“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?
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?
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 your current parish has a wishy-washy, cowardly, or heterodox priest, stop subsidizing his theological malfeasance 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. These wolves in shepherds’ clothing are desecrating your Father’s treasures. Stop rewarding them for doing it by endlessly showing up at their parishes, stuffing their collection baskets, and making excuses for their words and deeds. 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 scraped away …
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 was not exactly a paragon of the Nazi Superman ideal, either—one member was disabled, and many others, including Herr Hitler himself, had predominantly non-Aryan traits. But coherence is and was virtually irrelevant to the ideologues in both camps.
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 introduced no fewer than 85 minority-related bills and resolutions between January of 2019 and May of 2020. 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 Postsummed 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 [a]nti‐Christian, [s]exist, and [a]nti‐[b]lack [r]acist incidents. Students had less sympathy for [a]nti‐Christian incidents than for [a]nti‐[b]lack [r]acism and [s]exism, 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 hate. 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 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. After all, hate is so dreadfully common–it’s for people who eat fish sticks and shop at Target. People who eat crudités and shop at Bergdorf Goodman are habituated to more potent stimulation. They crave a punchier fix, which they don’t intend to share with the plebs.
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, Empress 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 talking points.
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.
“Whoever has the youth has the future …”
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. 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, overtly or on the QT, all across American campuses.
Our institutions of so-called higher education have obviously become nothing more than vehicles for a higher degree of Leftist indoctrination.
Ministries of Propaganda are so 20th Century
Neither the Nazis nor the Left have been content to merely co-opt their nation’s educational systems. Both groups have pursued 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 similarly 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 American Left and the NSDAP 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.
“They are mere words, and words can be molded until they clothe ideas and disguise.”
Perhaps the most frightening communications-related conquest made by both groups is that of language itself. Both groups have very effectively transformed common usage of their native languages to suit their own ends.
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 socio-political ends. For example:
A system of hiring which enforces the preferential selection of minorities (a word which is itself problematic to define) regardless of talent, training, skills, or experience is termed “Affirmative Action.”
Illegal aliens are “dreamers.”
The logical and immemorial differences in compensation for varying forms of labor across the population as a whole is “income inequality.” Is the labor which produces the income equal? Nobody seems to care.
Fluctuation in meteorological phenomena—something even older than “income inequality,” indeed, something as old as the planet itself—was first termed “global warming.” When that failed to hold up to the reality test, it became “climate change.”
And the sum of the various facets of Leftist tyranny described throughout this piece? That Orwellian masterpiece is known as “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. Pre-born 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-du–jour (going from “Hispanic” to “Latino/a” to “person of color” to “Latinx” 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.”
Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off
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.
So here we are. Thanks to a carefully constructed, generations-long, multi-pronged, and extremely effective cultural assault by the radical Left, everybody hates everybody else, and isn’t afraid to say so—all too often, we 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.
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/modification of our churches and government-enforced mask mandates and during the 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” [emphasis added]; and “I am only too well aware of their horrific attitudes and beliefs—and those are enough to make me see them as subhuman.” [emphasis added]
The Nazi leadership often used the term “subhuman” in reference to Jews, Slavs, and other non-Aryan races. Note, too, 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 “progressive” 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 headed toward totalitarianism. In fact, it’s nipping at our heels, and as Christians, we have particular cause for alarm. The time has come to stop ignoring our shredded skin and start beating off the wolf that’s hell-bent on devouring 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 generations. 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 a whole lot less convenient and a whole lot more expensive, but can you really put a price on your child’s mind and the future of the society in which they will live?
Secondly, boycott the mainstream media. Leftist news is news with an agenda; agenda-driven news is biased news; biased news is no better than 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 hold dear. 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 attributes by which we define ourselves?
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Chroniclenotes 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.
“A drowsy, dreamy influence seems to hang over the land, and to pervade the very atmosphere … the place still continues under the sway of some witching power, that holds a spell over the minds of the good people, causing them to walk in a continual reverie.”
When I was 13, I attempted suicide for the first time. Life with my crack addict mother was a mad, merciless merry-go-round which ever threatened to whirl off its undercarriage. And, although an infinite parade of psychopathically violent boyfriends, perverts, junkies, and career criminals hopped on and off this ride with apparent ease, I was unable to leave the not-so-funhouse. It seemed the only exit was the permanent one, and, with the assumed assistance of two handfuls of pills and a half-bottle of rum, I endeavored to escape.
But, like most kids my age, I had no idea just how tough it is to snuff out one’s own candle. When people accuse those who have achieved this feat of taking the easy way out, they betray the same ignorance I possessed at age 13—there is nothing easy about killing oneself, for one thing, and no one makes the final decision without sincerely believing there is no other way out of their quagmire, easy or otherwise.
