ancestor worship. One of the many elaborate pre-scripted prayers in this particular ritual states:

I embrace my faith and African principles that empower me to choose. I choose because God has entrusted me with the power of choice. I choose for myself thereby I am living the principle of kujichagulia … It teaches [b]lack people to name themselves and their reality and to choose for themselves. I am naming my reality and choosing for myself.

Yet another ritual on this site—described as a “liturgy” and including a “celebrant”—includes prayers to “Holy Wisdom,” “Mother Goddess,” and “Father God,” and ends with an anointing with oil not unlike that which occurs at Confirmation. 

But the mockery of Holy Mother Church doesn’t end there—there’s actually an abortion ritual for “Hispanic Catholic women” which employs multiple sacramentals and centers on prayer to the Virgin Mary.

If there’s any remaining doubt in your mind that what we are doing today in the form of abortion is analogous to what our ancestors did in the form of infant sacrifice, these final two rituals ought to dispel it. First, this ritual from Sarah Kerr, PhD, a self-described “death doula”:

The image we held for Gabriel [the baby] was of a lighthouse, flashing a loving message to him … letting him know … that he was not going to be able to land here. We told him the date for which abortion had been scheduled, and that if he wanted to turn around on his own, he could do so before then. Otherwise, his parents would go ahead with the procedure, bringing as much beauty and love to it as they could… We offered prayers of gratitude to those who have fought so hard to make abortion safe and legal … We carried our prayer bundle outside to the fire pit, and built a hot, beautiful fire … We called out, by name, to the ancestors who would be waiting for [the baby] … We prayed that his voyage be blessed. And we laid the bundle on the fire. Then we turned and … listened while the offering was received by the hungry fire spirits.

And finally, as if that weren’t close enough to ancient pagan nature worship, there’s this, found on Facebook:

Commenting on the modern revulsion to ancient child sacrifice, Dr. Josephine Quinn stated: “We like to think that we’re quite close to the ancient world, that they were really just like us—the truth is, I’m afraid, that they really weren’t.” 

Actually, doctor, you might want to re-examine that position. We’re still sacrificing our babies, often in an overtly ritual manner—the only elements that have changed are the methods being used and the gods being worshipped. Today, the gods in whose name these sacrifices are committed are science, money, success, and, primarily, the victim’s own mother, who essentially deifies herself by claiming authority over life and death in the name of achieving her own ends. 

And now, during a plague that might well be a chastisement from God for our sins—including and especially that of abortion—the bloodthirsty gods are crying out for even more slaughter. Just when we most urgently ought to be repenting of such heinous crimes, the forces of darkness are pushing us to kill the innocent on an even grander scale.

Will you sit idly by and watch the escalation of violence from the sidelines as an impotent spectator? Or will you take action to defend the defenseless at this most critical moment, when we are potentially poised to finally win this bloody war? When you stand before the judgment seat of God, how will you answer for your downtime during this period of crisis?

Get involved. Make calls to your local legislators. Write letters and emails to your governor and congresspeople. Express your support to those leaders who are defending life—they need the encouragement—and let those who are promoting abortion know that they will never have your vote until they change. Pray—every day. And if you are able, reach out to the abortion-minded and strive, in charity and with patience, to change minds and hearts. Don’t wait. The right time is right now.

Our hands are bathed in the blood of the innocent. What will you do to make atonement?

The Saint, The Sinner, and the Wrath of God

originally published at OnePeterFive

Sunday was my thirteenth day in coronavirus quarantine. I must confess that, although I have done some liturgical sewing and have spent more time than usual exercising, cooking, and praying, most of this precious downtime has slipped by without anything of note transpiring. 

But Sunday was different.

My church—a small Melkite parish—is currently closed, but our priest has live-streamed Orthros and Divine Liturgy the past two Sundays from his own home, which he has re-arranged for this specific purpose. I tuned in yesterday from the utilitarian comfort of my sewing studio. 

It was Mary of Egypt’s feast day, and our priest told us this saint’s remarkable story during his homily.  She spent the first seventeen years of her adult life as a prostitute—not motivated by desperation per se, but rather by lust and love for the sport of leading others astray. At the end of that time, she traveled to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross to seduce the pilgrims gathered there. She attempted to enter a church in which the True Cross was being venerated, but an invisible force prevented her entry, not once, but three times. Realizing that her impurity was what was blocking her, she retired to a corner of the churchyard and looked up to see an icon of the Virgin Mary above the church. Beset with grief over her sins, she promised Mary that if she would be allowed to venerate the True Cross, she would renounce her life of sin and go wherever the Virgin wished. Again she approached the church, and this time she was allowed entry. 

Being a former prostitute myself, I have always considered St. Mary of Egypt a patroness, although perhaps not one of my principals. But as I listened to my priest relate her story, I realized that I had never been truly contrite about those years spent peddling iniquity—sure, I recognized that what I did was wrong, and I obviously repented, but as for feeling a deep sense of grief over the sin aspect of what I had done, like St. Mary of Egypt felt outside that church? No, that I had never experienced. I had always at least partially justified what I had done by telling myself that, given my extreme circumstances and lack of other options, what I had done was really not all that bad. Not exactly good, but not exactly evil, either. 

This realization perturbed me. So I prayed for the grace of true contrition right there during Liturgy.

Late that night, I felt restless, and decided to go for a drive. I hadn’t been out of the house in several days except for walks around my own neighborhood, and I just wanted to blast my music and feel the road race by beneath me—I didn’t care where I went. And so I started out without any clear destination in mind.

Almost as if on auto-pilot, I found myself traveling customary paths—roads that were familiar because they were routes to places in which I used to live or work. And before I knew it, I was on my way to the apartment where I had lured so many men into sin.

As I approached the corner on which the building stands, I started to feel a great weight on my chest. Breathing became significantly more difficult. I turned the corner and saw the place itself, and it hit me like a sock on the jaw: “My God, what have I done to You?”

I realized the weight on my chest was the weight of my sins. And I realized that I had made a grotesque mockery of God’s laws, laws given to us out of love and for our protection. But, most painfully of all, I realized that I had deeply wounded the only One who loves me infinitely and unconditionally. He had given me everything, and I had squandered it in filth.

A shower of profound sorrow washed over me. It was more than I could bear. I had to get out of there. So I pressed the gas and raced down the street, although I was gasping for breath and could barely see the road through my tears.

I kept driving—visiting the sites of many past mistakes—shedding years of uncried tears.

