Copyright © 2012 by P. A. Ritzer
31 October 2012
At this opportune time of renewal, with the commencement of the Year of Faith followed by the 2012 general election, it seems a fitting time to ask:
Can a Catholic be a Democrat?
Honestly, I don’t see how.
Consider the Obama Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate that Catholic employers–along with any other private employer with a moral and/or religious objection to providing such coverage–will now be required to provide coverage for contraceptives, abortifacients, and sterilizations. This injunction steps up the Democratic Party’s attack against the most fundamental and deeply held convictions of faithful Catholics concerning those unalienable rights enumerated in the founding of this nation: Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. And it does so in a direct and arrogant violation of the First Amendment to the Constitution, the introduction and anchor of the Bill of Rights. It is, therefore, an attack not only on Catholics and other people of conscience, but upon the very fabric of the United States of America, and thus on all Americans. And it is just one manifestation of the tyrannical contradiction to the Constitution and to Christianity that is Obamacare.
It is instructive to remember that this recent contraception debate was inaugurated by a shameless display of the collusion we have come to expect between the Old Establishment Media (OEM) and the Democratic Party. Just thirteen days before Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius announced the HHS mandate, on 7 January 2012 at a debate of Republicans vying to be their party’s nominee for the presidency, George Stephanopoulos, of ABC News, proved himself a useful tool of the Obama Administration and the Democrats by blindsiding Governor Mitt Romney with a question from way out in left field. “Governor Romney,” he asked, “do you believe that states have the right to ban contraception, or is that trumped by a constitutional right to privacy?”
The ever-nimble Romney, after shaking his head in bewilderment, responded, “George, this is an unusual topic that you’re raising, but . . . states have a right to ban contraception?” Then he entered into an oft-times amusing back and forth with Stephanopoulos and added, “The idea of you putting forward things that states might want to do, that no state wants to do, and asking me whether they can do it or not is kind of a silly thing, I think.” But Stephanopoulus bore the laughter and the calls to move on–taking his arrows for the cause–and pressed the question, because it served the political purpose of the Obama Administration and the progressive agenda by introducing the question of contraception availability.
The Democrats followed up the Stephanopoulos question and the Sebelius announcement with the bizarre testimony of Sandra Fluke at a Nancy Pelosi “congressional panel,” or “unofficial congressional committee,” as it has been called. Ms. Fluke testified before this panel after she was added too late by the Democrats to the roster of those who would testify at the hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, entitled “Lines Crossed: Separation of Church and State. Has the Obama Administration Trampled on Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Conscience?” Ms. Fluke–a “reproductive justice” activist (no kidding) and thirty-year-old, third-year law student at Georgetown University, who could expect to earn $160,000-a-year starting salary upon graduation–then testified about how she and others have “suffered” “burdens” due to “lack of contraceptive coverage” at the “Jesuit” and “Catholic” Georgetown. Suffered? Suffered? Perhaps Ms. Fluke could gain a better understanding of the meaning of the word were she to depart the ivory tower and spend some time working with Mother Teresa’s nuns in Calcutta. By doing so, she might gain an understanding of a good many other things that her privileged education has apparently failed to equip her to understand.
And I have to confess feeling a profound sadness as I watched Ms. Fluke, after turning a girlish smile back upon the other members of her Georgetown Law Students for Reproductive Justice (LSRJ), looking more fifteen than thirty years old, argue, in her introduction to momentary celebrity, for the “right” to make others pay for the means to make herself a sexual plaything to be used, if not preyed upon, by opportunistic men. It brings to mind how often it is the intellectuals who rush to subject themselves to tyranny and drag the rest of us with them. Was it Solzhenitsyn who wrote how prisoners condemned to the gulag by Stalin wept in sorrow at his death?
Regardless, all of this was designed to support the attack on the Catholic Church and other conscientious organizations in the form of the HHS mandate and Obamacare in general. And it should have been expected, given the Democratic Party’s commitment to abortion and all that goes with it. Abortion remains the litmus test for the Democratic Party in choosing candidates for federal office, especially for life-long judicial appointments.
Abortion is not some new liberating right for women but an ancient barbaric practice perpetrated against women to keep them in subjugation to men, often enough a desperate attempt to undo a man’s fornication, adultery, rape, or incest by callously and brutally erasing the life of his own child with little or no regard for the life of the mother. As long as a man could obliterate the evidence of his misuse, an innocent human life, he could do as he wished with a woman. It should be no surprise that the first to argue “for the general morality and legality of induced abortion” in modern Western culture was the Marquis de Sade, “who repeatedly inflicted sexual violence upon nonconsenting women and girls he deemed socially inferior,” in the words of Mary Krane Derr, Rachel MacNair, and Linda Naranjo-Huebl in ProLife Feminism: Yesterday and Today.
The Catholic Church, since its founding by Jesus of Nazareth on Peter and the Apostles in the mid 30s AD, has championed the sanctity of human life and the dignity of women. The Church has thus ever held abortion and infanticide to be intrinsically evil. The Church Fathers in the early centuries of Christianity wrote plainly against these barbarities, both widely practiced throughout the Roman Empire in which the Church was established and grew.
And the Fathers of the Church were joined by the Mothers of the Women’s Movement in the eighteenth, nineteenth, and early twentieth centuries in recognizing the common, savage, and widely legal practice of abortion for what it was and condemning it. Serrin M. Foster, president of Feminists for Life, summarizes the work of these pioneers of the women’s rights movement in her article, “The Feminist Case Against Abortion.” She points back to Mary Wollstonecraft in England in 1792 as the first in the tradition carried on by Feminists for Life and quotes her as condemning those who would “either destroy the embryo in the womb or cast it off when born.” Wollstonecraft claimed, “Nature in everything deserves respect, and those who violate her laws seldom violate them with impunity.” Wollstonecraft died after delivering her daughter Mary, who would become Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley and write perhaps the most famous work depicting a violation of the laws of nature and what ensues, Frankenstein.
Ms. Foster writes, “Without known exception, the early feminists condemned abortion in the strongest terms.” She shares a quote from Sarah Norton, “the first woman to successfully argue admission to Cornell University,” who wrote in 1870:
Child murderers practice their profession without let or hindrance, and open infant butcheries unquestioned, establishing themselves with an impunity that is not allowed to the slaughterers of cattle. . . . Is there no remedy for this ante-natal murder? . . . Perhaps there will come a day when . . . an unmarried mother will not be despised because of her motherhood . . . and when the right of the unborn to be born will not be denied or interfered with.
In 1868, suffragist and novelist Eleanor Kirk said:
Why doesn’t somebody ask, what has become of the babies? Ask thousands of physicians, male and female, who have been engaged in their work of destruction for years. Physicians who have graduated from our first medical colleges, physicians with high sounding diplomas, whose elegant equipage stand in front of Fifth Avenue mansions, who pocket a big fee and a little bundle of flesh at the same time, and nobody’s the wiser! Not even the husband in the host of instances.