What people who have not experienced it do not know is, depression is a sleep-mask—it blinds, and thereby disables, the sufferer. It narcotizes, hypnotizes, and paralyzes one into an incapacitating slumber populated exclusively by nightmares. In this somnambulistic labyrinth, there are no guideposts—one can merely grope at thorny walls. Ultimately, the sleepwalker cannot find the exit in such a palsied state—yet, only after clawing one’s fingers raw in an attempt to scale the walls does one conclude that death is the only way out.
* * *
“By divers little make-shifts in that ingenious way which is commonly denominated ‘by hook and by crook,’ [he] got on tolerably enough, and was thought, by all who understood nothing of [his] labor, to have a wonderfully easy life.”
And that was me at age 30.
Having escaped my mother’s hellacious world through law enforcement intervention, married and divorced, and moved all over the country, I’d finally settled in California and enrolled in a private college by means of a generous scholarship. But I’d also begun to suffer the effects of rheumatoid arthritis and a genetic disorder known as Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, which had left me unable to perform most “normal” jobs. Bills mounted and eviction loomed. Finally, out of great desperation, I made the decision to become a call girl at age 24. By 25, I was the top-rated escort in the San Francisco Bay area. And by 30, I’d become accustomed to the expensive, fast-lane lifestyle such “success” engendered.
I’m sure that, to all outward appearances, I was a carefree, fun-loving party girl, a girl who allowed both her money and her affections to flow freely. Perhaps a bit like a combination of Marion in Raiders of the Lost Ark and Ophelia in Trading Places—a scrappy, lighthearted working girl who could drink a man three times her size under the table.
But that was just a mask I wore.
As a child forced to ride shotgun on the reckless drive that was my mother’s life, I had coped with the black, bottomless chasm within and without by creating a lush, intricate, vivid imaginary world. I retreated into Technicolor fantasy—sometimes I sailed so far away from the outside world that I had difficulty distinguishing reality from the experiences I’d invented. In my mind, I lived in a different time, a distant place, and among people completely disparate to the inmates of my mother’s subterranean dystopia.
But as a call girl, I was highly priced, highly rated, and thus subject to high expectations. My work demanded engagement—I could not simply drift away to make-believe shores. So I did the next best thing—I became a make-believe person.
By age 30, I had made a tangled mess of my life, and that old, too-familiar demon known in clinical circles as “major depressive disorder” once again began to take over. Once again, I was trapped in the sleepy, hollow labyrinth. And once again, I became convinced that death was the only way out.
* * *
“The night grew darker and darker; the stars seemed to sink deeper in the sky, and driving clouds occasionally hid them from his sight. He had never felt so lonely and dismal.”
Never let it be said that I don’t learn from my mistakes. Having failed to accomplish the job with two fistfuls of sleeping pills and a bit of booze at age 13, I was doubly determined to get it right at age 30. I was on several heavy-duty prescription medications at the time, both for depression and the many complex issues related to my chronic conditions, and I had just had them all refilled. I took every last one of those pills—in sum, over 500, about 20% of which were morphine.
And again, I did not die.
Apparently God had other plans for me. Perhaps the purpose of my survival was to tell you the tale here and now—because even if you aren’t personally afflicted, depression is all around you, and you may very well have a part to play in someone else’s twilight drama.
* * *
I still find myself being pulled back into that labyrinth from time to time. But I have several tools now that I did not have in my pre-Catholic life that help me keep my head above water.
First and foremost among them is the gift of prayer, the ultimate suicide hotline. It’s a direct link to someone who sincerely understands the nature of suffering, and has experienced intense distress—more so than any of us. Indeed, in the garden of Gethsemane, Christ was so anguished and anxious that He sweated blood. And the agony of His Passion is beyond anything anyone else has ever experienced. Tortured and mocked by His own beloved creations, abandoned by His closest friends—and betrayed by one of them—left to die like a common criminal in the most brutal and agonizing method imaginable, Our Lord has definitely trudged through the black chasm. When we pray, we are speaking to someone who knows exactly what we are going through—not merely because He is able to read our hearts, but because He has made His own journey through the valley of misery. He not only gets it, He also cares and wishes to help—and there is no one better equipped to do so.
The sacraments are also powerful tools in the battle against depression. When my soul feels overburdened, and I feel regret or remorse over the mistakes I have made, the Confessional is available to wash it all away. And if I feel alone, far away from God, I can reconnect with Him in a most magnificent way by receiving the Eucharist—no one who acts as a living tabernacle is alone or separated from God.
Finally, my Catholic community acts as a nurturing surrogate family; it’s a place where I know I am loved and accepted, and where I can indubitably find the support I need, no matter what. I have found solace in the friendships formed therefrom, and I’m deeply indebted to the numerous friends (and strangers) who have provided spiritual, emotional, and practical assistance in countless ways when I have been in need.
