Paul Kengor

Paul Kengor

Paul Kengor is a professor of political science and the executive director of the Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College. Paul Kengor is the author of God and Ronald Reagan: A Spiritual Life (2004), The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism (2007), The Judge: William P. Clark, Ronald Reagan’s Top Hand (Ignatius Press, 2007) and The Communist — Frank Marshall Davis: The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mentor (Threshold Editions / Mercury Ink 2012).

Tuesday, 30 April 2024 13:08

Kengor Writes

Kengor Writes . . .

Paul Kengor

Paul Kengor is a professor of political science and the executive director of The Institute for Faith and Freedom at Grove City College, in Grove City, Pennsylvania, and he is the editor of The American Spectator. These essays are republished from The Institute for Faith and Freedom, an online publication of Grove City College, and The American Spectator. Paul Kengor is the author of God and Ronald Reagan: A Spiritual Life (2004); The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism (2007); The Judge: William P. Clark, Ronald Reagan’s Top Hand (Ignatius Press, 2007); and The Communist — Frank Marshall Davis: The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mentor (Threshold Editions / Mercury Ink 2012).

The Tumultuous Life and Conversion of Eldridge Cleaver

One figure that liberals didn’t commemorate this Black History Month is Eldridge Cleaver, the Black Panther Party ringleader of the 1960s. The reason is no great mystery: Had Cleaver remained a radical leftist, he no doubt would be remembered fondly by much of the Left today. But instead, leftists have gone silent on Cleaver, because of a very uncomfortable reality for them: By the 1980s, Eldridge Cleaver had become a conservative. He had become an intensely anti-Communist, Reagan-endorsing Republican who even challenged his pro-Marxist congressman, Ron Dellums, in a run for Congress.

Yes, the legendary Eldridge Cleaver had become a black conservative. And there are few types that liberals dislike more than black conservatives.

Leroy Eldridge Cleaver was born in Wabbaseka, Arkansas, on August 31, 1935. His father was a big, strong man who abused Cleaver’s mother, which terribly affected Cleaver. He longed to take vengeance upon his father, to grow up tough enough to “beat him to the ground the way he beat my mother.” And yet, Eldridge himself would become an abuser of women, and more.

Cleaver’s family moved to the turbulent Watts section of Los Angeles, a powder keg of racial discontent in the 1960s. Cleaver got sucked in. As a teen, he got into serious trouble. For various crimes, he landed first in juvenile detention centers en route to adult jail at Soledad State Prison. It was there that Cleaver might have been reformed; instead, he started reading Voltaire, Lenin, W.E.B. DuBois, and Karl Marx. Bad choices.

At age 23, out of Soledad prison, Cleaver quickly fell back into trouble. He was convicted of rape and assault with intent to murder, which sent him right back to jail. Making things worse, he was further politically radicalized by digging deeper into Marx’s Communist Manifesto.

During his time in Folsom State Prison in 1965, Cleaver wrote what became his famous memoir, Soul on Ice, published in 1968. He there candidly admitted his drug use, his raping of women, and his commitment to Marxism. The raping of women was especially appalling, as Cleaver cast it in a political-racial perspective as a form of “insurrectionist” activity against the dominant white power structure. He wrote horribly and disturbingly:

“I became a rapist. To refine my technique and modus operandi, I started out by practicing on black girls in . . . the black ghetto where dark and vicious deeds appear not as aberrations or deviations from the norm, but as part of the sufficiency of the Evil of the day — and when I considered myself smooth enough, I crossed the tracks and sought out white prey. . . . Rape was an insurrectionary act. It delighted me that I was defying and trampling upon the white man’s law, upon his system of values, and that I was defiling his women.”

As if that wasn’t awful enough, Cleaver had been willing to commit murder. He said openly that “there was little doubt” that he “would have slit some white throats” if he knew he could get away with it.

Soul on Ice, despite its violent depravity, became a bestseller and a sacred text to the Black Power movement. The ’60s New Left embraced Cleaver wholeheartedly. It “dug” Cleaver’s revolutionary Marxism.

Cleaver joined the Marxist-Leninist Black Panther Party, located in Oakland, California. He became the group’s so-called “Minister of Information,” or spokesman. Like Third World Marxist revolutionaries, Cleaver and his Panthers were committed to armed struggle. They favored an armed overthrow of the U.S. government. In a fascinating interview with Reason Magazine, when he was no longer seeking to overthrow the U.S. government, and a very different person, Cleaver admitted that FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover had him and the Black Panther Party pegged, even as Cleaver’s white-leftist allies insisted that Hoover and his boys were paranoid anti-Communists:

“Sure, I can understand J. Edgar Hoover, because he wasn’t inaccurate. We were the most militant black organization, and we were serious in what we were going about. He said that we were the main threat. We were trying to be the main threat. We were trying to be the vanguard organization. J. Edgar Hoover was an adversary, but he had good information. We were plugged into all of the revolutionary groups in America, plus those abroad. We were working hand-in-hand with Communist parties here and around the world, and he knew that. So, from his position, he had to try to stop us.”

Cleaver explained how he and his comrades would plan ambushes of the so-called “pigs.” When the police responded, Cleaver and comrades tried to blame the cops:

“We used to lie about it, because the information was a weapon also. We would go out and ambush cops, but if we got caught we would blame it on them and claim innocence. I did that personally in the case I was involved in. . . . We always did that.”

The cauldron of this cesspool of violence was the state of California, where, interestingly, the governor was Ronald Reagan. This eventually pitted Eldridge Cleaver against Ronald Reagan. That was not a safe situation for Reagan.

Though Cleaver had been charged with attempted murder and ordered back to jail, a liberal judge released him after only two months. And no one was shocked when Free Speech Movement leftists at Cal-Berkeley in 1968 rolled out the red carpet for Cleaver to give a series of “lectures.” Governor Reagan and the California Board of Regents, however, were appalled. Reagan strenuously objected: “If Eldridge Cleaver is allowed to teach our children, they may come home one night and slit our throats.”

Reagan’s vivid warning was not unwarranted, given that Cleaver had written in Soul on Ice about desiring to slice throats. Cleaver not only expressed feigned outrage at Reagan’s remark but responded with violent warnings, several times challenging Reagan to a duel, publicly declaring, “I’ll beat him to death.” Likewise, a target of Cleaver was California’s Superintendent of Public Instruction Max Rafferty. Cleaver ripped into both Reagan and Rafferty in a speech before a large audience of admiring leftists in the football stadium of Sacramento State College on October 2, 1968. To wild applause from “peace activists,” Cleaver barked:

“Someone told me that when Ronald Reagan entered the Capitol here, they changed the name of the Capitol [building] to the Fairy Building. I say that is very appropriate and want to congratulate whoever came up with that thought and I have a special new word for Ronald Reagan this morning, ‘[Expletive] you, Ronnie baby!’ [loud, sustained, raucous applause]

“I believe that Ronald Reagan is a punk, a sissy, and a coward, and I challenge him to a duel. I challenge the punk to a duel to the death that he can choose his own weapons. It could be a baseball bat, a gun, a knife, or marshmallow. I’ll beat him to death with a marshmallow.”

“You know, I lived in this area for a number of years — Folsom Prison is about 20 miles from here. . . . I know that my parole officer has his comrades here today, agents here. Same thing for Ronald Reagan, same thing for the adult authorities, the same things for all the wards involved in prison, all the pigs, the hogs who patrol the prison — [expletive] you!

As Cleaver raged on, the liberals loved it, cheering wildly in roaring approval. He referred to public authorities as pigs, racists, and “motherf--kers,” emphasizing that “the term ‘motherf--ker’ is a legitimate term.” He ripped the “bald headed faggots in the legislature,” and on and on.

Readers today will observe that Cleaver’s litany of insults ought to be denounced as “homophobic” by liberals. But quite the contrary: Leftists exhibit an extraordinary ability to excuse gay-bashers when one of their guys is doing the bashing. For decades, they smeared J. Edgar Hoover as a “queer,” homosexual, cross-dressing “transvestite.” During this talk in Sacramento, the progressives in the audience chuckled merrily at every slur dished by Cleaver. He was energized by their reaction, carrying on like a vulgar comedian.

The good news: Eldridge Cleaver’s parole was revoked. It was clear this was a dangerous man. He was ordered back to prison. The bad news: He had other plans. He was not about to go back to jail.

Discovering Dystopia — On November 24, 1968, only three days before he was required to turn himself over to authorities, Eldridge Cleaver bolted. He fled America as a fugitive, settling first in Fidel Castro’s Cuba. The Cuban despot, however, was suspicious. He thought that perhaps Cleaver was secretly spying for the U.S. government — a most unlikely possibility, but not an unusual thought for the paranoid tyrant in Havana.

Of all places, Cleaver found refuge in another Communist dystopia: Kim Il Sung’s North Korea. For a black man struggling for freedom from government oppression, this seemed an odd choice. Not only did North Korea have no freedom, but it also had no black people. And really, everyone in North Korea was in shackles, other than Kim and his party apparatchiks; here was a whole nation of slaves. That was something that Eldridge Cleaver learned right away. In Pyongyang, he was smacked upside the head with some harsh realities. The political pilgrim experienced a huge wake-up call. Cleaver was aghast at the reality on the ground in these Communist hellholes. Marxism was not what he imagined it to be.

Cleaver learned that fellow leftist intellectuals in the United States glowed about these places without having actually visited them. If they did bother to visit, they received orchestrated tours where guides paraded them through Potemkin villages. But Cleaver was street-smart. He was no fool. He later told Reason Magazine:

“See, I lived in those kinds of places and I got to know people.” Cleaver got those Potemkin village tours, but then:

“I had a chance to meet other people and have a different experience. If I had gone only on the basis of how the governments treated me, I would have continued praising them, because really they did treat me well. They gave me a red-carpet treatment in those countries. But when you get off the red carpet and step down in the mud where the people are, you get a chance to talk to them and hear the stories that they have to tell, over and over again.”

Cleaver was given the useful-idiot treatment, but he was no useful idiot.

He later conceded that “to go to a country like Cuba or Algeria or the Soviet Union and see the nature of control that those state apparatuses had over the people — it was shocking to me. I didn’t want to believe it, because it meant that the politics that I was espousing was wrong and was leading toward a very bad situation.” He furthered: “When you look at those governments up close and see how they treat their own people, you can’t believe in that.”

Cleaver got out of Pyongyang and put it and other false utopias far behind. By 1975, he was longing to make his way back to America, the country that he once thought was the world’s most oppressive. His real-world experience with Communism had made Cleaver a committed anti-Communist. He started questioning everything that he had learned from the Left.

In choosing to return to America, Cleaver would need to face the justice system yet again. But now, he was willing to do so. As one observer noted:

“Facing a murder charge in the United States is, apparently, preferable, and not by a small margin, to being given the red-carpet treatment in the various socialist and Communist paradises around the world.”

And so, in 1977, Eldridge Cleaver surrendered to the FBI. Somehow, through a plea bargain, he was sentenced to merely 1,200 hours of community service. He must have been grateful for this leniency. In Cuba or North Korea, he would have been cast into a dungeon. In the USSR, Siberia.

For Cleaver, these real-life experiences began a religious odyssey as well. Like Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali, he had once sought Islam. Now, he turned to Christianity. He became a born-again evangelical before eventually settling on Mormonism, joining the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in December 1983.

Backing Reagan and Running for Congress — Eldridge Cleaver’s dramatic conversion soon became public when he announced that he was backing President Ronald Reagan’s 1984 reelection. He informed a shocked America that he had become a conservative Republican and would even seek political office on the GOP ticket. He ran for Congress against Rep. Ron Dellums, the wildly pro-Communist Democrat congressman from Berkeley.

Cleaver had once so militantly opposed Ronald Reagan that he had been willing to kill him. By the 1980s, he supported Reagan and his policies on issues from anti-Communism to strengthening law and order. Cleaver came to see welfare programs as actually hurting the people they were intended to help. He told Reason Magazine in 1986:

“My life, I think, spans the whole era of the welfare state. I was born in 1935. I remember when people were ashamed to be on welfare and receive state aid and all that, but we developed a situation where black people to a large degree and a lot of other groups such as elderly people, children, and a lot of poor white people ended being harnessed by political forces, particularly the Democratic Party. In return for the federal appropriations that we are now dependent upon, our leaders were obligated to get out the black vote for the Democratic Party. So, this put us in a negative relationship with the economic system. We were dependent upon the federal budget — a very precarious situation.”

Black conservatives like Walter Williams and Clarence Thomas would refer to this “harnessed” political dependency as the Democratic Party’s “liberal plantation.” When they pointed this out, black and white liberals excoriated them as “Uncle Toms.” Nonetheless, black conservatives like Williams, Thomas, Bob Woodson, Thomas Sowell, Larry Elder, Candace Owens, Ben Carson and on and on have made this point, enraging liberal Democrats. Eldridge Cleaver, a symbol of black empowerment, wanted blacks to empower themselves.

By this point, Cleaver was not only firmly anti-welfare state, but had become firmly pro-American, ditching all the anti-American Marxist claptrap he had once advocated. When the reporters from Reason Magazine visited Cleaver at his home in Berkeley in 1986, they were struck by the large American flag flying from his front porch. Cleaver went so far as to demand that the berserk Berkeley City Council begin its meetings with the Pledge of Allegiance. This prompted the far-left Berkeley Mayor Gus Newport to snap at Cleaver: “Shut up, Eldridge. Shut up or we’ll have you removed!”

So much for the Berkeley Free Speech Movement. But as Cleaver came to understand, the Left was full of hypocrisy. Leftists ran not only the “liberal plantation,” as he called it, but cancel culture.

Cleaver was very outspoken during this period. He talked about other former Black Panthers who had become conservatives — as well as staunch supporters of the police. He spoke of one incident:

“I was pulled over in my car with my secretary for a traffic thing, and one of the officers walked up to the car and saw me sitting inside. He took off his hat and said, ‘Hey, Eldridge, remember me?’ He used to be a Panther.”

Eldridge Cleaver would today be appalled at the reckless, dangerous calls by groups like Black Lives Matter to defund and even abolish the police, not to mention the support of Communism by BLM’s founders Patrisse Cullors and Alicia Garza.

A Soul on Ice Seeks Heaven — In all, to say that Eldridge Cleaver lived a difficult life is an understatement. He had been a violent criminal in his youth. Throughout the remainder of his life, he spoke candidly about his many terrible sins and crimes. By the 1980s, he had turned his life around. Still, he struggled. Despite seeking out Christianity, he remained long tormented by his demons. He never gave up drug use completely. He went into a rehab center. In 1994, he almost died from a blow to the head by a fellow drug addict.

Still, his long struggle brought him closer to peace and contentment. Richard Rose, a professor of religion and philosophy who worked with Cleaver at the University of La Verne (near Los Angeles), watched him up close in his final days. “He was a gentle spirit,” Rose observed. “His presence of nonconformity was still there, and he was his own person.”

The lifetime of turmoil took a toll. Cleaver struggled physically, but his belief in a higher power, a Creator, kept him going. At one of his final public appearances, an Earth Day conference in Portland, Oregon, in late April 1998, he affirmed, “I’ve gone beyond civil rights and human rights to creation rights.”

It was above all his Creator that he longed for.

On May 1, 1998, at 6:20 a.m., Eldridge Cleaver died at Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center in suburban Los Angeles. He was 62 years old.

Eldridge Cleaver’s long fight was over. The soul on ice endeavored for his soul to enter heaven. That meant leaving the Left far behind. He and his remarkable journey deserve to be remembered. But unfortunately, our liberal media, historians, and culture do not fondly remember black conservatives like Eldridge Cleaver, not during Black History Month or at any time.

Two Years In, Why I’m Not Optimistic About Putin’s War on Ukraine

On Feb. 24, 2022, I was awakened by dinging text messages and phone calls from an old friend, an expert on Russia, the Cold War, and Communism.

He doesn’t usually call, or even text. He prefers email. He was clearly agitated. His first message explained why: “The Russians have invaded Kiev!”

It was a shock. Sure, we knew what Vladimir Putin is like. The ex-KGB lieutenant colonel is a thuggish dictator. I say that as someone who, like many in the West, was initially optimistic about Putin when he first came to power in January 2000 after Boris Yeltsin’s surprising New Year’s Eve announcement informing fellow Russians and the world that he was resigning as president of post-Cold War, post-Communist, free Russia. Yeltsin noted in that speech that he and many Russians of all sides felt they had in the young Putin (Yeltsin’s prime minister) an energetic, likeable leader to steer the country into the new millennium.

How far into that millennium is now a revealing issue. According to the terms of the Russian Constitution, fought for by Yeltsin and those who built a post-Soviet Russia, Putin at best could serve two four-year terms. In March 2000 and March 2004, he was elected overwhelmingly. According to the constitution, he would exit by March 2008, thereby establishing an impressive event that had never happened before in the very long history of Russia, namely: A peaceful transition of power from one democratically elected president, Boris Yeltsin, to another, Vladimir Putin, and then to another.

But that changed drastically, as did any optimism over Putin, as he proceeded to crush those term limits by finding a way to ensconce himself in power way beyond eight years. Through a complex series of schemes, maneuvering, and pure realpolitik, he got himself back in power and jettisoned constitutional limits that had been intended to check an authoritarian like himself. Indeed, here we are, in 2024, and Putin remains in power. Technically, if he lives long enough, he’s assured to remain in power until at least 2030. And one can be certain that once 2030 hits, he’ll craft a scheme to stay yet longer. He’s making himself a dictator for life.

Along the way, Putin also crushed any remaining optimism by rolling his army’s tanks into the Crimea in 2014. That was another wake-up call to the world. But even then, there was a sense of some limits to his power grab. Sure, we knew that he wanted to seize part of Ukraine, incorporating it into what he expansively refers to as the “Fatherland,” but we didn’t think the man would ever goose-step his troops all the way to Kiev. No way!

Well, eight years later, on Feb. 24, 2022, Vladimir Putin proceeded to do just that.

In retrospect, the best signal of those intentions was a speech that Putin gave in April 2005. It wasn’t just any speech. This was his annual “State of the Nation” address to the Russian Parliament, broadcast live on Russia television. Putin declared: “The collapse of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century.”

That bombshell was dropped without any elaboration. “Putin deplores collapse of the USSR,” reported the BBC. Those of us who study Russia and the Cold War scratched our heads. What to make of that alarming declaration, especially given that Putin, in April 2005, was not yet the vicious, notorious Putin we now know?

As a professor, I had my students at Grove City College read that speech in our “Comparative Politics” course, where we do a deep dive on modern Russia. We pondered what Putin’s statement really meant. I was asked about it many times — in class, in media interviews. I had always said that we should not interpret it as a sign that Putin is seeking to reconstitute the old USSR. The Soviet Union consisted of Russia and 15 “republics,” all of which by December 1991 had declared independence, including Ukraine. In no way does Putin want to try to pull together the whole bloody behemoth that was the USSR.

He couldn’t give a rip about Tajikistan. But Putin does care very much, obviously, about Ukraine.