What will become of the babies—did you ask—and you? Can you not see that the idea is to educate women that they may be self-reliant, self-sustaining, self-respected? . . . The first Revolution must be female suffrage. . . . God speed the time for the sake of the babies. Little ones will then be welcome.
The Revolution, the radical feminist newspaper of Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, referred to abortion as “child murder,” and Stanton considered it infanticide. Stanton, the organizer of the first women’s convention in Seneca Falls, New York, in 1848, said, “When we consider that women have been treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit.” And Anthony, who had no children of her own, once said: “Sweeter even than to have had the joy of caring for children of my own has it been to me to help bring about a better state of things for mothers generally, so their unborn little ones could not be willed away from them.” She also said:
Guilty? Yes. No matter what the motive, love of ease, or a desire to save from suffering the unborn innocent, the woman is awfully guilty who commits the deed. It will burden her conscience in life, it will burden her soul in death; But oh, thrice guilty is he who, for selfish gratification, heedless of her prayers, indifferent to her fate, drove her to the desperation that impelled her to the crime!
And the early American champions of women’s rights had something else in common. They were Republicans. As Susan B. Anthony wrote in a letter to Elizabeth Cady Stanton in 1872, “I shall work for the Republican party and call on all women to join me, precisely . . . for what that party has done and promises to do for women, nothing more, nothing less.” And at her request, in 1878, California Republican Senator A. A. Sargent introduced what would become the Nineteenth Amendment to the U. S. Congress, acknowledging women’s right to vote. It was defeated four times by the Democrat-controlled Senate until the Republicans regained control of Congress and passed the Equal Suffrage Amendment in 1919. (Prior to its passage, several suffragettes were jailed for protesting in front of the White House of Democratic President Woodrow Wilson, and in jail were subjected to abuse which included being force fed until vomiting.) Twelve states, all Republican, had already recognized women’s right to vote before that.
But it should be no surprise that the Republican Party was the party of equal rights for women. Those women had fought as Republicans for freedom and full rights for slaves. Thus, the Republican Party ended slavery with the Emancipation Proclamation and the Thirteenth Amendment, and followed with full citizenship rights and the right to vote for African Americans with the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, and then passed the Civil Rights Acts of the 1860s and 1870s, and continued to craft civil-rights legislation up into the 1960s. Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Charles Sumner, Ulysses S. Grant, Susan B. Anthony, Booker T. Washington, George Washington Carver, Hiram Rhodes Revels, Blanche Bruce, Ida B. Wells, Mary Terrell, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, and Everett Dirksen are just a few of the Republican civil-rights heroes.
And who opposed them. Who was it against whom the Republicans had to fight to secure and protect these rights? Democrats. For an excellent synopsis of this history see Kevin D. Williamson’s “The Party of Civil Rights.”
It was Democrats who owned slaves, who sought to extend slavery into the territories, who declared Dred Scott and other African Americans property and not citizens, who seceded from the Union, who created and ran the Ku Klux Klan (the “terrorist arm of the Democratic Party”), who created black codes and Jim Crow, who segregated federal office buildings and the military, who lynched white and black Republicans–not only in the South but in the North as well, for instance, after the announcement of the Emancipation Proclamation when Democrat mobs lynched a dozen black men in New York and burned an orphanage and did untold damage to the property of African Americans. It was Democrats who fought against anti-lynching laws. It was Democrats who turned water cannons and dogs on civil-rights protestors, who blocked doorways of schools so that black students could not attend. (It was also Democrats who sent the Cherokee on the Trail of Tears, and who interned Americans of Japanese, German, and Italian descent without due process during World War II.) The great enemies of civil rights for African Americans were Democrats, to name just a few: Andrew Jackson, John Calhoun, Stephen Douglas, Preston Brooks, Roger B. Taney, Jefferson Davis, Andrew Johnson, Nathan Bedford Forrest, James Vardaman, Ben Tillman, Woodrow Wilson, Tom Watson, Hugo Black, George Wallace, William A. Gayle, Bull Connor, Richard B. Russell, Orval Faubus, Robert C. Byrd.
Finally Democrats recognized that, after over a century of fighting against every attempt of Republicans to secure the civil rights of African Americans, more and more of those African Americans were voting (thanks to the work of the Republicans). Thus, there might be some political benefit for Democrats in passing the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Therefore, Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson–who while in the Congress had consistently opposed anti-lynching laws and had done his best as leader in the Senate to weaken the Republican Civil Rights Acts of 1957 and 1960, when his Democrats did not have the votes to stop them–signed the bill into law. This was not the moment when the United States finally faced and shed itself of its inherent racism, it was the moment when the United States witnessed the congenitally racist Democratic Party recognize that overt racism was no longer politically expedient, that it might no longer serve its interests.
Lest we too quickly attribute this seeming conversion to some burst of repentant altruism, we might recall that President Johson told southern governors that his Great Society would “have them niggers voting Democratic for the next two hundred years,” signaling the new servitude of dependency. Democrats had filibustered the 1964 bill, too, as they had done with the 1957 and 1960 Civil Rights Acts. Among those Democrats opposing civil rights bills were Al Gore, Sr., and J. William Fullbright, mentor of Bill Clinton. And it is a flagrant lie that Democrats and Republicans switched places on race thereafter. Of the twenty-one Democrats who voted against the Civil Rights Act of 1964, only one, Strom Thurmond, ever switched to the Republican Party. The other twenty remained life-long Democrats, and their constituencies remained Democratic until the 1980s and 1990s. The Democrats cannot honestly rob the Republicans of their rich civil-rights history, nor can they erase their own despicable one. The Republicans fought the good fight against bitter Democratic opposition when the going was tough; the Democrats slithered over to take a ride on the side of the good fight when it appeared that continued opposition to it would prove injurious to their party’s raison d’etre: gaining and holding power.
And that despicable Democratic history of disenfranchisement and abuse of women, African Americans, American Indians, and other minorities (do not forget the anti-Catholicism seething in the party of the KKK) cannot be expunged for the sake of political expediency. Despite the revisionism rampant in the Old Establishment Media and the American public-education system–controlled by unions dependent on the Democratic Party which depends on them–what happened, happened. Denial cannot change that. Denial only serves to shield the Democratic Party from facing its demons and exorcising them. And thus the spirit remains, the spirit of the bully, the abuser, the disenfranchiser, the killer. And there yet remains one class of disenfranchised Americans on whom the Democratic Party can prey: the unborn. Who better than the most defenseless can the Democratic Party count on even more than slaves and Indians and women to never have a voice? Who is going to hear them when they cry out while being dismembered or burned or poisoned to death? Who better for the Democratic Party to bully this time than a victim whom no one can hear when she screams?
