Can You Hate Your Dictator?
Did the Russians hate Stalin? Did the Germans hate Hitler?
Let’s be more specific: did the 13 million killed in the Nazi camps hate Hitler? How about Stalin’s twenty million? Mao’s tens of millions? Castro’s? Pol Pot’s? Kim Il Sung’s?
And what about tyranny’s Catholic victims? When we read about the martyrs, we marvel at the way they forgive their torturers. But they were saints. What should we run-of-the-mill, uncanonizable Catholics do when tyranny closes in?
Not everybody thinks – or lives, or loves -- with the Catholic mind. In fact, hate seems to be getting more popular in recent years. “Evil currently stalks the earth because there isn't enough hate,” writes Shmuley Boteach on a conservative website (Boteach has been called “one of the world's most prominent rabbis”). Upon hearing that Yassir Arafat had died, when President Bush said “God bless his soul,” conservative columnist Jeff Jacoby countered, “God, I am quite sure, will damn him for eternity." And in a long-winded article in First Things, Rabbi Meir Y. Soloveichik celebrates “The Virtue of Hate” – grounded, apparently, in the Talmud, not the New Testament.
The Catholic call to love and forgiveness does not resonate universally. Of course, it’s not always easy for Catholics, either. Yes, we are taught to hate the sin but love the sinner. But aren’t we sometimes sorely tempted to hate not only the diktat, but the dictator? As George Orwell’s 1984 brilliantly reveals, loving Big Brother is a tall order. Yet, in the past few years our country has been brought to the brink of ruin by a band of profligates. The blame game is in high gear. At the moment, our attention is drawn by the media and politicians to the bankers and financiers as the villains who have brought on this collapse. But just as much ire could be directed at the politicians who pursued their private priorities, at home and abroad, instead of serving the common good and honestly administering the laws and the government to protect the common man. Their number could be legion. What they do is hateful. Are they?
“It Can’t Happen Here”
Riots are currently plaguing in the capitals of various European countries with troubled economies. Will they find their way to our own streets? An uncomfortable number of my neighbors in rural Virginia are not taking any chances. They are buying ammunition -- by the case, not the box. If past is prologue, in the case of insurrection (of which Jefferson was a big fan), our political leaders are not likely to come out on the balcony of the presidential palace like Romania’s Nicolae Ceauşescu and get taken to the wall by a firing squad. No, they will call out the troops to “restore order,” pass ever-larger “stimulus” bills to rob anyone who still has any money, and waste it on their politically-connected friends and supporters. After all, virtually every other country in the world has experienced such convulsions. Why not us?
This is the way of the world. We Americans have, in fact, been miraculously spared from many (but certainly not all) of the effects of domestic corruption in our brief history. Worldwide, corruption is the rule, not the exception. I have lived in corrupt countries. There the sun still comes up in the east, and the basics of life can go on -- you just have to bribe everybody to get anything done. And if you pay your prescribed taxes, you are certifiably insane, since the corrupt politicians will take everything you have if you let them.
When I was growing up in Cold War America, children often heard, “it can’t happen here” – a stern and possibly Pollyanna assertion, given that the most educated population in Europe in the early twentieth century was Germany’s. The “it” referred to the revolutionary devastation that was then convulsing the world. It couldn’t “happen here,” we were told, because we were protected by our traditions, our history, our common faith, and the Constitution.
Today, more than fifty years later, it’s fair to ask, why can’t it happen here? Faith, tradition, history, and the Constitution have been tossed in the back seat, and eventually thrown out the window, by the regnant ideology that now predominates in both political parties, the intelligentsia, and the permanent (and ever-expanding) government. The Obama government leans so hard to the left that the Catholic Church, Catholic institutions, and Catholic families are in real danger: they could come under attack at the drop of an Executive Order. So Catholics have to ask, “what is to be done?”
Over the past 30 years or so, many Catholics have been loyal defenders of the GOP because it became increasingly identified as the pro-life party. That might have been true of the Republican Party of the past, but it is true no longer. Today, both parties are trapped in the mire of socialism. The more ignorant they are of the dire circumstances our country faces, the more power they reflexively accrue to themselves. The Culture of Life is not high on either party’s agenda, alas. The economic decline and rampant inflation that the government’s latest “rescue” measures virtually guarantee will challenge Catholics for decades to come. Young families will have to make major sacrifices if they want to conform to Humanae Vitae in such hard times – if they want to be saints! One need only recall that the average Russian woman in the USSR had eight abortions during her lifetime. Ever since the publication of Humanae Vitae in 1968, American bishops have been reluctant to preach this dimension of the Gospel of Life. Will harder times make them more vocal? Or even more silent?
Change We Can Believe In
The Catholic approach to politics has changed before in American history, and it will soon have to change again. Recent trends are curious: while the people in the pews have gravitated towards the GOP, our bishops have gravitated towards the Democrats, and have drifted effortlessly with them to the left. We should declare both of these alliances obsolete. Today, neither party is the “Catholic” party. As Catholics, we must sunder our party ties and regain the independence from government which we have not enjoyed for over 100 years.
Catholics must abjure our past loyalty oaths to the party of our choice. The worst politicians prosper and the best throw in the towel. Yes, we must render unto Caesar, but we don’t have to canonize him. Nor must we submit to a shotgun marriage with his regime. Catholics are called on now to take a firm stand, independent of the state, and reject the state’s attempts at bribery (with other people’s money, of course) that has muzzled the Catholic Church’s voice on the most important moral issues that confront our country.
If the Church begins sounding a firm and certain trumpet, we cannot expect politicians to repent and change their ways. In fact, many are likely to become hostile to the Church that they have, up until now, been able to con. Assume, for instance, that a couple of dozen of the most prominent Catholic politicians who support abortion rights are formally excommunicated. Don’t expect them to fall on their knees and repent like Henry at Canossa. No, expect them to react like Senator Patrick Leahy, who has “always thought also that those bishops and archbishops who for decades hid pederasts … should be indicted.” Even harder times are coming.