Becoming Catholic has filled my life with love and light where there was once only agony and darkness.
* * *
“As Ichabod approached this fearful tree … he thought his whistle was answered—it was but a blast sweeping sharply through the dry branches … Suddenly he heard a groan—his teeth chattered and his knees smote against the saddle: it was but the rubbing of one huge bough upon another, as they were swayed about by the breeze”
Ichabod Crane, deep within his own Sleepy Hollow, mistook a pumpkin for a severed head and a malicious man in a clever costume for a murderous phantom, and it cost him his life. Like him, we who labor under the burden of melancholy mistake opportunities for obstacles, and molehills for mountains.
We cannot escape this myopia alone. When we are in that place, battered and blinded and bumbling about, it is almost impossible to see the forest of hope and God’s love that surrounds us all, because the trees appear as encroaching problems too massive to overcome. We need a hand, a light, to guide us. And your kind words may act as an extended hand for someone drowning in despair; your listening ear and objective perspective, sympathetically shared, may be the light that helps a troubled soul find a path out of their sleepy, hollow labyrinth.
It has been said, “It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.” If you know someone enveloped in darkness—and most of us do, whether we realize it or not—it’s not helpful to them to hear you say “chin up,” “just shrug it off,” or “think positive.” It’s just not that simple for that person. You may be able to do these things, but they cannot–if they could, you can be certain they would.
So, instead of cursing that person’s darkness, light a candle for him or her. Remind that person of God’s love; help him or her brainstorm solutions to the most pressing problems; and, most importantly, pray for that person, and make sure s/he knows you’re doing so.
Artwork by Jeremy Ingle: https://www.facebook.com/OremusPublishing
Starting in July of 2015, The Center for Medical Progress released a series of videos which exposed Planned Parenthood’s lucrative sideline of peddling aborted babies’ anatomical remnants. These videos are so shockingly horrific as to be almost unwatchable; millions of Americans did indeed watch them, however, and their ensuing outrage has galvanized a powerful backlash against the taxpayer-funded abortion monolith. Thirteen states have taken steps to block Planned Parenthood’s access to taxpayer funds within their borders; meanwhile, on a federal level, defunding legislation passed in the House and was only narrowly defeated in the Senate.
But Planned Parenthood and their allied institutional powers aren’t taking this lying down. They’ve launched a series of legal attacks both civil and criminal against David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt, the investigative journalists who obtained the incriminating footage.
On Thursday, August 24, Daleiden, Merritt, their legal teams, and a prosecuting attorney convened in Judge Christopher Hite’s San Francisco courtroom. The immediate matters under consideration were Merritt’s Motion to Dismiss fourteen of the fifteen charges against her, and Daleiden’s demurrer objecting to the validity of the charges against him.
Judge Hite rejected Daleiden’s demurrer, stating that it was not the right time to make affirmative defenses, and that Daleiden’s legal team would have a chance to make their case—namely, that the charges against their client are completely lacking in legal legitimacy—at a later stage in the process.
Okay, that’s acceptable. Disappointing? Yes—but it’s not a flagrant miscarriage of justice.
What happened to Sandra Merritt, however, is flat-out wrong—in fact, it’s illegal—and it ought to be of deep concern to all Americans, even those who oppose what she did.
On June 21st, fourteen of the fifteen charges against Daleiden and Merritt were deemed legally insufficient, and were dismissed “with leave to amend”; in plain English, this means the judge allowed the prosecution ten days to file a revised complaint containing additional evidence supporting the charges against the defendants.
The State Attorney General’s office did, indeed, file an amended complaint … against Daleiden. They failed to do so against Merritt. Therefore, according to statute, and even according to his own previous ruling, Judge Hite should have granted Merritt’s Motion to Dismiss this past Thursday.
But he didn’t.
When asked why they failed to file the amended complaint, the prosecuting attorney shrugged and said, “Well, we meant to file it.”
And that’s when things got surreal. Because that’s when Lady Justice lifted her blindfold and winked at the observers. That’s when the judge discarded concrete, codified fact in favor of abstract, amorphous feeling as the criteria by which to adjudicate. That’s when the judge said he believed the prosecution did, in fact, intend to file, and he was therefore denying Merritt’s petition, and giving the prosecution more time to correct their mistake.
When you were a schoolgirl or boy, did your teacher ever give you an A because you meant to do your homework? Was a patient ever healed because a doctor meant to perform a surgery? Was a crime ever punished because an officer meant to make an arrest? And was a baby ever sated because its mother meant to nurse it? Then why on earth would we allow an attorney to continue the taxpayer-funded prosecution of a case because s/he meant to file amended charges, particularly when we as a society have agreed upon statutes that prohibit such an action?