Nevertheless, though he could not hear it, one man saw the silent scream. That man, Dr. Bernard Nathanson, had organized the National Association for Repeal of Abortion Laws (NARAL) in 1968, to strike down all the laws that the Women’s Movement, the churches, and others had struggled to have enacted over the centuries to protect women and children from abortion. He thought that by making abortion legal, it would make it safer. He was joined by Larry Lader, who had bought into the myth of overpopulation and thought the world needed fewer people. Lader tried to convince women that if they wanted to succeed in a man’s world, they must deny the awesome gift of fertility, of motherhood, and their very femininity. And to bring into the abortifier movement women like Betty Friedan, whose first edition of The Feminine Mystique in 1963 had said nothing about abortion, he lied. He invented statistics that indicated that thousands of women a year were dying because of illegal abortions.
Lader also realized that their abortion “revolution” would need a “villain,” as Dr. Nathanson wrote in Aborting America. And the most effective villain would be the Catholic hierarchy. That way they would not run the risk of generating sympathy for the villain, which could happen if it were a single person. And they were not running the risk of choosing too large a group, which would have been the case had they made all Catholics the villain. And they could still hope to win liberal Catholics to their side to serve as “valuable showpieces.” Lader made it clear that they needed to use women as the face of the movement, “And some blacks. Black women especially.” And he complained about black women being so slow to see how important the movement was to them.
Nathanson joined him in the lies. So by the time racism was beginning to lose its usefulness for the Democratic Party, with some Democrats deeming it expedient to support the Civil Rights Act of 1964, forces were at work to create a new class of the powerless against whom they could ally themselves.
Dr. Nathanson explained how he and the other abortifiers succeeded in legalizing abortion, in an address to the National Right to Life Convention in 1980, here quoted from Abortion: the Silent Holocaust by John Powell, S.J.:
There was only silence from the opposition. We fed a line of deceit, of dishonesty, of fabrication of statistics and figures; we coddled, caressed, and stroked the press. We cadged money from various sources and we, in one short year, succeeded in striking down the abortion laws of New York State and in one fell swoop established the city of New York as the abortion capital of the world. We were calling ourselves pro-abortionists and pro-choice. In fact what we were were abortifiers: those who like abortion.
Let me digress and speak for a moment on the question of “pro-choice,” as they euphemistically call themselves now. I reject that phrase, that euphemism. It is misleading. It is dishonest. . . . Of course, . . . abortion is not an ethical choice, . . . and therefore there is no such thing as pro-choice in abortions. With the striking down of the New York law, and following it, three years later, the Supreme Court’s infamous decision, we had effected a social revolution, the consequences of which have polluted this nation perhaps more profoundly than any single political act of its time in America. That act, permissive abortion, was and is a singular specimen of that special brand of twentieth-century madness.
In February of 1971, . . . I organized and ran the Center for Reproductive and Sexual Health. . . . It was the abortion clinic. . . . The clinic functioned on a twelve-hour day: 8 AM to midnight, 120 abortions a day, Sundays included. It was a $5-million-a-year business, a $5-million-a-year business! Think, think now how many handicapped children could be helped, how much cancer research could be done, how many operations of a decent sort could be carried out on poor people with that kind of money!
I was up to my knees and elbows in blood in that place. When I took over, there was a staff of thirty-five physicians who were really an incredible band of ruffians, bandits, rogues, and literally fugitives from the FBI. . . . I stayed there and ran that operation for nineteen months. In the words of Yeats, the great Irish poet, “The blood-dimmed tide is loosed and everywhere a ceremony of innocence was drowned.”
. . . Why did I change my mind? Well, to begin with, it was not from religious conviction, because . . . I am an atheist, quite frankly. . . . In any case, the change of mind began with the realization, the inescapable reality that the fetus, that embryo, is a person, is a protectable human life. The change also began on the basis of my own secular belief in the golden rule: If you would not have your own life taken away from you, you must not take someone else’s life.
The discussion . . . has been muddied by a resort to a particularly vicious brand of anti-Catholicism, as many of you know, in the press. There have been ongoing attempts to paint this movement [the Pro-Life movement] as a Catholic movement, and there have been almost heartbreaking lies and libel in the press on this score. If you ever substituted for the word Catholic, in many of these publications, the word Jewish or black, you would be immediately castigated. The press would destroy you. However, because the word Catholic is used, it appears to be allowable.
My opinion, my feeling, is this regarding the anti-Catholic issue and the religious issue: the anti-abortion conviction is no more a religious position than the civil rights issue was. . . .
[Here Dr. Nathanson quotes from his editorial published in 1974 in the New England Journal of Medicine, entitled “Deeper into Abortion.” . . .] “. . . I am deeply troubled by my own increasing certainty that I had, in fact, presided over sixty thousand deaths. There is no longer serious doubt in my mind that human life exists within the womb, from the very onset of pregnancy. . . . Life is an interdependent phenomenon for us all. It is a continuous spectrum that begins in the uterus and that ends at death. . . . Abortion must be seen as the interruption of a process which would otherwise have produced a citizen of the world. Denial of this reality is the crassest kind of moral evasiveness.”
. . . .
This fight must go on to eradicate the evil of abortion in this land. As Abraham Lincoln once said, “No policy that does not rest on decent public opinion can be permanently maintained.”
What is our task? To make this country a place for decent people to live in! What is our end? To call an immediate halt to the senseless destruction of our greatest natural resource, our children! In closing, let me leave you with this admonition, again spoken in the words of the great Edmund Burke, but still as relevant and as important as it was two hundred years ago, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
Yes, Dr. Nathanson had seen the silent scream. He had begun to film abortions with a camera inserted into the wombs of the mothers. What he saw erased any doubt about what abortion is. The film he made from what he had witnessed was entitled The Silent Scream. Republican President Ronald Reagan showed this film in the White House. (In contrast, Democratic President Woodrow Wilson had chosen, decades before, for the first showing of a film in the White House, Birth of a Nation, the racist, pro-Ku Klux Klan film that included intertitles drawn from Wilson’s own A History of the American People.)
Once such an evil is unleashed, after decades of Feminists fighting to contain and eliminate it, it takes ever more vicious and vile forms. And the Democrats are always there chin deep in it. When the House and Senate both overwhelmingly passed the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban in the late 1990s, Democrat President Bill Clinton, not once but twice, vetoed the ban, keeping this heinous “procedure” legal. Let’s just consider what the procedure entails. The abortionist, guided by ultrasound, reaches into the womb and grabs the foot of a full-term baby and pulls–inverting the baby so that its feet are down–the baby out of the womb feet first except for the head. Then he punctures the base of the skull with a scissors and opens it to enlarge the hole. Then he inserts a suction tube and sucks out the baby’s brain. This collapses the head so it can be easily removed from the birth (death, in this instance) canal. What kind of people can do this? Finally in 2003, Republican President George W. Bush signed the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban into law.
But Democratic President Barack Obama goes even further than President Clinton. He argued against and voted against the Born Alive Infant Protection Act several times when he served on the Judiciary Committee and chaired the Health and Human Services Committee of the Illinois Senate. This act would have required that a child who survives an abortion be given the medical care he or she needs rather than be killed by the abortionist or be left to die unattended in a soiled-linen closet. Again: killed by the abortionist or be left to die unattended in a soiled-linen closet. What have we become that we can allow this? But why should we expect any better from President Obama, who said that if his daughters make a mistake, “I don’t want them to be punished with a baby.” The baby to be aborted would be his grandchild.
