Death of a nation: Five stages of grief

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It is painful for me to have to write this column, just as it is always painful to write about the loss of something or someone near and dear to us — but finally the truth must be told:

The country I grew up in — the republic of the United States of America — is dead. What is left in its place is a sham, a shell, a rat’s nest of teeth and claws and strangulating regulations and laws — a post-holocaust zombieland that has the appearance of life, but survives only by sucking the blood out of its own increasingly despondent inhabitants.

This last week, the republic made one last desperate stand before its heart was ripped out and savagely displayed in the gladiator’s arena that is cable news. Were there any good and gentle citizens left watching, their countenances must surely have darkened when they saw the seething, wrathful creatures of Washington toying with the flayed remains of the Constitution.

I spent all week trying to avoid this story, telling myself that there must be some mistake. It’s not possible that so many could have turned their back on the plight of liberty, not conceivable that so few could rise to defend the honor of that great lady.

But as I slowly worked through the five stages of grief, at last my denial gave way to anger. It was no surprise to me that the Obama administration had decided to play a game called “Hide the First Amendment,” in which for the sake of so-called progressive policy, the freedoms we hold dear were trampled underfoot. But what made me truly angry was the nearly universal yawn that greeted this miscarriage of justice.

I’m not going to dwell in great depth on the details. Suffice it to say that it was the masterful ability of President Obama and his allies to obscure the big picture, and divert people’s attention to the minuscule details, that made it possible for them to look like heroes for agreeing to trade religious freedom for a mess of pottage, er, I mean, contraceptives.

Here is the end of America in a nutshell:

The Constitution guarantees religious freedom in the First Amendment, which declares in part that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech.”

The Obama administration, with the willing compliance of a near silent populace, has decided that this amendment’s protections do not apply to any expression of religious conviction that is unpopular, unscientific or unsympathetic. In particular, the administration has mandated that the Obamacare law shall require employers to pay for (or provide for) contraceptives that are offered to employees as a free benefit in any health-insurance plan.

Incredibly, the national media and most politicians have allowed this to be framed as a debate about whether people should be prevented from having access to contraceptives. Supposedly, the evil Republicans have launched a “culture war” against women, and in particular poor women, to keep them in a state of “indentured pregnitude” and to deny them their supposed constitutional right to enjoy an active sex life without risk of procreation.

Honestly, I am aghast. Not by what was done to poor women, but by what was done to the truth. Could it be any more ravaged? Could a lie be any more brutal? Could the sham be any more transparent?

Let’s get this straight. No one is trying to deny women anything. Take away the employer mandate, and women could still buy contraceptives. If they couldn’t afford them, they would still be able to get them from a variety of public and private sources for free. And if they didn’t like working for employers who refuse to offer contraceptive care as part of their health-insurance plan, they could always quit. That is (or should I say was?) the American way.

What’s not (and never was) the American way is telling the Catholic Church, or any other church — or for that matter, any human being — that they must violate their conscience or their religious beliefs at the command of the government. If ordering the church to provide contraceptives against the church’s explicit moral teaching is not an outrage, then what is? If Obama’s interpretation of the congressional law officially known as the Affordable Care Act is not determined to be a blatant attempt to “prohibit the free exercise” of religion by Catholics and others who share their beliefs, then the sun of liberty will never again rise on the United States of America.

I am well aware that this position, like the Constitution itself, is regarded by some liberals as old-fashioned, even quaint, but if we are not as citizens all sworn by our sacred honor to “preserve, protect and defend” the Constitution, then it is indeed a foregone conclusion that the republic is “not merely dead, but really most sincerely dead.”

Of course, there are those among us who have bargained gamely with our conscience to convince ourselves that the president of the United States could not possibly have violated his oath of office. President Obama, after all, heard the bishops’ complaints when he initially ordered religious institutions to pay for contraceptives they did not believe in. And yes, he did change the initial policy so that church-run hospitals, orphanages and adoption agencies could instead offer “free” contraceptives to their employees.

This “accommodation,” as it has been called, is supposed to satisfy everyone that religious liberty has been preserved. Never mind that the church’s moral authority has been undermined by the state — that the convenience of the masses has been granted supremacy over the conscience of the individual — you are just supposed to accept the “compromise” and get back to work digging your own grave. Face it, this is an accommodation in exactly the same measure that the lodging at Auschwitz or Buchenwald could be called an accommodation to the Jews imprisoned there while awaiting execution.

Is it any wonder that I am depressed? It was bad enough when the Congress told all citizens of this country that we did not control our own health destiny — that we either accepted the dictates of the government or would be fined accordingly. But now, to be told that the state controls not only our medical choices but also our moral choices — that is really too much to bear. My heart is broken. The ultimate indignity of watching my fellow citizens be forced to recant their precious beliefs, to see their faith trampled upon, could not help but make me feel ashamed of the brutality of oppression done in the false name of American progress.

But ultimately, I have to accept the world — the nation — as it is. The outcome is not in my hands. I did my part to warn against it. I shouted as loud as I could, and if I failed, I did so while fighting. Now it is time to adjust to a land that has fallen into shadow. It will take time, but it is not impossible to imagine a day when we will once again see the bright light of conscience restored, when liberty will once again wear a crown.

It just may not happen in my lifetime.

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