*             *             *

Sunday was noteworthy in another way, too: the latest interview with the exiled Archbishop Viganò was published. In it, he discusses the COVID-19 pandemic and how it relates to matters of faith. He speaks of the pandemic as an instrument of divine wrath meted out upon a world saturated with sin, and, more especially, a Church hierarchy which has abandoned its own doctrine, embracing in its stead secularism, “religious relativism,” and even blasphemy. He characterizes God as a Father who “sends us many signs, often very sternly” to repent, this being one of them.

Abp. Viganò calls for the ‘immediate and absolute’ conversion of “[t]he Pope, the Hierarchy, and all Bishops, Priests, and Religious.” He also calls upon our societies to repent of sins “such as recognizing the right to abortion, euthanasia, and sodomy” as well as “corrupt[ing] children and violat[ing] their innocence.” 

“Public sins,” he goes on, “require public confession and public atonement”; otherwise, we “cannot evade God’s punishment.” 

In other words, it is time for the whole world, and especially the Church, to have its St. Mary of Egypt moment. Like her, we are being denied access to our churches. And like her, according to Abp. Viganò, it is because of our impurity.

St. Mary of Egypt spent the last years of her life battling, and ultimately overcoming, her temptations and doing penance for her sins. She was rewarded for her efforts with great spiritual gifts, including the ability to perform miracles. 

Right now, we are all in the equivalent of St. Mary of Egypt’s churchyard—and, in this quarantine environment, we have ample time to reflect upon our sins and how they might have contributed to our present crisis. Will we, like her, be gifted with the grace to repent in time to save our society, our souls, and our Church from ruin? Or will we selfishly cling to the world we have grown complacently accustomed to, which is so repugnantly offensive to Our Lord?

I urge each one of you to pray for the grace of true contrition. I can tell you, it hurts like nothing else on this earth, but don’t you think it’s about time we stopped indulging every pleasure-seeking whim and started doing a little productive suffering? I, for one, intend to start doing penance right now, today. And, during this painfully pregnant pause in our mostly misguided lives, every member of the Church Militant—including and especially the hierarchy, going all the way to the very top—should and must do the same, if we are to escape the horrific fate we so justly deserve.

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Shot Down in Motor City: How I Smelled the Tear Gas and Saw the Light

In September of 1995, I was just shy of eighteen, and I believed the entire world ought to be radically transformed.  That’s probably because the entirety of my brief life had been a disaster; my small world had been rotten and corrupt, so I believed the world at large was, too.  I wanted to flip our nation on its head — indeed, I wanted to turn the whole planet upside down.  I figured that was the only way to fix things.

I’d gotten married two weeks after my seventeenth birthday — before graduation, even — and growing up under the looming shadows of my mother’s alcoholism, crack addiction, and mental illness had forced me to mature far more rapidly than my peers.  Nonetheless, I didn’t know half as much as I thought I did. 

I had attended Oklahoma public schools for most of my childhood.  And, although Oklahoma is reputed to be the nation’s most conservative state, I remember being taught endless sundry left-wing propaganda.  The “captains of industry” were equally corrupt as the “robber barons”; indeed, the actions of the ultra-wealthy are always suspect.  The founding fathers owned slaves and were therefore filthy hypocrites.  White people are history’s villains, and owe the rest of humanity an apology.  True communism and/or socialism have never been tried, and therefore cannot be deemed failures.  The list goes on.  In other words, right in the crimson red heartland of America, I had been quietly and very effectively indoctrinated in liberal ideology.

It should come as no surprise, then, that during my first year at DePaul University in Chicago, I was intrigued by the signage posted around an International Socialist Organization (ISO) information table.  It declared the organization’s opposition to racism and sexism, and extolled its support for the rights of everyday people.  That appealed to me, so I took a copy of their newspaper, Socialist Worker, and my then-husband and I went to their meeting later that week.

It was held at a member’s home, and although the ISO claimed to have collective leadership, that guy was clearly in charge.  He was short, perhaps 5’5,” with a bulbous Buddha belly and dark, curly hair that peeked out from under his Rastafarian hat.  The rest of the group was quite diverse — there were people in business attire who’d come directly from office jobs, bookish intellectuals, hippies, blue-collar workers, and punky-looking kids like my husband and me.  Refreshments were offered, then Junior Rastafari called the meeting to order. 

He made a big push for volunteers to go to Detroit to support the striking workers of the Detroit News and the Detroit Free Press.  The Chicago ISO was sending people over in a “gesture of solidarity” for Labor Day weekend, according to Junior Rastafari.  He emphasized that the strike would be a wild time, and that it was not something to be missed.

My husband and I had little in common, but we shared a thirst for adventure, so we signed up.  We had no idea what would actually be involved — I think we both assumed there would be sign-holding and marching — but we were game nonetheless. 

We were assigned a carpool with one of the office workers.  She was a most unremarkable woman; there was absolutely nothing outstanding about her.  I wondered if my husband and I would even recognize her again as the three of us made plans to meet that Saturday afternoon.

When she pulled up in front of our building, all the windows of Plain Jane’s tiny brown Toyota were down, and she was blaring the Pulp Fiction soundtrack.  She never changed the CD, letting that one play over and over for the entire four-hour drive.  It had lost all its charm for me by the time we arrived at the picket lines outside one of the printing plants.

It was well into the evening, but there were plenty of strikers about.  “Don’t worry,” Plain Jane assured us, “all of the real action happens in the middle of the night.”  She opened the trunk and removed three black backpacks.  “You two didn’t bring supplies, did you?” she asked. 

“Supplies?”  My husband and I exchanged blank looks.

“I didn’t think so.”  Plain Jane’s thin lips curled up in a manner both slight and sly.  “Don’t worry, I’ve gotcha covered.”  She handed us each a backpack.

I picked mine up — it was quite heavy.  “What’s in here?” I asked.

“Oh, you know,” Plain Jane hedged, “water and stuff.  Things you might need.  Just strap it on.”

I did as I was told. 

Everything started out innocently and mundanely enough; we held signs and mingled with the newspaper workers.  I tried to ask a few why they were striking — after all, I didn’t really know why I was there — but they all blew me off.  I didn’t understand why at the time, but it’s obvious now: they had mouths to feed and bigger fish to fry.  They didn’t have the wherewithal to indulge the ignorance of some kid with a mohawk and lofty ideals.  For them, this wasn’t an ideological battle — they were fighting for their livelihoods.

As the hours wore on, a sense of anticipation became palpable, and the crowd began to meander, like one massive serpentine creature, toward the gate where the trucks went in and out. 

