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From Under The Rubble
November 14, 2012

Joe’s Home Run
by Christopher Manion
fitzgerald griffin foundation

Joe Sobran

FRONT ROYAL, VA — Today the Rubble takes a break from politics and religion-- but don’t go to sleep! We have a new arrival to celebrate. The great work of our old friend Joe Sobran from his National Review days has been painstakingly preserved and edited by Fran Griffin, and this month, Joe Sobran: The National Review Years (FGF Books, $25 hardcover: 877.726.0058 • www.fgfbooks.com) will be yours to savor in book form.

In addition to his enduring smile and a writing style worthy of angelic locutions, Joe’s personality comes bursting through. Take his love of baseball. “In Ypsilanti, Michigan, I spent long winters studying baseball statistics to while away the endless cold grey days until the snow melted,” he writes. Well, move over, Joe Dimaggio. Alas for Las Vegas, America lost a world-class odds-maker but Shakespeare gained a devoted fan. Joe spent long years lovingly navigating — and memorizing — every nook and cranny of the Bard’s bountiful playbook, emerging from those endless days with a devastating critique of “Bardolatry.” Readers of this column will, however, excuse the Rubble’s “Sobranolatry”: we see no reason to conceal our well-deserved and abiding admiration for the man and his gifts, both of which were inordinately unusual (Sobran to the Rubble: “that’s redundant!”).

Pat Buchanan once said that Joe’s column was the first thing he’d read in The Wanderer. His introduction to The NR Days focuses on the book’s longest piece, written in 1987, which examines “the dark myth about America that is a preexisting condition in the minds of reporters” — the myth, says Pat, that constitutes “an indictment against an America long ago convicted of racism in the minds of the media elites.”

Lo and behold, the media were not alone. In 1979, our bishops issued a pastoral letter condemning “an unresolved racism that permeates our society's structures and resides in the hearts of many among the [racial] majority.” But rest easy, you don’t have to go to Confession, because this sin does not flow from the evil that haunts men’s hearts. It’s a guilt trip, but nobody is really to blame: it is “the structures of our society [that] are subtly racist,” they wrote. “They are geared to the success of the majority and the failure of the minority. Members of both groups give unwitting approval by accepting things as they are.” Our racism is so subtle and so deep that we don’t even know it’s there. Isn’t that what Pat’s media elites were saying?

Whaddya mean, “were”? Aren’t the Obamanites chanting it now? Consider this mélange that Joe cites from the New Republic (he skips the ellipses to impart a musical lilt): "view each other across a gulf of physical and psychological separation mutual suspicion and ingrained hostility shameful stains on American society that must be eliminated insensitive to the concerns of blacks worst residual instincts among whites our flawed democracy dangerously counterproductive remaining economic and social barriers to the full and equal participation of black people in American life the cycle of poverty dependency and underachievement that now defines the lives of more and more black people the historical experience of racial oppression elimination of racial discrimination continuing necessity to experiment with new solutions outdated fears the role of government is to provide the kind of moral leadership enormous waste of human potential."

Whew! That passage "walked off with the prize for ritual incantations, leaving all the other Foes of Bigotry gasping far behind,” Joe writes. You might notice that the prize-winning litany lives on, unimpeded by reality, even today – and, perhaps, especially today, when Obama's supporters can effortlessly invoke it with unctuous brass, while critics of Obama risk being branded not-so-subtle racists brandishing their worst residual instincts, with the double-barrel imprimatur of the USCCB and the New Republic.

I can only imagine how Joe would view today the reluctance of many bishops to confront directly the darkening specter of Obama. Uh-oh, Bigotry Alert! There’s that subtle racism again — imagine, “darkening”! Why, that’s almost blatantly calling our president a “Darkie”! Who do you think you are, Stephen Foster? Even the Kentucky Derby Mixed Memorial Racetrack Choir has tossed that line down the Memory Hole.

My father was born in Kentucky, and My Old Kentucky Home was the first song I ever learned — with its original lyrics: “Tis summer, the darkies are gay.” Well, there you go again! Racism and homophobia, lurking there all along, awaiting the Thought Police of the Bigotry Brigades to bash Kentucky with. The Kentucky State Legislature officially changed “darkies” to “people” in 1986 (I searched in vain for a one-liner from Joe); well, if “darkie” goes, can “gay” be far behind?

In 2008, Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta exultantly hailed the election of Obama as "a great step forward for humanity." As the former president of the USCCB and America’s most prominent African-American prelate, why couldn’t His Excellency condemn the election of Obama as “a disgrace to African-Americans, who are the primary victims of abortion”? His jubilation then is perhaps understandable, but shouldn’t it have worn off by now?

But wait, there’s more. Long-time Rubblers might recall how historian Jim Hitchcock attacked Joe a while back because Joe criticized the administration of President George W. Bush. Joe, as we now know, was right — his sin was telling the truth too early on. But like the Rubble, Joe had nothing but praise for Hitchcock’s Catholicism and Modernity in 1979, in another essay included in the collection. While our bishops were condemning millions of Catholics for our “subtle racism,” Joe was celebrating Hitchcock’s exposure of the gaggle of pseudo-churchmen (and churchwomen) who had hijacked the Second Vatican Council (and infiltrated the USCC). What did they have in common? “A vested interest in change,” Joe said.

“Change.” Sound familiar? Joe had a knack for putting his finger on timeless issues and translating the ideological writing on the wall into simple prose. “Change” is the mantra of devotees of the dialectic, starting with George Bernard Shaw’s Satan in his overture to Eve: “You see things and you say ‘Why’? But I dream things that never were, and ask ‘Why not?’” Bobby Kennedy witlessly used that line as his campaign slogan in 1968, and Michelle Obama invoked it forty years later: “All of us [are] driven by a simple belief that the world as it is just won't do — that we have an obligation to fight for the world as it should be,” she told the 2008 Democratic National Convention.

“You shall be as gods.” Satan was the father of lies, a liar since the beginning (John 8:44). His descendants are legion.

The “Catholic New Class” served the beast of radical politics in 1979, but God calls us to change of a different order, modeled on the Incarnate Word. “The old order changeth, yielding place to new,” said Tennyson’s King Arthur, as his mourners laid him in the barge. Then, as when Joe left us, “there rose / A cry that shiver’d to the tingling stars.” Look up at the stars on some endless, cold night this winter, with this book under your arm, and look for Joe smiling back.

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From Under the Rubble is copyright © 2012 by Christopher Manion. All rights reserved.

Christopher Manion, Ph.D., served as a staff director on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for many years. He has taught in the departments of politics, religion, and international relations at Boston University, the Catholic University of America, and Christendom College, and is the director of the Campaign for Humanae Vitae, a project of the Bellarmine Forum. He is a Knight of Malta.

This column was published originally in the October 11, 2012, edition of The Wanderer newspaper.

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