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The Time For Surprise is Over

Banned books shouldn't be a shock. Before it can work for the better, the American right needs to be honest with itself.

The first step to recovery is to stop acting surprised. It’s past time for conservatives to admit that they are powerless, or at least that power is being wielded against them with little regard for what they thought were the rules. Our lives have become unmanageable because they are managed for us, by unelected bureaucrats in leviathan government agencies and the terms of services offices of corporate behemoths. We are in an abnormal situation, and your precious norms (and norms are indeed precious to those who share them) have been dumped and replaced. The powerful are happy to invite you to adopt the new norms, all of them; but if, nevertheless, you persist in resisting a few, have the self-respect to stop being shocked when you are treated as an enemy. 

Stop acting surprised when Ryan T. Anderson’s careful and painfully polite book, When Harry Became Sally, which warns of the damage experiments in gender ideology are doing to children, is banned from Amazon. They kicked a president off their platforms, so don’t act confused when you find yourself off them, too. The laws have changed with or without Congress’s help for a long time. I use “acting” with regards to surprise on purpose, to give you the benefit of the doubt; perhaps you are not foolish, and deep down you knew this moment had arrived and was a long-time coming, but you think there’s a moral victory to be won with loud complaints and protest. Surely you can prick their conscience! 

Or maybe you think there is a public out there watching, to which you can appeal with your feigned surprise? Perhaps there is a We greater than us that can restore sanity if only it is awakened to the danger? Do you hear yourself? “We the People” is us. The public is at the same mercy of the media, has the same task of sifting through propaganda and information and digital noise as you do. The public is you. The line between the conditioned and conditioners runs through every human heart.

So forget the court of public opinion, or of history and its flexible arc, and look for the other people who are no longer surprised. It’s time to ask yourself: Upon whom does responsibility for our world-embracing system fall? No matter how much our technical artifice improves, or how automatic things seem, there is still someone behind the curtain. Are you resigned to be ruled by people who deny what they do is governing, who claim they are only making sure that you are absolutely free? For what are you free? 

You should be free for God, and doing His will give your life to His care. Consider now, your unsurprise at the banning of the Anderson book. You had to fake it. Transgenderism cannot be touched; not a child anymore, you don’t need to burn yourself to know what’s too hot for hands. You’re too prudent to call Rachel Dick in print. Ask yourself, and be honest, are you a coward? 

It’s past time to pray for courage. The politics of virtue must be replaced by virtuous human beings. We must be willing to give up the comforts to which we have been made accustomed. May God remove my many defects, and give me the character necessary for the times. Ours is a constitutional republic, a politics of norms. If the norms are gone, or changed and as-yet unshared, then what we are has been attacked. The battle is already joined outside the Constitution and what we call the law; the algorithms and the moderators know this. Do you? 

To do nothing but continue to act surprised, to only say “this is outrageous!” and “I am deeply concerned and disturbed by these violations of norms,” or even “what of the Constitution and our Bill of Rights?” is to cede the task of governing. Those who are too afraid of the risks and trials of politics to do anything but chatter will get their wish. They will chatter, and others will do politics. Another pack will appear—indeed, another pack must appear—that hears and heeds the call to protect the flock from those who would prey upon them. And should they succeed, then they will govern. 

Politicians have always received the people’s support on, fundamentally, the promise of protection; the led desire leaders, and will follow those who fight for them (as we have seen too often, they will follow even those who only say they will fight). Right now is a time for reckoning, and that must begin with an account of the failures of the right in America. Would-be leaders must make direct amends to the parts of the country sold out for profit and respectability—though they may not have worked for that end themselves, may not have folded before each advance of progress, their class did, and, honorable traitors, they must take and bear responsibility if they desire civic obedience. 

This is not a call for countering left utopianism with right utopianism. This is a rejection of right utopianism. We have been too utopian till now, not counting costs, evading political decision, hoping that a world more purely economic may become more purely moral. There’s nothing unprincipled in seeking the power—which is always the reciprocal of responsibility—needed to mind our business, to live quiet lives, without complaint. We do not seek to transform the world, but to be transformed, first in ourselves and then in our families, our churches, our schools, our cities, transforming where we are. To do that, we must know where we stand, and so we must stop acting surprised.



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