“What’s going on?” I asked a young African-American woman with a shaved head, a handful of something shiny and pointy, and a crowbar peeking out at the waistband of her incredibly baggy jeans.

“We’re gonna blockade those bastards so they can’t get no delivery trucks out.  If they can’t get no trucks out, they can’t get no papers out.” 

“How are we gonna do that?” I asked, feeling totally lost among all the shouting and seemingly random action.

“With our bodies, girl!” she laughed and shot me a sidelong look.  “You ain’t never done this before, am I right?”  

I allowed her to draw her own conclusion.  

She chuckled again.  “Here, you probably ain’t got none of these,” she said, placing three of the spiky metal things in my hand.

“What are they?” I asked, examining the unusual objects.  They had a three-pronged base and a sharp-tipped spike that pointed directly upward.

“Put those out by the gate and on the street outside.  If the trucks do get out, these’ll jack up the tires.”  Baldy flashed me a wicked grin. 

At the gate, we formed a human wall in anticipation of the exiting trucks.  We successfully stymied delivery of the paper well into the next day. 

Meanwhile, every so often, a few ISO people would peel off the main crowd to go on a “raid.”  It wasn’t long before Baldy and Plain Jane grabbed me to go on one with them, and I discovered what it was all about.

My husband and I had been advised in advance to wear all black.  That was easy enough, because I was going through a phase at the time, and, well, I had a lot of black clothing.  At any rate, as we three got away from the crowd and into the shadows surrounding the plant, Plain Jane told me to zip up my jacket and get my hat out of my backpack. 

That was the first time I’d looked inside the bag.  The little care package Plain Jane had so thoughtfully prepared for me contained several bottles of water, just as she’d said, but it also contained a black knit beanie, pepper spray, a baton-sized metal pipe, several large rocks, a few tire-shredding spikes like Baldy’s, a makeshift gas mask — essentially a pair of work goggles attached to a thick length of fabric that could be tied around the nose and mouth — and a pair of gloves with tacks sewn point-up into the tops of the fingers.  “What are these for?” I asked, removing the gloves.

“Oh, put those on, too!” gushed Plain Jane, exhilarated.  “If we get in a fight, you’ll tear ‘em up even if you punch like a girl.”  She looked at Baldy and they giggled.  “Put some of those rocks in your pockets, and slide that pipe up your sleeve.  And remember, if you see cops coming at you, ditch all that gear, and if you get arrested, don’t say anything.  That’s what we have lawyers for.”

We pulled our black beanies down to our eyebrows and armed ourselves for … what?

Plain Jane and Baldy hustled around the building single-file and in a crouched-down position.  At the time, they reminded me of special ops on a secret mission.  The mission was still a secret to me, at any rate.  Without thinking twice, I followed in like fashion.

Baldy was the first to introduce crowbar to glass. The clamor of the shattering window startled me, even though part of me must have known what was going to happen.  “Don’t just stand there, wide eyes, move!” Baldy urged, shoving me onward. 

It was all downhill from there.  We busted windows all along the dimly lit back of the building, then hit a few cars in the employee parking lot.  Baldy planted tire spikes behind the wheels of the more expensive cars, which she presumed belonged to management.  Occasionally, patrol cars cruised by, and we saw a few cops on foot, too, but nobody tried to stop us.

By the time we made it back around to the blockade, both my comrades were pink-cheeked and giddy.  I, too, felt caught up in the rush of it all.

But eventually, the sun rose, and nobody was willing to enact such mischief without the cover of darkness.  We rejoined the picketers, shouted the pro-labor chants, gratefully accepted the hot coffee that occasionally passed by, and just generally ran out of steam as the adrenaline wore off.

Eventually, we three needed sleep, so we rented a cheap motel room.  The blockade was still going strong when we left, but when Plain Jane spoke to Junior Rastafari Sunday evening, we discovered that the crowd had eventually been dispersed, and that a few arrests were made.  We also learned about a second blockade, planned for Labor Day.  Without asking my husband or me, Plain Jane gleefully committed our whole group to participate.

We were shocked by the scantness of the crowd when we arrived Monday night.  It was perhaps one tenth the size of Saturday’s crowd — hundreds instead of thousands.  I assumed everyone was home barbecuing with friends and family, but I later discovered that the second blockade was completely unofficial and not explicitly union-sanctioned.  I don’t know who organized it, but I do know that all of our Saturday-night ISO comrades were present.

Monday made Saturday look like Sesame Street. It was such chaos, I frankly can’t recall the precise sequence of events. That night, the police did not ignore our shenanigans — probably because there were so few of us that we could be easily reined in.  We flailingly tried to lock arms and block the gate, while the police donned shields and marched toward us to clear the way, which we foolishly resisted.  Someone in the crowd had broken in to a nearby auto factory and stolen some car parts, and people were hurling them at the cops.  I could hear Plain Jane shouting over the din, “Grab your rocks! Throw the rocks!” and I thought about getting mine out, but there were so many bodies crashing into mine, and so many objects flying over my head, I thought it better to hunker down. 

At one point, the crowd rushed the gate in an unsuccessful attempt to breach it.  No one in particular decided to do it, it just happened.  A hive mentality had taken over, and decisions were no longer being made by us as individuals, but by the crowd writ large.  We’d become a mob — completely out of control.  It’s a cliché, but individual resistance from within that crowd was futile — no matter how hard I might’ve fought the flow rushing headlong toward the gate, the force of the current would’ve swept me up along with the rest of the human tidal wave.  Once you were in the mob, there was no getting out.

Eventually, the cops got fed up.

When I heard the canisters hit the ground, I had no idea what they were. 

But Plain Jane knew.  “Gas masks!”  She shouted it like a battle cry.

It took me a moment to process what was happening, and by the time I began to fumble with my backpack, the crowd was scattering, and a thick greenish cloud was forming around me.  My husband grabbed my forearm.  “Run!” he shouted, yanking me into action.

We darted off in the direction of the car, our arms covering our mouths and noses, our eyes tiny slits.  It wasn’t until we’d gotten out of the thick of the melee that I began to feel the effects of the gas. 

We’d already slowed from a sprint to a jog, but the sudden excruciating tightness in my chest brought me to a dead stop.  It felt like a massive boa constrictor had encircled my lungs and was squeezing them with all its might.  I dropped to the ground, gasping for air through a throat that felt like it’d been scoured with sandpaper.  My eyes clouded with tears that seemed not to cleanse, but rather to corrode.  My body contracted into a tiny ball, as if by shrinking I could somehow reduce the severity of the pain. 

