The Soul of Caesar's 'Conservatives'

"It wouldn’t bother me if we nuked Iran," my Republican friend said matter-of-factly, while standing on the steps of one of our Catholic churches.

"What?!" I said barely able to contain my outrage. "Do you know how many innocent lives you would destroy?" He shrugged — yes, shrugged!

"How many innocent people did we kill at Hiroshima?" he argued.

"The difference," I growled through my teeth, "is that Japan had attacked us." Indeed, Japan applied the Bush doctrine at Pearl Harbor. "When has Iran attacked us?" Another shrug. And then something about how we’re never going to put an end to all the terrorism that is coming out of the Middle East until we change the regimes over there and "democratize them."

Of course, my friend, a faithful Catholic, is solidly "pro-life" on the abortion controversy. And his conscience is untroubled by the contradiction between a defense of life in the womb and a willingness to see it destroyed everywhere else. He reminded me of the woman I saw at the previous day’s state convention of Democrats, wearing on one lapel a sticker proclaiming her support for "choice." meaning, I assume, the "right" to snuff out the life of a baby in the womb. On her other lapel she wore a sticker calling for an end to the death penalty.

Why, of course! Why would any rational society put to death murderers, rapists, serial killers, contract killers, etc. when it can more humanely keep them alive, while reserving the death penalty for babies yet unborn? Why take the chance that the little miscreants might grow up to be corporate polluters, televangelists or even smokers? We must be pro-active. I’m sure the lady would have been shocked if I told her what she is advocating is extending the blessings of the "Bush doctrine" to humans yet unborn. Why worry just about terrorists crossing our borders and hijacking our planes? Why not stop them before they enter the world?

Consider the contradictions uttered by my friend on the church steps, willing to "nuke" Iran over that nation’s alleged efforts to produce nuclear weapons. We have made nuclear "overkill" a fact of contemporary life. Surely no other country produces, deploys and sells to other countries more weapons, including weapons of mass destruction, than does the United States of America. What is the only nation that — thus far, thank God — has ever dropped an atomic weapon on a civilian population? Yes, good ol’ Uncle Sammy.

Consider also the gullibility of someone willing to accept unquestioningly the claim that Iran is no doubt engaged in a pursuit of nuclear weapons, thereby threatening the security of its neighbors and of the entire world. That this claim is made by the same people who gave us the hysteria over Iraq’s "weapons of mass destruction" and the "smoking gun" that might soon turn into a "mushroom-shaped cloud" has not apparently engaged the critical thinking facilities of my friend on the church steps. I can’t imagine what would.

No, the gentleman wants to rid the world of terrorism. And he has no problem with condemning terrorism in the form of car bombs or airplanes flying into buildings and applauding it when it is unleashed in bombs dropped from planes 20,000 to 30,000 feet above the scene of destruction. The latter is, of course, authorized by government — our government.

"You love government!" I sputtered at him, uttering the worst insult you could ever hurl at a National Review conservative. "You worship government!" I said as we stood before the entrance of a Roman Catholic Church. He, of course, thought that was laughable.

"Oh, you don’t know my record!" he insisted. Maybe not, but I had listened to his rhetoric and that of others like him. Today’s "conservatives" do not, for the most part, want to conserve. These neo-barbarians wish to destroy. They no longer wish to restrain Caesar, they have come to worship him. They ought to tremble in self-reflection at the Passion that is read in our churches every Good Friday. Theirs is the voice, theirs is the soul that cries out with the chief priests of Jerusalem:

"We have no king but Caesar!"

Manchester, NH, resident Jack Kenny [send him mail] is a freelance writer.