How much? Well, we knew by 2014 that he wanted the Crimea, but how much more of a chunk did this Russian nationalist-authoritarian — this admirer of the czars — want to bite off?

Again, we got our answer on Feb. 24, 2022. Vladimir Putin wants Ukraine so badly that he resorted to a curious combination of Hitlerian and KGB tactics. Hitler-like, he concocted “Big Lies” about ethnic Russians being targeted for “genocide” by the Ukrainian government. That was what the Führer in Nazi Germany charged against countries like Czechoslovakia and Poland.

The Russian authoritarian dusted off his old KGB dezinformatsiya (i.e., disinformation) manual. Among his most shocking claims justifying his invasion was that he and his Russian Army were seeking a “de-Nazification of Ukraine.” His surreal assertion angered and bewildered observers throughout the West. But those of us familiar with Soviet history — and the KGB —weren’t surprised.

The reality is that the Kremlin after World War II labeled pretty much every enemy a “Nazi sympathizer.” It was standard operating procedure. In fact, the Kremlin labeled everyone from Pope Pius XII to Cardinal József Mindszenty to Pope John Paul II “Nazi sympathizers.” That old smear is on Page One of the disinformation playbook, listed under “Character Assassination.”

So, now we know. Vladimir Putin wants as much of Ukraine as he can get — and as much as the people of Ukraine and the world are willing to permit. But unfortunately for Putin, the effort hasn’t gone well because the world has rallied against him. It has gone very badly.

Two months ago, The Wall Street Journal, citing a U.S. intelligence estimate shared with Congress, reported that Putin’s war on Ukraine “has devastated Russia’s pre-invasion military machine,” with nearly 90 percent of its prewar army lost to death or injury and thousands of battle tanks (nearly two-thirds) destroyed. The figures are shocking: The report claims that 315,000 Russian personnel have been killed or injured since the February 2022 invasion.

Stunning as those numbers are, I’m not surprised. I noted as early as March 2022, the start of Russia’s Ukraine invasion, that Russians always get clobbered in battle, and would again this time, especially facing a committed foe backed by massive supplies of Western/U.S. military aid. Russia’s history with death is extraordinary.

Tragically, the Russian people for more than a century have been mired in a perpetual culture of death at the hands of leaders who have no regard for the dignity of life.

And yet, Vladimir Putin remains defiant. He gave a sobering speech at the start of this year, 2024. It was his customary New Year address. What he said should give us pause.

Interestingly, the speech was considerably shorter than usual, running just under four minutes. Also, quite curious, some media sources noted that Putin “made little mention” of Ukraine, at least by name. But he didn’t need to. It was clear what he was talking about.

Putin vowed that Russia would “never back down.” In some translations (including the report by Reuters), Putin stated that his country “will never retreat.” He pledged that Russians “are united . . . in toil and in battle.” He added:

“What united us and unites us is the fate of the Fatherland, a deep understanding of the highest significance of the historical stage through which Russia is passing.”

And what is that historical stage? Putin sees himself as a grandiose figure in Russian history. He has long wanted to unite the “Fatherland.” Taking Ukraine is critical to that. In his eyes, this historical stage in that glorious mission cannot fail.

For that, Putin praised his troops: “You are our heroes. . . . We are proud of you.” And yet, it was telling that when Putin gave this annual speech last year, he was flanked by soldiers. This year, there were no soldiers behind him. Their absence is appropriate, given how many Putin has sent into the meat grinder.

So, how can Putin remain so defiant, so dedicated to a 2024 goal of never backing down, of not retreating? Well, that’s a thought that should frighten us all. I’ve written repeatedly that the one option in Ukraine that Vladimir Putin has yet to resort to is a nuclear option. He and his cronies have talked about nukes off and on publicly and steadily since April 2022, with rhetoric escalating and then fizzling, but all along quite disconcerting. I’ve feared all along that when this man’s back is against the wall, with a decimated military no longer at his disposal to “never retreat,” he could very well push that button.

Again, I see no reason for optimism with Vladimir Putin. There is so much more that I could say in that regard, but I’ll close with some thoughts about another country mired in this mess.

Putin has been increasingly talking about Poland, engaging in renewed demonization of that historical enemy of him and his “Fatherland.” In his recent two-hour-plus conversation with Tucker Carlson, Putin several times leveled an outrageous charge that it was Poland that worked with Hitler to somehow launch World War II, asserting:

“In 1939, after Poland cooperated with Hitler — it did collaborate with Hitler, you know — Hitler offered Poland peace and a treaty of friendship and alliance; we have all the relevant documents in the archives.”

Putin claimed that Poles had even “pushed Hitler to start World War II.” Of course, in truth, World War II was launched by Hitler collaborating with Josef Stalin via the signing of the Hitler-Stalin Pact on Aug. 24, 1939. That pact called for a mutual invasion of Poland, which promptly commenced just a week later, on Sept. 1, 1939, starting World War II.

From the outset of Putin’s war on Ukraine, I’ve warned people to keep their eyes on Poland. If this ongoing battle between Russia and Ukraine spills over into Poland, then all hell could break loose. Poland, unlike Ukraine, is a NATO member. By treaty, the United States of America is committed to protecting Poland. If Putin’s Russia strikes Poland, well, hold on to your seats.

So, in sum, here we are, at the two-year anniversary of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, and what do we have? Plenty of talk from Putin about Russia never backing down or retreating, despite enormous battlefield losses; menacing words from Putin about our close NATO ally and his mortal enemy Poland; occasional words from Putin and his cronies about nukes; and more.

The situation remains grave. Pope Francis certainly understands that. He continues to strive to find a way to get to Moscow to talk to Putin and the Russian leadership. Quite appallingly, Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill has advocated and even given his blessing to the war on Ukraine. We can be sure that in 2024 Francis will continue to try to intervene on behalf of peace.

Two years since Putin’s shocking invasion, there remains no reason to be optimistic about him and his war on Ukraine. We must pray for peace, but Vladimir Putin doesn’t give us optimism.

‘ISIS-K’ Terror in Russia — a Savage ISIS Attack and Putin’s Troubling Response

The terrorist attack on a concert hall outside of Moscow on March 22, 2024, was shocking in its savage brutality. The animals who unleashed themselves upon hundreds of innocents in a crowded Crocus City Hall were merciless. The hall is part of a larger shopping complex. The camouflaged assailants slithered inside, opened fire with automatic weapons, methodically shot anyone within range, tossed grenades and incendiary bombs, and engulfed the whole edifice in a giant fireball. It was hellacious. Hundreds were injured and thus far 133 were murdered.

Once again, as I’ve said throughout these two years of Putin’s war on Ukraine, I’m not optimistic and expect the worst.

The attack was carried out by ISIS-K — Islamic State-Khorasan — the Afghanistan affiliate of the so-called and self-proclaimed “Islamic State.” ISIS-K has thrived since the Biden withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan in August 2021 and subsequent Taliban return to power.

For the record, ISIS-K is not part of the Taliban, and in fact opposes the current Taliban regime. It existed prior to the Taliban’s return. But of course, the U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan — sadly and unpredictably — removed a crucial stabilizing force that aimed to keep a lid on Islamic terror throughout the region, including the dastardly doings of the ISIS-K strongholds north and east of Kabul. Recall the August 26, 2021, ISIS-K suicide bombing at the Kabul airport that killed 13 U.S. military personnel and 169 Afghans during the U.S. withdrawal.

But let us return to the horrors of the moment: ISIS-K claimed responsibility for the Friday attack outside Moscow, and U.S. intelligence quickly confirmed it. There was no mistake about who was responsible. ISIS-K despises the Russian government and has escalated its attacks in the last two years.

Vladimir Putin’s initial response to the attack, however, was very troubling. In his first public statement, he made no reference to ISIS-K’s claims of responsibility. He attempted to link those responsible for the “barbaric terrorist attack” not to the Islamic State but to Ukraine. He went so far as to claim that the attackers were trying to get “back to” Ukraine. Putin asserted: “They tried to hide and move towards Ukraine, where, according to preliminary data, a window was prepared for them on the Ukrainian side, across the state border.”

Putin did not get into the details of his “preliminary data.”

Mad Dog Putin’s cynical finger-pointing toward Ukraine became the official Kremlin line. One of his chief propagandists, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova, stated:

“Now we know in which country these bloody bastards planned to hide from persecution: Ukraine.”

Andrey Kartapolov, the head of the Russian State Duma Defense Committee, claimed flately, “Ukraine and its patrons are the main stakeholders in the terrorist attack at Crocus.” Quite ominously, he said that “if information about the Ukrainian trace in the terrorist attack is confirmed, there must be a clear answer on the battlefield.” Note the “if.” Hmm. Were they headed to Ukraine or not?

Putin puppet Dimitri Medvedev said that any Ukrainian leaders found to be involved would be “destroyed.”

Naturally, Ukrainian leaders in Kiev were aghast at the attempts to blame them. Vladimir Zelenskyy and Ukrainian military intelligence responded by emphatically stating that Ukraine had nothing to do with the incident. Zelenskyy said right away: “Ukraine certainly has nothing to do with the shooting/explosions in the Crocus City Hall. It makes no sense whatsoever.”

It indeed does not.

Zelenskyy furthered:

“. . . there is not the slightest doubt that the events in the Moscow suburbs will contribute to a sharp increase in military propaganda [by Putin], accelerated militarization, expanded mobilization, and, ultimately, the scaling up of the war. And, also, to justify manifest genocidal strikes against the civilian population of Ukraine.”

Zelenskyy described Putin and his cronies as

“. . . scum trying to blame it [the attack] on someone else. They always have the same methods. It has happened before. There have been bombed houses, shootings, and explosions. And they always blame others.”

He said Putin’s methods are “absolutely predictable.”

They sure are. In the old days back at the KGB offices, Vlad and pals called that dezinformatsiya — disinformation. The Soviet Department of Agitprop excelled at these methods. Lt. Col. Vladimir Putin learned well.

And to repeat: ISIS-K claimed responsibility. They did this.

Alas, here’s the major takeaway from this savage attack: The event was awful, ghastly, tragic. Russians rightly view it as one of the worst terrorist incidents ever committed against their people. But it could become much worse if Vladimir Putin and his goons use it as a pretext to do something still more savage to Ukraine. It is chilling to think what that might look like.

We shall wait and see. Once again, as I’ve said throughout these two years of Putin’s war on Ukraine, I’m not optimistic and expect the worst.     *

Wednesday, 05 July 2023 13:55

Kengor Writes

Kengor Writes . . .

Paul Kengor

Paul Kengor is a professor of political science and the executive director of The Institute for Faith and Freedom at Grove City College, in Grove City, Pennsylvania, and he is the editor of The American Spectator. These essays are republished from The Institute for Faith and Freedom, an online publication of Grove City College, and The American Spectator. Paul Kengor is the author of God and Ronald Reagan: A Spiritual Life (2004); The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism (2007); The Judge: William P. Clark, Ronald Reagan’s Top Hand (Ignatius Press, 2007); and The Communist — Frank Marshall Davis: The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mentor (Threshold Editions / Mercury Ink 2012).

Mary Ball Washington, America’s First Mother

“My great age, and the disease which is fast approaching my vitals, warn me that I shall not be long in this world. I trust in God that I may be somewhat prepared for a better.”

So said a weak Mary Ball Washington, mother of America’s first president, George Washington, to her son in March 1789, as she lay dying from cancer at roughly age 80 (her exact age unknown). Her son had come to bid America’s First Mother a final goodbye. He told her about this significant new office that he was assuming for his country — to which all 69 electors had unanimously chosen him on Jan. 7. He was only president ever selected unanimously.

“But before I can assume the functions of my office,” he told the frail old woman, “I have come to bid you an affectionate farewell.”

The 57-year-old Washington continued, “So soon as the weight of public business, which must necessarily attend the outset of a new government, can be disposed of, I shall hasten to Virginia, and . . .” here, the mother interrupted the son “. . . you will see me no more.”

The mother sensed this was the end, the final time she would glimpse the son before he went out to fulfill the destiny that she had helped raise him to one day accept. “But go, George,” she urged, “fulfill the high destinies which Heaven appears to have intended you for; go, my son, and may that Heaven’s and a mother’s blessing be with you always.”

It was a touching motherly benediction, and yet, the old woman held on months longer, not succumbing until August 25, 1789, taking her final breath around 3 o’clock that afternoon. The son was not there to see it. He was fulfilling that destiny, one that he likewise believed was Providential.

This incident is one of many dramatic moments related in Craig Shirley’s superbly done biography, Mary Ball Washington: The Untold Story of George Washington’s Mother. Published in 2019, well over two centuries after the death of the First Mother and first president, Shirley’s book received critical acclaim from historians like Douglas Brinkley, Michael Barone, and Jon Meacham, but it hasn’t been enough. It’s a book that should be read by millions of Americans, especially in public schools. And it should be read for Mother’s Day.

Mary Ball Washington’s Son, Her Legacy Think about the significance of this singular woman.

George Washington is, of course, the Father of our country. He was the hero of the American Revolution, who pulled off a stunning victory against the British empire, one that his countrymen considered nothing short of miraculous. It was no surprise when Washington was the Founders’ choice not only for military general but later as their new nation’s first president.

That first president was admired for not only his brawn but his brain. He helped establish his young nation by both his victories on the battlefield and his capabilities of mind. That first president fully understood the “great experiment” (as he and other Founders put it) being entrusted to them and the American people, namely, whether human beings were indeed genuinely capable of self-governing. Think about that more deeply, because Washington did: He averred that the people of this nation needed to be able to genuinely self-govern themselves before they could self-govern their country. For that self-governance, he said in his Farewell Address, “religion and morality are indispensable supports.”

George Washington was so beloved, even revered, by his countrymen that many wanted him to become king. He knew, however, that such would have gone against everything he and his people had fought for. Such had been the way of Napoleon, Caesar, Cromwell — of so many, but not of Washington. Napoleon was selfish, a narcissist, an egomaniac. Washington was selfless, humble, a role model.

After his military victory in the American Revolution, Washington returned his commission — his “sword” — to Congress. This overture electrified not only the country but the world. As noted by Gordon Wood, preeminent historian of the American Revolution, most such military heroes expected in return some type of significant political reward commensurate with their military achievement. But not George Washington. His selfless action, noted Wood, “captivated the world.”

“He could have been king,” wrote presidential historian Richard Norton Smith. “Congress, in effect, offered him a crown. He spurned it. And in the process, he gave us a whole new definition of greatness: the renunciation of power, not the embrace of it. It was no accident that on his deathbed Napoleon said, ‘They wanted me to be another Washington.’”

Who Was Mary Ball Washington? All of which brings us back to Mary Ball Washington. Where did a man of such character come from? Who forged the boy that rose to become this kind of man and leader?

The answer, of course, was his mother. That was especially so because the young George lost his father, Augustine (Gus), on April 12, 1743, when the boy was only 11 years old. Thereafter, it was mother Mary, now widowed in her late 30s, who had to raise six children by herself. Not just that, but she ran the property, the farm, and the business, and, yes, she supervised slaves as well. She never remarried.

In the process, she raised a president — the nation’s first.

“His devout mother played a key role in the development of his character,” writes Craig Shirley. “While he was sometimes described as having little genuine affection for Mary, the reserved Washington still credited her with his principled and moral upbringing.”

And as Shirley shows, the relationship between the two was “laden with difficulty” for both of them. It was a struggle for anyone to have much affection for Mary. Shirley describes Mary Ball Washington as “self-centered and acquisitive,” “tutoring and fashioning” her son but also “driving and admonishing” him. She was not a warm lady and, frankly, was hard to feel warm about. She was not easy to like. She was a cold woman, austere, and herself quite a character — an odd one. And Craig Shirley’s book provides far more than a history of her and her son. He provides a character study that fascinates.

But whatever her personal shortcomings, this woman raised a president, our nation’s first. He was our first president and Mary Ball Washington was our First Mother — one who needs to be remembered, and perhaps particularly so for America’s annual celebration of Mothers’ Day. Get this book and read and learn and remember.

The Book of Acts Is Not Communism

“This is not communism. It is pure Christianity.”

Yes, even Pope Francis, a man often accused of being soft on Communism, understands. He offered that succinct assessment in a homily on Divine Mercy given Sunday, April 11, 2021 at St. Peter’s Square, when speaking on the Book of Acts, specifically Acts 4:32, which states of the apostles that “no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common.”

Francis paused to explain in the very next line, lest anyone had any misconceptions: “This is not Communism. It is pure Christianity.”


I mention this now because the Lectionary readings from last weekend and throughout the past week include the passages from Acts that many Religious Left Christians often sloppily assume advocates for “Communism.” The passage last Sunday was from Acts 2:42-47, which includes this line: “All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their property and possessions and divide them among all according to their needs.”

Karl Marx, an atheist and evolutionary racist who hated religion and referred to Christianity as a “hypocritical” faith that preaches “cowardice, self-contempt, abasement, submission, humility,” pulled from that line to develop one of his most famous maxims: “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.”

The other passage from Acts that is frequently invoked by “social justice” Christians is Acts 4:32-35, which states:

“The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common. With great power the apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great favor was accorded them all. There was no needy person among them, for those who owned property or houses would sell them, bring the proceeds of the sale, and put them at the feet of the apostles, and they were distributed to each according to need.”

I’ve written about that passage before in articles with titles like, “The Early Church Was Not Socialist,” and in other writings. I can’t begin to convey how many times I’ve been asked about it over the years, and not always from opponents. Here’s the reality:

The fact that certain passages of Scripture, or certain religious orders, express forms of communalism — look closely at that word, communalism, not Communism — or pooled together resources to help one another certainly does not mean they were practicing the 19th century militantly atheistic ideology known as Communism. There is plainly no comparison between the first century apostles or Saint Francis and his followers to Vladimir Lenin and the Bolsheviks. If you think the teachings of Karl Marx are analogous to the teachings of Jesus Christ then, well, I’m frankly speechless.

The likes of the early apostles and Franciscans were first and foremost forged on a Christian model; religion served as their rudder, their guiding, inspiring, animating force — the very spiritual force that Communism seeks to abolish. Marx called religion “the heart of a heartless world,” “the soul of soulless conditions,” “the opium of the masses.” Lenin called it “spiritual booze,” “Medieval mildew,” “a necrophilia,” and said “there is nothing more abominable than religion.”

To take a single Marxist exhortation to share wealth and then in turn argue that Communism is thus comparable to Christianity is the height of folly. And yet, I shudder to think how many pastors right now are saying just that from the pulpit as they interpret the Book of Acts this Easter season.

The reality is that individuals who opt for communal life in a religious order, which is a miniscule, rare portion of the population, do so voluntarily to serve God. Under atheistic Communism, a totalitarian regime forces 100 percent of society to bend to its will. It confiscates their property, contrary to the Bible’s vigorous defenses of property rights, as rudimentary as the understanding implicit in the 10 Commandments: thou shalt not steal. In the New Testament, individuals like the Good Samaritan or the vineyard owner voluntarily give their own earnings as free-will acts of benevolence, not as forced responses to state fiat.