For about ten minutes, I thought I was going to die.  And while I was lying there, contemplating the ignominy of dying in this unfamiliar city which eerily resembled a post-apocalyptic war zone it hit me: 

This whole thing is a sham. 

What did smashing windows and chucking car parts at cops have to do with getting a fair shake for newspaper workers?  And why did my husband and I — people who didn’t work for The Detroit News or any other paper; people who didn’t belong to their union, or any other — blockade their printing plant and allow ourselves to be gassed by cops in a city over four hours away from our own?  It just didn’t compute.  As I lied upon crumbling pavement, among weeds growing unchecked, panting and weeping, it suddenly occurred to me that none of what I’d done that weekend could possibly have advanced any just cause.  And I realized that I hadn’t bothered to find out if this particular cause was, in fact, just.  I’d allowed some joker with a dingy red-green-gold hat and no obvious qualifications — a guy I’d have normally made fun of — to make up my mind that this was something worth doing.  I hadn’t asked a single question. 

I had been a sheep, and I’d almost been led to the slaughter.

When my vision cleared, I glanced around for my husband.  I found him sitting on a nearby curb trying to catch his breath.  His tear-stained face and labored gasps made it clear he’d been feeling the gas, too. 

I looked at him.  He looked at me.

“Let’s get out of here,” was all he had to say.

*             *             *

After our return to Chicago, the phone calls began. 

“Hey guys,” purred Junior Rastafari over our answering machine, “didn’t see you at this week’s meeting. Just wanna make sure everything’s okay.  Give us a call.”

The next day, another message awaited us.  Plain Jane’s chipper voice chirped: “How’s it going, guys?  Missed you at the meeting.  Haven’t heard from you, either.  Starting to worry a little.  Just let us know you’re okay.”

The following day, two more messages.  And the day after that, several more.  They just kept coming.

Finally, two weekends after the strike, Junior Rastafari dropped by our apartment.  We regretted opening the door almost immediately.

We could not get rid of the guy.  What started as an “I-just-wanted-to-check-on-you” conversation quickly evolved into a thinly veiled interrogation designed to gauge our commitment to international socialism.  When it became clear that our commitment was nonexistent, the dialogue transformed yet again into a sermon designed to convert us to the one true philosophy of Karl Marx. 

And that was when I had my second epiphany. 

When I was 9 years old, I’d gotten mixed up with some Jehovah’s Witnesses, and when I made my break with them at age 13, they had responded in almost exactly the same manner as were these ISO fanatics.  First came the string of phone calls and “concerned” messages.  Then came the home visits and high-pressure come-to-Jesus lectures.  Both groups stressed the dire consequences of leaving the fold, which were remarkably analogous. Whereas the Jehovah’s Witnesses cautioned that I’d be swept up in the destruction at Armageddon and would miss my only opportunity for salvation if I broke with them, the socialists warned of the drastic repercussions that would follow if I found myself on “the wrong side of history.”  Both threatened me with apocalyptic decimation and claimed possession of the sole ark that could spare me from the coming flood.

I sat there, half listening to Junior Rastafari’s forebodings about what would happen to those who refused to unite with the workers when the inevitable day of reckoning came, and I realized: This is just another religious cult.  They’d substituted The Communist Manifesto for the Bible, and Marx, Lenin, and Trotsky for the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost — but the playbook was identical. 

So I interrupted Junior’s spiel, extended my hand, and thanked him for his time.  Bewildered, he stopped mid-sentence, accepted my handshake, and allowed me to walk him to the door. 

“So, we’ll see you at Friday’s meeting?” he asked as he walked out.

“Nope,” I answered, “no, you won’t.  And I don’t want to see your face around my building or hear your voice on my answering machine anymore either, got it?”

He initially appeared surprised, then his expression metamorphosed into a clueful smile, as if he knew something I didn’t.  Everyone who’s been successfully indoctrinated believes they possess all the secret answers.  “If that’s your choice,” he sing-songed in a don’t-say-I-didn’t-warn-you voice.

“It is,” I replied firmly.  

Then I closed the door on his smug smirk and on that brief chapter of my life.

*             *            *

Surveys show that socialism’s popularity among Millennials is soaring, even as we have just marked the anniversary of the Holodomor, Stalin’s engineered famine that killed millions of Ukrainians; as millions of Venezuelans face starvation and crippling shortages of medicine and other necessities; as Hong Kong’s protests against the communist mainland government are turning violent–in short, it’s happening even as we drown in evidence of socialism’s failures. 

How can this be?  If my story provides any insight, the answers are pretty plain.  When one puts children, most of whom have divorced/single/absent parents, into public schools designed to indoctrinate them with far-left ideology, and deprives them of any kind of counter-balancing influence — like religion — the final products are brainwashed, alienated, angry young adults bursting with radical ideas and poised to pounce upon whomever they deem responsible for the bleakness of their lives.  The hope once offered by the Church has been denied them, as they have been raised in a secular world.  They’ve also been robbed of the security once provided by the nuclear family, because the sexual revolution and the subsequent feminist and LGBTQ movements have radically redefined the family.  All that remains for these volatile young people is the State, so they turn to it to solve all of life’s problems.

And socialism offers them a seemingly magic panel of solutions.  Not only does it promise to cure all the world’s ills, it offers a scapegoat upon whom they can blame their troubles — the wealthy.  Nevermind the overwhelming evidence proving socialism doesn’t work — their 10th grade history teachers told them true socialism has never been tried, so none of that counts, and besides, the socialist slant on the story sounds so much more appealing.

Socialism also crudely fills the gaps in a world where religion has been shoved off the stage of daily life.  It offers a group identity, a code of behavior, a set of sacred texts, even gods of a sort.  Everything religion once did in a beautiful and sublime way, socialism now does in a vapid and strictly material manner. 

The key difference is, socialism offers no truth, only prettified lies.  And that is why it can only thrive in a world bereft of traditional sources of truth, like religion and family.  It’s no coincidence that Stalin did his best to destroy both religious and family loyalties, and it’s no coincidence that we’re seeing socialism’s popularity surge in this country only now, after the forces for God and family have lost the culture wars.

But all hope is not lost.  Millennials are swallowing socialist swill because they’re starved for meaning, and that’s what’s being presented to them.  But very few people will pick McDonald’s over filet mignon — at least, not after they’ve had a taste of a choice filet. 

And if we wish to convince young people that socialism is the wrong path — if we want to prevent this country from devolving into another Venezuela when Millennials become the dominant voting block — we must not only expose its vacuity, but offer something solid in its stead.  We must invite these famished wanderers to the banquet of truth. 