So the Democrats champion the violent cutting or tearing apart or poisoning of some 4000 babies a day in the United States of America, over 1 million a year, over 50 million since Roe v. Wade (a decision of the Supreme Court based in medieval “science,” not an act of a representative legislative body elected by the people.) And thus again Democrats champion disenfranchisement of the child, of the parents, of the grandparents. How consistent. And as for the Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade, it is instructive to read Republican Abraham Lincoln’s comment in his First Inaugural Address about the Supreme Court in light of the Dred Scott decision:
If the policy of the government, upon vital questions affecting the whole people, is to be irrevocably fixed by decisions of the Supreme Court, the instant they are made, in ordinary litigation between parties in personal actions, the people will have ceased to be their own rulers, having to that extent practically resigned their government into the hands of that eminent tribunal.
Look at that last sentence: “the people will have ceased to be their own rulers, having to that extent practically resigned their government into the hands of that eminent tribunal.” We have seen decades of work to protect women and babies from abortifiers all wiped away in one fell swoop of “that eminent tribunal.”
But the Democrats are supposed to be “for the little guy.” Oh how impressive. The little guy, you mean like the fetus in the womb, or the embryo, or the zygote? Sorry, no. Then maybe women disenfranchised from the right to vote? Uh, no. Maybe slaves? No. Freedmen terrorized by Democrats? No. No. No.
So here is the inescapable question for any Catholic who votes for Democrats: What is the great good that the Democratic Party does, or even just stands for, that justifies supporting it when we know that the party is absolutely committed to the brutal killing of unborn children and the exploitation of their mothers to get the grisly work done? When we know that being pro-abortion is the litmus test for any Democrat serious about national office, for any justice to be nominated by Democrats to the bench? When we know the party’s dark history of discrimination and intimidation? When we know that the party attacks the Sacrament of Matrimony? When we know that its policies have contributed to the breakdown of the family, to the deterioration of public education? What is it?
Oh, I know. The Democratic Party takes care of the poor. Like Democratic President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty, which has seen the redistribution of trillions of dollars over nearly fifty years and has not changed but has perpetuated the same percentage of people in poverty. It has kept people poor, kept them dependent on government, so that they vote for the party of big government, the Democratic Party. Don’t pay any attention to the fact that Republicans give far more of their personal incomes to help the poor and disadvantaged. Republicans voluntarily do so through organizations which make far more effective uses of their money without the incentive to keep people dependent on government so that they always vote for the Democratic Party. The Catholic Church and all of its many charitable organizations did not need the government or the Democratic Party to build and run its orphanages, hospitals, schools, and nursing homes according to its principles. And would that not be a threat to the big-government party, the Democratic Party? Might that explain the Obama HHS Mandate against Catholic and other institutions?
So, here’s the Republican approach: I take my money and give it to an organization that will help others according to the principles I believe in, and everyone else is free to do the same. Here’s the Democratic approach: I take other people’s money (taxes) and spend it in ways that often contradict the principles those people believe in. And this makes the Democrats more compassionate?
So the Democratic Party uses our tax dollars to support Planned Parenthood ($487.4 million in the last reported year 2009-2010), the largest abortion provider in the country, founded by the Democrat darling and racist eugenicist Margaret Sanger, who had a special enthusiasm for aborting black babies. (Sanger even addressed a meeting of the Lady’s Auxiliary of the Ku Klux Klan, fully consistent with the racist history of the Democratic Party.) But don’t worry about Democratic funding of Planned Parenthood, because President Obama assures us that Planned Parenthood provides mammograms for poor women. Another Democrat lie. Planned Parenthood does not provide mammograms; they commit abortions. And they make millions of dollars a year doing so. Here is one case in which the Democrats do not denounce making a profit. And Planned Parenthood also gave $12 million to re-elect President Obama. So, they get nearly $500 million a year from the Democratic government and donate $12 million of it back to re-elect the Democratic president. How . . . mutually beneficial.
Democrats also support international abortion programs through the United Nations and other organizations. Yes, President Obama, in 2009, with the support of Democrats in Congress, restored funding to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). And the UNFPA supports China’s brutal “‘one-child’ policy—complete with forced abortions, involuntary sterilization, kidnapping of ‘illegal’ children, and other brutal tactics” (“UN Slammed for Its Forced Abortions in China Using U.S. Funds” by Alex Newman in The New American). Let the meaning of those words sink in: “forced abortions, involuntary sterilization, kidnapping of ‘illegal’ children, and other brutal tactics.” How do decent people support this? How do decent people vote for the Democratic Party? the party of Vice-President Joe Biden who told the Chinese, “Your policy has been one which I fully understand–I’m not second-guessing–of one child per family.”
And Democrats oppose attempts by Republicans even to pass parental consent laws. Why would any organization claiming to represent the best interests of children oppose legislation that would require parental consent for a minor to have an abortion committed against her and her baby? As has often been pointed out, minors cannot receive a Tylenol in school without parental consent, but they can have an abortion committed against them without it. They can be subjected to the treatment of someone who makes a lot of money to cut babies apart without the parents even knowing about it. That is crazy! Accordingly I wrote the following in a letter to the editor many years ago, regarding a parental consent bill:
Should this bill die, the message is clear: “We parents would rather not know when you, our children, are in crisis. We would rather not be bothered when you need us most; we would rather you turn to strangers. We would rather you suffer without our concern, our advice, our consolation, our support. In short, we would rather you suffer without our love.”
Often we hear from politicians on the right and the left that Americans are good people. No, we are not. We are baby killers. We are a nation of bullies who defy the laws of nature and morality and make the most defenseless pay for our irresponsibility with their lives. And we dismiss it with the antiseptic word abortion. There are those who personally perpetrate this crime against God, nature, children, and mothers and fathers. There are those who support and enable them. And then there are the rest of us who are implicated because we tolerate it. We allow it to continue. And the Democratic Party, with its representatives like President Obama, continually pushes for our deeper implication, for our deeper involvement, for our deeper complicity, supporting Planned Parenthood with our tax dollars, demanding that Catholic and other organizations provide “services” that contradict their deepest convictions.
And it should be no surprise that Hollywood provides some of President Obama’s greatest supporters, if not groupies. Hollywood helps create the culture that feeds the abortion maw. For decades now Hollywood has glamorized unchastity, promiscuity, pornography in its productions and flooded the culture with them to supercharge the temptation to be sexually active outside of marriage. Thus, even young people who value chastity find it ever more difficult to remain chaste. And if they fail, the abortion industry is there to prey upon them. Yes, folks, abortion is big business, and it banks upon the corruption of our children. And who better to contribute to that than Hollywood. Just take a look at the wreck that Hollywood makes of the lives of its stars. Consider all the mugshots of the glamorous on the magazine covers in the grocery-store checkout line. It is easy to suspect that “misery loves company” is the rationale behind much of the trash that Hollywood produces. And those who produce it are predominantly Democrats.