Let’s get back to the Book of Acts:

Read further on in that section. A colleague of mine often urges, “Never read a single Bible verse.” Context is crucial. The full section of Acts 4:32-37, plus the start of Acts 5, makes clear that these believers owned property. In most Bibles, the heading for that section states, “The Believers Share Their Possessions.” Look closely at those last two words: “Their Possessions.”

To the contrary, possessions are not permitted under Communism. Marx and Engels in the Communist Manifesto stated: “The entire Communist theory may be summed up in the single sentence: abolition of private property.” Throughout Acts, these believers have private property. It has not been abolished.

Acts 4:36 notes that Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus whom the apostles called Barnabas, “sold a field he owned” and brought the proceeds to the apostles. Barnabas was permitted property. He sold not all of it, but a field.

In Acts 5, the same is true of Ananias, who “also sold a piece of property.”

Both Barnabas and Ananias owned property and chose to sell a portion to share.

The apostles willingly could choose to sell their property (or some of it) and share it. They were not compelled at knifepoint by a government regime to forcibly give up all possessions or be carted off to a labor camp.

Above all, this mere sharing of some property by these early apostles is light years away from the teachings of Marx and Engels and Lenin and more. If you doubt me, then please, read. Educate yourself! The Manifesto talks about the abolition of not only property, but of family, religion, “all morality,” “eternal truths,” capital, classes, states, societies, and much more. Almost hilariously, Marx and Engels in the Manifesto explain that Communism seeks nothing less than to “abolish the present state of things.”

Gee, is that all?

Marx and Engels declared that Communism represents “the most radical rupture in traditional relations.” They closed their Manifesto by stating that, “They [Communists] openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions.” As for Marx, he had a favorite quote from Goethe’s Faust: “Everything that exists deserves to perish.”

That was Karl Marx and his ideology. It is a radical transformation of human nature. Read the Communist Manifesto and then read the Book of Acts and then try to argue that Acts is Communism. Read the 10-point plan in the Communist Manifesto. Does it sound like a plan of the apostles?

Beyond the Manifesto, read other Communist classics, such as Marx’s “A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right” (the “opiate of the masses” essay); Friedrich Engels’ The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State; Marx’s literally devilish poetry and plays, such as “The Pale Maiden” and Oulanem; Lenin’s opus The State and Revolution, and his elucidation of “Communist ethics” vs. Christian ethics in his shocking 1920 speech to the Russian Young Communist League; Nikolai Bukharin on “Communism and Religion” in his The ABC of Communism.

Note how these men stated, repeatedly, that their Communism is incompatible with your “idiotic” Christianity. To quote Bukharin: “Religion and Communism are incompatible, both theoretically and practically. . . . Communism is incompatible with religious faith.” He urged Communists everywhere: “A fight to the death must be declared upon religion. Take on religion at the tip of the bayonet.”

I could go on and on.

The lesson for Christians ought to be clear: Please become better informed about Communism before outrageously linking it to the Christian faith. The glorious, redeeming teachings of Christ and his apostles bear no comparison to the deadliest ideology in human history. Communism kills people; Christ saves people.

No, folks, the Book of Acts is not Communism. Anyone who makes such an assertion immediately conveys a profound ignorance. They are showing you that they have no idea what Communism is.

Communism is the antithesis and enemy of Christianity. The Book of Acts, as even Pope Francis said, is Christianity, not Communism.     *

Tuesday, 25 April 2023 13:59

Kengor Writes

Kengor Writes . . .

Paul Kengor

Paul Kengor is a professor of political science and the executive director of The Institute for Faith and Freedom at Grove City College, in Grove City, Pennsylvania, and he is the editor of The American Spectator. These essays are republished from The Institute for Faith and Freedom, an online publication of Grove City College, and The American Spectator. Paul Kengor is the author of God and Ronald Reagan: A Spiritual Life (2004); The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism (2007); The Judge: William P. Clark, Ronald Reagan’s Top Hand (Ignatius Press, 2007); and The Communist — Frank Marshall Davis: The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mentor (Threshold Editions / Mercury Ink 2012).

My Top 10 Black Conservatives

Editor’s note: This article first appeared at The American Spectator.

In a column for The American Spectator last week, Mary Grabar asked, “Why does Black History Month ignore the author of ‘the most talked about column in Negro America?’” That label for the late, great George Schuyler was given by a writer for American Mercury magazine, and it fit.

Schuyler was enormously influential, and yet, as Grabar notes, “This once famous, trailblazing writer has been memory holed.”

That has happened because of prejudice. That is, political prejudice by leftist historians and academics and the whole stinky Kultursmog, as the venerable R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr., has described it. The reason for the deep-sixing of Schuyler is that he was a black conservative. More than that, he was a stalwart anti-communist who, from his perch at the great Pittsburgh Courier, arguably America’s leading black newspaper, called out black Marxists like W. E. B. Du Bois, Langston Hughes, and gushing Stalinist Paul Robeson.

As for Hughes, whose poetry is now read in public schools, he had declared: “Put one more ‘S’ in the USA to make it Soviet. The USA when we take control will be the USSA.” In one poem, Hughes put it this way: “Goodbye Christ, Lord Jehovah; Beat it on away from here, make way for a new guy with no religion at all; A real guy named Marx, Communism, Lenin, Peasant, Stalin, worker, me.”

To George Schuyler, that was outrageous. It was less poetry than sophistry. It was outrageous pabulum, odious propaganda for a lethal ideology that killed countless millions.

And yet today the writings of Langston Hughes, not Schuyler, are read to schoolchildren. Paul Robeson is celebrated, including with a Paul Robeson Cultural Center at Penn State University, among other things named for him at our universities.

As for George Schuyler, not only was he never suckered by these deadly ideologies, but he sounded the alarm against them. He took on the likes of Du Bois and Hughes and Robeson. It was a key reason why he was indeed once the most influential black columnist in the country.

And yet, who are the black Americans honored today during Black History Month? Well, it’s always refreshing to see Jackie Robinson and Rosa Parks on a list, but it’s sickening to see the likes of Du Bois and Robeson, and yet no Schuyler, a great American and a great talent who honored the United States, not the USSR.

All of this got me thinking about my own list of notable black Americans for Black History Month. More specifically, how about a list of prominent black conservatives? How about a personal top 10? In service thereof, dear readers, here is my list, beginning with George Schuyler and then in no particular order:

Thomas Sowell — It would be hard not to start this list with Thomas Sowell. Sowell is one of the most insightful and respected conservatives in the country and was arguably regarded as the nation’s top black conservative intellectual. His academic pedigree includes a Harvard B.A., a Columbia M.A., and a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago, where he studied under George Stigler and Milton Friedman. He would later fittingly be named the Rose and Milton Friedman Senior Fellow on Public Policy at the Hoover Institution, a position he has held into the 2020s and his 90s.

Sowell has long written for The American Spectator, beginning with his first piece back in October 1975.

Walter Williams — Like his close friend and fellow brilliant economist Thomas Sowell, Williams wrote for The American Spectator for many decades. Our July 1982 edition flagged on the cover a Williams piece titled, “A Recipe for a Good Society.” Williams was listed as a professor of economics at George Mason University, a position he held for a long time. If there was a black conservative more popular than Thomas Sowell, it was Walter Williams, who particularly rose to national prominence through guest hosting for Rush Limbaugh.

It was a sad loss for America when Williams left the world in December 2020. Personally, I was honored to know him as a fellow professor at Grove City College, where he had taught and for decades served as one of our board members.

Manning Johnson — This is a name, like George Schuyler’s, that will not be familiar to most readers, which is unfortunate. I profiled Manning Johnson at length in my book The Devil and Karl Marx (chapter 10). Johnson (1908–1959) was a brave ex-communist who testified before Congress in July 1953 about the extraordinary efforts by the Communist Party USA to infiltrate society and most notably the mainline Protestant churches. His information on infiltration was shocking. I cannot do it justice here.

Johnson also spoke about how American Communists sought to mislead, dupe, and exploit black Americans. Johnson had served on the National Negro Commission, an important subcommittee of the Communist Party USA. It was important because of the vigorous push by the CPUSA and the Soviet Comintern to attempt to organize black Americans into a segregated “Negro Republic” in the South (yes, seriously). That commission, said Johnson, was created “on direct orders from Moscow to facilitate the subversion of the Negroes.” In that capacity, Johnson quickly realized the extent to which “the Negro is used as a political dupe by the Kremlin hierarchy.” The white Communists used black Communists as their “Negro lickspittles.”

Like George Schuyler, Johnson tried to warn the likes of Du Bois and Hughes and Robeson about the dangers of Soviet Communism. They never listened. And like Schuyler, sadly you will not find Manning Johnson remembered fondly today on Black History Month lists alongside Du Bois and Hughes and Robeson, nor is he read in our lousy government schools.

Clarence Thomas — This name needs no explanation, and if I got started, it would be hard to stop. But I will say this: Read Clarence Thomas’ gripping memoir, My Grandfather’s Son. There, among other things, Thomas explains why in 1980 he left the Democratic Party. Like Ronald Reagan, he felt the party had left him and that its policies were hurting rather than helping blacks, and he endorsed Ronald Reagan for president. “I had become a Republican in order to vote for him in 1980,” wrote Thomas. “In the fall of 1980, I changed my voter registration.” He explained his rationale: “I saw no good coming from an ever-larger government that meddled, with incompetence if not mendacity, in the lives of its citizens, and I was particularly distressed by the Democratic Party’s ceaseless promises to legislate the problems of blacks out of existence. Their misguided efforts had already done great harm to my people, and I felt sure that anything else that they did would compound the damage.”

This was a lesson that Clarence Thomas had learned from his hardworking grandfather, and that black liberal Democrats have not yet learned. Thomas said: “I thought that blacks would be better off if they were left alone instead of being used as guinea pigs for the foolish schemes of dream-killing politicians and their ideological acolytes.”

Thomas there spoke for many black conservatives. Liberals loathe him.

Star Parker — The first time I saw the fiery Star Parker, she was speaking to an audience of indoctrinated college students at some uselessly typical university. She snapped, “Give us Barabbas! Is that what you want?” They had become so corrupted that if given the choice of a Barabbas with a “D” (Democrat) next to his name in the voting booth, they would choose him over Christ. A harsh judgment, yes. But then Parker caught herself, granting that her audience had probably never heard of Barabbas. After all, these were students at a modern university.

Alan Keyes — I have long been a fan of Alan Keyes. I can proudly claim that my first vote for president was for a black man that was not Barack Obama. It was for Alan Keyes. If only some 60 million or so Americans had joined me, what a better country it would have been.

For the record, Keyes, like Sowell and Williams, offers another American Spectator connection that goes way back. Keyes actually started at the American Spectator in 1972 when it was called The Alternative and headquartered in Bloomington, Indiana. R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr. remembers the precocious young man from Harvard, blessed with a “first-class analytical mind.” He recalls Keyes as not merely “extremely eloquent,” but a step beyond, speaking more like a “citizen of ancient Athens, living just down the street from Pericles. He had studied under the Classics professor Allan Bloom at Cornell University, and was studying under Edward Banfield at Harvard. He was at this stage of his education either an Aristotelian or a Platonist. Frankly, I have forgotten.”

But we have not forgotten Keyes’ brilliance.

Candace Owens — Candace Owens reminds me of Keyes because of her bold eloquence. Like Keyes, she is skilled in polemics, in a positive way, engaging her adversaries with wit, voice, and courage. I first encountered her while watching her engage a witless Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) during a congressional interrogation, as Owens informed the dimwit from New York that he clearly was not even listening to her. Owens is the youngest name on this list, and she shall continue to shine.

Eldridge Cleaver — You are no doubt shocked to see this infamous Black Panther on my list. But did you know that by the 1980s Cleaver had done a 180 and become an outspoken Reagan conservative? Oh, yes. He even ran for Congress against Rep. Ron Dellums (D-Cal.), the pro-communist Democrat from Berkeley. Cleaver also made clear that he had become an enthusiastic supporter of President Ronald Reagan, the former California governor he had once militantly opposed. Cleaver’s conversion began when he became a political pilgrim to the Communist world, from Havana to Pyongyang, whereupon, like so many Potemkin progressives, he was smacked upside the skull by human reality. From there, the leftist scales started falling from Cleaver’s eyes.

Look it up. I recommend the February 1986 interview that Cleaver did with Reason magazine.

Malcolm X — Yes, another surprise. Malcolm X, a conservative? Well, he wasn’t a liberal, that’s for sure.

Malcolm X was a highly complex and independent individual. He did not trust liberals and Democrats, especially Lyndon Johnson. He shocked blacks and whites alike when in 1964 he came out for Barry Goldwater. He was attracted to Goldwater’s conservative championing of the individual and the senator’s belief that the best way to help individuals, regardless of color, was to help them help themselves. They needed to look within, and not look to the state.

Veteran journalist Charlie Wiley knew Malcolm X well. He watched his evolution and interviewed him at length several times. He profiled him for a March 1965 cover feature for National Review.

In sum, that is a personal top 10, though it’s admittedly limited by who I’m regrettably forgetting at the moment. I’m sure that as I think about this list longer, I’ll come up with other names. Who have I forgotten? Share some names with me in the readers’ comments. Maybe next year I will update the list.

In fact, maybe next year I’ll give my 10 least favorite black leftists. Here’s a head start: W. E. B. Du Bois, Paul Robeson, Langston Hughes, Ben Hooks, Jesse Jackson, Stacey Abrams, Sheila Jackson Lee, Joy Reid, Angela Davis, Nikole Hannah-Jones, and Patrisse Cullors.

Wait, that’s more than 10. Well, I’ll need to start refining that list. Any suggestions there, too?

But let’s set the lefties aside. This is a month to celebrate black achievement. My 10 black conservatives deserve to be honored. How about yours?     *

Monday, 12 December 2022 12:24

Kengor Writes

Kengor Writes . . .

Paul Kengor

Paul Kengor is a professor of political science and the executive director of The Institute for Faith and Freedom at Grove City College, in Grove City, Pennsylvania. These essays are republished from The Institute for Faith and Freedom, an online publication of Grove City College, and The American Spectator. Paul Kengor is the author of God and Ronald Reagan: A Spiritual Life (2004); The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism (2007); The Judge: William P. Clark, Ronald Reagan’s Top Hand (Ignatius Press, 2007); and The Communist — Frank Marshall Davis: The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mentor (Threshold Editions / Mercury Ink 2012).

Averting Nuclear Armageddon — in October 1962 and Today

Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the National Catholic Register.

It is ironic and scary that 60 years after the Cuban Missile Crisis that brought the world’s two superpowers to the brink of nuclear Armageddon, President Joe Biden warned of possible nuclear “Armageddon” this October 2022, and once again with Russia.

Biden has been harshly criticized for that language, accused of hyping an already grave situation between Putin and the Ukraine, and of fanning the flames with unnecessarily incendiary rhetoric. Personally, I think Biden’s warnings are apt. I’ve been stating for months that the potential for a desperate Vladimir Putin to escalate to the level of using nuclear weapons is frighteningly real. A Putin whose army is defeated on the battlefield is an especially dangerous Putin who may well resort to something catastrophic, as we feared in October 1962.

The situation in October 1962, was dire. President Kennedy faced a grim scenario that looked like it might spiral out of control. It was a grave situation difficult to hype. In fact, Kennedy struggled to communicate to Americans just how alarming the situation was without overly alarming them.

It all began on October 14, 1962, when an America U-2 spy plane doing regular reconnaissance over Cuba caught images of what appeared to be Soviet missile sites. This had been among America’s worst fears since Fidel Castro had come to power in January 1959 and allied with the USSR. The prospect of a legion of Soviet nuclear missiles fired from Cuba at American soil, leading to nukes fired in retaliation by the United States against Cuba and the USSR, and then the USSR against the United States, and then Western Europe and Eastern Europe brought into the fray — killing millions of people — was truly a doomsday scenario.

Kennedy went public with the U-2 finding in a dramatic nationally televised speech on October 22. Americans were terrified. They dashed to grocery stores to buy up canned food and supplies, and many of them literally started digging bomb shelters. Popular culture had been filled with fears of nuclear war. You could see it in movies and on TV. Now it looked like it might become a reality. Everyone readied to “duck and cover.”

As for President Kennedy, he faced hard choices. His advisers didn’t know whether the missiles were yet armed with nuclear warheads. Thus, some military advisers urged strikes on the missile sites immediately, before the weapons became nuclear. But if he did, countered Kennedy, he would be seen as the aggressor, killing not only Cubans but Russians. The Cold War would become a hot war, with Kennedy perhaps perceived as starting it by going on the offensive. His closest adviser, Robert Kennedy, said he didn’t want his brother to become a “Tojo in reverse” — a reference to the Japanese leader who authorized the attack on Pearl Harbor.

The nightmare scenario terrified all of humanity, from Washington to Moscow to every capital. But there were two extraordinary exceptions. There were two lunatics who welcomed Armageddon from ground zero in Cuba: Fidel Castro and Che Guevara. The fact that they did, and why, must be known and remembered, especially given the odd admiration for Fidel and Che by many misinformed young Americans.

“If the nuclear missiles had remained, we would have fired them against the heart of the U.S., including New York City,” Che gleefully admitted in November 1962 to Sam Russell of Britain’s Daily Worker. “The victory of socialism is well worth millions of atomic victims.”

Che was willing to fire those atomic weapons and launch a nuclear war that he understood would lead to the liquidation of Cuba. Che biographer Philippe Gavi said that the Argentine revolutionary had bragged that “this country is willing to risk everything in an atomic war of unimaginable destructiveness to defend a principle.”

The principle was Communism.

Keith Payne, president of the National Institute for Public Policy, recounted how “Che Guevara specifically said that he was ready for martyrdom” (that is, to be an international martyr to the religious-like cause of Communism) and “ready for Cuba, as a country, to be a national martyrdom.” Payne quotes the response of a shocked Anastas Mikoyan, the leading Soviet official under Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, who responded to Che’s martyr-like fanaticism: “We see your willingness to die beautifully. We don’t think it’s worth dying beautifully.”

Che was an unhinged zealot who described himself as “bloodthirsty.” Fidel Castro was no better.

If Fidel would have had his way in October 1962, Cuba would have ceased to exist. The fact is that Fidel actually recommended to Soviet General Secretary Nikita Khrushchev that they together launch an all-out nuclear attack upon the United States, and even urged Khrushchev to do so if U.S. troops invaded the island.

This is no secret. Castro openly admitted it. Robert McNamara, President John F. Kennedy’s secretary of defense during the Cuban Missile Crisis, was taken aback by Castro’s candor when the two men publicly discussed the incident 30 years later in an open forum in Havana. Fidel told McNamara flatly, “Bob, I did recommend they [the nuclear missiles] were to be used.”