Most young would-be revolutionaries know nothing about the founding fathers.  They have never read the Bill of Rights, much less the Constitution. They think Plato is something akin to modeling clay. And they haven’t even picked up a Bible.  In an age where all information is at their fingertips, they nonetheless remain uninformed on matters of true importance, because they have not been given the tools to sort the melody from the noise. We must shine a light on the texts and ideas which have stood the test of time and weathered the trials of implementation.  We must point the way to truth.

And in the same way we’d introduce broccoli to a toddler, if our initial tidbits of truth are rejected, we should simply move on, and re-introduce them at the next opportunity.  We don’t have to force-feed, we have merely to offer — again and again until our subjects agree to at least try a taste.  We won’t convince everyone — some people will stubbornly cling to their Twinkies, even as they die of malnutrition.  But I sincerely believe most folks aren’t as thick-headed as me — most people don’t have to be tear-gassed to see the light.  Just one bite of truth will entice a sufficient percentage to flip our cultural scales back to some semblance of sanity. 

Our sustenance is sweet indeed, and we must actively and tirelessly present it in fresh and enticing ways on our collective cultural plate.  Eventually, those who are gorging at the slop-trough of socialism will begin to feel pangs of hunger for true nourishment, and they’ll seek other intellectual food.  Let’s just pray our citizens don’t have to literally starve, as have so many subjects of socialist regimes, before that happens.

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Finding My Father

Originally published at One Peter Five

Some of my fondest childhood memories are of sitting in the back of my father’s car, listening to the music he loves. He would pick me up from daycare in the late afternoon, and I would close my eyes and fall into whatever song was playing – “Dear Prudence” by the Beatles, maybe, or “Through the Long Night” by Billy Joel, or “Don’t Let It Bring You Down” by Neil Young. Through my half-asleep reverie and half-lidded eyes, I would glance up and see my father smirking at me in the rearview mirror.

“Are you asleep back there?” he’d ask me, amused.

“No, Daddy,” I’d slur, “I’m just resting my eyes.”

In the supreme sweetness of those moments, I didn’t have to plan, or worry, or steer the situation to serve my own ends. I was secure in the conviction that I was in loving, capable, and protective hands that would pilot me wherever I ought to go.

I have spent the majority of my life trying to recapture that feeling.

* * *

My parents divorced when I was still too little to understand what the word meant. It didn’t take long for me to figure out it signaled the end of the world as I had known it.

Prior to the divorce, my father had been my primary caregiver. My mother spent her evenings nightclubbing and snorting cocaine and her days sleeping off the previous night’s revelries – often in a stranger’s bed. Where my mother was indifferent, my father was doubly attentive. Where my mother was absent, my father filled in the gaps. He cooked my dinners – grilled cheese sandwiches were his specialty. He ran my baths. He read me bedtime stories in my favorite rocking chair, and, ultimately, he taught me how to read those same stories back to him.

All of that changed when my parents split. My mother was given custody, and she moved me half a continent away from my dad. With her, meals could not be relied upon – there were times when I had to steal food from grocery and convenience stores to avoid starvation. With her, I was expected to take care of not only all of my own needs, but many of hers as well – I was essentially running the household by the age of 10. And with her, there were no more bedtime stories.

But there were plenty of tall tales. My mother lied so often, so flagrantly, and with such gusto that she often managed to fool herself. She’d lie to enliven dull facts, to bury unflattering realities – heck, she lied just to pass the time. Most of all, she lied to manipulate, and most people fell into the traps she laid at least once.

I was no exception. As a child, I must have been to her what a small rural town was to a snake oil salesman: innocent, credulous, and ignorant of ignominy. In other words, I was an easy mark.

The majority of the lies my mother told me were about my father. When I had to do without some necessity on account of lack of funds, she’d blame him. She’d tell me he hadn’t sent the child support check for that month – she couldn’t admit that she had squandered it on drugs – and call him a tightwad who loved only what was in his wallet. She’d put me on the phone to ask him for money, and the awkward silences and irritation-tinged resistance from him that followed seemed to support her contention. The fact that he was rapidly becoming wealthy climbing the corporate ladder at the oil company for which he worked, and the fact that he spent so much time at that job, even during my visits with him, seemed to verify my mother’s claim that he was purely materialistic and parentally maladroit.

But I desperately wanted to disbelieve, and I went on a mission to win some sort of display of pride and affection from him. I got it into my head that the way to impress him, the way to make him love me, was by overachieving. So I got straight As up through high school, was first chair in band and orchestra, and seized every opportunity to prove to him that I was special.

In 7th grade, for example, I fought hard for – and won – the school board’s permission to skip 8th grade. But when I told him the news, he barely looked up from the newspaper he was reading. It was my greatest coup, but it didn’t seem to impress him in the least.

So I began to believe my mother’s claims that he was cold, and uncaring, and interested only in his money. I began to believe that I was not a priority for him. I began to believe that he just plain didn’t love me.

* * *

It was at around that same time that I began to lose my faith in God.

Growing up in the Bible belt, I had always taken the existence of God for granted, even though neither of my parents was religious. I prayed in inverse proportion to the quality of life with my mother – the worse things got, the more I prayed. I remember countless nights spent lying sleepless upon the pallet of blankets that functioned as my bed – we could not afford an actual mattress – my hands tightly clasped together, my gaze fixed upon the moon shining through my window like a beacon on the pitch-black prairie nights. I remember calling out with my whole heart, “Please, please, save me from this hell. Dear God, please help me find a way out.”

The years wore on and on, and things with my mom got worse and worse; by the end of my time with her, she and the ex-con she’d shacked up with were completely strung out on crack cocaine. When they weren’t distracted by fighting each other, they were making – and carrying out – threats against me. Every night brought a grotesque circus – either my mom and her boyfriend would try to beat each other to death, or the crew of junkies, felons, drug-dealers, and other assorted miscreants in their circle of friends would drop in for an impromptu party. Every morning brought broken beer bottles, overflowing ashtrays, vomit on the carpets, passed-out strangers, bloodstains on the furniture – all of which I was expected to put right.

The days went on and on, and my frantic petitions to a God I believed in but knew nothing about grew in intensity and frequency. I never felt that they were answered. Eventually, I grew to suspect that nobody was listening on the other end.

* * *

By the time I was a teenager, I was fully convinced that neither my heavenly nor my earthly father cared for me in the least. I’d completely stopped praying, and my relationship with my dad was set for shipwreck. The grilled cheese sandwich and rocking chair days seemed a lifetime away. When I was eventually able to leave my mother’s house at age 14, I went to live with my grandmother rather than my dad.

