The Reactionary Utopian April 23, 2007 THE FADSTERS by Joe Sobran Even before they'd finished mopping up the blood at Virginia Tech, the WASHINGTON POST had some editorial counsel for Virginia: Adopt tougher gun control laws. Thanks for the free advice, guys! If we citizens of Jefferson's state adopt laws as strict as Washington's, maybe we can get our murder rate down -- possibly as low as Washington's! There is a danger that such editorials could feed an unfortunate stereotype: that liberals never learn, never take responsibility for the wreckage their policies produce. Liberals and their "progressive" cousins, socialists and the unlamented Marxists, have always had one great gift: the ability to start stampedes. A murder spree always sets them off on gun control. In between atrocities, they revert to their normal default panics about global warming or nuclear winter. Whatever. And let's not forget their furor over Don Imus's three-word atrocity. Leave it to Barack Obama, who has enjoyed his own liberal stampede, to liken Imus's "verbal violence" to a madman's murder spree. Obama is often described as "young," though he is a middle-aged man, 45 years old; and I think I know why. He reminds you of the champion high-school orator, the bright, well-behaved boy who knows how to intone the platitudes the grownups love. He can see metaphorical violence everywhere except in skull-crushing late-term abortions. Every alleged crisis provokes the progressive-minded fadsters to call for a massive increase in state power: economic depression, poverty, racism, gun violence, you name it -- such evils must be not merely contained, but "eliminated," posthaste, along with their "root causes." (As far as I know, there is no such thing as a crisis that warrants hasty, or even eventual, government reduction.) And behold the results! Our inner cities look like war zones -- of the endless War on Poverty. This is only one of the myriad consequences of going progressive. The Great Society! And old folks may recall that striking down laws against abortion during the first trimester of pregnancy was going to make the horrid practice "safe, legal -- and rare." Today we have a million abortions a year, and the progressives who used to deplore it now insist that it's a "fundamental human and constitutional right" -- through all nine months. A century ago, the Catholic poet Charles Peguy made a profound and prescient observation: "We will never know how many acts of cowardice have been motivated by the fear of seeming not sufficiently progressive." Even supposed conservatives now adopt the progressive style: the first President Bush with his New World Order and War on Drugs, his son with his War on Terror and enormous expansion of the colossal centralized state. The latter speaks of "eliminating tyranny from the earth"; implanting democracy in the Middle East would be only the beginning, spreading "freedom" (undefined) contagiously. Both Bushes have left Americans themselves less free than before. And no wonder. Both look back with nostalgia to the worst war of all time, World War II, during which the United States fought side by side with Stalin and created the world's most terrible weapons of mass murder. Abortion and nuclear weapons have lost much of their power to horrify. Like Macbeth, we "have supped full with horrors," except that Macbeth still realizes what he has done and knows what should horrify him. The modern world's case is worse. When you habitually violate your principles, you don't just harden your conscience; you risk losing it altogether. You even wind up forgetting what your principles used to be. Within living memory (though just barely), nearly all Christians agreed that contraception was immoral. Then, in 1931, the conservative Church of England decided that, though it was wrong in principle, exceptions could be made, but only for (say) married couples who couldn't afford more children than they already had. The Anglicans tried to uphold the principle of chastity -- but with a few exceptions. But today, few Christians reject contraception. Only the Catholic Church, basically, still condemns it, but few Catholic priests dare to preach against it. That would seem "not sufficiently progressive." Few even remember why chastity was ever considered a virtue. It's not that most people have changed their minds. Most people seldom use their minds; they merely follow fashion. We are now seeing what happens a generation or two after a fad catches on and goes unopposed. You can call it progress. I prefer to call it amnesia. No wonder G.K. Chesterton said that "only the Catholic Church can save a man from the degraded slavery of being a child of his time." ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Read this column on-line at "http://www.sobran.com/columns/2007/070423.shtml". Copyright (c) 2007 by the Griffin Internet Syndicate, www.griffnews.com. This column may not be published in print or Internet publications without express permission of Griffin Internet Syndicate. You may forward it to interested individuals if you use this entire page, including the following disclaimer: "SOBRAN'S and Joe Sobran's columns are available by subscription. For details and samples, see http://www.sobran.com/e-mail.shtml, write PR@griffnews.com, or call 800-513-5053."