In total, said McNamara, there were 162 Soviet missiles on the island. The firing of those missiles alone would have led to (according to McNamara) at least 80 million dead Americans, which would have been half the U.S. population, plus added tens of millions of casualties.

That, however, is a mere conservative estimate, given that 162 missiles were far from the sum total that would have been subsequently launched. The United States in turn would have launched on Cuba and also on the USSR. President Kennedy made that commitment clear in his nationally televised speech on October 22:

“It shall be the policy of this nation to regard any nuclear missile launched from Cuba against any nation in the Western Hemisphere as an attack by the Soviet Union on the United States, requiring a full retaliatory response upon the Soviet Union.”

In response, of course, the Soviets would have launched on America from Soviet soil. Even then, the fireworks would just be starting: Under the terms of their NATO and Warsaw Pact charters, the territories of Western and Eastern Europe would also start firing.

Once the smoke cleared, hundreds of millions to possibly over a billion people could have perished. If Fidel Castro had had his way, he would have precipitated the greatest slaughter in human history.

Would that have been good for Cuba? Fidel weighed in on that one, stating the obvious to McNamara: “What would have happened to Cuba? It would have been totally destroyed.”

Fidel didn’t care, and neither did his comrade Che. They were ready for martyrdom. As McNamara said of Fidel, “He would have pulled the temple down on his head.”

To Fidel and Che, Marxism was their faith, and they desired to be martyrs to the faith.

President Kennedy, an intensely anti-Communist Catholic, understood that about Communists. He loathed Fidel and Che and what they were doing to Cuba.

Even the atheist-Communist Soviets were stunned at such unbridled zealotry by Fidel and Che. In fact, that helps explain how this crisis was ended. Nikita Khrushchev quickly realized he was dealing with lunatics and had better remove the missiles immediately.

Nikita Khrushchev’s son Sergei, in his seminal three-volume biography of his father, chronicled the Kremlin’s astonishment: “[Castro] had to inform Moscow as quickly as possible of his decision to sacrifice Cuba.” The Soviet ambassador to Cuba, Alexander Alekseyev, was so stunned that he stood frozen as he listened to Castro tell him: “If we want to avoid receiving the first strike, if an attack is inevitable, then wipe them off the face of the earth.” Without waiting for an answer from the speechless Soviet ambassador, Castro started writing his feelings on paper, which “seemed like a last testament, a farewell.” Fidel was ready to go up in a giant mushroom cloud for Marxism.

Nikita Khrushchev now knew he had to act without hesitation to get the nukes away from these madmen. He met with the top Soviet officials in the “code room” of the Soviet Foreign Ministry very late on a Sunday night, and ordered, repeatedly, “Remove them, and as quickly as possible.”

As for Fidel, he was “furious,” said Sergei Khrushchev: “Castro was mortally offended. He had made up his mind to die a hero, and to have it end that way.” He now considered Nikita Khrushchev “a traitor.”

Thankfully, the world averted nuclear war, through the steady leadership of President Kennedy and thanks to the removal of the missiles by Nikita Khrushchev.

And so, in October 1962, nuclear Armageddon was averted. In October 2022, we pray that any use of nuclear weapons by Moscow will again be averted. Sixty years ago, it took the skill and resolve of key statesmen to pull the world back from the precipice. Do we have men with such abilities in those posts today?

We shall find out.     *

Monday, 17 October 2022 13:09

Kengor Writes

Kengor Writes . . .

Paul Kengor

Paul Kengor is a professor of political science and the executive director of The Institute for Faith and Freedom at Grove City College, in Grove City, Pennsylvania. These essays are republished from The Institute for Faith and Freedom, an online publication of Grove City College, and The American Spectator. Paul Kengor is the author of God and Ronald Reagan: A Spiritual Life (2004); The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism (2007); The Judge: William P. Clark, Ronald Reagan’s Top Hand (Ignatius Press, 2007); and The Communist — Frank Marshall Davis: The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mentor (Threshold Editions / Mercury Ink 2012).

Remember the Cold War’s Witness

It was 70 years ago, 1952, that Whittaker Chambers published his memoir, Witness. It was a bestseller with a major impact, including on a future president who, more than any other figure, defeated the country that Chambers once served, winning the Cold War.

Chambers exploded onto the national scene courtesy of his dramatic 1948 trial, when he squared off with Alger Hiss in one of the most important cases of the 20th century. Americans were riveted, given the gravity of the charges: espionage. The memoir that followed (published by Random House) was a gripping, beautifully written work in which Chambers not only recounted the high stakes, but also the captivating and often sordid details of his most unusual life. His autobiography made clear, too, that he was a witness, not just in the Hiss trial and this Cold War epic, but to much more.

Whittaker Chambers was born April 1, 1901 and given the odd name “Jay Vivian” by a very unstable mother. An awkward boy and man, he nevertheless grew up to become a witness to many historical events, often unwittingly. Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. observed that Chambers “seemed at once to enjoy and to resent the burdens of history.”

One burden of history that Chambers bore was a perilous one. At Columbia University, in the early 1920s, he took up the torch of Karl Marx and became a hardcore Communist. Sam Tanenhaus, in his superb 1997 biography, said that in joining the Communist cause, Chambers “had at last found his church.” The Marxist faith gave Chambers purpose and meaning.

But it was a dangerous and perverse purpose and meaning, and Chambers made it worse by joining the dark side in a deep way. From 1932 to 1938, Chambers became a Soviet spy, conspiring with (among other characters) a high-level State Department official with whom he helped pilfer documents for Moscow: Alger Hiss (1904–1997). Hiss was in many ways everything Chambers was not — charming, smooth, socially connected. He was a darling of the Eastern liberal elite, with sterling credentials among the foreign policy establishment, at one point heading up the prestigious Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington. He had clerked for Oliver Wendell Holmes, attended Yalta with FDR’s delegation, and was present at the creation of the United Nations.

In dramatic exchanges during the 1948 trial, Chambers identified Hiss as “the concealed enemy” that all freedom-loving Americans were fighting against. Hiss denied everything, including even knowing Chambers. Hiss nonetheless was unanimously convicted of perjury and spent 44 months in federal prison in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. Hiss later quipped that his nearly four years in prison was a good corrective to four years at Harvard. Until the day he died, Hiss claimed innocence. But he was certainly guilty, as Chambers showed in his testimony and his memoir.

In Witness Chambers shared details of the Hiss trial and the larger trials of his tormented life in Witness. The book made it clear that he was learned, highly intellectual, and a deep thinker, and often anguished. Chambers for a long time was unhealthy, physically and emotionally, suffering several heart attacks and still dealing with scars going back to childhood, having grown up in a big-city home of severe family dysfunction.

The succinct title, Witness, is clever. Yes, Chambers became famous as a witness in the Hiss trial, but he was in fact a witness to much more. Chambers showed that he had served as another kind of witness — as Christians understand the word “witness.” The Greek word for witness is “martyr.” Chambers ultimately saw himself as a kind of martyr as well. “I only knew that I had promised God my life, even, if it were His will, to death,” he wrote solemnly in Witness. “This is my ultimate witness.”

Chambers hooked readers right away with a fascinating opening essay, which he titled, “Foreword in the Form of a Letter to My Children.” The foreword can stand on its own, and often does when reprinted in various edited collections of classic conservative anthologies. Here, Chambers stated it was his “fate” to be a “witness” to each of the “two great faiths of our time.” He wrote:

“For in this century, within the next decades, will be decided for generations whether all mankind is to become Communist, whether the whole world is to become free, or whether, in the struggle, civilization as we know it is to be completely destroyed or completely changed. . . . It is our fate to live upon that turning point in history.”

It was a turning point that hinged on the battle of good vs. evil.

Chambers went on to state candidly that “I see in Communism the focus of the concentrated evil of our time.” This is hauntingly similar to President Ronald Reagan’s Evil Empire speech given some 30 years later, during which Reagan called the USSR “the focus of evil in the modern world.” That is no surprise, given that no other book (with the exception of the Bible) influenced Reagan as much as Witness did. The 40th president kept an extra copy of Witness on a bookshelf at his ranch in the Santa Ynez mountains, in addition to a copy at his home in Los Angeles.

Like Reagan, Chambers frequently employed the word “evil” to describe Soviet Communism.

“Communism is absolutely evil,” he declared in Witness. “It was Communism that was evil, and the more truly a man acted in its spirit and interest, the more certainly he perpetuated evil.”

As a Communist, he had to come to grips with this. “I denied the very existence of a soul,” he shared. “Communism denies the soul.” At one point, he finally acknowledged to himself: “This is evil, absolute evil. Of this evil I am a part.”

It is here that Chambers rightly saw that the battle against Communism was not merely about politics and economics. He liked the quote from Dostoyevsky:

“The problem of Communism is not an economic problem. The problem of Communism is the problem of atheism.”

(Arthur Schlesinger Jr. noted insightfully that Chambers seemed to see himself as a character out of Dostoyevsky.)

Regarding Communism, Chambers continued:

“It is not new. It is, in fact, man’s second-oldest faith. Its promise was whispered in the first days of the Creation under the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil: ‘Ye shall be as gods.’”

He affirmed that “the Communist vision is the vision of Man without God.”

Chambers ended his foreword by evoking Golgotha, the “place of skulls.” But later he speaks of redemption, his own, by evoking Lazarus. “In 1937, I began, like Lazarus, the impossible return.”

Chambers gave 1938 as the year of his break, when he “freely made the choice — the decision to die, if necessary, rather than live under Communism.” Writing almost like a mystic, he recalled being struck one day by almost audible words spoken to him: “If you will fight for freedom, all will be well with you.” He conceded that he was not sure if he heard those actual words, but he certainly felt them. “What was there,” recalled Chambers,

“. . . was the sense that, like me, time and the world stood still, an awareness of God as an envelopment, holding me in silent assurance and untroubled peace.”

He made his commitment:

“There was a sense that in that moment I gave my promise, not with the mind, but with my whole being, and that this was a covenant that I might not break.”

Henceforth, he began to feel a sense of peace and strength. It is only in God’s will, wrote Dante, that we can find our purpose and our peace. That was where Chambers had at last arrived. He told readers:

“I did not seek to know God’s will. I did not suppose that anyone could know God’s will. I only sought prayerfully to know and to do God’s purpose with me.”

There is so much more that one could say about the stirring content in the pages of Witness, but space here limits us. I will share one particularly moving passage that also hit Ronald Reagan and remained with him. Reagan could quote it off the top of his head. Reagan speechwriters have told me about Reagan doing so, and they and he included the passage in his speeches. Here is the passage in Chambers’ memoirs:

“I date my break [from Communism] from a very casual happening. I was sitting in our apartment on St. Paul Street in Baltimore. . . . My daughter was in her highchair. I was watching her eat. She was the most miraculous thing that had ever happened in my life. I liked to watch her even when she smeared porridge on her face or dropped it meditatively on the floor. My eye came to rest on the delicate convolutions of her ear — those intricate, perfect ears. The thought passed through my mind: ‘No, those ears were not created by any chance coming together of atoms in nature (the Communist view). They could have been created only by immense design.’ The thought was involuntary and unwanted. I crowded it out of my mind. But I never wholly forgot it or the occasion. I had to crowd it out of my mind. If I had completed it, I should have had to say: Design presupposes God. I did not then know that, at that moment, the finger of God was first laid upon my forehead.”

If readers will further indulge me as a Reagan biographer, I would like to conclude with a final point of comparison between Whittaker Chambers and Ronald Reagan, because it gets to the crux of how the Cold War was won by the latter. It also underscores why Chambers’ dramatic message in Witness was so stirring and enduring.

If there was one monumental difference between Chambers and Reagan, it was this: Chambers was a pessimist, whereas Reagan was the quintessential optimist. Reagan was imbued with an intense sense of divine providence and an unwavering conviction that he could work according to God’s “Divine Plan” (as Reagan put it) to change the world for the better.

Chambers somberly feared that, although he had joined the right side by rejecting Soviet Communism, he had left “the winning side for the losing side.” He feared that the side of freedom — America — would lose. Ronald Reagan believed precisely the opposite. He felt the United States would win. As he told one of his advisers (Richard Allen), “We win, they lose.” Reagan was so sure of it that, as president, he sought precisely to achieve that goal. And what happened? We won, they lost.

Reagan was right, and Chambers was wrong. If only the morose martyr, who passed away on July 9, 1961 from yet another heart attack, had lived long enough to witness it.

Mikhail Gorbachev Meets His Maker

When I heard about the death of Mikhail Gorbachev, I sighed. He was one of the final remaining pivotal figures in the end of the Cold War: Gorbachev, Ronald Reagan, Pope John Paul II, Margaret Thatcher, Vaclav Havel, Boris Yeltsin, and Lech Walesa. Only Walesa remains. Gorbachev was 91 years old, living much longer than many expected. It’s a historic loss.

I sighed for an added reason. I have written so much about Gorbachev, in so many articles and books, that it’s just impossible to try to sum up the man’s life and legacy. Where to begin?

It’s a daunting task, but I think I can add two worthwhile things that others will ignore or get wrong in their tributes to Gorbachev.

First, most of the world will focus on Gorbachev’s role in the collapse of the USSR and invoke him as the hero of Soviet disintegration. The truth is not so tidy. In reality, Gorbachev’s goal all along was to preserve the USSR. Unlike Ronald Reagan, whose goal was to break up the Soviet Union, Gorbachev tried to keep it together, so much so that he repeatedly used force in several Soviet republics (including the Baltic states) in his final years in power.

To his credit, Gorbachev wanted a kinder, gentler, non-totalitarian Soviet Union, even a politically pluralistic one. In February 1990, he formally stripped the Communist Party of the Soviet Union of its sole monopoly on political power when he repudiated Article 6 of the Soviet Constitution. That was a huge positive change, and only he had the power to enact it. But still, he strove to keep the union together. He said so publicly until the very end.

That end came, providentially, on December 25, 1991, Christmas day — a celebration that the Bolsheviks banned in the USSR. That day, Gorbachev called President George H. W. Bush to say: “You can have a very quiet Christmas evening. I am saying good-bye and shaking your hand.” He informed Bush of the inevitable, namely: He was resigning his position as head of the USSR, a country that by then effectively no longer existed because every single republic had declared independence in 1990 and 1991.

That evening, Gorbachev went on Soviet television to announce he was resigning his post. He began his December 25 resignation speech by noting that he had stood

“. . . firmly . . . for the preservation of the union state, the unity of the country. Events went a different way. The policy prevailed of dismembering this country and disuniting the state, with which I cannot agree.”

He lamented the “breakup” of Soviet “statehood” and “the loss” of, curiously, “a great country.”

Gorbachev would reiterate that position over and over in the years ahead. In April 2006, he told USA Today that, “The Soviet Union could have been preserved and should have been preserved.”

No, it should not have. As Ronald Reagan said, it was an Evil Empire and “it was time to shut it down.” Gorbachev helped shut it down, but the way it unraveled was not what he intended. Still, he deserves credit for helping to peacefully end a Cold War that few of us would have expected to end peacefully. If you had told any of us in 1981 that by 1991 the USSR would cease to exist, we might have assumed it was annihilated in nuclear Armageddon. That nuclear nightmare never occurred, and that was a credit to Gorbachev, Reagan, John Paul II, Thatcher, and the other great leaders of the day.

Great leaders, I must add emphatically, that do not exist on the world stage right now. Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin and Pope Francis are plainly not Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev and Pope John Paul II. We are impoverished today. We suffer badly for lack of statesmen.

The second thing that I can and must add to the matter of the life of Gorbachev is the one that matters most at this time of death: his faith. And that, too, is very complicated.

Born in March 1931, Gorbachev was secretly baptized as an infant by his mother, Maria. He later told Vatican Secretary of State Agostino Casaroli that his mother would surreptitiously remove an icon from the wall and bless him with it. Three of his grandparents were Christians.

When Reagan first met Gorbachev at Geneva in November 1985, he was immediately taken by Gorbachev’s religious references, which were plainly remarkable coming from the leader of what Reagan rightly called an “Evil Empire.” Reagan became deeply intrigued at the possibility that Gorbachev might be (in Reagan’s words) a “closet Christian.”

When he arrived home from Geneva, Reagan immediately called Michael Deaver. He said of the new current leader of Lenin’s and Stalin’s atheistic state: “He believes.” An incredulous Deaver responded to his president and longtime friend: “Are you saying the general secretary of the Soviet Union believes in God?” Reagan walked his statement back, but only a tiny bit:

“I don’t know, Mike, but I honestly think he believes in a higher power.”

Gorbachev proceeded to suggest that with his stunning overtures on behalf of religious freedom, rolling back his predecessors’ brutal “wholesale war on religion,” as Gorbachev described it. “Atheism took rather savage forms in our country,” he lamented.

It did indeed, and Gorbachev called off the war on religion.

Pope John Paul II most certainly noticed, and appreciated Gorbachev’s glasnost. The two men respected one another and reached out to each other. In December 1989, Gorbachev became the first and only Soviet leader to visit the Vatican. Like Reagan, John Paul II was cautious, not knowing for sure if Gorbachev was privately a closet Christian. Nonetheless, the pope considered the general secretary to be a “Providential man.” He believed that God was surely working through this very different Soviet leader. “I’m sure that Providence paved the way for this meeting,” he told Gorbachev.

But did Mikhail Gorbachev believe in God?

That is a subject that not only perplexed Reagan and John Paul II but also Reagan’s son, Michael, and Reagan’s closest aide, Bill Clark. I was Clark’s biographer, and he and I and Michael Reagan many times discussed the subject of Gorbachev’s faith. We all tried to get answers. Michael once asked Gorbachev directly to his face if he believed in God, and was frustrated that he couldn’t get an answer. I tried to interview Gorbachev for my 2004 book God and Ronald Reagan, where I first wrote about Gorbachev’s faith. The old Leninist wanted a minimum of $10,000 for the interview (yes, seriously). Mike Reagan advised me not to pay up, given that Gorbachev was not going to tell me what I wanted to know, and given that I didn’t have that sort of cash.

A more productive outreach was initiated by Bill Clark. Clark learned of Gorbachev’s quite intriguing fascination with St. Francis of Assisi, which the London Telegraph reported in March 2008 when a British reporter very unexpectedly happened upon the figure of Mikhail Gorbachev in apparent prayer on his knees at the tomb of St. Francis. I read the Telegraph piece and quickly emailed it to and called Clark and Mike Reagan. I immediately drafted an op-ed for Mike to review and co-author. No sooner did we finish a draft to send to Christianity Today than did Gorbachev publicly step forward to insist that he had not become Christian, declaring the Telegraph’s reports to be false, or at least premature.

Our op-ed was dead, but the story of Mikhail Gorbachev’s evolving faith was not. Bill Clark had been Ronald Reagan’s most important aide in seeking to win the Cold War and undermine the Evil Empire. He was a very devout Catholic. Now, post-Cold War, Clark turned his attention to the soul of Mikhail Gorbachev.