The explosion didn’t come until I was 21. After years of below-the-surface seething resentment (on my part), we finally had a major blow-up. He’d said he would pay for me to go back to college, and I had moved halfway across the country to get to the school I wanted to attend – but when the tuition bill arrived, he told me he would help with that semester, but after that, I’d be on my own.

For me, that was the last straw. I let him have it. He reacted in kind. We both said things that never should have been said.

And then, for the next fifteen years, we said nothing whatsoever.

* * *

In my late teens and early twenties, I spent most of my time being angry. I was forever telling myself and others that I didn’t need my parents, because I was clearly capable of taking care of myself, and I often tried to convince myself that there was no logical reason I should love them. At the same time, I was furious at my parents for neglecting to care for me, because I was sure that I would not be so messed up as an adult if I had been better loved as a child.

I was mad at the various institutions that should have intervened to remove me from my abusive mother’s home long before I finally managed to make my escape, because I felt that my life wouldn’t have turned out so lousy had I not had to endure that hell.

I was mad at the universe and life itself for forcing me to exist, because I regarded my existence as a despicable thing.

My anger at my father grew to apply to his entire sex. I truly believed that all of the world’s problems could be blamed on flaws and proclivities generally attributable to men. Wars, genocides, and violence of every conceivable variety were the product of too much testosterone. If men were taken out of the picture, the world would be a better and more peaceful place. So I thought.

As much as I was angry at my personal patriarch, and at patriarchy in general, I was also angry at the Heavenly Patriarch. I grew to disdain the very idea of God; I felt that such a being likely did not exist, and that if He did, I wanted nothing to do with Him. Any deity who would allow children to suffer the way I had was not worthy of my praise.

Step by step, I wrote first my father, then other men, then God out of the script of my life.

* * *

In my mid-twenties, I became a high-priced call girl. That’s when my wising-up process began. My clients were politicians; CEOs; athletes; journalists; men who had made a fortune in tech; and, occasionally, Average Joes. I even had one young college student who came to see me every time he received a financial aid disbursement – a single visit would just about exhaust his entire surplus over and above his tuition.

All of these men had one thing in common: they were all wounded birds – lonely, alienated, bearing heavy baggage. Most of them were seeking something more than mere physical pleasure – some kind of meaningful connection. The majority could have been better served by a trained therapist, as that is the role in which so many of them cast me. For whatever reason, they chose to recline on my couch rather than a shrink’s.

Perhaps the illusion of anonymity was a factor: in that world, we had our own type of confessional seal – it is understood that what is said between a call girl and her client is privileged. These men knew they would never encounter me in their “real” lives, which made me safe in a way that other outlets might not be. Consequently, my clients, particularly my regulars, poured their hearts out to me. In my boudoir, they stripped away more than just their clothing – they also discarded their pretenses, putting me in a uniquely privileged position to see men as they truly are.

By and large, my clients were in miserable marriages. Some had wives who withheld sex and affection or used them strategically and manipulatively; others had wives who disrespected, belittled, or dominated them. These men were driven to buy a rough facsimile of traditionally feminine attention by the hour at an exorbitant rate because they could not get anything like it at home.

Should their spouses decide to divorce them, they generally lost everything – their homes; their savings; and, most painfully for the majority of my clients, their children. One man who came to see me had only recently ceased sleeping in his car, because his ex-wife had taken the house, and he was not immediately able to find somewhere else to live. Another hadn’t seen his son in over a year because his ex-wife had simply stopped sending him for visitation, and neither the courts nor law enforcement had intervened. Yet a third could not wrest custody of his daughter away from his mentally ill ex-wife, even after years of documented erratic and irresponsible behavior on her part, because of the court’s deep bias in favor of mothers.

These men were not unique. I encountered countless others in similar circumstances.

I had always considered myself a liberal and a feminist. But there, literally laid bare in front of me, was case after case providing evidence that defied my worldview. These were not cruel tyrants, callously taking advantage of a system made to favor them due to generations of male domination. Nor were they contented contenders competing side by side with their co-ed co-equals on a level playing field. These were vanquished prisoners of war being made to pay for their own crimes, whatever they might be, plus the alleged crimes of their forefathers, by spiteful women who were already benefiting from boundless institutional compensation. These people were told dozens of times in dozens of ways every day that they were bad and wrong, simply, at least in part, for being male.

I saw so very many men – good men, for the most part, if weak in flesh – persecuted and made unjustly miserable. I couldn’t disregard the evidence; I had to revise my position.

* * *

Since I’d been wrong about men, I had to accept the possibility that I was wrong about other things, too. When I went back to college in my late 20s, I discovered that that was indeed the case. I was at an extremely liberal school, but that didn’t stop my general chemistry professor from spending an entire class challenging her students’ atheism. Her ultimate point? You don’t get something from nothing, no matter what reaction occurs. You have to put something in to get something out. If that’s so, how did the something from which the universe originated come into existence?

It sounds so simple and reasonable now, but at the time, this blew my mind. It defied everything I had believed my entire mature life. But again, I could not ignore the evidence lying in front of me, so that day, I revised my identity from “atheist” to “agnostic.” Shortly thereafter, I began my search for whatever it was that had generated the original something.

I test-drove virtually every major non-Christian religion. I even went to a voodoo ritual, just to check it out. The only one I seriously considered adopting was Judaism. I studied and attended synagogue. But when it came time for the mikvah, I backed out. Something, I wasn’t sure what, just wasn’t quite right. Something was missing.

It took me about eight years to find out what that something was.

* * *

I was living with my boyfriend and had been for about four years. I had gotten out of sex work – indeed, I had quit for my boyfriend. My life was better than it had ever been, yet something was still missing.

One day I pulled up to park in front of our North Oakland apartment, and the car parked on the street in front of me had a Catholic radio bumper sticker on it. “Ha!” I thought. “What could they possibly find to talk about for 24 hours per day?”

But then I started seeing those stickers everywhere. It seemed as if every third car I’d see had one. Eventually, my curiosity got the better of me, and I decided to tune in to that station. What I heard surprised me. It made sense. And the people were not weird the way the Protestant media people were; I had grown up in the era of televangelists and TBN and had always found those personalities to be at least slightly creepy. But the people on Catholic radio seemed really…normal. And reasonable. I found myself listening to the Catholic station at work – I was cleaning houses at the time – and the programs I heard dampened the drudgery of my menial labor.