This may not seem like a big deal to you. You may think I’m making a mountain out of a molehill—even some of you who support what Daleiden and Merritt have done. You may be saying to yourself, “Oh, this is a minor infraction on the judge’s part, it won’t prevent Merritt from winning her case.” But that misses the point entirely. This isn’t about whether Merritt wins or loses. This is about the sanctity of the law, and the danger of allowing a fast-and-loose application thereof.
When I was sitting in that courtroom on Thursday, I could not help but think to myself: I have seen this before. I’ve read about judges slowly shifting from reliance upon the letter of the law toward reliance upon the spirit of the culture and age as a basis for forming their decisions. Instead of ruling according to that which had been codified, they began to rule according to popular sentiment. Instead of ruling according to that which was, they began to rule according to that which they felt should be.
In Nuremburg in 1948, we tried, found guilty, and sentenced to life imprisonment eight Nazi judges for, in part, ignoring and/or exaggerating codified law and adjudicating cases based on their own arbitrary whims. Indeed, after two years under Hitler’s rule, this laissez-faire method of jurisprudence itself began to be codified. The Tribunal notes: “The penal laws were extended in such inclusive and indefinite terms as to vest in the judges the widest discretion in the choice of law to be applied, and in the construction of the chosen law in any given case” (6). They cite the lack of “objective standards” as one of the most problematic factors in the new laws of the Third Reich (7). They conclude:
This new conception of criminal law was a definite encroachment upon the rights of the individual citizen because it subjected him to the arbitrary opinion of the judge … destroyed the feeling of legal security, and created an atmosphere of terrorism. (7)
I admit that giving the prosecution a pass on its blunder and arbitrarily extending the deadline to file amended charges against Sandra Merritt hardly creates “an atmosphere of terrorism.” But back it up, just in that single sentence from the Tribunal. Does what Judge Hite did “destroy the feeling of legal security?” For Sandra Merritt, and anyone else in a similar legal situation, absolutely. Does it subject the individual citizen to the “arbitrary opinion of the judge?” You bet your sweet life it does. Because it does both of those things, it is also a “definite encroachment upon the rights of the individual citizen.”
And that, my friends, is the first step down the slippery slope toward tyranny.
So, you may not think it’s such a big deal that Judge Hite ruled based on the prosecution’s unprovable, and therefore extra-legal, intentions rather than its empirically observed actions, but most Germans didn’t think those early laws restricting Jewish participation in German civic life or that silly little loyalty oath for government employees were such big deals, either. They hardly imagined that ten years later Hitler would be sending Jews to the gas chamber by the millions, or inflicting total war conditions upon his own citizens. So, while they may not have agreed with those early actions, they let them slide. They kept silent and busied themselves with the everydayness of their lives. They didn’t notice the rug being pulled out from under them—it happened so gradually, they never felt the movement beneath their feet until the bombs falling all around them caused the earth itself to quake.
At Mass this morning, a baby girl was sitting in the pew directly in front of me. She had wide, inquisitive eyes and dark, fuzzy hair that stood on end. Her carrier was turned in such a way that she was staring right at me throughout the first parts of the Mass, and every time I knelt, we were within inches of one another. I tried to ignore her, but she refused to allow it. Every time I looked away from her, she started to fuss. So we began to play games with our glances—I would roll my eyes about, and she would smile. And that would make me smile.
At the Offertory, her father took her out of the carrier. She stood facing me, gripping the back of the pew, and when the Sanctus came, and I once more knelt down, her tiny hands rested next to mine. Slowly, in that characteristic wobbly baby fashion, she reached out to grab my finger.
And that’s when a whimsical interaction turned into a heart-rending reality check. Because when those delicate fingers touched mine, what flashed through my mind was: This is what I threw away. This is what I destroyed. This is what will never be, not for me.
You see, I have two children. But they’re dead. And I never got a chance to hold their hands. They never even drew breath. Because I aborted them. And those are the two biggest mistakes of my entire life.
* * *
I was 16 when I got pregnant the first time. I was on the pill—actually, I was on the pill both times I got pregnant. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t get pregnant if you’re on the pill, because it’s a lie.
I knew I was pregnant at the moment of conception. I know it sounds crazy, but I felt the presence of another life like an epiphany—it was as clear to me as if someone had pranced into the room in a very grandiose fashion: Here I am! Look at me! And there she was. I know she was a girl the same way I knew I was pregnant. I can’t explain it. I just know.
And yet, I desperately wanted to be wrong. Even as I sat in my high school philosophy class feeling my body rearrange itself to make room for the budding life inside me, I clung to my shred of disbelief. I scribbled and passed a note to my best girlfriend: “Big problem, need help, meet me after school.”
