In Honor of Joe Sobran

At the annual luncheon in Joe Sobran's honor, held recently by the readers of his monthly review, writer Tom Bethell offered a fascinating observation in his introduction:

Joe Sobran invites us to see the clear, obvious truth, in plain view, that everyone else has missed.

This is the key to Sobran's genius, said Bethell. It allows him to ask obvious questions that are forbidden elsewhere. For instance, the mere question, "are there extraterritorial loyalties at stake," as we survey the supporters of war, is anathematized as anti-Semetism, whether those loyalties might be to Great Britain, to Israel, or merely to the principles of the Socialist International as an alternative to America's constitutional system. Such questions are instructive and illuminating, but are never answered: they are forbidden.

Accept Sobran's invitation, and prominent illustrations of the Sobran principle pop up everywhere. In the spirit of the gathering, I tried my hand at it. It didn't take long.

Consider, for instance, the endless procession of yellow school buses disgorging millions of students a year from all across America at the Arlington Cemetery gravesite of former president Kennedy. These student visitors acquire academic credit for their "civic trips" from government schools nationwide – schools that forbid any and all hints of religion – and certainly all religious processions but this one.

Why permit this exception? Because the "eternal flame" – the only one, certainly, that JFK ever had – glorifies not God, but government. And government schools want us celebrate, well …. Government.

Every day, year in and year out, this sacrament of the Leviathan's civil religion goes on, unimpeded by the truth (about the Saintly Order of the Kennedys) and, natch, without even the aroma of dissent from the likes of the ACLU. The Ten Commandments? No way. But government commandments are fine.

Next, in these hard economic times, consider the government bureaucrats, having failed so miserably and mortally in their basic responsibilities to the American people they are paid to serve and defend. While hundreds of thousands of layoffs, business failures, bankruptcies, and dislocations have hammered the private economy since 9/11, the Washington Post reports that Washington, D.C.'s economy is flourishing. No layoffs of government workers are mentioned or contemplated even by the "conservatives" at Bush's OMB. And, while no one is singing the praises of nonagenarians or tabloid editors (two of the five fatalities in the recent anthrax attacks), the country is inundated with multimillion-dollar taxpayer-funded televised propaganda celebrating the "service" of the monopoly government post office, complete with blue-chip music clips costing a cool million in royalties alone, all to celebrate the "800,000 [overpaid and semiskilled] workers of the USPS."

Is this the cause for which two unsuspecting mail sorters at the Brentwood postal station in Washington gave their lives ? Did they really die for monopoly mail?

Consider the painfully obvious but unmentionable strategic roadmap to 9/11, drawn and driven by the "spring break" crowd in the Clinton Administration. No one is permitted to point to the simple cause (Clinton) and effect (9/11) – it is as though radical Islam had suddenly discovered the superiority of American postmodernism, and attacked out of envy and spite. Meanwhile, eight years of disastrous foreign policy, culminating in 9/11, have now cornered Bush into glorifying and enlarging government more than Democrats ever could have. Even Al Hunt agrees that, under Gore, opposition conservatives would never have permitted such specters as John Ashcroft emulating the wartime FDR. The Clintonites couldn't govern, but they sure set the stage for world-class satire.

Consider how Microsoft, probably as responsible as any single company for the economic gains of the 1990s, was concertedly attacked by Clinton, lest anyone assert that Bill Gates was more important than our endearing hustler-president (as Gates had done, in an aside during the early 1990s). When reminded of that by Wired magazine in a November 2000 interview, Clinton smirked in triumph: "I wonder what he thinks now."

Consider how we are now governed "democratically" by a majority that does not pay taxes, deciding how much the minority should pay. In fact, anyone who earns enough to pay income taxes is by definition "rich," and no one marvels at this miraculous sleight of hand. While every special interest benefiting from government handouts is encouraged to become more "engaged" in our democracy, taxpayers, the only group originally protected by our Constitution, is told to "shut up and pay." These days, to insist on any of our constitutional rights as Americans is downright "un-American."

Madison warned us in Federalist 10 against factions. Today government has become a majority faction, proudly parading the fact before our very eyes, and no one dare shout that the Emperor has no (constitutional) clothes.

Joe Sobran's insight and approach are refreshing, but readers should take note that he has paid the price for seeing the obvious and telling the truth about it. "Responsible" conservatives have jettisoned him, playing instead to the crowds in the circus maximus, the only game in town.

Stan Evans once observed that "most conservatives come to Washington knowing that it's a sewer. The trouble is, most of them wind up treating it like a hot tub." Joe Sobran has had the temerity and integrity to stay on the outside – because that's the only place from which we can pull out the plug.

We are in his debt.

December 10, 2001