After a couple of weeks of this, I woke up one Sunday morning with a burning conviction: I had to go to Mass. As soon as possible. I felt as though I would not be able to go on living if I didn’t make it. I spent all day hemming and hawing, but finally, that evening, I went to my first Mass.

It would not be my last.

* * *

After a bit of searching, I found a Latin Mass parish that felt like home. I found a priest to catechize me who ended up having perhaps the most important influence over me of anyone in my life.

He was so patient with me. He would listen to me vent all of my skepticism, the objects of which were numerous. Then, in a clear and detailed manner, he’d use science, philosophy, history – whatever was germane – to prove the truth of whichever concept or teaching I’d gotten hung up on. He took my doubts and objections and dismantled them with surgical precision. In short, he did what my chemistry professor had done so many years prior, only he took it one step farther: he proved to me that God existed, then identified and familiarized me with Him. He not only satisfactorily answered my questions of what, Who, when, and where, but was able to tell me why. That was all it took to convince me to become Catholic.

But this priest did more than just convert me – he provided a model of what a father could be.

As my baptism approached, I began to feel like the ongoing cold war between my biological father and me was not only stupid, but an impediment to my true and total conversion. My priest agreed. So one day, in the fall of 2013, I picked up the phone and called my dad for the first time in 15 years.

He was overjoyed to hear from me. We cried, laughed, and cry-laughed. We had a long talk that included apologies, explanations, expressions of regret, and a commitment to building a better relationship in the future.

* * *

The loss and eventual rediscovery of my fathers have made the defining saga of my life. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I found them both at almost the same time, lovingly prompted and prodded by a man whose title happens to be “Father.”

This is not a finished story – the getting-to-know-you process with both my fathers is ongoing. I’m still learning, and slowly at that, who my fathers are, how to love and respect them, and what it means to be a daughter. It’s the most exciting journey I have ever undertaken.

My dad summed things up perfectly: “I do believe the ending, when it comes, can still be a great one, and I hope we can write it together.”

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The Needles and the Damage Done

If you’re going to San Francisco
Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair…

For those who come to San Francisco
Summertime will be a love-in there
In the streets of San Francisco
Gentle people with flowers in their hair
 

–from the song “San Francisco,” written by John Phillips

This romanticized depiction of the streets of San Francisco, which I have called home for the last two decades, may have contained a kernel of truth in 1967, when hippies from all over the country flocked here for the so-called Summer of Love. But it doesn’t reflect our local reality on the precipice of 2019. Not even close.

For starters, it would be more prudent for San Francisco tourists to protect their hands and feet with gloves and work boots than to worry about their hairdos, because instead of finding “gentle people with flowers in their hair,” visitors are more apt to find homeless junkies with needles in their arms, needles they will likely leave lying wherever they happen to fall—in parks, on playgrounds, even on bus and train seats. And no longer do our streets smell of incense and patchouli—those aromas have been supplanted by the inescapable reek of human waste.

The problem spiraled dangerously out-of-control so gradually that I didn’t fully realize just how bad it had become until a few weeks ago, when I took BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit—our light rail system) to the Civic Center station for the first time in several months. 

This station is in a notoriously sketchy area. It borders the Tenderloin, which is perhaps the poorest, roughest neighborhood in the city. At the same time, as the name implies, all of the city’s governmental buildings are located nearby, in addition to many of San Francisco’s finest museums and cultural attractions. So, every day in United Nations Plaza, where the Civic Center BART station is located, an almost absurd juxtaposition of contrasting characters convenes—civil servants neatly attired in conservative suits, opera patrons decked-out in posh finery, and souvenir-toting tourists share the sidewalks with grimy street urchins, peacockishly painted prostitutes, and everyone else who has fallen off society’s radar—often because they fell in love with the needle.

There is nothing new about the random socio-cultural cross-sectioning that occurs at this curious crossroads. But the last time I was there, I did see something new in United Nations Plaza.

© 2018 Aaron Levy-Wolins

Black syringe depositories have been installed near the regular trash cans—indeed, one might mistake them for garbage bins if not for their funereal color and stark, striking BIOHAZARD warning signage. 

Underscoring the need for such bins are the legions of strung-out zombies strewn about the vicinity—sitting, slack-jawed and glassy-eyed, on curbs; crawling around the plaza on all fours, shaking and shouting and searching intently for heaven only knows what; stumbling aimlessly up and down the alleyways, caked in filth; and lying across the sidewalks, arms wide open and mouths agape, the living indistinguishable from the dead. 

© 2013 Kevin Montgomery

And punctuating this bleak de profundis dirge are the by-products of this wretched existence—feces, garbage, syringes, and urine—scattered and splattered everywhere. Virtually every San Francisco area resident, myself included, has been confronted with the grim spectacle of someone shooting up, urinating, defecating, or some combination of the three, in a public place and in plain sight.

Sleek new needle disposal bins won’t even make a dent in this problem. 

Indeed, nothing the city has done has helped. On November 30th, 2015, the San Francisco Chronicle published a story regarding the skyrocketing number of complaints about discarded syringes in public areas, noting that the number had risen from 440 in 2012, to over 2500 in 2015. They also reported that the city was expanding access to disposal boxes and establishing “rapid response teams,” though exactly what those teams might do was left unexplained. 

Fast forward to April, 2016. The San Francisco AIDS Foundation’s blog, BETA, published an article entitled “Syringes and Needles on the Street in San Francisco: What’s Being Done?” This piece detailed the measures being taken at that time to combat the problem, which included: community cleanup events, wherein residents of “hotspot” neighborhoods “cheerfully [went] about the neighborhood to pick up syringes”; “increasing education” among the drug-using population about where and how to properly dispose of needles; and training museum and library staff in the Civic Center area on safe disposal methods. Library staff was also trained to provide disposal equipment to homeless people inside the library and was given said equipment, apparently free of charge. 

© 2018 Bigad Shaban

Fast forward to July 17th, 2018. Business Insider published a piece about San Francisco’s new mayor, London Breed, and her plans to combat what is still being described as “copious amounts” of syringes, not to mention human feces, on San Francisco’s streets. Apparently those rapid response teams, education programs, and community cleanup events just didn’t cut the mustard. What does Ms. Breed propose? She wants to set up “safe, supervised injection sites” where homeless addicts can go—in lieu of public spaces—to intravenously ingest their drugs of choice … because your average addict is oh-so-likely to forestall shooting up after scoring until he can get to a location supervised by a city official.

Right. 