Clark immediately began working the phone and his diplomatic contacts, as he had 25 years earlier as Ronald Reagan’s top aide in foreign policy. He told me that he had heard from informed “religious friends” who knew Gorbachev that “the word is that he has converted but doesn’t quite know how to talk about it or deal with it publicly.”

The reasons for Gorbachev’s reluctance would always remain a mystery. Clark, however, didn’t give up.

Clark labored with friends in Russia, notably a friar who wanted to remain anonymous and had the connections to get to Gorbachev a rare Russian translation of the works of Saint Francis. Clark arranged to have the collection hand-delivered to the former general secretary.

Clark’s outreach proved quickly fruitful. Two weeks later, Clark called me and told me that Gorbachev wanted to meet with him to talk about St. Francis and the Christian faith generally, a process which, said Clark, “is in the process of being arranged.”

Clark and I worked together to arrange that meeting, but alas, it never happened. Geography and health limitations made it overwhelming.

So, did Mikhail Gorbachev ever become a Christian? We never found out. Gorbachev took the answer to that question to the grave.

In the end, that’s the question that matters most. What Mikhail Gorbachev did in this world had huge consequences. But the consequences that matter most are eternal ones.

Hey, Gorbachev knew. And God knows.     *

Monday, 15 August 2022 12:20

Kengor Writes

Kengor Writes . . .

Paul Kengor

Paul Kengor is a professor of political science and the executive director of The Institute for Faith and Freedom at Grove City College, in Grove City, Pennsylvania. These essays are republished from The Institute for Faith and Freedom, an online publication of Grove City College, and The American Spectator. Paul Kengor is the author of God and Ronald Reagan: A Spiritual Life (2004); The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism (2007); The Judge: William P. Clark, Ronald Reagan’s Top Hand (Ignatius Press, 2007); and The Communist — Frank Marshall Davis: The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mentor (Threshold Editions / Mercury Ink 2012).

What Reversing Roe Really Means

Throughout the 2015-16 campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, I urged conservatives not to nominate Donald Trump. When November 2016 arrived, I did not vote for Donald Trump. Of course, I most certainly didn’t vote for Hillary Clinton. I wrote in the name of another Republican instead.

One of my chief concerns was that I could not imagine that Donald Trump, a lifelong pro-choice, playboy, billionaire, obnoxious New Yorker, truly had become pro-life, and would nominate pro-life justices to the U.S. Supreme Court. I had additional issues with Trump, but that one really stood out. When Trump produced a list of pro-life judges he promised to appoint, I didn’t trust him.

In turn, many pro-life conservatives urged me to nonetheless vote for the lesser of two evils when it came to abortion. The Supreme Court — plus countless other court appointments at other levels — hung in the balance. If Hillary Clinton were elected, we would lose the courts for at least another entire generation. You would never reverse Roe v. Wade and its companion case of insanity, Planned Parenthood v. Casey. Pro-lifers insisted on voting to save the court.

In that respect, they stand vindicated. I still had much I didn’t like about Trump, but the man proceeded to govern as the best pro-life president the country ever had. It was astonishing, and I was shocked every step of the way, but it is indisputably true. A pro-life colleague of mine who loathes Donald Trump insists that Trump did what he did for pro-lifers strictly for political expediency. Even if that were the case (for the sake of argument), it is undeniable that Trump became the most effective pro-life president ever, including more so than my buddy Ronald Reagan.

Most critical and most obvious, of course, were Trump’s three Supreme Court picks: Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett. They gave us this reversal of Roe and Casey. Had Hillary Clinton been president, we would’ve gotten three more like Harry Blackmun, William Brennan, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg (even as RBG knew and candidly admitted how flawed Roe was). (For the record, Reagan gave us Sandra Day O’Connor, the hugely disappointing Anthony Kennedy, and just one outstanding pro-life pick — Antonin Scalia.) Hillary Clinton quickly came forward after the Dobbs announcement to denounce a new “day of infamy” for America.

That said, what does this decision overturning Roe really mean?

First and foremost, it affirms what numerous constitutional scholars — including many liberal scholars and even the likes of Ruth Bader Ginsburg — always knew, namely: Roe v. Wade had no basis in the U.S. Constitution. Roe was a constitutional absurdity. It was never constitutional. I heard one news anchor on Fox News report that the Dobbs decision “eliminated the constitutional right to abortion.” No. There never was a constitutional right to abortion. That’s the whole point.

Roe was preposterously based on a “right” to an abortion invented and extended from a so-called “penumbra” or “shadow” of a “right to privacy” lurking somewhere in the arcane recesses of the Constitution. In fact, neither abortion nor even the word “privacy” are mentioned in the Constitution— no, not one time — even as the rights and protection of “life” is mentioned three times (in the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments).

Yes, shocking but true.

One can certainly argue that when the framers mentioned life, they were not thinking of abortion. No doubt that is correct. But still, a pro-lifer looking for a right to “life” in the Constitution clearly has a little more to grab on to than a pro-choicer looking for a right to abortion or even “privacy.”

Roe v. Wade is a legal absurdity that any jurist not jaded by ideology would concede was utterly without foundation in the U.S. Constitution. The reality is that the Constitution is silent on abortion, which is why the federal government should never have enshrined it. It should have been left to the states. This was something that Judge Robert Bork tried to explain to Senators Joe Biden and Ted Kennedy and feminists and liberals everywhere over 30 years ago, and for which he was called everything from a misogynist to a gargoyle.

And so, abortion now goes to the states. What does that mean?

Despite the hyperbole and hysteria, this certainly does not mean an end to abortion. Not at all. You will now see the emergence of abortion states — the abortion states of America. Already leading the charge at the state level are the likes of New York’s new pro-choice governor, Kathy Hochul, and Governor Gavin Newsom of California.

Vigorously supported by President Joe Biden, Hochul and Newsom are militantly committed to battling the efforts of states like Mississippi and Texas and others to limit abortions to the time of the unborn child’s heartbeat. The Texas action outraged Biden, who has promised to throw the “whole of government” against it. The bill infuriated Govs. Hochul and Newsom, who have responded by offering their states as destination centers for women nationwide to come for abortions.

“Abortion access is safe in New York,” Hochul ensures voters. “To the women of Texas, I want to say I am with you. Lady Liberty is here to welcome you with open arms.” She vows: “We will help you find a way to New York.”

As for Gavin Newsom, he vows to make California a “reproductive freedom state.” “These are dark days,” says a dire Newsom.

What’s happening with states like California and New York is something that many of us have long expected. Which states will be the dominant abortion states? Figuring that out isn’t rocket science. The answer is simple and predictable: Go to political maps of presidential elections and look at the blue states vs. red states; that is, Democrat states vs. Republican states. The firmly Democrat states, especially on the West Coast and in the Northeast, will become America’s abortion states. They will roll out the red carpet.

For states like New York and California, this process has already begun. The governors there are eager to fly the Roe flag as premier destination centers for abortion.

That sad reality ought to give some measure of comfort to pro-choice forces. They should be immensely satisfied with that they got from Roe. They got themselves nearly 50 years of legalized abortion. They threw open wide the doors to abortion “clinics” in every state. This long, insidious period was protracted enough to get them to a crucial hump they needed, namely: chemical abortions, abortions by pill, do-it-yourself-at-home abortions. This was symbolized by the group of young pro-abortion women who stood outside the Supreme Court a few months ago and en masse swallowed down abortion pills.

From here on, countless abortions will be done that way — as well as in the abortion states.

Pro-choicers: your “choice” will have plenty of options, including altogether new ones.

As for pro-lifers, they should nonetheless celebrate this achievement. Roe v. Wade was a monstrous injustice that produced over 60 million abortions of unborn children. It was a colossal sin and a dark stain on America.

1776 and Slavery

Many progressives today are eager to redefine America not as starting in 1776, which is literally when the very title “United States of America” began, but in the year 1619, before Plymouth Rock and before John Winthrop and the Arabella arrived upon our shores. They instead want to define the nation by slavery and racism. So much so that The New York Times’ 1619 Project dates America that way, defining the country’s start by the year 1619, with the arrival of the first enslaved Africans to Virginia that year.

But that is not the heart of America. Americans should look back at their Founding as based on the principles of 1776 — that uniquely great achievement for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness that was the Declaration of Independence. These were principles for all of humanity, though they would indeed take decades to fully implement for all Americans, both black and white. Their full achievement would require to nothing less than a Civil War.

Mobs today target statues of everyone from George Washington and Thomas Jefferson to (curiously) Union generals like Ulysses S. Grant, who defeated the Confederacy before battling the KKK, and even Abraham Lincoln, and (most bizarre of all) Frederick Douglass, the brave black abolitionist.

Let us not argue, however, with this historical reality: The United States of America, as our Founders conceived it, started in 1776.

But what about those same Founders and the undeniable evil of slavery? Well, that is a subject that is indeed far more troubling and complicated.

A full accounting must acknowledge first what the American Founders said about slavery, and what they did. Consider these testimonies:

“Slavery is such an atrocious debasement of human nature,” said Benjamin Franklin in a November 1789 speech demanding its “very extirpation.” In his February 3, 1790 petition to the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, which he wrote as president of the Pennsylvania Society for the Abolition of Slavery, Franklin urged that they

“. . . devise means for removing this Inconsistency from the Character of the American People, that you will promote mercy and Justice towards this distressed Race, & that you will Step to the very verge of the Powers vested in you for discouraging every Species of Traffick in the Persons of our fellow men.”

Franklin’s closest ally at the Founding was John Adams.

“Every measure of prudence, therefore, ought to be assumed for the eventual total extirpation of slavery from the United States,”

he urged in a June 8, 1819 letter. “I have, throughout my life, held the practice of slavery in . . . abhorrence.”

So many of the Founders felt this way. In fact, nearly all the most influential Founders felt that way. Professor Thomas G. West put it categorically: “Every leading Founder acknowledged that slavery was wrong.” He noted that

“. . . even those who defended slavery knew well that blacks are human beings. Hardly anyone claimed that slavery is right in principle. Each of the leading Founders acknowledged its wrongness.”

Indeed, as Alexander Hamilton put it, blacks were “men, by the laws of God and nature.” Regardless that “laws of certain states . . . give an ownership in the service of Negroes as personal property.” The law might say one thing, but it did not supersede the eternal reality of the laws of nature and of nature’s God — i.e., natural law and Biblical law.

John Jay, an author of The Federalist Papers and the first chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, has been called “America’s Wilberforce.” Jay in 1785 organized and became the first president of the New York Manumission Society. That March, he wrote to fellow abolitionist and founder Dr. Benjamin Rush:

“I wish to see all unjust and unnecessary discriminations everywhere abolished, and that the time may soon come when all our inhabitants of every color and denomination shall be free and equal partners in our political liberty.”

But what about the likes of George Washington, our nation’s first president, who owned slaves? Well, he likewise knew it was wrong.

In an April 12, 1786 letter to Robert Morris, Washington said of slavery: “There is not a man living who wishes more sincerely than I do, to see a plan adopted for the abolition of it.”

In an August 4, 1797 letter to Lawrence Lewis, he affirmed: “I wish from my soul that the legislature of this State could see a policy of the gradual Abolition of Slavery.”

And yet, in maintaining his farm and property, Washington relied on a mass of 316 slaves, of which 143 were in his possession entirely. Washington kept the slaves not because he felt it was right for one man to own another, but because he viewed them as a necessary evil to maintain his farm. It could not exist without them. It would go bankrupt, dry up, and wither away. Was this purely self-serving by Washington? Yes, most definitely. And he knew it.

The situation tore not only at Washington’s wallet but his conscience. He knew that slavery was wrong, but like so many of the Founders who owned slaves (including Thomas Jefferson), he felt he personally could not financially extricate himself from the situation. He plainly could not accept the catastrophic financial cost of setting them free. The devil had him by the tail.

As stated by Thomas Jefferson, “We have the wolf by the ears, and we can neither hold him, nor safely let him go. Justice is in one scale, and self-preservation in the other.” And yet, said Jefferson, “Nothing is more certainly written in the book of fate than that these people are to be free.” The key — the overwhelming task — was how to make that happen, especially peacefully. That was the problem. And to be sure, it would never happen peacefully.

It would take Abraham Lincoln — and an actual Civil War and Emancipation Proclamation — to fully extend that equality principle to every single American, including black Americans. It could not be extended in 1776, least of all because southern states would have seceded from the very American republic being conceived at the time. Certain southern states plainly said they would not ratify the Constitution if it undermined the slave system. The Founders might have found themselves in a civil war amongst themselves in July 1776 rather than a unified revolution to break free from the British. The abolition of slavery in 1776 was not possible. The very principles launched by 1776 and stated in the Declaration of Independence, and the subsequent Bill of Rights and Constitution, would have never gotten off the ground to begin with.

Abolishing slavery in America, as in every country, would not happen overnight. It took much time and pain. This was an evil, and eradicating the evil would not be simple. In America, it required blood to be spilled at a level (the Civil War) unprecedented in its history. No other war, including World War I and II combined, saw the loss of so many American lives. For its original sin, America would suffer terribly.

Looking back, however, we must credit the farsighted and noble ideas of 1776. They set forth a proposition — that all men are created equal — that would abolish within America’s borders a nefarious practice that had existed worldwide for thousands of years.

And yet, that laudable reality seems lost to the modern mind, or at least resisted by those with an ideological agenda to reframe America and the American Founding as something that it was not — as something altogether sinister and misbegotten.

To be sure, there is obvious ugliness in America’s historical record with race. Slavery is really America’s original sin, though not original to America alone. As for America’s Founders, they were torn about slavery and how to end it. That lack of clarity tore at the nation, almost permanently ripping it asunder a century later. Fortunately, great men like Abraham Lincoln found a way to keep the nation together and end the abomination that was slavery, ensuring that that nation, so conceived in liberty, should not perish from the face of the earth.

Ukraine’s Freedom Fighter

“Two visions of the world remain locked in dispute,” said President Ronald Reagan in July 1983.

“The first believes all men are created equal by a loving God who has blessed us with freedom. Abraham Lincoln spoke for us. . . . The second vision believes that religion is opium for the masses. It believes that eternal principles like truth, liberty, and democracy have no meaning beyond the whim of the state. And Lenin spoke for them.”

Reagan said that on July 19, 1983, in remarks at an official ceremony marking Captive Nations Week. Captive Nations Week had begun in July 1959 via an official Act of Congress, Public Law 86-90, supported by President Dwight Eisenhower, and was resurrected with a vengeance under Reagan in the 1980s as he sought to re-moralize the Cold War. The law set aside a week every July to designate and honor the unfortunate nations suffocating under the jackboot of Soviet and international Communism. Among them was Ukraine.

I thought of that Reagan statement yesterday, July 19, 2022, nearly four decades later to the day, as I sat in a packed room at the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation and Museum in Washington, D.C., I was there as a lecturer in a national seminar for teachers learning about the tragic history of Communism. Fortuitously, my two days at the foundation and museum coincided with a visit from the first lady of Ukraine, Olena Zelenska, whose husband and countrymen and countrywomen have bravely battled for eternal principles like truth, liberty, and democracy against the calculations of brooding men from Vladimir Lenin to Vladimir Putin.

Zelenska is in Washington this week, speaking at the State Department and to Congress. In between, she visited the Victims of Communism to pay homage to the people of her country and other nations crushed by Soviet Communism. Among those peoples, few suffered like her fellow Ukrainians. In the 1930s, Stalin unleashed a famine on the population that killed anywhere from 5-10 million. The horrors of Holodomor are hard to surpass in the history of human rights abuses.

While touring the Victims of Communism Museum, Zelenska paused to accept the organization’s Dissident Human Rights Award, which was presented to her by VOC staff and founders Andrew Bremberg, Ed Feulner, Elizabeth Spalding, and Lee Edwards, the latter of whom has worked tirelessly and nobly in the decades since the end of the Cold War to establish in our nation’s capital this crucial memorial to the estimated 100 million-plus Communist victims. (Dr. Edwards is also the author of Freedom’s College, an excellent history of Grove City College.) This week is once again Captive Nations Week, and who better to be on hand to accept that award than the first lady of the Ukraine? Her nation, right now in 2022, is battling to avoid again becoming a captive nation to yet another Kremlin thug, former KGB lieutenant colonel and reigning Russian despot for life, Vladimir Putin.

“Communism is just another form of totalitarianism,” noted Zelenska, speaking in her native tongue through a translator. “That is exactly what Ukraine is facing today.” She accepted the award “in the name of every Ukrainian man and woman fighting Russian aggression today,” including their would-be “enslavement” and Russia’s denial of basic freedoms and human rights.

Zelenska observed that modern Russia’s aggression against Ukraine shows that “the 20th century is repeating itself in the worst and ugliest forms.” She told the story of a mayor in a town near Kiev who was shot and killed by Russian troops for the crime of distributing food and medicine to his residents.

It indeed sounds like the 20th century is repeating itself in the worst and ugliest forms, at least for Russia’s neighbor. That was something that Stalin’s goons would have done as well. No country ever shot dissidents like the USSR.

“In certain places,” said Zelenska, “the darkness has never faded away.” The despots now find more sophisticated weapons to use and ways to exploit social media. Whatever the means, the results continue: the people of Ukraine remain victims of Russia’s brutal rulers.

To this day, in certain places like Ukraine, what Ronald Reagan said on July 19, 1983, remains eerily similar to what Olena Zelenska said on July 19, 2022: Two visions of the world remain locked in dispute. The first believes in the blessings of freedom bestowed by a God who creates all men and women equal; the other vision believes that eternal principles like truth, liberty, and democracy have no meaning beyond the whim of the state. Lenin spoke for the latter; Lincoln and Reagan and Olena Zelenska spoke for the former.     *

Monday, 14 February 2022 13:44

Kengor Writes . . .

Kengor Writes . . .

Paul Kengor

Paul Kengor is a professor of political science and the executive director of The Institute for Faith and Freedom at Grove City College, in Grove City, Pennsylvania. These essays are republished from The Institute for Faith and Freedom, an online publication of Grove City College, and The American Spectator. Paul Kengor is the author of God and Ronald Reagan: A Spiritual Life (2004); The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism (2007); The Judge: William P. Clark, Ronald Reagan’s Top Hand (Ignatius Press, 2007); and The Communist — Frank Marshall Davis: The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mentor (Threshold Editions / Mercury Ink 2012).

Teach MLK, Not CRT

Here’s a critical question for enthusiasts of critical race theory, particularly its growing number of advocates on the religious left: How did MLK do what he did without CRT?

That is, how did the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. manage to accomplish what he did without critical race theory? MLK preceded CRT, which began its rise in the 1970s, exploding in American universities still later. King was assassinated in 1968.

A few more questions:

How did Rosa Parks do what she did without this very, very narrow ideological theory known as CRT?

How about Thurgood Marshall?

How did the NAACP, founded in 1909, ever get off the ground without CRT?

How about Malcolm X, Jesse Jackson, Ralph Abernathy, John Lewis, and the Freedom Riders?

How about Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass?

What about Abraham Lincoln?

Juneteenth long preceded critical race theory. How was that possible?

