Thought Experiment

     We are constantly warned about the great menaces 
that now threaten us: terrorism, global warming, illegal 
immigration, and overpopulation. Led by the news media, 
we all automatically look to government to save us. What 
would St. Paul have to say about this?

     To him, as to our Lord, the urgent and imminent 
danger is damnation. And time is running out.

     This is not a peril the government takes any 
cognizance of. It not only tolerates but actively 
promotes moral and spiritual evils. What was once 
Christendom -- Europe and all the Americas -- has fallen 
into a worse condition than Africa, where, for all the 
afflictions and miseries people endure, the word of God 
is still taken seriously.

     God wants to save us much more than we want to be 
saved. This is the season to remind ourselves of that, to 
rejoice, and to keep a sense of proportion about the far 
lesser (but more highly publicized) evils we face. The 
Devil wants us to worry and despair.

Brave Enemies

     As I listen to the news from Iraq, I'm struck by the 
way our news media almost reflexively adopt the 
perspective of our government propaganda. Our soldiers 
are brave and patriotic, they are defending our freedom, 
and they deserve our support. By implication, the 
opposite is true of the enemy, who are presumed to be 
savage terrorists.

     Well, on the principle that "nihil humanum a me 
alienum est" I have to wonder: Is there no courage or 
patriotism on the other side? Are these qualities 
possessed only by the invaders? May not our enemies at 
times have their own share of them, even if they 
sometimes commit horrors? (After all, who created, and 
dropped on cities, the first atomic bombs?)

     These questions are prompted not by sympathy, or by 
my own opposition to this war, but by the simple realism 
that recoils from melodramatic patriotism. If we love our 
country, we have to assume that others love theirs too.

     An inability to imagine the enemy's point of view is 
a serious practical handicap in war, like the inability 
to anticipate your opponent's reaction to your attack 
when you play chess. And it's downright childish to 
suppose that, because you call him a terrorist, he sees 
himself that way.

     To listen to President Bush, you'd think that the 
members of the "axis of evil," in a diabolical parody of 
the "international community," had said to each other, 
"Hey! Why don't we evil guys all get together and make 
trouble for the good guys?"

Hostages, Bombs, et Cetera

     Which brings us, naturally, to the latest hostage 
crisis in the Middle East, where 15 British sailors were 
detained for several days by the government of Iran. 
Apparently they were in Iraqi not Iranian waters, which 
is all right, since as our ally, Britain is entitled to 
be in Iraqi territory if we don't object, since if we 
broke it, we own it, and.... Do I make myself clear?

     Meanwhile, the Iranians announced that they are now 
producing, for peaceful purposes of course, that 
radioactive stuff you make nuclear weapons out of 
(plutonium, if I'm not mistaken), which only we and our 
allies are supposed to have, especially in the volatile 
Middle East, where we are trying to maintain the peace, 
and.... I think you follow my train of thought.

Now It Can Be Told

     Two years ago, I flew to my hometown in the Midwest 
and passed up the chance to make national news. Despite 
the heavy security measures at the airports and on the 
plane, a stewardess (or flight attendant, as we now say) 
made a shocking remark.

     She was a pleasant, comely young woman, from whom 
one wouldn't expect controversial comment. As she served 
us beverages, I said casually to her and the passenger 
next to me that I wasn't crazy about Mr. Bush's war. I 
can't recall why I said this; I think I was reading, and 
reacting to, an article about Bush's plunging approval 

     To my surprise, she muttered passionately, "I'd like 
to off him myself!" I let it pass, with a friendly wink 
to suggest I took it as a joke. But I saw that she wasn't 
joking. She was really angry at Bush. So was I, even if I 
expressed myself more mildly.

     Quite unprofessional of her, no doubt, not to say 
totally indiscreet. If it had gotten back to her boss, or 
Homeland Security, there would have been the devil to 
pay. It shook me up. She'd put herself at the mercy of a 
total stranger (she had no idea I was a journalist!).

     If I'd reported her, I could see the headlines in 
THE WASHINGTON POST and on CNN: "Flight Attendant Held 
for Threatening Bush." It would have blown over quickly, 
just another five-minute seizure of hysteria, but it 
could have ruined her life.

     But I'd learned a lesson or two from this incident. 
I learned how deep the rage at Bush had gotten, even 
among ordinarily apolitical people, not just liberal 
types; and I felt the utter absurdity of supposing that 
the "war on terror" was making us freer, or even 
preserving the freedom we used to take for granted.

Imus in the Morning -- and All Day

     Don Imus of MSNBC, by now the mildest and most 
respectable of "shock jocks," made an unexpected 
sensation with a mildly vulgar joke about the 
predominantly black Rutgers University women's basketball 
team, and two days later various outraged black activists 
were demanding that he be fired. Such was the furor that 
the normally sassy Imus was soon abasing himself all over 
the place, begging forgiveness of such dignitaries as Al 
Sharpton. As I write, the network has suspended him for a 

     O world, thy slippery turns! The "Reverend" Al 
Sharpton! "Civil rights leader," forsooth! Am I the only 
one who still remembers that he achieved his national 
stature by swearing by the lurid lies of Tawana Brawley, 
not to be confused with Rosa Parks? And that he was 
successfully sued for slander by the policeman she'd 
accused of raping her? His august reverence, the jive 
artist! Still riding his high horse, two decades later!

     All I can say in his favor is that he has generally 
avoided theological controversy.

     Was Imus's poor joke as offensive as treating this 
clown as the representative of his race? All Sharpton 
really represents is the degraded and degrading (to both 
women and blacks) rap culture that joke echoed. Imus 
didn't learn those words from the Ku Klux Klan. 

     Why was this "news"? I guess because it forced the 
cable networks to divert their attention, briefly, from 
the latest developments concerning Anna Nicole Smith. 
Such is journalism in the 21st century. Take note, ye 

                 +          +          +                  

     "I've been a journalist for nearly 35 years now. In 
that span, the world hasn't gotten any saner, and I 
haven't gotten any richer." REGIME CHANGE BEGINS AT HOME 
-- a new selection of my Confessions of a Reactionary 
Utopian -- will provoke thoughts and smiles. If you have 
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                                        --- Joseph Sobran


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