She and I drove to the other side of town to buy a pregnancy test—we wanted to avoid being seen by anyone we knew. Then we went to the used book store where she worked and squeezed into the employee restroom to await the result. Neither of us said a word as we watched two undeniably pink lines appear in the rectangular window. We knew those lines were an equal sign with a whole mess of trouble on the tail end of the equation.
* * *
It seemed to be a foregone conclusion that I would have an abortion. Everyone in whom I confided my situation presumed that’s what I would do. Not a single person asked me if I wanted my baby, or suggested adoption as an alternative. They spoke about “the abortion” as if it were a reality already in existence, a decision already made: When are you getting the abortion? I bet you can’t wait to have the abortion. Don’t worry, you’ll feel better after the abortion.
This included the nurse at the Planned Parenthood clinic where I went for a second test, still hoping against hope that all other indicators had been somehow broken or misguided. After she told me I was most definitely pregnant, she launched into a speech she had clearly given many times before.
Of course, she said, I couldn’t even consider having my baby—and yes, she did use the term “baby.” My reputation, my hopes, my dreams, my goals, my whole future—they would all be ruined if I carried to term. And imagine the suffering of the poor child; it simply wasn’t fair to bring a baby into the world without reliable and adequate means of support and at my age. Imagine the shame and discrimination such a child would face, having a mother so young.
And besides, I was still a child myself, she said, patting my hand and giving me her best impression of a Glenda the Good Witch smile. She was my friend. She felt my pain. She knew what was best for me, certainly better than I—after all, she was an expert.
According to her, the best thing I could do, the only thing I could do, was terminate my pregnancy. By any means necessary. She even told me how to get around Oklahoma’s parental notification laws, referring me to a clinic in Dallas where they “put women’s interests first,” and consequently didn’t ask pesky questions about whether an out-of-state minor had parental permission for a surgical procedure.
My boyfriend and the father of my baby also assumed there would be an abortion. Not only did he not want this particular baby, he never wanted any children whatsoever. He seemed resentful, as if he were annoyed with me for getting pregnant. He called the clinic recommended by Planned Parenthood to find out how much they charged, and scraped together a couple of hundred dollars—his half of the cost—in a matter of days.
As soon as he’d given me his share of the money, he began to nag me about following through. Did you call the clinic today? Do you have the money yet? How are you going to get the money? When is your appointment? What are you waiting for?
I felt like I was being swept away by a pro-abortion tide. Amid all of that pressure and in the center of all of those projected opinions, I never stopped to ask for one of the most important opinions of all—my own. In that echo chamber of voices telling me to kill my baby, my own voice was drowned out, and, at any rate, didn’t seem to carry much weight. After all, who was I? Like the Planned Parenthood nurse said, I was just a kid without any means of support. And how could literally every person I talked to be wrong?
So I made the appointment. And I had the “procedure.” But it was not a cure for anything. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that your dreams will be shattered unless you have an abortion, because it’s a lie. On the contrary, an abortion is the beginning of a life-long nightmare.
* * *
Two weeks after my seventeenth birthday, I married the father of my baby, the little girl I threw away. And about three years later, we got pregnant again. This time, things were both very different and exactly the same.
This time, I had no clue I was pregnant. There was no epiphany. Whereas my daughter made her entrance onto the stage of my life with a burst of light and great fanfare, my son tiptoed onstage, unnoticed by every other actor. I didn’t even realize he was a boy until after I’d shoved him into the orchestra pit.
Whereas I had spent the nights leading up to my first abortion tossing and turning, deep in apologetic internal dialog with the child I was about to discard, heavily conflicted about the so-called choice I was making, I initially felt no internal conflict whatsoever about my second abortion.
I still felt I had no choice—and my husband again contributed heavily to that feeling with his vocal determination to remain childless. But another influential factor was my own dissolute lifestyle in the months leading up to my discovery of the pregnancy. I had ingested countless teratogens in the form of various recreational drugs and alcohol, and was terrified that any baby that had been simmering in the cesspool of my womb for three months, as had been my son, would be born with horrible defects that would cause him a lifetime of suffering. The feelings of guilt engendered by that thought made me feel like a cornered alley cat—and having another abortion was my flailing effort to claw my way up the side of the building to escape the consequences of my own self-indulgent actions.
I made the appointment at the least expensive place I could find. I soon discovered the reason for the rock-bottom rate. Don’t ever let anyone tell you it’s possible to get a “quality abortion” at a bargain price, because it’s a lie. Firstly, there is no such thing as a “quality abortion,” and secondly, even with medically sanctioned murder, you get what you pay for.
It was obvious the minute I walked into the doctor’s office that she was really much more into the baby-delivering end of her practice than the baby-killing end.