Returning to the Rev. King, how did he manage to accomplish what he did without critical race theory? The answer is obvious: MLK didn’t need CRT. Neither did any of these other figures. Neither do you.

King, in fact, would have rejected CRT, least of all because of its roots in Marxist critical theory, whose origins are the destructive Frankfurt School.

I asked David Garrow, the preeminent biographer of King (and certainly no conservative), about King and CRT. “CRT so post-dates him that there’s no connection,” Garrow told me, “but MLK would have most certainly rejected ANY identity-based classification of human beings.”

No question. For King, you were to be judged by the content of your individual character, not lumped into an ethnic category based on the color of your skin. You were a child of God made in the image of God. You were defined as a person, not stereotyped according to a group.

As St. Paul stated, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).

The Christian faith, which of course was King’s faith, rejects these identity-based classifications of human beings.

King’s associates who survived him certainly rejected CRT.

Dr. Wyatt Tee Walker was close to the Rev. King. He stated: “Today, too many ‘remedies’ — such as Critical Race Theory, the increasingly fashionable post-Marxist/post-modernist approach that analyzes society as institutional group power structures rather than on spiritual or one-to-one human levels — are taking us in the wrong direction: separating even schoolchildren into explicit racial groups, and emphasizing differences instead of similarities.” Walker stressed: “The roots of CRT are planted in entirely different intellectual soil. It begins with ‘blocs’ (with each person assigned to an identity or economic bloc, as in Marxism).”

For the record, I get asked constantly about the Rev. King’s views on Marxism and socialism. They are frustratingly and notoriously difficult to pin down. Garrow would put King in the camp of some form of “democratic socialism,” probably closer to that originally envisioned by “social justice” Catholic Michael Harrington during his founding of the Democratic Socialists of America in the early 1980s, a DSA far removed from today’s DSA — the DSA of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, and Cori Bush. Today’s DSA is saturated with members who are sympathetic to Marxism — what its leadership calls “our 94,915 comrades” —and to atheism (and also virulently anti-Israel, if not anti-Semitic). Harrington would have been very troubled by this.

It was precisely the atheism of Communism that bothered the Rev. King.

“Communism, avowedly secularistic and materialistic, has no place for God,” noted King.

“I strongly disagreed with Communism’s ethical relativism. Since for the Communist there is no divine government, no absolute moral order, there are no fixed, immutable principles; consequently, almost anything — force, violence, murder, lying — is a justifiable means to the ‘millennial’ end.”

King would have vehemently rejected the embrace of Marxism by the likes of BLM founder Patrisse Cullors, a stalwart proponent of critical theory generally and CRT in particular. “We are trained Marxists,” says Cullors. “We are super-versed [in] ideological theories.”

If only Cullors knew what a terrible racist Karl Marx was. I’ve written about this at length in articles and books. Both Marx and Engels nastily flung around the n-word; that is, the actual American-English racial epithet for black people. It’s alarming to read letters between Marx and Engels in German and be struck by the n-word jumping off the page.

Of course, Cullors probably has no idea of that. She attended our universities. She would have learned only good things about Marx and Engels, and about critical theory.

Dr. King would surely recoil at statements like the one issued at Thanksgiving from Cullors’ Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation blasting what it dubs “White-supremacist-capitalism.” The statement declared:

“White-supremacist-capitalism uses policing to protect profits and steal Black life. Skip the Black Friday sales and buy exclusively from Black-owned businesses.”

The shocking statement continued: “Capitalism doesn’t love Black people.”

It’s hard to imagine the Rev. King engaging in similar deeply divisive Marxist-based rhetoric. This is what can happen when the ugly specter of Communism is dragged into civil rights. It divides. That’s what Marxism has always done. It’s a toxic ideology with corrosive effect.

All of which brings me back to my opening question: Why do so many people on the left, and particularly the religious left, feel the need to embrace critical race theory in order to teach about the nation’s past racial sins? Believe me, I know. I’m hearing from them constantly, especially as modern times have prompted me to regrettably write about CRT, which for years I avoided like the plague because it’s so incendiary.

Few modern topics have become as divisive, which is no surprise, given that CRT divides. It divides people into groups pitted against one another, into categories of oppressed vs. oppressor. And your group defines you. This certainly flies in the face of the Judeo-Christian conception of all individuals as children of God.

King and Parks and the others, to the contrary, united everyone with their struggle. Sure, they were opposed by racists of their day. Today, however, they are national icons, widely respected, if not revered, by all sides.

We’ve grown so much that there’s now a national holiday for King. Everyone celebrates it. It was approved by President Ronald Reagan in 1983, even given Reagan’s early questions about the Civil Rights Act of 1964. When Reagan was first asked about a King holiday during a press conference on May 10, 1982, he unhesitatingly said: “I have the deepest sympathy for it. I know what he means and what he has meant to a movement that I think is important to all of us.” After tasking his administration to consider the costs of such a federal holiday, he approved of it in August 1983.

Today, everyone approves of it.

Figures like King pull together. Critical race theory pulls apart. That’s why it has long been rejected, until, strangely, its recent embrace by many on the religious left as well as many on wider political left.

But not everyone on the wider left. Liberals ranging from the likes of Bill Maher to Andrew Sullivan to John McWhorter to James Carville firmly reject it and take it on. Entire groups like the 1776 Unites project, made up of longtime leading African-American scholars like Carol Swain, Glenn Loury, Bob Woodson, Shelby Steele, Wilfred Reilly, and dozens more have sprung up to counter CRT’s influence.

What inspires people and brings them to their better angels are brilliant works like the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Birmingham Jail letter, not the works of CRT writers like Robin DiAngelo, Kimberle Crenshaw, Richard Delgado, and Ibram X. Kendi.

As I’ve said in this space before, it reminds me of a constant caution I urge to religious-left Christians who oddly feel compelled to say sympathetic things toward Marxism: If you want to help the poor, just follow the Gospel and teachings of Jesus. Why follow militantly atheistic Communism merely because Karl Marx likewise talked of helping the poor? That’s silly. Marxists vehemently reject religion. Just as Marxists don’t get to claim ownership of workers’ rights, neither do critical race theorists suddenly get to claim ownership of civil rights.

People on the religious left have long been easily manipulated by radical theories repackaged and dressed up in a pretty pink bow. They are very naïve about many of these noxious ideological notions, and Marxist practitioners have long known that and targeted them. I wrote a 700-page book on the subject. Again, they should simply stick with the Gospel. Go to Christ. You need not go to anything rooted in Marx. That is not fruit from a healthy tree.

For those of us in education, especially at Christian colleges, this is the time to do what King did in that cell in Birmingham: appeal to the Gospel, Judeo-Christian teaching, natural law, Jesus, St. Paul, Augustine, and Aquinas, and not to a theory developed from the ideas of Karl Marx and the Frankfurt School.

Critical race theory is doing what it was designed to do: divide people. We need to unite people around what is true. Teach MLK, not CRT.

COVID and Conscientious Objection

The U.S. Supreme Court last week declined to stop a state vax mandate for health care workers invoking religious objections. It declined to halt New York Governor Kathy Hochul’s denial of the First Amendment religious rights of health care workers. Only three justices stepped forward to intervene: Neil Gorsuch, Samuel Alito, and Clarence Thomas. Gorsuch was clearly disappointed with his colleagues, no doubt Amy Coney Barrett and Brett Kavanaugh chief among them.

“No one seriously disputes that, absent relief, the applicants will suffer an irreparable injury,” stated Gorsuch, denouncing New York’s intention to fire workers and strip their unemployment benefits. This undermining of First Amendment freedoms “alone is sufficient to render the mandate unconstitutional.”

Gorsuch added in his 14-page dissent:

“The Free Exercise Clause protects not only the right to hold unpopular religious beliefs inwardly and secretly. It protects the right to live out those beliefs publicly in ‘the performance of (or abstention from) physical acts.’”

He concluded: “Today, we do not just fail the applicants. We fail ourselves.”

Among those failed, Gorsuch pointed to two New York Catholic physicians who object to the vaccines’ incorporation of aborted fetal cell lines:

“These applicants are not ‘anti-vaxxers’ who object to all vaccines. Instead, the applicants explain, they cannot receive a COVID-19 vaccine because their religion teaches them to oppose abortion in any form, and because each of the currently available vaccines has depended upon abortion-derived fetal cell lines in its production or testing. The applicants acknowledge that many other religious believers feel differently about these matters than they do. But no one questions the sincerity of their religious beliefs.”

An added injustice is that these health care workers were the front-line first-responders when New York was first under siege from COVID (many acquired natural immunity from that exposure). They feel an ingratitude from their governor. That governor, ironically, has not hesitated to insist that God is on her side on this matter. Gorsuch quoted Hochul:

“The day before the mandate went into effect, Governor Hochul again expressed her view that religious objections to COVID-19 vaccines are theologically flawed: ‘All of you, yes, I know you’re vaccinated, you’re the smart ones, but you know there’s people out there who aren’t listening to God and what God wants. You know who they are.’. . . The Governor offered an extraordinary explanation for the change too. She said that ‘God wants’ people to be vaccinated — and that those who disagree are not listening to ‘organized religion’ or ‘everybody from the Pope on down.’”

Governor Kathy Hochul invoked her religious beliefs to vaccinate New Yorkers against their will, while simultaneously saying those New Yorkers could not invoke their First Amendment religious rights to protect themselves. The Supreme Court effectively shielded her, not them. Gorsuch’s objection received literal silence from the six other justices: Barrett, Kavanaugh, John Roberts, and the three liberals — Sonia Sotomayor, Stephen Breyer, and Elena Kagan.

Particularly notable was the silence from Barrett, Kavanaugh, and Roberts. New York’s health care workers likely expected scant protection from the court’s liberals, but the lack of backing from justices known for defending religious liberty was a major letdown. It points to a larger and growing problem throughout the pandemic.

Sadly, not only are religious rights not being respected, but they are being widely suspected. Increasingly as the pandemic has worn on, supporters of forced vaccination are insisting that many Americans seeking religious exemptions aren’t actually religious. They’re faking it, hiding behind phony faith claims. What really is “religious?” the New York Times asks.

To be sure, one would hope that most people making religious appeals are genuinely religious. Surely some are not. On its face, this seems a legitimate criticism. But think again. Dig deeper into the history of American religious-conscientious objection.

Note the crucial second word there: conscientious.

From the start of the religious-appeal process against COVID mandates, I’ve been concerned that these appeals are more often labeled by employers as “religious exemptions.” They ought to be called religious/conscientious exemptions — that is, appeals based not merely on one’s religious faith but on conscience. This is a critical distinction.

Conscientious objection, of course, has a long and noble history in America. (We held a conference on the topic in 2019.) There are few more honored rights in our history and Judeo-Christian tradition. One of our most revered founders, James Madison, father of the Bill of Rights, insisted that an individual’s conscience was a possession “more sacred than his castle.” Just as one has the right to property, one has the right to conscience, which the state should not infringe upon. Your conscience is yours, and it’s sacred. In fact, it’s part of an eternal nature that transcends the mere physical.

Madison said that “all men are entitled to the full and free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience.” He argued for inclusion of freedom of conscience in the Bill of Rights. He made that argument in Philadelphia, where William Penn, a century earlier, had implemented a historic Act for Freedom of Conscience.

This freedom has served America so admirably for centuries, from conscientious objectors in World Wars I and II to the Vietnam War, from the appeals of citizens as diverse as the Quakers, Mennonites, Sergeant Alvin York, Desmond Doss, Muhammad Ali, the Berrigan brothers, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Today, it is appealed to by the likes of Hobby Lobby, the Little Sisters of the Poor, Kim Davis, and court cases such as Arlene’s Flowers v. the State of Washington, Zubik v. Burwell, and Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

Liberals are aggressive supporters of conscience when it comes to, say, refusal to fight in an unpopular war. It’s a great irony that liberals who once championed conscientious objection for the Vietnam draft-dodger spurn it for the Baptist florist or Christian cake-baker who begs to decline serving a same-sex wedding, or now for millions of Americans claiming rights of conscience against mandatory vaxxing.

Our onetime precious consensus on conscience is being ignored unlike ever before and redefined unlike ever before.

James Madison lost his effort to get the word “conscience” in the First Amendment, and it’s too bad he did. Nonetheless, courts have long honored appeals to one’s conscience as well as appeals to one’s religion.

Not anymore.

Indulge me as I take this to a deeper theological-philosophical level, one that justices like Amy Coney Barrett and Brett Kavanaugh, both products of Catholic education and likely admirers of Pope John Paul II, ought to be able to appreciate.

The late pope for decades was one of the world’s leading voices on conscience. He stressed the dignity of the human person and the sanctity of the free will that the Creator bestowed on all human beings. In his August 1993 Veritatis Splendor (The Splendor of Truth), he wrote: “The relationship between man’s freedom and God’s law is most deeply lived out in the ‘heart’ of the person, in his moral conscience.” Citing the Second Vatican Council, he noted that in the depths of our conscience, we detect a law which we do not impose on ourselves, but which nonetheless holds us to obedience. This is a law written into the heart of all men and women by God, telling us “do this, shun that.” To obey it is the very dignity of man; according to it he will be judged (Romans 2:14-16).

The pope brought that message directly to our shores, telling Americans in Miami in September 1987: “The only true freedom, the only freedom that can truly satisfy, is the freedom to do what we ought as human beings created by God according to his plan.”

As noted by political scientist Thomas Rourke, “Possessed with reason and free will, the person seeks vertical transcendence when he seeks to know the truth and act in accord with it.” To arbitrarily interfere with this search for the truth, or to prevent a person from acting according to the demands of conscience — as oppressive governments do — is to deny people their right to responsible personhood.

How a person chooses to act defines the person. Our moral choices matter and, in a sense, make us. This is the very essence of John Paul II’s published work (as Karol Wojtyla), The Acting Person. God wants us to choose rightly. It is truly about how the person acts in accord with the conscience that God gave us.

John Paul II’s conception of the human person speaks not only to the dignity of the person but also as the person living within community. That includes a community like the America of the Founders that created a system that honors the dignity of that person and his or her conscience.

For our modern state to act as an obstacle to an individual moral relationship with God is an affront. It is an outrage. Not only would popes be outraged but so would our Founding Fathers.

Again, James Madison: “The Religion then of every man must be left to the conviction and conscience of every man: and it is the right of every man to exercise it as these may dictate.”

In short, modern Americans stand on firm ground whether they appeal to their religion or conscience. Vax mandates should be no exception. It’s already terribly troubling that COVID survivors with natural immunity rarely receive medical waivers even with letters from their physicians arguing that vaccination could be counterproductive and unhealthy. Religious and conscience appeals, however, ought to be literally sacrosanct.

This should be a matter of not only religion but conscience. It’s incumbent upon critics and HR departments and governments to realize and honor this. In this nation, your conscience must remain sacred.     *

Wednesday, 15 December 2021 13:46

Kengor Writes . . .

Kengor Writes . . .

Paul Kengor

Paul Kengor is a professor of political science and the executive director of The Institute for Faith and Freedom at Grove City College, in Grove City, Pennsylvania. These essays are republished from The Institute for Faith and Freedom, an online publication of Grove City College, and The American Spectator. Paul Kengor is the author of God and Ronald Reagan: A Spiritual Life (2004); The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism (2007); The Judge: William P. Clark, Ronald Reagan’s Top Hand (Ignatius Press, 2007); and The Communist — Frank Marshall Davis: The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mentor (Threshold Editions / Mercury Ink 2012).

Critical Race Theory: Myths, Marxism, and More

Few modern topics have become as divisive as critical race theory, which is no surprise, given that CRT divides. It divides people into groups pitted against one another, into categories of oppressed vs. oppressor. What’s worse, your group defines you. This certainly flies in the face of the Judeo-Christian conception of all individuals as children of God made in the image of God.

What’s making CRT even worse are misunderstandings and misconceptions on both sides, from the left and the right.

From the left, MSNBS’ Nicole Wallace recently made headlines for a comment about how “critical race theory . . . isn’t real.” The context of her statement seems to have been to allege that CRT isn’t really being taught in Virginia public schools — i.e., conservatives were manufacturing the claim to win elections. But the truth is that the revolt in northern Virginia started with very upset and frustrated parents at local school boards, many of whom theretofore had been apolitical in a highly Democratic district. It was a grassroots uprising. It’s crucial to understand that not only have conservatives taken notice and condemned the teaching of CRT in public schools — far from it — but so have liberals ranging from the likes of James Carville to Andrew Sullivan to John McWhorter to Bill Maher and many more.

Entire groups such as the 1776 Unites project, made up of longtime leading African-American scholars like Carol Swain, Glenn Loury, Bob Woodson, Shelby Steele, Wilfred Reilly, and dozens more have sprung up to counter CRT ideas.

That’s no myth. This is real.

I got an email last year from the parent of a prospective student who was really upset that one of her young kids was being taught that she as a “White” (upper case “W”) person was part of the oppressor class. As such, the girl needed to admit to her “White privilege” and unacknowledged racism and how she inherently discriminates against people of color, even if she believes she doesn’t. The kid, whose family every year at home celebrates MLK Day, was completely flummoxed by the whole thing. The class of fifth graders was being urged to write letters to the Cleveland Indians organization to change the team’s name, and they live in Illinois — about eight hours from Cleveland.

That’s a manifestation of CRT thinking. That’s real.

And yet, on the flip side, authentic forms of teaching about legitimate racial discrimination can get mislabeled as advocating for CRT. That’s wrong, too.

A respected colleague and good friend fears that if he talks about slavery or racial injustices in a course where he has long done so, he’ll now be suspected of advocating for CRT, given how riled up conservatives are about the issue. Point taken. Of course, that would be wrong, outrageously so. Discussing such subjects, as myself and other professors here at Grove City College have long done, is obviously not to advocate for critical race theory. One of the required readings in our mandatory Western Civilization. course is the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s magnificent “Letter from the Birmingham Jail,” which we all agreed from the outset to include as a core reading in the course. We certainly incorporated that letter long before the current CRT wave and will continue to do so.

I also lecture on King’s profound letter every fall semester in my Comparative Politics course, as well as lectures that I do around the country for Young America’s Foundation. My personal slogan is effectively: Teach MLK, not CRT.

Clearly, teaching about the sins and evils of slavery and racism does not ipso facto place one in the category of CRT writers like Robin DeAngelo, Kimberlé Crenshaw, Richard Delgado, and Ibram Kendi. Conversely, when CRT writers laudably condemn, say, Jim Crow, that’s no reason to become a CRT advocate. Just as when Marxists laudably condemn, say, forced child labor, that’s no reason to become a Marxist. All human beings should reject those things. You need not become a critical race theorist or Marxist.

It reminds me of a constant caution I urge to religious-left Christians who oddly feel compelled to say sympathetic things of Marxism: If you want to help the poor, just follow the Gospel and teachings of Jesus. Why follow militantly atheistic Marxism merely because Karl Marx likewise talked of helping the poor? That’s silly. Marxists vehemently reject religion. Just as Marxists don’t get to claim ownership of workers’ rights, neither do critical race theorists suddenly get to claim ownership of civil rights. The NAACP, for instance, has done a darn good job fighting for civil rights and combating racism without embracing CRT.