While the city is scrambling to come up with strategies to combat the syringe litter problem, the San Francisco Health Department is busy handing out free needles. The San Francisco Chronicle notes that in fiscal year 2015-16, the city distributed 4.45 million needles at a cost of $523,363. The article goes on to state: “Of the 400,000 needles distributed monthly … about 246,000 come back though [the health department’s] 13 syringe access and disposal sites. That leaves more than 154,000 needles a month still circulating … thousands wind up on streets and sidewalks, in tent camps, and in parks and playgrounds.” The number of needles distributed by the city hit six million for the 2017 fiscal year.

It’s almost as if San Francisco’s right hand doesn’t know—or care—what’s being done by the left. 

Similarly, although most everyone acknowledges that addiction, including alcoholism, is one of the key factors leading to and perpetuating homelessness, one of the “solutions” San Francisco has proposed as part of a package designed to combat its homeless epidemic is a so-called “wet house”—a shelter in which alcoholic vagrants are allowed to drink openly and without fear of eviction. 

I read about all of these proposed “solutions”—the crews of law-abiding citizens sent out to “cheerfully” clean up the filth left behind by their junkie scofflaw neighbors; the “supervised injection sites” and “wet houses” and millions spent on free needle distribution—all of which enable and validate the behavior which caused many homeless people to wind up on the streets in the first place; and I can’t help but think, what planet are these people living on? Do they know anything about the people they’re trying to help? The fact is, although I have no doubt that there are countless hearts in the proper places, nobody here seems to be in touch with reality when it comes to actually solving this problem. 

There are a few things everyone agrees on: the addiction epidemic in our city is directly related to and intertwined with our homeless crisis, and the biggest contributing factor to that is the lack of affordable housing. This is a very real problem that I have experienced firsthand. I currently pay $1800/month for a studio apartment, and it’s not even in San Francisco itself, but, rather, in the Oakland/East Bay area. When I experienced a major injury that kept me out-of-work for the better part of a year in 2017, I was very nearly evicted, and, if not for my amazing faith community and family assistance—support structures that tragically few people in contemporary society have—I would have wound up among the Bay Area’s 35,000 homeless, up to 15,000 of which live in San Francisco proper.

Everyone knows affordable housing is a serious problem. But not everyone has a clear grasp on the causes for this predicament, or realistic prospective solutions. A basic understanding of the laws of supply and demand, for example, seems to be almost completely lacking among my fellow residents. Consider the following example:

There has been an empty lot next to my building for about 20 years. It’s in a prime location, right next to a BART station and in close proximity to the UC Berkeley campus. Several months ago, signs appeared in my neighborhood to notify residents of a proposed development in that lot. The project would be a multi-story residential building with commercial space on the first floor—so it would provide a considerable number of new housing units as well as space for a few new shops.

I was delighted by the proposal. It would take wasted space and put it to good use. It would stimulate the micro-local economy by bringing new shops—and, in turn, new jobs and more tax revenue—to the area. And it would make a significant contribution to the supply side of the housing market, which is, ultimately, the only way rents will come down; after all, housing prices here are high because demand is high and supply is low. It’s basic Economics 101 type stuff.

But my neighbors disagreed. Almost immediately after the signs announcing the proposed development went up, another set of signs appeared. They announced citizen meetings to discuss and organize opposition to the building project.

Neighbors within my building assumed I would attend. “The building would obstruct our view of the Bay,” they whined, “and it would make it a lot harder to find parking around here. Plus, it would destroy the laid-back vibe of our neighborhood and replace it with a really ugly commercialized energy. Besides, it’s totally unjust! There’s no provision for affordable housing!” 

It’s the same narrative I have heard a million and one times since I moved here—the developers are evil and greedy and only care about making money. They don’t care about the poor and downtrodden. What’s more, the things they build are ugly. Therefore, we must stop them at any cost.

Nobody seems to understand that they are shooting themselves in the foot by halting development—that they are thereby keeping housing scarce, keeping prices high, keeping people poor, and, ultimately, keeping people on the streets. They also don’t seem to understand that nobody is going to eliminate the supply gap by building a plethora of low-rise, low-rent housing units—assuming there were enough open space in which to do so, which there isn’t—because there’s no profit to be made in such an endeavor with the outrageous current price of land. No magic billionaire humanitarian fairy is going to float down from the clouds—where most of my neighbors’ heads seem to be—to rescue us with truckloads of free money. But, judging by the way they shape public policy, that’s precisely what Californians, and Bay Area residents in particular, seem to expect: a miracle.

And, at this point, that may be what it takes to put this place back on track. This is a city with areas regarded by some infectious disease experts as “more unsanitary than many of the dwellings in impoverished, developing countries”; a city with “contamination [that] rivals that found in slums of Brazil, Kenya, and India’s developing communities”; and a city that spends $30 million per year cleaning up discarded needles and feces from its public spaces. This is a city with the highest per capita homeless population in America; a city that refuses to prosecute that population for public defecation/urination and littering, and turns a blind eye to the epidemic of property crimes for which it is responsible. And it is a city with no realistic solutions on the horizon, and not a single pragmatic leader in office—how else might things be turned around? A bona fide act of God may indeed be required.

But this is also a city wherein God, and those who believe in Him, are openly ridiculed and excluded from civic discourse.

This is a city where, in 2009, a Catholic parish—and a notoriously liberal and pro-homosexual parish at that—was vandalized and spray-painted with swastikas after California passed Proposition 8, which defined marriage as being between one man and one woman only.

This is a city that unanimously passed a resolution on April 4th, 2006 denouncing the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s directive to Catholic Charities not to place children for adoption with same-sex couples, calling it “hateful and discriminatory … insulting and callous, and show[ing] a level of insensitivity and ignorance which has seldom been encountered by this Board of Supervisors.” 

Furthermore, this is a city that flaunts its abandonment of traditional morality. Once a year, fully sanctioned by the local government, gay men openly engage in public sex acts as part of the “Pride Parade,” an event which is promoted as being family-friendly. A few months later, the city’s BDSM community gathers to publicly flog and flagellate each other at the Folsom Street Fair. Public sex is de rigueur in the City by the Bay.

Should we really be surprised to see so much of the city’s population living in such debased and demoralized conditions, when the city itself has so thoroughly shunned morality and common sense? 

Given San Francisco’s downward trajectory and crumbling social ethos, don’t expect to see thoughtful, reasonable solutions to these problems being generated locally any time soon. We are too busy parading our perversions, persecuting our Christians, and enacting important legislation like plastic straw bans and sugary drink taxes. The only thing you can really do for San Francisco is pray. Pray for us like we’re blithely headed for hell in a hand-basket—because, as far as I can tell, we absolutely are.

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