OCTOBER 14, 2020
Thank You, Mr. President
In my last article, I wrote that I would soon cast a vote against the party that promises to persecute the Church, and to subjugate all her schools, colleges, and beneficent organizations to an ideology that is fundamentally inhuman. I said also that that was no ringing endorsement for the other party.
Several readers accused me of ingratitude. I take the accusation seriously. Let me then say that I am grateful for what assistance, though sporadic and founded on no coherent philosophy of man, we receive from political bodies. Nor should we underestimate the power of such assistance.
To give one important example: when the secretary of a national department that should not exist (Education) moves to return to parents and local communities some measure of authority over their schools, and to give leverage to those parents who are otherwise at the mercy of their putative betters, for the opportunity to decline to take part in the immoral, the foolish, and the destructive is a powerful weapon for reform, then she and her administration deserve the gratitude of Roman Catholics and of all people who still recall, however faintly, that the family is anterior to all political machinery.
To give another example: when an administration takes small but significant steps toward cutting out those rent-seeking middlemen the regulators, who make it prohibitively expensive for most communities to embark upon public works projects, so that the back ends of our decaying cities, where the regulators themselves never live, look like Dresden after World War II, then they are owed a debt of thanks from everyone who is still stubbornly loyal to places like Altoona and Binghamton, and from all who remember that men with strong shoulders and backs still need jobs, just as we need those men. The party of Humphrey and Muskie, a party once dominated by Roman Catholics, did not need to be reminded of such a thing, but that party no longer exists.
To give another example: when an administration, suspicious of the “global” elites who evince neither love of country nor any wise forethought for the welfare of man (because man in their view is an atom of hedonic will, managed by the pseudo-organism of the collective), frees its people in large measure from the caprices of oil-rich Muslim nations, and begins to disentangle them from many a spider-web of enmity and greed where their national interests are not at stake, bringing boys home rather than having them kill or be killed to pad the resumes of military and diplomatic bureau chiefs, then, far from being tagged as “authoritarian,” that administration should be praised for common sense, and, again, for cracking open another window of liberty.
To give another example: when an administration, working against the advice of men and women who insist upon their ways because they are theirs and not because they have been successful, maneuvers long-time enemies into truce, and would-be allies, if not friends, into cooperation, so that Serbs and Kosovars will perhaps cease to cut one another’s throats, and those perennial troublemakers the Palestinians are disabused of any hope to thrust Israel into the sea, and the rogues in Iran are finally isolated as had been the fond desire of a previous administration, and Christians in Syria can breathe awhile, then that administration merits at least a nod of thanks from a Church that purports to bring peace on earth.
To give another example: when an administration, shrugging aside the laissez-faire instincts of its own party’s adherents, moves in a determined way to recalibrate “free” trade with China, first because there can be no free play with a nation ruled by autocratic cheats, and second because questions regarding trade cannot be resolved in the abstract but must account for the circumstances of a nation’s people, their work, their natural resources, and the items to be traded, and thus begins to return manufacture to the country, then it deserves the thanks of all people who value community life and who want, for those who will not be doctors and lawyers, work that builds up the character rather than welfare that disheartens and degrades.
To give another example: when an administration, assuming that its duty is to enforce the laws that the people’s branch of the government has passed, works toward ending the lawless breach of the nation’s borders, a breach that harmed both the United States and Mexico at once, not least by severing no one yet knows how many hundreds of thousands or perhaps millions of Mexican fathers from their families, while providing cover for drug-runners, child-traffickers, and murderers, far from being scoffed at for “xenophobia,” that administration deserves the thanks of people who remember that it is autocrats, not republican governors, who pick and choose which laws they will enforce and which they will not.
To give another example: when an administration appoints to the federal bench judges who understand that it is a betrayal of their sacred charge when they arrogate to themselves the roles of legislators, but who concede to the people and their representatives the right to determine what is and what is not in the public interest and what does and what does not serve the common weal, judges who would be ashamed to be accused of having fought for any political end, then that administration deserves the thanks of all its citizens, for surely no true citizen would cede all cultural matters to the whims and the political desiderata of nine lawyer-archons.
To give another example: when an administration, though headed by someone who does not himself understand what is at stake, yet, from a common sense willingness to let people and their organizations try to run themselves as they see fit, shows an antipathy to all who would compel the Church to bow down to Baal in all sexual matters— forcing them to honor Sodom and Gomorrah, even as they have already and foolishly capitulated to almost every other lie promoted by the Great Moral Apostasy of the last sixty or seventy years— then that administration deserves the thanks of Roman Catholics who, unlike many of their leaders, do not want the government to write their Church’s moral teachings for them; for when you are not free to embody a truth, you may as well not be free to believe it, either, and soon enough no one in fact will believe it.
To give one final example: when an administration appoints judges who are at least open to overturning the bloodiest and most authoritarian of all our judicial decisions, since it gives to an individual the power of life and death over an innocent human being, even while it vitiates marriage, relegates fathers to the status of irrelevant spectators, and encourages the ever-growing ambitions of social middlemen whose work depends upon and feeds the chaos wrought by family breakdown, then that administration is owed a little more than grudging thanks from the Church that is supposed to stand up for the lives of these victims of hedonism, thoughtlessness, and depravity.
Is the administration perfect? Not by a long shot. Politics is a muddle at best, at worst a snake-pit. The business of health insurance is still a wreck. We have only begun to consider the needs of the working class. Our public schools are ghastly. Our colleges are no better; and they, with government largesse, behave as a credentialing cartel, bleeding the middle class for all they are worth. We have no idea what to do about illegal drugs and those who peddle them. Marriage and family are in free-fall. Race relations, despite interracial marriage, are terrible. Our popular entertainment would have to improve considerably to be merely foul: it is often diabolical. Community life is mostly a thing of the past.
But for the benefits I have noted, I am grateful.
[Photo credit: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images]
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Anthony Esolen, a contributing editor at Crisis, is a professor and writer-in-residence at Magdalen College of the Liberal Arts. He is the author, most recently, of Sex and the Unreal City (Ignatius Press, 2020).