Long recognizing the irrationality behind Catholics and other good people voting for Democrats, I finally came to the conclusion that for these people the Democrats are the good guys. They are the cowboys in the white hats or the home-town team for some reason. Maybe it is because their parents were Democrats, or the union took the place of religion for them. Who knows. Regardless, for them, despite the fact that the Republican Party was founded as an anti-slavery party, that it fought to free the slaves, to recognize the citizenship of the freedmen, to recognize and protect their right to vote, to protect their civil rights, to fight for and win the vote for women, to fight for protection of the unborn and their mothers, all the time being opposed by the Democratic Party, the Democrats are the good guys. Go figure.
And there is another aspect to all of that. The Republicans stood up for the disenfranchised, the scorned, the little guy, when it was difficult, out of principle. The Democrats jumped on board when it was expedient. That is why I believe that if the day ever comes when it is expedient for the Democrats to protect the unborn–say when once again a majority of voters open their eyes to the evil of abortion–then the Democrats will be the greatest champions of the unborn ever, and all their sordid history to the contrary will be buried and forgotten and a new “revised” history invented for them by the accommodating press and education system. There is precedent. How convenient.
Abraham Lincoln may offer the best example of a Republican taking a principled stand, in difficult circumstances, on behalf of the disenfranchised, the scorned. And he recognized that the Civil War was a punishment inflicted by a just God upon those who had grievously violated the rights of other human beings through the practice of slavery. In his Second Inaugural Address, he said:
The Almighty has his own purposes. “Woe unto the world because of offenses! for it must needs be that offenses come; but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh.” If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through his appointed time, he now wills to remove, and that he gives to both North and South this terrible war, as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to him?
Fondly do we hope–fervently do we pray–that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn by the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said, “The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”
If we suppose that the Civil War was the woe due to those by whom the offense of American slavery came, what might we suppose shall be the woe due to those by whom the offense of abortion came? Might there be more woe than the loss of some 50 million human beings and all their potential? Might there be more woe than the wounds and scars inflicted on the souls and bodies of surviving mothers? Might there be more woe than the collective guilt of a people who allows this crime to continue? Might there be more woe than the callousness that afflicts such a people? Might there be more woe than the violence that festers and breaks out in a culture that embraces abortion? God have mercy.
So, it’s not “the economy, stupid.” The number one issue facing us today, and always, is not the economy, or jobs, or national defense, or foreign policy, or anything else. The number one issue is Life, the first of the unalienable rights enumerated in the Declaration of Independence at this nation’s founding. All other issues fall under and depend upon that one. “Choose life, that you and your descendants may live” (Dt 30:19). We cannot expect that God will bless our nation if we disdain chastity, kill babies, and exploit mothers.
But you’re a good Democrat, so you’re pro-choice. What is that? Pro-choice on what: ice cream? soda pop? theft? torture? genocide? slavery? Did you know that your Democratic Party was pro-choice on slavery? They called it “popular sovereignty.” You want slavery, you can have it. How open minded. They used the terminology to push the Kansas-Nebraska Act that undid the Missouri Compromise and allowed slavery to extend into the territories. It is what spurred the anti-slavery Republican Party into being.
And now the Democratic Party is pro-choice again. On what? On killing babies. Oh, there’s the open-minded party again. You want to enslave and treat other human beings as animals, or you want to kill defenseless unborn children, the Democrat Party says that’s your choice. How magnanimous, how wonderful. It reminds me that Ronald Reagan once said that he noticed how all those who were pro-abortion had already been born. Don’t give us pro-choice. Name it. Admit it. The choice is killing babies and exploiting mothers. Own it, Democrats. I remember a friend telling me that when she attended Wellesley College, the pro-choice position was such a sham. She said the pro-choicers did not support any choice; they supported abortion. If a pregnant woman had an abortion, they were all supportive and understanding. If a pregnant woman chose not to kill her baby, they derided her.
The euphemisms abound. Years ago, I was walking through Harvard Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts. A young woman with a clipboard, one of three or four such women in the square, tentatively approached me and asked if I would sign a petition to keep abortion safe and legal. I said no and continued on. When I passed through the square on my returning home, she approached me again and asked me to sign it again. I asked her, “Can you make it safe for the baby?” Her face dropped, her arms sagged limp to her sides, and she slumped back to the older and more hardened leader of her group. When this leader heard what I had asked the young woman, she and other women throughout the square erupted in vitriolic condemnations hurled at my back as I walked on. Pro-choice? It was just a question.
Mother Teresa said of abortion:
Life is a God-given gift and who has the right to destroy life? God’s life is in that human body. I believe abortion is a reason why there is so much trouble in the world today. People have ceased loving God, and they think they can do without Him. (Journal Chretien, 8/25/2007)
Yes, abortion is a reason there is so much trouble in the world and people think they can do without God. And the Democratic Party champions abortion. The Democratic Party is not “the good guys” for that reason and for the reasons enumerated above and for countless others.
Still there is hope for those who have been complicit, through voting, in the attack on the culture of life by the Democrats. One could imagine Dr. Nathanson’s temptation to despair when he realized that he had “presided over” the death of 60,000 innocents. But Dr. Nathanson did not despair. Sixteen years after he delivered the address quoted above as an atheist, he was baptized a Catholic. He said of his conversion, “No religion matches the special role for forgiveness that is afforded by the Catholic Church.” The Church offers the sacraments of healing. The Church seeks to heal the exploited mothers, to save the unplanned baby. And the Catholic Church must defend those most defenseless, must oppose the Democratic Party in its exploitation of the unborn and their mothers and fathers.
And so one is left with the question we started with.
Can a Catholic be a Democrat?
I will leave you with these words spoken by Mother Teresa at the United Nations’ “International Conference on Population and Development,” held in Cairo on Sept 5-13, 1994.
But I feel that the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a war against the child, a direct killing of the innocent child, murder by the mother herself. And if we accept that a mother can kill even her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another? How do we persuade a woman not to have an abortion? As always, we must persuade her with love and we remind ourselves that love means to be willing to give until it hurts. Jesus gave even His life to love us. So, the mother who is thinking of abortion, should be helped to love, that is, to give until it hurts her plans, or her free time, to respect the life of her child. The father of that child, whoever he is, must also give until it hurts.
By abortion, the mother does not learn to love, but kills even her own child to solve her problems. And, by abortion, that father is told that he does not have to take any responsibility at all for the child he has brought into the world. The father is likely to put other women into the same trouble. So abortion just leads to more abortion. Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching its people to love, but to use any violence to get what they want. This is why the greatest destroyer of love and peace is abortion.
Many people are very, very concerned with the children of India, with the children of Africa where quite a few die of hunger, and so on. Many people are also concerned about all the violence in this great country of the United States. These concerns are very good. But often these same people are not concerned with the millions who are being killed by the deliberate decision of their own mothers. And this is what is the greatest destroyer of peace today–abortion which brings people to such blindness.