For professors, this is a teachable moment to clarify such realities about what is and isn’t CRT. It’s what a teacher ought to do.

What also doesn’t help the situation is the behemoth of Big Tech and how it has politicized and manipulates the definitions of these things. Consider just one element of the CRT issue: When typing “critical race theory” into Google — bear in mind that some 80-90 percent of the planet’s web searches go through Google — the first thing that pops up is the Wikipedia definition. This is where inquirers “learn” about critical race theory. Like many terms, such as “cultural Marxism,” Google and Wikipedia in the past were far more accurate about these terms and their Marxist roots — back before the terms became hyper-politicized.

For those of us unfortunates who study this junk for a living, we know better. We watch how ideologues distort meanings. In the past, I’ve printed these web pages and filed them in manila folders; now, I get screenshots. Screenshots are a must, given how quickly activists remold these definitions to suit their ideological purposes.

Precisely that is going on with the Google-to-Wikipedia search of “critical race theory.” What’s there is barely enough to discern the Marxist roots, albeit only to the discerning few who know the true history. Here’s how the definition starts:

“Critical race theory (CRT) is a body of legal scholarship and an academic movement of U.S. civil-rights scholars and activists who seek to examine the intersection of race and U.S. law and to challenge mainstream American liberal approaches to racial justice. CRT examines social, cultural, and legal issues primarily as they relate to race and racism in the U.S. A tenet of CRT is that racism and disparate racial outcomes are the result of complex, changing, and often subtle social and institutional dynamics, rather than explicit and intentional prejudices of individuals.

“CRT originated in the mid-1970s in the writings of several American legal scholars, including Derrick Bell, Alan Freeman, Kimberlé Crenshaw, Richard Delgado, Cheryl Harris, Charles R. Lawrence III, Mari Matsuda, and Patricia J. Williams. It emerged as a movement by the 1980s, reworking theories of critical legal studies (CLS) with more focus on race. CRT is grounded in critical theory and draws from thinkers such as Antonio Gramsci, Sojourner Truth, Frederick Douglass, and W. E. B. Dubois, as well as the Black Power, Chicano, and radical feminist movements from the 1960s and 1970s.”

This is a sugarcoated definition. In particular, note that there’s no explicit mention of Marxism, though for those who know, the mention of “grounded in critical theory” and listing of Antonio Gramsci first among its proponents tells you just that. Gramsci, the pioneering Italian Marxist (whose leading American scholar was Pete Buttigieg’s father), was a founder of the application of Marxism to culture — that is, cultural Marxism (as we’ve historically called it).

And yet, if you search the words “Marx” or “Marxism” in the text of the Wikipedia entry for critical race theory, they do not appear even once. They’ve been scrubbed. You will find, however, a crucial reference at the very bottom of the page in the box on “Origins.” There, it states succinctly: “Critical Theory: Origins: Frankfurt School, Freudo-Marxism.”

That’s it, precisely. Those are the foundational roots of critical race theory. Critical race theory, as one must cobble together from the Wikipedia page, “is grounded in critical theory,” and critical theory’s origins are the Frankfurt School and its infamous Freudian-Marxism: Case closed. That’s what you need to know. It should be in the lead paragraph, but the scrubbers scrubbed it, though they evidently missed the box at the end.

Get a screenshot of the box, before some activist deletes it. Expect there to soon be no mention of Marxism whatsoever anywhere on that page.

Truthfully, the Wikipedia page ought to say much more. The Marxist elements of critical race theory are extremely important to understand because of how dehumanizing and destructive it is, particularly to children. Karl Marx saw people not as individuals made in the imago Dei — the Judeo-Christian conception of human beings made in the image of God — but as groups to be shoved into opposing categories pitted against one another as foes. Marx did this according to class and economics, i.e., the Proletariat vs. the bourgeoisie, whereas Marxist critical race theorists do this according to race, i.e., white vs. black, or some other ethnic-based construct. One group is the oppressor and the other the oppressed; your category defines you. Rather than aspiring to the colorblind world that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. envisioned, where individuals are judged by the content of their character, people are foremost viewed by the color of their skin.

It is a terribly dehumanizing way to view individual persons.

Consider the assessment of Dr. Wyatt Tee Walker, who was very close to the Rev. King:

“Today, too many ‘remedies’ — such as Critical Race Theory, the increasingly fashionable post-Marxist/post-modernist approach that analyzes society as institutional group power structures rather than on spiritual or one-to-one human level — are taking us in the wrong direction: separating even school children into explicit racial groups, and emphasizing differences instead of similarities.”

Walker stressed: “The roots of CRT are planted in an entirely different intellectual soil. It begins with ‘blocs’ (with each person assigned to an identity or economic bloc, as in Marxism).”

The Wikipedia entry for CRT says nothing like this. It makes no mention of Marxism, other than the “Freudo-Marxism” reference thus far surviving in the box at the bottom. For ideologues on the Left, that’s perfect for demonizing those who object to CRT’s Marxist influences, including concerned parents. Those people can be derided as followers and fabricators of “myths,” and even as “white supremacists.”

This is what we’re up against with Big Tech. It controls not only the media narrative but the very meanings of terms.

For those of us in education, we need to be much better than that. We need to strive honestly to explain what these terms really mean and what they don’t. We need to explain what CRT is and isn’t. Most of all, rejecting CRT doesn’t mean rejecting talking about racial discrimination. It didn’t in the past and it won’t in the future.

Until then, in the spirit of Marxism, Critical Race Theory will do what it does: divide people. We need to unite people around what is true.

My Year Without Baseball

Editor’s note: This article first appeared at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

Sitting in the lobby of a Washington hotel having drinks with friends, I glanced at the television and was pulled in by images of October baseball — the playoff season. It was the San Francisco Giants vs. the Los Angeles Dodgers — classic.

“It’s hard not to watch this,” I said to my friends. “I love baseball, but I boycotted baseball this year because of MLB commissioner Rob Manfred’s politicization of the sport.”

As I wrote back in April, Manfred’s decision to yank the All-Star Game out of Atlanta because of his disapproval of the state’s new election-integrity laws was an awful, unacceptable, and unprecedented politicization of America’s national pastime. It was a partisan-ideological decision with no place in professional sports.

In response, I decided not to watch a single game this season, on TV or at the ballpark. It pained me, because I love baseball, but Manfred left no other choice to countless fans. We can’t allow ourselves to be patsies and pawns to those poisoning everything with politics and canceling whatever they disagree with. In this case, canceling an entire city and state.

Enough is enough. This has to stop.

I was prepared to make that case to my friends in the hotel lobby. Even though they’re politically like-minded, and I assumed likewise outraged by what Manfred did, I expected an argument or some resistance. I got just the opposite reaction.

“I’m finished with baseball,” bitterly responded my friend Robert, a lifetime baseball fanatic. “I haven’t watched a single game all season. I can’t. No more. It’s a matter of principle.”

The last time that Robert and I conversed on baseball, we debated whether his guy, Tom Seaver, or my guy, John Candelaria, was more deserving of the Cy Young Award in 1977 (which went to Steve Carlton). We both can rattle off the starting lineups for the great ’70s teams: the Big Red Machine, the Pirates, “Lumber Company” team, the Dodgers, Yankees, and the amazing A’s.

But Robert, like me, is fed up. The other three people at our table had the same position. Not one watched a single game this season. Manfred had boycotted an entire city and state over politics, and we all responded by boycotting Manfred and baseball. As we discussed our individual thinking, we conceded how it hurt the innocent — i.e., my team, the Pirates; Robert’s team, the New York Mets; and my friend Steve’s team, the Washington Nationals. But we agreed Manfred left us no other choice.

And yet, as we discussed the situation further, here’s what really struck me: I told my friends that when I wrote about my decision in my Philadelphia Tribune column in April, a reader assured me that I wouldn’t regret my decision — I would learn to live without baseball.

Well, the reader was right. I’ve moved on, and with much less pain than I anticipated.

Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred taught me two important things: First, I couldn’t support baseball this season because of his egregious political weaponization of the sport; and second, I can live without it. He taught it to my friends, as well.

Our protest may sound like sour grapes, but truly, it’s a matter of principle. This junk must stop. Enough.     *

Tuesday, 05 October 2021 12:45

Kengor Writes . . .

Kengor Writes . . .

Paul Kengor

Paul Kengor is a professor of political science and the executive director of The Institute for Faith and Freedom at Grove City College, in Grove City, Pennsylvania. These essays are republished from The Institute for Faith and Freedom, an online publication of Grove City College, and The American Spectator. Paul Kengor is the author of God and Ronald Reagan: A Spiritual Life (2004); The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism (2007), The Judge: William P. Clark, Ronald Reagan’s Top Hand (Ignatius Press, 2007), and The Communist — Frank Marshall Davis: The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mentor (Threshold Editions / Mercury Ink 2012).

Us vs. Them — Why We Remember 9/11 Differently

Editor’s note: This article first appeared in the The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

On Sept. 8, 2021, Grove City College President Paul McNulty spoke in downtown Pittsburgh regarding his uniquely fascinating, yet somber, 9/11 experiences. He played an intimate role in the prosecution of the hijackers and their associates as U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia and deputy attorney general in the Bush administration. The audience was riveted as McNulty walked through the anguished moments from 7:59 a.m. to 10:03 a.m. on Sept. 11, starting with the takeoff of the first hijacked jet and ending with the crashing of the last, Flight 93, in Shanksville.

What particularly sticks with me from that talk was the contrast in how the Islamist terrorists view human life versus how we do.

McNulty recounted Osama Bin Laden speaking from his Taliban-controlled sanctuary in Afghanistan in February 1998, where he ordered, “Kill Americans, wherever and whenever.” This was an edict against every American, soldier or civilian, young or old, Marines or babies. On 9/11, they targeted us all.

McNulty recounted the grisly exchange between 9/11 plotter Zacarias Moussaoui and U.S. attorney Robert Spencer on March 23, 2006.

Asked by Spencer if he had any regrets, Moussaoui conceded none: “I just wish it will happen on the 12th, the 13th, the 14th, the 15th, the 16th, the 17th, and I can go on and on. There is no remorse for justice.”

Moussaoui told Spencer that he enjoyed listening to the chilling testimony from Pentagon victims. It made him smile: “I would have even laughed if I didn’t know that I would be kicked out of the court.” Asked Spencer: “You enjoyed seeing the Pentagon on fire?” Moussaoui replied: “My pleasure.”

When asked his reaction to the harrowing testimony of Lt. Col. John Thurman describing crawling out of the building with his face against the floor, Moussaoui sniffed, “He was pathetic. I was regretful he didn’t die.” Asked about those who did die, Moussaoui celebrated: “Make my day.”

To Moussaoui, if only every day could be like 9/11.

“Like it to all happen again, right?” Spencer asked Moussaoui, who affirmed: “Every day.”

In contrast, Paul McNulty recalled how the victims of 9/11 have been remembered by Americans, right down to their scarcest physical remains. He noted that only 1,100 sets of remains were found of the 2,823 who perished under the World Trade Center buildings. Most were pulverized. Among those 1,100, McNulty noted that each time remains were found in subsequent weeks by personnel on site, the entire place silently stood in order, heads bowed, as the remains were slowly carried away from Ground Zero.

The contrast between how one side views human life versus the other could not have been clearer.

Every Sept. 11, we remember the dead and pray for their families. We don’t seek violent deaths as suicide “martyrs” for a God that wants us to kill. Our God is the Author of Life. We plead for life. But to radical Islamists like Moussaoui and Bin Laden, God is the master of the sword, not of the cross — not of love and mercy, but of their distorted view of “justice.”

America’s Judeo-Christian roots have taught us to honor the sanctity and dignity of every human being as made in the image of the Creator. This has long made America different. Let’s hope it remains so.

MLB Strikes Out in Cuba

“Major League Baseball remained absent-mindedly and cowardly mute on the Cuban people’s freedom struggles, despite the game’s close ties with Cuban players.”

So writes David, a Grove City College alum and a reader of my columns.

David continues: “The league has no excuse now for dodging the political issues of the day as they arise. Aroldis Chapman represented the New York Yankees at the All-Star Game in Denver — and certainly to his credit, he didn’t shy away from the hot-button issue of the week: the ongoing protests and demonstrations against Communism in Cuba, about which social and sporting institutions have remained silent.”

As David noted, Chapman was quite vocal in his solidarity with his people, writing “SOS Cuba” and “Patria Y Vida” on his game hat. His commendable gesture was joined by Texas Rangers outfielder Adolis Garcia. Both players are defectors from Cuba.

Has Major League Baseball joined them in their protest of Communist Cuba’s abuses? Not at all.

And this isn’t the first time that MLB’s silence in the face of Cuban oppression has been pointed out. Back in April, before the current uprising in the Cuban streets, Senator Marco Rubio called out the “hypocrisy” of MLB and commissioner Rob Manfred for relocating the All-Star Game from Atlanta to Denver in protest over Georgia’s new election laws while being mum on abuses in nations like Cuba and China. “Will Major League Baseball now end its engagement with nations that do not hold elections at all, like China and Cuba?” Rubio asked.

If you’re puzzled by this mixing of baseball and politics, well, you should be, but it’s entirely the fault of Major League Baseball. The likes of Rubio and Chapman and Garcia and my friend David and countless others are angry at Major League Baseball for engaging in politics, in the first place, and in the hypocrisy.

In a number of columns here the last few months, I wrote about the outrageousness of MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred politicizing America’s national pastime by yanking the All-Star Game out of Atlanta as a result of his partisan interpretation of Georgia’s new election-integrity laws. That game, in case you missed it (I did — recall that I’m boycotting baseball for the entirety of the 2021 season), was played last week in Denver rather than Atlanta.

In those columns, I noted that Manfred opened up himself and the MLB to all sorts of charges of hypocrisy in the future, because such is what happens when you politicize baseball. Fans wonder why Manfred punishes say, city X rather than city Z, or state A rather than state B, for this or that alleged political infraction. In one of my articles, I noted that Pennsylvania has certain voter criteria more restrictive than Georgia’s, and I thus asked if MLB would be boycotting the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Philadelphia Phillies games. Once you open this door and go down this road of politics, you’re vulnerable to complaints of double standards. That’s why baseball should stick to baseball, and get its big nose out of politics.

In the case of Cuba, the hypocrisy is even worse. Not only does Cuba obviously have far more stringent voting restrictions than Georgia or anywhere in America or the entire Western Hemisphere — being a Communist dictatorship — but baseball players in Cuba have no wage and labor rights.

This is actually a topic I’ve followed for a long time, given my focus on Communism. No one even knows how much money Cuban baseball players currently make, though we know this much: their incomes are far below what Rob Manfred and anyone else would consider the poverty line.

The last reliable numbers we had (early 2000s) revealed that the entire payroll for the Cuban national team was $2,400 — yes, for the entire team. Each man on the roster of 20 players was paid a paltry $120 per year, just like everyone else in Cuba, from doctors to teachers to maintenance workers. That is what absolute equal redistribution of wealth looks like.

But like every Communist country, while everyone in Cuba is equal, some are more equal than others. No one in Cuba has had a payroll quite like the Castro brothers. Forbes magazine estimated Fidel Castro’s net worth at the time of his death at a cool $900 million. He was regularly ranked one of the top 10 wealthiest rulers in the world.

Of course, Cubans painfully realize their horrible situation. They flee the country when they can.

Today, MLB is home to a huge number of Cuban nationals who escaped this madness. And many of those freedom seekers no doubt wonder how Rob Manfred can punish the city of Atlanta for alleged injustices that come nowhere near the horrible injustices suffered by Cubans for over 60 years.

MLB strikes out again.     *

Tuesday, 27 July 2021 12:34

Kengor Writes . . .

Kengor Writes . . .

Paul Kengor

Paul Kengor is a professor of political science and the executive director of The Institute for Faith and Freedom at Grove City College, in Grove City, Pennsylvania. These essays are republished from The Institute for Faith and Freedom, an online publication of Grove City College, and The American Spectator. Paul Kengor is the author of God and Ronald Reagan: A Spiritual Life (2004); The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism (2007), The Judge: William P. Clark, Ronald Reagan’s Top Hand (Ignatius Press, 2007), and The Communist — Frank Marshall Davis: The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mentor (Threshold Editions / Mercury Ink 2012).


BLM Founder Patrisse Cullors, Marxist Abolitionist, Wants to Abolish the Police.

Black Lives Matter founder Patrisse Cullors has been in the news a lot lately because of controversy over her income and financial dealings, including recent purchases of several new homes. Cullors lashed out at these criticisms by protesting, “The fact that the right-wing media is trying to create hysteria around my spending is, frankly, racist and sexist.”

The fact is that Cullors’ own organization has demanded answers. Hawk Newsome, head of Black Lives Matter Greater New York City, called for “an independent investigation” of Cullors. “If you go around calling yourself a socialist, you have to ask how much of her own personal money is going to charitable causes,” says Newsome.

“It’s really sad because it makes people doubt the validity of the movement and overlook the fact that it’s the people that carry this movement. . . . We need black firms and black accountants to go in there and find out where the money is going.”

But another particularly striking Cullors revelation of late has received almost no publicity. It was flagged for me by Mike Gonzalez, author of an upcoming major new book on BLM. It’s a video by Cullors titled, “What Is Abolition and Am I an Abolitionist?” Posted on her personal YouTube channel; it needs to be widely watched.

In that video, Cullors repeatedly calls herself an “abolitionist.” She talks about her “abolitionist journey” and the “abolitionist future we deserve.” She announces that she’s writing a book titled An Abolitionist Handbook.

Cullors applies her abolitionist goals to police — and not just police but even prisons and jails. She states flatly, “Abolition is the getting rid of police, prisons, and jails, surveillance, and courts.”

Yes, the abolition of police, prisons, jails, surveillance, and courts — all part of what Cullors calls the “prison in rial complex.” As many of us have noted, she emphasizes that BLM’s “defund” movement is about literal abolition. That is, not just defunding the police, but abolishing the police — plus, prisons and jails, and now, surveillance and courts, too.

In the video, Cullors points to (as she often does) her mentor Angela Davis, whom she hails as a fellow abolitionist, including of prisons. Davis, of course, is America’s best-known female Marxist. In Moscow in 1979, the Soviets (in a hall of entirely white folks) awarded her their prestigious Lenin Prize. Cullors’ memoir opens with a foreword by Davis.

It’s important to pause here to understand something crucial that helps make sense of where Cullors is coming from on this “abolition” theme.

Cullors, of course, is a proud Marxist. She describes her “ideological frame” as that of a “trained Marxist organizer” who is “super-versed on ideological theories.” In interviews and in her memoirs, she speaks of her intensive study reading Marx, Lenin, Mao, and other leading Marxists. “We spent the year reading, anything from Marx, to Lenin, to Mao, learning all types of global critical theory,” she said in an April 2018 interview.

