Dr. John Zmirak is editor of a series of guides to American higher education, and author of four books: one on economics, two humorous guides to Catholic doctrine and devotions, and the blank-verse graphic novel, The Grand Inquisitor. He teaches writing in New Hampshire.
What would we think if the legislature in one of America’s most highly educated states, Connecticut, were debating a law that forced Orthodox synagogues to perform mixed marriages?
What if the New York legislature were pushing through a law that made religious slaughterhouses uniquely liable for lawsuits”and left secular meat-packers exempt? And what if both houses of Congress and the president had lined up behind a bill that would force all newspapers to print selections from the Gospel”or stop their presses? I have a sneaking feeling that these measures might be described as “anti-Semitic.” Even if secular, humanitarian arguments were adduced for each of these bills, most people would know what was really going on”and the folks who were targeted would be angry and scared. Even if these bills weren”t actually passed, the fact that they were seriously considered, that the men who proposed them weren”t hounded out of public life, would send a very clear signal about the balance of power in society: It would say that Jews were in trouble; their public influence was waning; their rights were under threat; and their future in the country was deeply uncertain. Time to update your passport and get back on speaking terms with your cousins in Australia….
People say that the best cure for a hangover is a hair of the dog that bit you. The people who say that are typically alcoholics. They”re using the logic of an addict, whose reason has been fried by a short-circuit in the pleasure-centers of the brain. Such people think it’s funny when they fall down at a parish Christmas party (even if they”re the Monsignor), when they puke on your champagne colored carpet (“Good thing that’s what I was drinking!”), when they shout some slur that gets you into a fight with numerous ethnic strangers”and they”ll probably think it’s funny when, one morning in the shower, their liver slides out of their ass. And that, boys and girls, is what happened to our economy. As it lies there on the porcelain, we want to pick it up and put it back but we”re scared it might just dissolve. Anyway, the process would probably hurt. Do we really need it? But that’s really what it means, when the Magi of either party discuss the need for an “economic stimulus,” or financial journalists worry about the decline in consumer spending”by consumers who are losing their jobs. Just to break things down: This winter our country crashed into a wall because of our addiction to spending money we haven”t got for stuff we don”t need. We overdosed, ran through our stash, and now we”re thrashing around in a cold turkey withdrawal”but here comes that nice man with the methadone….
On a number of literally life and death issues, American conservatives and Catholics stand in a firm alliance. On other subjects, these groups pull in different directions”and this tension causes suspicion, irritation, even hostility on both sides. I”ve noticed among a number of immigration reformers a bubbling up of old, anti-Catholic sentiments”although this is nothing to match the easy scorn some Catholics feel for the Protestantism that founded their native country and guaranteed their liberty to follow their consciences.
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