The first clue was, every other woman in the waiting room was happily pregnant. They wore their baby bumps like badges of honor. Their faces radiated the joy of expectation. What must they think of me? I wondered as I sat down amongst them.
A beaming blonde leaned over. “When are you due?” she asked me.
I didn’t know what to say. I couldn’t tell her, “I’m here to get rid of mine,” so I lied and instead said, “Oh, I’m here to find out.”
“How exciting!” She positively glowed with glee. I wanted to weep.
The second clue was, there were snapshots of the babies the doctor had delivered wallpapering every inch of that office. When I laid back on the cold metal table and put my feet in the stirrups, I discovered that even the ceiling was plastered in pictures. While the doctor brusquely tore away at my flesh (I was bedridden and bleeding afterward for several days), crushed the life of the tiny boy inside of me, and I cried out in abject pain, little toothless grins mocked me from above. Everything that could have been, but would never be, was right there in front of me, confronting and contemning me with joys I would never know.
I wanted to scream, “STOP! I want to keep him! Give him back to me!” but it was too late. My son was gone.
And every day since the deaths of my children, I have felt the two holes in my life where my son and daughter should be. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that your life will be more complete after an abortion, because it’s a lie. It will feel like something is missing for the rest of your life.
* * *
There are very few people in my life who know about this part of my past—at least there were before today. It’s something about which I am deeply ashamed. Abortion is by far the worst thing I ever did—and I did it twice. It’s something I don’t merely regret, because “regret” is not a strong enough word to describe my feelings about what I did. I rue it. I lament it. I mourn it. Every single day. I have built intricate psychological cubicles in which to compartmentalize the crushing pain of it all, just to enable me to function on a day-to-day basis.
It is not my aim to give a political lecture, or to give statistics about the emotional, social, and psychological damage wrought by abortion—there are people who are already doing a much better job of that than I possibly could.
No, all I hope to do by telling my story is to add my voice to the tragic chorus saying, “I did this, and it was horrible. I did this, and it was not a solution—all it did was create a larger problem that will never be solved, not in this lifetime. I did this, and I really wish I hadn’t. I did this, and I hope you won’t make the same mistake.” I’m telling my story with the hope that I might save even just one woman or girl the suffocating sorrow I have felt all these years—and that I will continue to feel until the day I die.
Don’t ever let anyone tell you that bringing a new life into the world will close doors for you, because it’s a lie—the birth of something new always represents the opening of a door. And don’t ever let anyone tell you that destroying a life through abortion will open doors for you, or that it will help you realize greater fulfillment, because those, too, are lies—the biggest ones of all. Pushing your child off the stage of your life closes the door between the two of you, but it doesn’t sever the bond. And you can knock on that door ’til the end of time, you can pound on it ‘til your fists are bloody, but abortion seals that door shut. The only thing that provides some hope and eases the pain is seeking, and finding, the mercy and grace of God and the promise of a life to come. And yet, the void—the hollow space where your child should be—remains.
And inside that void, the longing whispers of what might have been will echo endlessly, inescapably, for the rest of your life.
“ And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” –John 8:32
There was a time not so terribly long ago that I did not believe in God and practiced no religion. I had various reasons that seemed compelling at the time—anyway, they’re not particularly relevant.
I believed my lack of faith gave me an abundance of freedom compared to all the strictured, structured religious people around whom I grew up, with all their rules and behavioral regulations. Indeed, I believed that hedonism was categorically liberating. So I indulged my impulses; if it felt good, I did it.
There was only one problem with my theory: it ruined my life.
At age 30, I found myself without a respectable job, significant family ties, a meaningful romantic partnership, coping skills, or a dime to my name. What I did have was a mile-high pile of debts and bills I couldn’t pay, a string of broken-off affairs with men I never would’ve considered marrying (some of whom were already married), two pregnancies but no children, and a tendency to seek chemical solutions to my problems. I also had a massive supply of prescription painkillers and other heavy-duty medications, so, as was my habit, I turned to them to solve what I came to consider my biggest problem of all—that of being alive.
In sum, I took over 500 pills. The hospital staff tasked with untangling the aftermath of my actions agreed that my survival was nothing shy of miraculous.
* * *
I now look back on that time as my period of enslavement.
I was enslaved to my impulses—it wasn’t a matter of choosing to indulge them, rather, I felt compelled to do so. When one doesn’t believe there is anything bigger, better, or more powerful than oneself, one deifies one’s own desires, and becomes addicted to one’s vices. If life begins and ends with my own experience of it, then my whims are imbued with the gravity of divine decrees; there are no apparent eternal consequences for indulging them, nor is there evidently anything more sublime to pursue in their place. Thereby, in rejecting God, one makes little gods of one’s vices and oneself.