Those of us who have repeatedly underscored these significant facts have done so for good reason, namely that when Cullors tells us this about herself, she’s telling us something very instructive. This is her philosophy and her worldview. And utterly essential to the Marxist philosophy and worldview is the notion of abolition.

Karl Marx (and Marxism) was all about abolition. The word is omnipresent throughout his writings. As noted by Marx biographer Robert Payne, the word “abolition” seems to practically jump off every page of The Communist Manifesto. “And after he has ‘abolished’ property, family, and nations, and all existing societies, Marx shows little interest in creating a new society on the ruins of the old,” observed Payne. “The Communist Manifesto was the gauntlet he threw at the world.”

It was indeed. Go online to various writings of Marx and do a search on words like “abolish” and “abolition,” as well as “criticize” and “criticism.” You’ll be struck immediately.

The goal of the Marxist project was one of fundamental transformation, of pursuing permanent revolution and unrestrained criticism of everything — nothing less than what Karl Marx called “the ruthless criticism of all that exists.” Marx in his essay declaring religion “the opium of the people” said that “the criticism of religion is the beginning of all criticism.” In that infamous essay, he used the word “criticism” 29 times.

Marx’s ideas were utterly radical, or (as Marx openly conceded) “contrary to the nature of things.” Above all, Marx in the Manifesto acknowledged that Communism seeks to “abolish the present state of things.”

Think about that one: “abolish the present state of things.” Read it again. Say it out loud. What could be more radical, more revolutionary?

For those who think that Marxism was about mere markets and wealth, mull that one over.

Marx in the Manifesto stated that Communists “openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions.” Note these words: “forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions.” “All” meant “all.” He and Friedrich Engels closed the Manifesto with this: “Communists everywhere support every revolutionary movement against the existing social and political order of things.”

Quite chillingly, Marx, who wrote about the devil, had a favorite quote from the Mephistopheles (i.e., devil/demon) character in Goethe’s Faust, “Everything that exists deserves to perish.”

Again, mull that over: “Everything that exists deserves to perish.”

That is reckless and irresponsible — as reckless and irresponsible as calling for the abolition of police, prisons, jails, surveillance, and courts.

Above all, Karl Marx, like Patrisse Cullors, was an abolitionist.

Marx and Engels in the Manifesto targeted everything from property to the family to faith. “Abolition of the family!” they wrote with an exclamation. “Even the most radical flare up at this infamous proposal of the Communists.” They noted that “Communism abolishes eternal truths, it abolishes all religion, and all morality.”

God has long been a special target for these revolutionaries. To quote Marx’s socialist buddy Mikhail Bakunin from his signature book God and the State: “If God really existed, it would be necessary to abolish him.”

Yes, you read that right: “If God really existed, it would be necessary to abolish him.”

Marx envisioned an apocalyptic revolution leading to the abolition of capitalism, classes, and the state itself. In the process, even democracy (temporarily exploited) would be abolished.

Reading all of this closely, of course, was Vladimir Lenin, the totalitarian despot and mass killer whom Patrisse Cullors read closely. In his most revealing work, The State and Revolution, Lenin, in the chapter “The Transition from Capitalism to Communism,” quoted Marx and Engels: “the bourgeois state does not ‘wither away,’ but is ‘abolished’ by the proletariat in the course of the revolution.”

That wasn’t the only thing that Lenin and the Bolsheviks sought to abolish. Consider Lenin’s landmark October 2, 1920, speech to the Russian Young Communist League, in which Lenin instructed the 600 assembled delegates in how to “accomplish the task of destroying the foundations of the old.” Lenin said of Marx:

“He critically reshaped everything that had been created by human society, without ignoring a single detail. He reconsidered, subjected to criticism, and verified on the working-class movement everything that human thinking had created.”

Everything, everything. Among them, the “old schools” would need to be abolished. “The old schools produced servants needed by the capitalists,” sniffed Lenin. “We must therefore abolish them.”

The new “aim,” Lenin told young Communists, was simple: “learn Communism.” He told the youth, “You have to build up a Communist society,” and “every young man and woman” must proceed in that task without exception. “You must train yourselves to be Communists.” As for “the old society,” said Lenin, “We had to destroy all that, and overthrow them.” This meant “overthrowing the Tsar, overthrowing the capitalists, and abolishing the capitalist class.”

Abolish, abolish, abolish. Lenin, too, was an abolitionist. Communism required a constant process of abolition.

In short, the notion of abolition dominates Marxist thoughts and writings. Marxists are abolitionists. And, not surprisingly, so is Patrisse Cullors, as she tells us in this new video and upcoming book.

So, when you hear Patrisse Cullors, founder of BLM, talking about “abolishing the police” — and, more so, “getting rid of” prisons and jails and surveillance and courts — and when you hear her calling herself a trained and studied and committed Marxist, you need to understand that the Marxism is not unrelated. For those liberals who shrug off the fact that Cullors is a Marxist, well, you have a lot to learn.

And above all, most disturbing is what this says about the destructive roots of the “abolish the police” movement that Patrisse Cullors and BLM have inspired. The Marxism matters.

Punk the Woke

Watching the raucous crowd slam-dancing in their Mohawks in the mosh pit at the Electric Banana in Pittsburgh’s Oakland section in the early 1990s, one might not have envisioned punk-rockers taking the lead against the bullies of the 2020s — that is, against the woke warriors of the cancel culture. But so they are. Besides, punk-rockers have always rebelled against the status quo, not giving a rip what anyone thinks about them or what they say. The wokesters, on the other hand, are obsessed with what you think and say, and if they don’t like it, they throw a hissy fit and shut you down.

Punkers are the ultimate nonconformists. Liberals, by contrast, are the ultimate conformists. They tout diversity, but no group blows with the wind like progressives; in fact, that’s the very essence of progressivism, to progress along with the fads and fashions of society at large. And as they float along with the zeitgeist, they torpedo any resisters.

Personally, I’m not surprised at the emergence of cancel culture. It’s a predictable culmination of liberals’ attitudes toward people they disagree with. How long have conservatives chronicled the fraudulence of liberals’ claims of tolerance and diversity? Liberals engage in a selective tolerance of only the ideas they want to tolerate. Herbert Marcuse, the ’60s guru to the New Left and leading light of the Frankfurt School, which pioneered critical theory (a forefather to critical race theory), cynically called for “repressive tolerance,” meaning, “intolerance against movements from the Right and toleration of movements from the Left.”

Even more cynically, the Left places you on the “Right” simply for advocating things that for millennia were neither Left nor Right but common-sense reality observable to every human being, such as, oh, two genders, or male-female marriage.

I would further add that the aptly called “snowflakes” of today’s cancel culture are the logical culmination of something else that conservatives warned about decades ago, namely: the silly “self-esteem movement” in our public schools. The self-esteem kids of the 1990s were ceaselessly pampered, glowingly affirmed in whatever they said and did. Today’s snowflakes are their progeny. If you hold a different viewpoint from these people, they melt down. They so can’t handle being told they’re wrong that they have temper tantrums on Twitter, demanding their detractors be punished, fired, not tolerated, cancelled. At The American Spectator, R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr. was way ahead of his time describing them in the early ’70s as “wombistic” in their “infantile liberalism.” They are ideological cry-babies, sobbing and stomping if you disagree with them.

Above all, they call you names. Names, names, names.

I recently happened upon a folder of my columns for my college newspaper in the late 1980s. I was the editorial page editor for our daily newspaper (published Monday through Thursday), The Pitt News. My goodbye column in May 1990 lamented the liberals who reflexively called conservatives names like “Nazi,” “fascist,” “racist,” “homophobe,” “hater.” Yes, way back then. This was when the political correctness movement really launched. We were already referring to liberals as the Thought Police.

Mercifully, there wasn’t yet social media for progressives to weaponize. Enraged leftists couldn’t mobilize Twitter mobs like they can now. Moreover, the self-esteem movement hadn’t yet grown up (in terms of age rather than emotional maturity), and thus these progressives weren’t cancelling people yet. That would take time to evolve — to progress.

Likewise, it would take time for the larger culture to experience what this wrought. That brings me to 2021 and the aforementioned punk-rockers.

Conservatives have fought against the cancel-culture mongers, but what’s needed is for non-conservatives to push back. Among the best counterforces to emerge have been liberals like Bill Maher and Piers Morgan. “Does everything have to be a summary execution in America?” asks Maher in one of his many condemnations of cancel culture. “I don’t want to live in a country where we have the Red Guard.” Piers Morgan has urged fellow Brits to “cancel the cancel culture before it kills our culture.”

But the most fearless and relentless foes of woke thuggery to date have been punk rockers. They remain rebels who don’t give a rip. Two cases in point are Johnny Lydon, a.k.a., Johnny Rotten, and John Joseph of the bands Bloodclot and Cro-Mags. The latter is a new name to me, though Mr. Rotten hails from my generation.

A trigger warning to the woke: Already easily offended, you’ll erupt at this language. Brace yourselves, and get ready to dash to Twitter: Lydon (Johnny Rotten) refers to the wokesters as “tempestuous spoilt children coming out of colleges and universities with sh-- for brains.” He observes:

“I can’t believe that TV stations give some of these lunatics the space. Where is this ‘moral majority’ nonsense coming from when they’re basically the ones doing all the wrong for being so bloody judgmental and vicious against anybody that doesn’t go with the current popular opinion?”

Lydon, who supported Donald Trump, is alarmed by the alliance between woke bullies and the Biden administration and Democrats.

“You have a Democrat party that doesn’t respect anything but the latest woke fashion trend and that’s to the destruction of America,” says Lydon.  “I’m watching America now collapse because of the Biden nonsense.”

As for Mr. Joseph, I’ll do my best in this family-friendly publication to abbreviate his choice language.

“Cancel culture can go [expletive] themselves,” advised Joseph.

“They are the same ones who criticized punk rock in the ’70s and hardcore in the ’80s. And they will all go away soon to live out [their] quiet lives of desperation while we carry on what we’ve been doing for decades.”

What set off dear Joseph were the virtuous progressives who criticized his punk band for regaling a sizable crowd without masks in New York City’s Tompkins Square Park. “The park was filled that day anyway,” noted Joseph, no doubt correctly.

“Anybody that knows Tompkins Square Park knows on a 70-degree sunny day there are huge crowds in there on a Saturday. We could not control how many people attended the show.”

      He hastened to add:

“Just because some of you don’t agree with it, I could give a [expletive] less. Stay the [expletive] home, watch CNN and the rest. I never gave a [expletive] what critics said in the ’70s and ’80s and I still don’t care.”

Punk remains punk, and the woke won’t stop that.

Joseph denounces “the lying ass media” as well as “the whole cancel culture sh--.”

For conservatives, Joseph’s language will not call to mind, say, Russell Kirk or Edmund Burke. But conservatives will chuckle with a sense of appreciation at someone outside their camp firing verbal arrows at the cancel brutes who ruin any poor conservative at a university who comes across their merciless radar.

The likes of Joseph and Lydon are boldly expressing the frustration that so many conservatives can’t, out of fear of losing jobs at the hands of intolerant progressives launching letter campaigns against them.

And they’re not alone. The punk world knows it couldn’t have come into being in a cancel-culture society (the same is true for much of comedy). Such was recently noted by Glenn Danzig of The Misfits, who denounces “cancel culture and woke bullsh-t.” His successor as the band’s lead vocalist, Michale Grave, agrees, assailing “this plague on our culture.” Graves urges “courage to others to stop being so weak-minded and afraid” of the “woke mobs of lying Marxist dittos.”

Take another rocker from my generation — Roger Daltrey, lead singer of the legendary “The Who.” His group wasn’t punk, but with smashing guitars and the message of songs like “My Generation,” Daltrey and Pete Townshend reveled in riotous antics. “It’s becoming so absurd now with . . . the woke generation,” notes Daltrey. “It’s terrifying, the miserable world they’re going to create for themselves.”

Notably, many of the voices I’ve cited here are British. Brits are far more candid and willing to honestly describe one another’s politics. They aren’t timid about calling a spade a spade (or a “progressive” a Marxist, if he really is one). Above all, they don’t want American wokeism exported to their shores. There’s a BLM Britain, and its supporters have been literally spray-painting the most revered Brit of the last 100 years: Winston Churchill. The accusations of racism against the royal household by Meghan and Harry is what really set off Piers Morgan, who immediately sniffed the noxious winds of American progressive perversity that racializes everything.

Brits don’t want this garbage. They’re fighting back.

Personally, it brings me back full circle 30 years ago to the Mohawk dudes and profane punker chicks slam-dancing and diving from the stage into the mosh pit. That was their rebellion against the conformists of their day. Their battle against the woke cancel culture of 2021 is their righteous rebellion against the bullying left-wing conformists of our day.

Covid Vaccination: My Body, My Choice?

“This is my body!” “My body, my choice!”

Those are the mantras, of course, of the pro-choice lobby. And they didn’t start in 1973 with Roe v. Wade. In my unfortunate life as an authority on the Communist movement, which means reading a lot of dark stuff, I found Communists using similar slogans in the 1920s. Long before American pro-choice liberals were touting slogans like “Keep your hands off my body,” Communist women in Germany in the 1920s were urging abortion under the campaign slogan “Your body belongs to you.”

Quite chillingly, the pro-choice credo “This is my body” is an unholy inversion of the precise sacrificial words of Jesus Christ at the Last Supper. Those words of Christ are repeated every hour worldwide in every Mass by every priest, serving in persona Christi, as he elevates the host — i.e., the Real Presence, the Body of Christ — and affirms, “This is my Body.”

That Body was a sacrifice given up for you. It is Christ sacrificing Himself, all the way to the cross. He was willing to die for you. He did not demand that you die for Him. He willingly gave up His body. It was the ultimate unselfish act. The act of abortion, on the other hand, is purely about the self.

“My body, my choice” is also the creed of the 60 pro-choice Catholic Democrats who wrote a letter to the bishops insisting that their staunch advocacy of unrestricted “abortion rights” should not affect their fitness to receive the Body of Christ. Their attitude is best reflected by the statements of Reps. Nancy Pelosi and Ted Lieu. When a reporter asked Pelosi if she believed she could be denied the Eucharist, she asserted: “I think I can use my own judgment on that.” Ted Lieu went further, taunting the bishops: “Next time I go to church, I dare you to deny me Communion.”

How dare the bishops infringe upon a woman’s “sacred” (as Pelosi put it) right to choose to do what she wants with her body.

Of course, this is also the position of our pro-choice Catholic president, Joe Biden.

I mention this right now in light of so many pro-choice liberals demanding that everyone in America be vaccinated against COVID-19, including those who choose not to. Joe Biden threatens to go from “door to door” urging people to take the needle: “We need to go community by community, neighborhood by neighborhood, and oft times, door to door, literally knocking on doors.” Former Planned Parenthood president Leana Wen argued that Biden needs to force vaccinations on the populace.

That includes you and your children.

They are even demanding this of those of us who have suffered through COVID-19 and now have natural immunity.

And before I go any further, let me state for the record that I am not an “anti-vaxxer.” I published a bunch of articles and did a lot of media commentary expressing my great concern over COVID-19. I was anything but a COVID-19 skeptic; to the contrary, I was arguably a COVID-19 alarmist. I wrote repeatedly about the crucial need for a vaccine. I was a staunch advocate for President Trump’s Operation Warp Speed. I’ve never opposed vaccines, and I wrote very positively about promising efforts to develop COVID-19 vaccines at my alma mater, the University of Pittsburgh, where I spent four years working in immunology for the organ transplant team.

Again, I’ve never been an “anti-vaxxer.”

Having said all of that, no one should be able to force me or any American to inject something into our bodies against our will, our conscience, and our constitutional liberties, especially when other Americans can easily and freely choose to get vaccinated and receive protection.

Moreover, many of those choosing not to get vaccinated are doing so because they do not want to take vaccines that even the FDA and pharmaceutical companies explicitly warn are experimental. The official “Fact Sheet for Recipients and Caregivers” of the Pfizer vaccine states categorically: “There is no U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved vaccine to prevent COVID-19.”

People are also hesitant to get vaccinated because of alarming reports of bad side effects. There are increasingly disturbing reports of perfectly healthy young people developing myocarditis from these vaccines, including a 19-year-old girl in my area who, two weeks ago, had to receive a heart transplant and remains in critical condition. Not surprisingly, the CDC is now openly acknowledging that there is a direct risk of myocarditis to young people receiving the mRNA-based vaccines.

Notably, the dominant mRNA-based vaccines are not traditional vaccines. Unlike vaccines like, say, the Salk polio vaccine, these are not conventional vaccines. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are mRNA-based and thus totally different and very new.

I know people (Catholics among them) who are awaiting the non-mRNA-based vaccines, such as Novavax, which they understand is more conventional, less risky, and, so far, seems even more effective. (Novavax is based on the type of simpler and more reliable vaccine technology used for shingles and hepatitis, the latter of which was the dominant disease I dealt with among my liver-transplant patients.) They are also hoping that these other vaccines will not be tainted with material from cell lines of aborted fetuses.

Significantly, Joe Biden’s church backs these Catholics. In an official statement released December 21, 2020, the Vatican stated categorically: “vaccination is not, as a rule, a moral obligation and . . . it must be voluntary.” The Vatican says that you cannot be forcibly vaccinated against your will. Forced vaccination is a violation of your freedom of religion and conscience. This is officially affirmed by the American bishops.

Thus, yet again, Joe Biden is taking a position in direct contravention of the moral-ethical position of his church.

The freedom not to be forced into receiving experimental vaccinations is especially critical for those of us who had COVID-19, and now have antibodies. A peer-reviewed study published in the journal Nature found that patients who have recovered from COVID-19 develop “long-lasting immunity,” namely with “antibody-producing cells” that “live and produce antibodies for the rest of people’s lives.”

A major study by Cleveland Clinic, conducted on 52,238 employees, concluded categorically that individuals who had COVID-19 “do not get additional benefits from vaccination.” It found that “no significant difference in COVID-19 incidence was observed between previously infected and currently unvaccinated participants, previously infected and currently vaccinated participants, and previously uninfected and currently vaccinated participants.”

In light of this latest research, and the other aforementioned factors, no one should be forcing people to take experimental vaccines against their will. This is America. You can’t do that.

That brings me back to my point at the start of this article: whatever happened to “This is my body!” and “My body, my choice?”

Is it not fascinating, if not revolting, that liberals will proclaim these mantras when it comes to abortion, which most acutely affects the other body in the situation — the unborn one — which has no choice at all, but they will not apply the mantras to forcible vaccination, which actually involves only the body that has the choice?

And so, behold the anti-choice vaccination thinking of pro-choice liberals: It’s your body and your choice if you want to abort your child, but it’s not your body and your choice if you want to choose not to be vaccinated.

But vaccination is your choice. If Joe Biden and friends come knocking at your door, tell them firmly: “My body, my choice.” This is my body, Joe. Keep your hands off.     *

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