The U.S.-Mexico border isn’t open, but a migrant surge and a mishmash of messages and policies have created another crisis
“We’re at the gallows sight, and it’s a beautiful day for a hanging!” (The Three Stooges, In the Sweet Pie and Pie, 1941).
The scene in a Saturday morning TV episode from my youth came to mind as we stepped onto the site of the Jan. 26 Philadelphia protests and inhaled the vapors of murderous dissent as President Donald Trump and GOP members of Congress met in our fair city. The Philadelphia Inquirer says, “Many in the crowd outside the hotel booed and shouted obscenities as the presidential motorcade arrived …,” but I can’t vouch for that personally, as our view was obstructed by sideways-parked dump trucks in intersections and metal fencing.
The protest was supposed to be over repeal of the Affordable Care Act, but not enough people had good things to say about the ACA, so other kinds of signs predominated. A sampling: “Trump Putin,” “No Sanctuary for Trump,” “Racial Economic Gender Justice,” “No One Is Illegal,” “It’s not a hoax, idiot,” “F—k Off,” “F—k White Supremacy,” and “Fascist Pig.”
These charges were so low in informational value that I remembered not Moe, Larry, and Curly but Bible verses: “… taking some of the wicked men of the rabble, they formed a mob, [and] set the city in an uproar” (Acts 17:5). “So the city was filled with confusion. … Most of them did not know why they had come together” (19:29, 32).
What deep mystery might band this vulgar street movement together and make its members thick as thieves?
I knew that in the papers the next day the crowd photo would look impressive on the front page, but up close it was like my first ever street-side view of the Mummers Parade on New Years Day, when you saw beyond the spectacle of colored plumage to the bloodshot eyes and liquored breath.
For lunch we walked a few blocks to the Reading Terminal Market, and standing in line for a bottle of water, I asked the woman next to me who was about my age and was raving to the guy frantically making her sandwich, “What is your issue?” “Justice,” she turned and said.
Which struck me as if someone had titled his postgraduate dissertation something like “The History of Women.” I tried to hone in: “For example?” She answered, “We invite the immigrants in and then we exploit them.” “You mean the illegal immigrants?” “Yeah.” “We didn’t invite them; they clambered over concertina wire to get in here.” Then I thought I’d go straight to the nub: “Do you think illegal immigration is right?” “Yes,” she said proudly. The conversation petered off at that point because I don’t do well with illogic.
Back at the table, I asked my companion why it is that you can pretty much predict, even without interviewing everyone, that all the people we were rubbing shoulders with in the movable hatefest around City Hall would be of identical opinion regarding a whole raft of causes that aren’t in themselves necessarily logically connected.
For example, one would not expect to find a protester who was mad about climate change, and building a wall, and voter registration, and LGBTQ exclusion—but who at the same time happened to be pro-life. And yet why not? For if you were to consider the separate issues from a purely rational standpoint, free of extraneous influences, you would expect that someone strident about protecting Antarctic ice floes would be as strident about not killing babies. Zeal for life is zeal for life, is it not?
My companion and I considered hypotheses for what deep mystery might band this vulgar street movement together and make its members thick as thieves. We settled on this: If you have no God in your life, and therefore no meaning, you will seek to satisfy the innate thirst in you for transcendence by belonging to a Cause. You will crave admittance to an Inner Ring of kindred spirits.
Saving the world becomes your Religion. The heavenward shaken fist of the rebel crying, “Nobody tells me what to do!” makes that Religion dark. And what can emerge but the profanity on parade on Market and Broad Streets that we saw today? It is the great delusion from the father of lies.