At first, these gods seem benevolent. Take, for example, the tribute paid to lust in the form of a one-night-stand. When you exchange those first few glances with your quarry, everything is mystery, intrigue, and the challenge of the hunt. Your heart beats faster; your brain turns cartwheels scheming up potential plotlines. And when the deal’s been sealed, and you’re on your way to the rendezvous, you feel triumphant, as though you have captured a rare animal for your own private zoo. And your thoughts, still spinning, sound something like this: This time, I’m really going to let go and have fun. This time is going to be the best one yet.
And then, the transformation begins. This rare animal you believe you’ve captured is his own personal god with his own deified desires and his own private zoo. You can “let go” all you want, but you’ll never “have fun” the way you hope to, because you mean just as much to him as he means to you—precisely nothing—and he, like you, is only there to indulge his own impulses.
And when the episode is over and the lights come on, the metamorphosis from enticing intrigue to awkward silence and cold corporeality is complete, and permanent separation is the only thing that can mollify both parties. One-night-stands last only a single night because neither party is interested in seeing the other again after what has transpired. It stands to reason that it must not have been all that spectacular—it definitely falls pitifully short of the fantasy you envisioned after those first exchanged glances.
And that is the god of lust showing its true, very ugly face. Rest assured, those hideous features run in the family—all of its brother and sister gods are equally grotesque.
* * *
People, even non-Christians (especially them, it sometimes seems), are terribly fond of quoting the scripture cited at the outset of this piece. We live in a time wherein truth as a concept has ceased to be defined as something binary, or even a binary thing qualified by degrees. Instead, “truth” has been re-defined as something relative—a thing about which it is perfectly valid to say, “You live your truth and I’ll live mine,” a statement that would have been considered harebrained jibberish not so very long ago.
In a time such as this, “The truth will set you free,” is a very handy quote to bandy about when one is attempting to validate, even glorify, addiction to his/her vices. One example of this is the LGBTQ community’s adoption of the pop song “Truth Will Set U Free” as a “pride” anthem.
The people who use this quote in such a manner are making the same mistake I did—they are defining “freedom” as the ability to act on every impulse, and indulge every whim. But is this the true face of freedom?
the state of being free or at liberty rather than in confinement or under physical restraint
the power to determine action without restraint.
personal liberty, as opposed to bondage or slavery
the absence of or release from ties, obligations, etc.
exemption from external control, interference, regulation, etc.
None of those definitions apply to the kind of “freedom” pursued by most people in today’s world—the same fraudulent freedom I once followed with a focused, fiery passion that wound up burning not only me, but many unfortunates who crossed my path.
The first and third definitions initially sound fitting but, having once been imprisoned by vice, I can assure you, they aren’t. One who has deified desire may not wear visible shackles, but he/she is nonetheless bound.
When one knows no higher good than the fleeting pleasure provided by the senses, one is enslaved to the wants thereof. When one knows life is short, is convinced nothingness is all that awaits after death, and believes that pleasure is the meaning of the brief one-act play one believes life to be, one feels one must seize every opportunity to appease one’s senses, and experiences a sense of hollow failure at every missed opportunity to do so. Such an existence is certainly one of confinement—confinement within one’s own cycle of wanton vice, followed by empty despair.
And such an existence fails to match definitions two and four for the same reasons; addiction to vice inhibits one’s decision-making ability and obligates one to serve the vices to which one is addicted. Just as a junkie is essentially a robot programmed with one function—to seek and ingest drugs—one whose sole ambition is the pursuit of sensual pleasure is also a monofunctional entity, constrained by an obligation to gratify one’s impulses. Although that person is theoretically free to choose self-control and self-denial, doing so would be perfectly contrary to that person’s modus vivendi, and would seem absurd to him or her.
Definition number five is disqualified in much the same manner. When one is addicted to vice, that vice and the activities and people involved in the pursuit thereof run the show. For example, if one is addicted to drugs, the drugs, and the endless tail-chasing game of trying to obtain one’s next fix, are in charge. If one is addicted to lust, the tools of that vice—be they pornography and/or other commercialized sex, extramarital or premarital partners, etc.—dictate the parameters of the addict’s choices and actions. For someone addicted to greed, the means of accumulating wealth—a lucrative job, a wealthy potential mate, the ups and downs of the stock market, etc.—direct the movie of that person’s life.
No, the type of “freedom” championed by virtually every facet of contemporary culture is nothing more than a glittering, brightly colored, heavily perfumed, exorbitantly expensive set of handcuffs.
Luckily for us, a key to those handcuffs does exist. And it’s the same key that unlocks the doors to true freedom.