And for this I appeal in India and I appeal everywhere–”Let us bring the child back.” The child is God’s gift to the family. Each child is created in the special image and likeness of God for greater things–to love and to be loved. In this year of the family we must bring the child back to the center of our care and concern. This is the only way that our world can survive because our children are the only hope for the future. As older people are called to God, only their children can take their places.
But what does God say to us? He says: “Even if a mother could forget her child, I will not forget you. I have carved you in the palm of my hand.” We are carved in the palm of His hand; that unborn child has been carved in the hand of God from conception and is called by God to love and to be loved, not only now in this life, but forever. God can never forget us.
I will tell you something beautiful. We are fighting abortion by adoption–by care of the mother and adoption for her baby. We have saved thousands of lives. We have sent word to the clinics, to the hospitals and police stations: “Please don’t destroy the child; we will take the child.” So we always have someone tell the mothers in trouble: “Come, we will take care of you, we will get a home for your child.” And we have a tremendous demand from couples who cannot have a child–but I never give a child to a couple who have done something not to have a child. Jesus said, “Anyone who receives a child in my name, receives me.” By adopting a child, these couples receive Jesus but, by aborting a child, a couple refuses to receive Jesus.
Please don’t kill the child. I want the child. Please give me the child. I am willing to accept any child who would be aborted and to give that child to a married couple who will love the child and be loved by the child. From our children’s home in Calcutta alone, we have saved over 3000 children from abortion. These children have brought such love and joy to their adopting parents and have grown up so full of love and joy.
I know that couples have to plan their family and for that there is natural family planning. The way to plan the family is natural family planning, not contraception. In destroying the power of giving life, through contraception, a husband or wife is doing something to self. This turns the attention to self and so it destroys the gifts of love in him or her. In loving, the husband and wife must turn the attention to each other as happens in natural family planning, and not to self, as happens in contraception. Once that living love is destroyed by contraception, abortion follows very easily.
I also know that there are great problems in the world–that many spouses do not love each other enough to practice natural family planning. We cannot solve all the problems in the world, but let us never bring in the worst problem of all, and that is to destroy love. And this is what happens when we tell people to practice contraception and abortion.
The poor are very great people. They can teach us so many beautiful things. Once one of them came to thank us for teaching her natural family planning and said: “You people who have practiced chastity, you are the best people to teach us natural family planning because it is nothing more than self-control out of love for each other.” And what this poor person said is very true. These poor people maybe have nothing to eat, maybe they have not a home to live in, but they can still be great people when they are spiritually rich.
. . . .
Because I talk so much of giving with a smile, once a professor from the United States asked me: “Are you married?” And I said: “Yes, and I find it sometimes very difficult to smile at my spouse, Jesus, because He can be very demanding–sometimes.” This is really something true. And this is where love comes in–when it is demanding, and yet we can give it with joy.
One of the most demanding things for me is travelling everywhere–and with publicity. I have said to Jesus that if I don’t go to heaven for anything else, I will be going to heaven for all the travelling with all the publicity, because it has purified me and sacrificed me and made me really ready to go to heaven.
If we remember that God loves us, and that we can love others as He loves us, then America can become a sign of peace for the world. From here, a sign of care for the weakest of the weak–the unborn child–must go out to the world. If you become a burning light of justice and peace in the world, then really you will be true to what the founders of this country stood for. God bless you!
15 March 2012
Like the lawless, the semi-lawful did not respect the laws of the state, though not to the point of disregarding them altogether as the lawless would. Like the lawful, the semi-lawful relinquished their responsibility to the state, though not in the passive way of the lawful, but rather in an aggressive way. The lawful just went along with what they were doing for their own benefit, without regard for their consciences, their free wills, their responsibilities, their places within the human communion, and their roles of stewards of the earth, until the state passed a law to stop them. The semi-lawful also went along with what they were doing for their own benefit, without regard for their consciences, their free wills, their responsibilities, their places within the human communion, and their roles of stewards of the earth, until the state passed a law to stop them, but the semi-lawful would go further.
The semi-lawful would then defy the law, often enough within the bounds of the law, by challenging the law, by pushing it to its limits, by finding and using every loophole in the law, by defying the spirit of the law to get around the law through legal trivialities, which would require more laws to be passed to close the loopholes and address the trivialities, which would serve to further restrict the freedom of the people. Or sometimes the semi-lawful would even break the law, where the chances of their being held to account were slight. The semi-lawful would not just submit to letting the state legislate their morality, thereby relinquishing their responsibility to the state, as would the lawful, but they would actually go so far as to ascribe to the state the role of conscience, and, even then, rather than obey that surrogate conscience, they would fight it, stretching it, in any way, to allow them license, which they would mistake for freedom. Even then, the semi-lawful would blame any moral failings on the imperfections in the laws of the state, which had borne their steady attack. This was not to be confused with the conscientious who might responsibly oppose a law and seek to have it changed because it contradicts their informed consciences. Instead it was the semi-lawful rejecting the conscience and then ascribing the role of conscience to the state and then opposing that surrogate conscience to enhance their license.
Interestingly enough, as soon as these semi-lawful would see a competitor (which to one of the semi-lawful was almost every other person) reaping a better benefit than they were from an area of endeavor where there was no law, or there was a loophole in the law, or there was a law that favored the competitor, the semi-lawful would demand a law to curb the success of that competitor, even if the law restricted the license of the semi-lawful. Once such a law was passed, the semi-lawful would go about finding a way around that law, until another competitor did so better than they, at which time the semi-lawful would again demand another law.
These semi-lawful, like defiant children against their parents, could grow very proud of themselves as they battled against their surrogate consciences and their ubiquitous competitors and made their little victories here and there. They could believe themselves quite superior to all others because of how well they played the game they believed life to be.
Tom thought about that and wondered how superior the semi-lawful would consider themselves if there were no lawful or conscientious or even other semi-lawful over whom they could triumph. Put them in among the lawless only, among those who had a more honest disregard for the law, and see how well the semi-lawful would fare. There would be the real game; there would be the fair match, with all law stripped away and all participants equally unrestrained. How long would the semi-lawful remain superior without the law they so abused and without the conscientious and the lawful—constrained by conscience, law, or both—upon whom the semi-lawful could prey?
Regardless, the irony was that a good many of those to whom the semi-lawful felt so superior, especially the conscientious, were not only not playing the game, but they were not even in the game. A good many of those over whom the semi-lawful believed they were triumphing, did not even know there was a game. These, especially the conscientious, would have been surprised to know that the semi-lawful lived life as a contest against imaginary competitors and a surrogate conscience, rather than as the wholly gratuitous gift of existence, the unimaginable opportunity to be in the vast universe of time and space, the preciously limited opportunity to seek perfection rather than trivial victories over self-created foes.