* * *
So, what does true freedom look like? Well, all those people so quick to quote the 32nd verse of John 8 would do well to read it in context (quoted from the Douay-Rheims—emphasis added):
31 Then Jesus said to those Jews, who believed him: If you continue in my word, you shall be my disciples indeed.
32 And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.
33 They answered him: We are the seed of Abraham, and we have never been slaves to any man: how sayest thou: you shall be free?
34 Jesus answered them: Amen, amen I say unto you: that whosoever committeth sin, is the servant of sin.
35 Now the servant abideth not in the house for ever; but the son abideth for ever.
36 If therefore the son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed.
Obviously, verse 32 is not some blanket authorization for an anything-goes, I’m-okay-you’re-okay approach to life. Quite the contrary—two verses later we’re warned that sin enslaves. And, far from the free-to-be-you-and-me-style, relativistic, tripe-tinged slogan into which it has been misshapen, verse 32 is an assurance that if we follow the teachings of Christ, we will be made free. Not if we “follow our hearts,” or “live authentically,” or “live our truths.” No, this warranty only covers folks who are trying to sync their heartbeats with that of the Sacred Heart, and are living authentically Christian lives according to His truth—which, after all, is the only Truth.
I can hear my twenty-something self—someone steeped in the modern mindset and a product of contemporary morality—instantly object to that last statement: “But that’s not freedom! That’s the tyranny of conformity, and repression via behavioral regulation.”
This is what I would say to my former self:
Before I became Catholic, I was a prisoner of fear and despair. Feeding my vices necessitated a lifestyle that prevented me from building any kind of security—be it financial, emotional, interpersonal, or spiritual. That led to many sleepless nights spent either worrying about how I was going to pay the bills, or crying myself sick over the profound sense of emptiness which lurked around every psychological corner, threatening to engulf me.
All of that changed the very first day I followed through on my desire to go to Mass. That night I slept like a baby. And I have just about every night since. I call that freedom—freedom from worry, freedom from despair.
Before I became Catholic, I was a prisoner of anger and heartbreak. I was bitter and brokenhearted about all of the injustice and cruelty in the world, and the fact that nothing ever seemed to be done about it. And I felt helpless in the face of it all, which only served to feed those feelings of melancholy and rage. I was trapped in a vicious cycle.
That changed when I learned the reason why injustice and cruelty exist, that they are temporary, and that I can do something about them through offering up my suffering and prayer. This empowered me to break that vicious cycle. I call that freedom.
Before I became Catholic, I was a prisoner of isolation and alienation. I felt detached from the people around me, as I seemed to have little in common with them, and did not sense any deeper spiritual connection with them. I felt profoundly lonely, but I didn’t know how to change it.
Coming into the Church provided me with an instant spiritual family and a community of people whom I could love and be loved by. Learning about the Communion of Saints showed me I was wrong about feeling disconnected, opening my eyes to the very real spiritual bonds between us all. It showed me I need never feel lonely again, because I never will be, and never have been, alone. I call that freedom—freedom from the oppression of isolation.
Before I became Catholic, I was a prisoner of my vices. I saw no reason not to indulge them—indeed, I felt obliged to do so—because I viewed this life as the main event rather than the opening act, and did not know of anything more meaningful than simple sensual pleasure. The pursuit of that pleasure led me to personal ruin, and caused significant harm to many people caught in the wake of my careening voyage. I was miserable, but I didn’t know any other way to live—I didn’t know the secret of happiness, so I was a slave to sorrow.
The Church explained the true meaning of free will, the existence of a life to come, and the joy that comes from following the path we were created to travel. I learned that free will is not just about being at liberty to do as one pleases; it’s about analyzing the consequences and potential benefits of all options in light of not only one’s personal needs and wants, but those of all involved parties as well, and making informed decisions with those factors in mind. It’s about avoiding mistakes, but having the safety net of God’s mercy to catch us when we stumble, and reinstate us when and if we have the humility to admit fault and the resolve to repent. It’s about choosing the greatest good for the most people rather than selfish fleeting pleasures—not by force, but because, as a person of conscience, that’s actually the choice that provides more lasting satisfaction. It’s about aiming high for the afterlife, rather than below the belt for the present life. And yes, it’s about having the freedom to choose not to do any of those things, but knowing that there will be eternal consequences for that choice.
I call that freedom.
And that is the truth that sets men free. At least, it’s a small part thereof. It’s not about confessing some tawdry misdeed or personal predilection, then using that to justify a life of iniquity. The former, although factually true, is not Truth, and the latter is not freedom, not really.
Having traversed the path from fraudulent freedom into the legitimate liberation only Our Lord can provide, I hope that all my former shipmates successfully make the journey, too. Please join me in praying for them—it’s something they desperately need, and will not do for themselves.
“Lead all souls to heaven, especially those in most need of thy mercy…”