The conscientious, to varying degrees, knew life as this gift, this opportunity. They knew the importance of forming their consciences and being ruled by those consciences attuned to “the laws of nature and of nature’s God.” They knew that a free society demanded that its citizens be disciplined, that they be virtuous, that they be responsible. They knew that if the citizens instead rejected virtue or did not seek it, and if they did not form their consciences, and if they substituted for the conscience some construct of man, then they set themselves up for anarchy or for tyranny by a power-hungry elite, often enough composed of the semi-lawful.
In considering these examples of the conscientious, the lawful, the semi-lawful, and the lawless, Tom considered the problem of a free society where not all the citizens valued virtue, where not all were conscientious. As a result, Tom concluded that the best system of government on earth was a representative government like that of the republic of the United States of America, which he loved. And he believed that such a representative government, founded by the conscientious, was best because it allowed for the possibility of having a government made up of the conscientious, limited in terms so as not to corrupt their conscientiousness. And he believed that, with a republic so founded and sustained, there was a chance that the government would respect and sustain the free will of its citizens, and, at the same time, protect, from abuses of free will, those citizens’ God-given rights.
Such was the ideal, but Tom had just been considering the categories of the conscientious, the lawful, the semi-lawful, and the lawless, and he knew that the ideal was far from realization. For one thing, the representatives were elected by the citizens, and there was no guarantee that the citizens would elect only the conscientious. Instead, there was a good probability that they would not elect only the conscientious, and plenty of history to support that probability. For another thing, even if only the conscientious were elected, they would only be conscientious to the degree that they would form and obey their consciences. Experience suggested that this formation and obedience would not be perfect. One only need look at the founding of the great United States to see that its conscientious founders allowed it to be conceived within the context of its original sin of slavery, a context radically contrary to the exalted principles instrumental in its conception.
Ah, there it was, the nation’s original sin, but that was only a relatively recent manifestation of the root of the problem. The root of the problem lay in the original sin of the human race that left man with a wounded human nature, which, though it was not totally corrupted, was thereafter inclined to sin, the result of proud opposition and disobedience, in a garden, that led to a tree of forbidden knowledge and deprived man of access to the tree of life. Therein lay the font of destruction for any free society. And that destruction was inevitable but for one quiet though superabundant hope, the result of humble submission and obedience, in another garden, that led to a new tree of knowledge that became the tree of life.
Therein lay the problem and the solution, Tom thought. And as he rode through the stench and the flies and the carcasses and the bones and the hides and the hunters and the booms of Sharps rifles, Tom thought of how much better the world could be if people accepted the truths presented in figurative language in the story of the first garden and then accepted the Truth made accessible because of the submission in the second garden. Such was his hope, and such was his prayer, as the Stuart-Schurtz party progressed along the Mackenzie Trail, drawing ever nearer the escarpment of the Llano Estacado.
5 January 2012
The following commentary first appeared in Saint Austin Review, July/August 2005. It appears here with some revisions. Quotations in quotation marks and block quotes are from the works being considered.
In this election year, we might give special attention to the case of Yertle the Turtle and consider well the growing weight of government and taxation, especially considering the founders’ conviction that it must be a limited government–as established with the Constitution, “deriving [its] just powers from the consent of the governed” (as the Declaration of Independence would have it)–that best secures the “unalienable rights” with which our Creator has endowed us.
Copyright © 2003 by P. A. Ritzer
I remember my brother saying, years ago, that he looked forward to having children of his own, so that he could again watch old Disney movies. I, for my part, in my parenthood, have discovered the joy of revisiting Dr. Seuss and sharing his works, his stories, his words with my children.
This is not my first revisiting. The birth of my nephew and godson in 1990 opened the door for the first revisiting, which went so far as to include sharing with him and his parents a breakfast of green eggs and ham. It was during this first re-acquaintance that I remember declaring that Dr. Seuss was the Shakespeare for children. This declaration, besides being inspired by an adult appreciation for the genius of these works that I had so enjoyed as a child, may also have been an enlightened response to a long-remembered concern, voiced by my parents, and possibly initiated by my teacher, that at second, third, or fourth grade (some grade that was still on the first floor of Sacred Hearts School), perhaps I was too old to be reading Dr. Seuss. My youthful appreciation for these works has since been further vindicated, at least in my eyes, by the discovery that these classics were prescribed for my wife, long before she met me, to alleviate the stress of medical school exams, by a good friend and classmate, with whom she read the works in a stairwell amidst their echoing laughter. The prescriber is now a psychiatrist for both children and adults.
I offer no blanket endorsement or recommendation of the thought and works of Theodor Seuss Geisel. I do not know his thought and have not read all his works, nor have I revisited all his works which I read as a boy. But rather, what I wish to do is to share, as an adult and parent who struggles to live a Christian life in our modern world, an appreciation for the values expressed in at least some of the words, stories, and works of Dr. Seuss.
Certainly, in Green Eggs and Ham the reader is taught a lesson about deciding to dislike foods before one tries them, but does not the persistent Sam eventually wear down the nameless green-eggs-and-ham-hater’s pride- and ignorance-based prejudice, so that he might lead a fuller life with his discovery: “’Say! I like green eggs and ham! I do! I like them, Sam-I-am!’” Thus, the changed fellow can come to the grateful conclusion: “’I do so like green eggs and ham! Thank you! Thank you, Sam-I-am!’”
And, in our culture in which the words nip, tuck, and augmentation have become commonplace, might not the young reader benefit from considering the case of Gertrude McFuzz, a “girl-bird” who “had the smallest plain tail ever was. One droopy-droop feather. That’s all that she had. And, oh! That one feather made Gertrude so sad,” when she compared herself to “a fancy young birdie named Lolla-Lee-Lou,” who “instead of one feather behind, she had two!” This state of affairs leads a jealous Gertrude to one day shout in anger, “‘This just isn’t fair! I have one! She has two! I MUST have a tail just like Lolla-Lee-Lou!'”
Despite the admonition of her wise uncle Doctor Dake, who assures her, “’Your tail is just right for your kind of a bird,’” she throws tantrums, until he tells her of the pills of the pill-berry vine, which will make her tail grow. And although one pill gives her tail another feather, “exactly like Lolla-Lee-Lou,” she decides to “grow a tail better than Lolla-Lee-Lou.” And she does, by gobbling all the pill-berries down. She grows a tail so stupendous that “that bird couldn’t fly! Couldn’t run! Couldn’t walk!”
It takes her uncle and his assistants two weeks to fly Gertrude home. And Dr. Seuss relates:
And then it took almost another week more
To pull out those feathers. My! Gertrude was sore!
And, finally, when all the pulling was done,
Gertrude, behind her, again had just one . . .
That one little feather she had as a starter.
But now that’s enough, because now she is smarter.
And how much smarter or wiser might the young reader be after considering the case of Yertle the Turtle, king of the Pond on the Isle of Sala-ma-Sond, where “the turtles had everything turtles might need. And they were all happy. Quite happy indeed.”
They were . . . until Yertle, the king of them all,
Decided the kingdom he ruled was too small.
“I’m ruler,” said Yertle, “of all that I see.
But I don’t see enough. That’s the trouble with me.”
So, Yertle begins to build a higher throne on the backs of his subjects, by commanding the turtles to stack themselves up, one on top of the other, beneath him, so that Yertle can see more and exclaim: “’I’m Yertle the Turtle! Oh, marvelous me! For I am the ruler of all that I see!’”
But the burden on the common folks grows to be too much to bear, so that “from below in the great heavy stack, [comes] a groan from that plain little turtle named Mack,” who petitions the king from his distress at the bottom of the stack, “’I know, up on top you are seeing great sights, But down at the bottom we, too, should have rights.’”
By now, though, the power-drunk Yertle has lost all sense of proportion, and after silencing Mack, he begins to call for more turtles that he might build his throne higher than the moon, when:
That plain little turtle below in the stack,
That plain little turtle whose name was just Mack,
Decided he’d taken enough. And he had.
And that plain little lad got a little bit mad
And that plain little Mack did a plain little thing,
And his burp shook the throne of the king!
And from that throne, shaken by the common movement of the lowest subject upon which his corrupt foundation of exploitation is built, falls the mighty Yertle, “that Marvelous he,” into the depths of the mud. And “that was the end of the Turtle King’s rule!” The tyrant is thus deposed, “And the turtles, of course . . . all the turtles are free As turtles and, maybe, all creatures should be.”
(to be continued in Part Two)
Copyright © 2011 by P. A. Ritzer
8 December 2011
Remember some of those old movies, war movies or cowboy movies, where some character in the film played by John Wayne or Robert Mitchum or Lee Marvin says something along the lines of: “I’ll see you in hell.” The impression conveyed is that this guy is so bad and so tough that he knows he is damned for doing his own thing without regard for the constraints of society or, in a broader sense, morality, and that he knows he will spend the rest of eternity in hell, and that he intends to do so with all the carefree rebellion that has characterized his earthly life. Immediately on hearing the words, I would feel the character’s proud bravado melt away before the reality of hell and would think, “Man, you ain’t tough enough.”
Consider the reality: one of the most powerful beings God ever created, turned from good to evil, from Lucifer to Satan, ruling a world of fire, burning with hate and every kind of malice. Works of the imagination like the Star-Wars-Dark-Side-of-the-Force Emperor and Darth Vader and all his other followers are but child’s play before this reality. In such a place, the devil-may-care tough guy is but the devil’s plaything for tortures unimaginable in this life.
And something else about hell struck me a few years ago while practicing the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola. During the meditation on hell, I was overwhelmed by a realization I had not considered before: a person will experience hell in body as well as soul. It should have been obvious. Wherever we are going, heaven or hell, we are ultimately going in body and soul. Human nature is physical and spiritual; we have a body and a soul. Our souls do not just inhabit our bodies to be released from them in death.
(A little note here: I think IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE with Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed may be one of the best films ever made, but there is a problem with the theology, as there is with other Hollywood treatments of the subject. Clarence would not have become an angel after he died. He would have become a bodiless soul until the last judgment. Human beings cannot become angels. They have different natures: angels are pure spirit; humans are spirit and matter. So, no human being can be your guardian angel, contrary to what is often claimed in the popular culture: good Samaritan maybe, but not guardian angel. The good news is that we each have a guardian angel, and we ought to be mindful of our guardian angels and grateful to and for them.)
The separation of body and soul at death is unnatural. It was not meant to be. It resulted from original sin. Thus, at death, body and soul do separate, but they will be reunited at the last judgment, and wherever we are going, we are going body and soul. Ignoring this or wishing it away does not change the reality. (Even Jesus suffered the separation of his body from his soul at death, but each remained united to his divine person.) Somehow I had never given much consideration to the body part of the equation, but in my meditation it hit me full force. For some reason the idea of experiencing hell in the body struck me as especially horrifying. Imagine, in hell one would be imprisoned with the most evil human beings that ever lived. And the most powerfully evil creature in God’s creation would be the warden, and his minions the guards. Imagine the physical vulnerability. No place of safety, nowhere to hide. I need say no more, except that you would have to add in the incalculable spiritual suffering. Meditate on that. Then ask yourself: are you tough enough? You might consider that John Wayne was baptized on his deathbed.
19 August 2011
At the end of August 2011, we might look back to the Stuart-Schurtz party’s experience at this time of year 134 years ago, and consider the pioneer nature of this blessed republic, the United State of America.
Seven Ox Seven, Part One: Escondido Bound, pp. 171-172
Copyright © 2007 by P. A. Ritzer
Many were the ways, broad and strait, trod out upon the trails of Texas. Trails renowned and trails obscure emerged upon the land, born of the myriad imprints of foot, hoof, and wheel: first a single set of prints, then another, and another, countless prints matched to human wills, wills intent on their separate ways, some to loom large in the annals of history, multiples more to be forgotten. Remembered or forgotten, these ways shared a profound importance, as each determined the ultimate success or failure of a singular human being graced with a supernatural destiny. The trails were but lines worn into the face of the wilderness, now province, now state, now nation, now state; but the ways trod out upon those trails, each determined by a human will reaching through intentions toward desired ends, with allowance for circumstances, were journeys of consequence.
At the end of August 1877, members of the Stuart-Schurtz party joined their individual ways in a common goal to journey toward consequences common and individual. Pulling away from home and its holds of love, of memories, of the fruits of labor, they merged their ways onto the Western Trail, their great journey made somehow small upon a trail renowned for epochal migrations of man and beast.
Small upon the trail, small upon the land, small against its time, and yet their souls opened large enough for all of it. The key, of course, was freedom. They were free, at least relatively free for human beings still bound in the temporal phase of life. They owed nothing material to any other human beings. What they had was theirs, and they had enough, enough to supply their needs and even some desires beyond need, though not so much as to compromise freedom with excess. They had broken abruptly with the past, its concerns falling farther away behind them with each passing mile, each passing hour. The concerns of the future lay far off in a place and time unknown to them. Still, this was not a false freedom without responsibility, which becomes the most subtle and insidious bondage, but the true freedom of accepting responsibility, indeed of taking responsibility for their destinies, and of accepting the incumbent lesser responsibilities meted out in the routine and manageable doses of the trail’s daily chores, each with its immediate and visible reward, however humble, and all, in combination, laying the groundwork for the potentially life-changing reward at trail’s end.
6 July 2011
Welcome to the birth of this column. And when better than this time of year when we celebrate the birth of the United States of America, a time when it is beneficial to reflect on its foundation, in particular the following words:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.
Quite a lot to chew on. And all of it worthy of reflection. But let’s just start with truths. So confident were the founders in what is next expressed that they refer to them not only as truths, but self-evident truths.
Truths are elements of the Truth which encompasses what is real, honest, whole.
Here we will seek the Truth the better to live by it, that we “may have life and have it abundantly.” –Life
He who came for that purpose also promised that “the truth will make you free.” –Liberty
And with “truth” and “life” we also find “the way.” –Pursuit of Happiness.
Ultimately it all comes down to Love. And what more could we sinners ask for in this temporal phase of life?