If Folks Like Justice Thomas And Me Are Clowns, God Will Have The Last Laugh

(screenshot: Fox)

Alan Keyes Former Assistant Secretary of State
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For years I have staunchly opposed the elitist faction’s attack on unalienable right when it comes to the natural family. Sometimes after I’ve given a talk explaining why that attack threatens the very existence of true liberty in the United States, people approach me afterward for a handshake and a brief word.

Occasionally, leaning toward my ear in conspiratorial mode, one of them has whispered “You’re right, you know. Homosexuals are notoriously racist,” or words to that effect. My first reaction is to wonder why they think that has anything to do with what I’ve said.  As I’ve thought it through over the years, I’ve realized that it may be a function of the elitist faction’s abandonment of the standard of truth and reason in view of which the American republic was founded.

Our political discourse is now so debased that some people just assume that some personal hatred or ambition has to be the reason I, or anyone else, takes a strong stand in politics. They are, in effect, saying, “I know why you oppose gays. It’s because you’re black and they’re racists.” Such people are ripe to be taken in by elitist faction parodies of conservatism (like the one Donald Trump is currently acting out.) Such caricatures lend credence to the charge that people who oppose the elitist faction agenda are instinctive bigots, impelled by passionate hatred for foreigners and anybody else who is “different.”

I literally thank God and Jesus Christ for the fact that I have never been taken in by such caricatures. Unlike Barack Obama, and other stridently leftist professional blacks, I profess the true faith whose first commandment is love, not hatred. For me childhood’s end came when I first was made self-consciously aware of the profound injustices perpetrated against my enslaved ancestors. There began a titanic struggle within me, as anger, resentment and injured pride pushed me toward hatred and vengefulness, while the faithful friend of my childhood, who was Jesus Christ, pulled me toward something else. As a man, Jesus spoke from in the Gospel I heard regularly at Mass. I also saw it enacted regularly in the faith my mother relied upon in our home. Christ’s words and deeds called out to the man, like him, that I longed to become. They called me to love and forgive even those I was tempted to see as my enemies.

For me, it was not an easy calling. I passed through a time when, like W.E.B. Dubois, I felt two souls struggling within me. However, I came to realize that they were not so much “black” and “white” as love or hatred, salvation or pride, justice or vengeful victory. One soul fed itself on historic memories of slave ships, slave auctions and the rapes, beatings and outright murder my ancestors endured. These were the legalized atrocities American slavery spawned in abundance. The other fed itself on memories of the American spirit: of faith, decency and the capacity for heroism in spite of evil that I found among my enslaved ancestors, but also among the very people who enslaved them, or allowed them to be enslaved.

By the grace of God, and the sometimes unwitting ministry of decent people, He opened my way to meet and appreciate over the years, I came through the smoke and confusion of my soul’s battlefield, not unscathed but somehow made whole, in spite of battle. The seed and root of that wholeness is the Lord, but the trunk that grew up from that seed, which marries spirit, flesh and human history, was a sense of my identity as part of the experiment in wholesome humanity that was and ought to be, my country’s visible purpose. It’s a work in progress, like my very self. Beleaguered now by forces tearing at its roots, it seems to sway and teeter toward a fall. But its true spirit stands against that appearance. That spirit may yet be used by God to set it again upright.

All this came into focus last week when one of my sons came home outraged that George Takei, of Star Trek: TOS fame, had called Justice Clarence Thomas a “Clown in Blackface.” Later George Takei apologized for what he portrayed as a poor choice of words. But the apology simply confirmed the fact that he does not realize that the true and literal indignity was not his stupid name-calling, but the reason he gave for indulging in it. He criticized Justice Thomas for daring to suggest that enslaved people had dignity. He cited their life in chains and servitude, and the physical abuse they suffered at the hands of their captors as good reason to say “slaves had no dignity.” He spoke as one might who sees defeat in battle as the ultimately proof of shame and unworthiness; and who believes that, rather than endure such dishonor, it is better to self-immolate.

In another country, not yet wholly past from history, his view might be acceptable. But if it is true, then the Japanese who submitted to American rule after their defeat in WWII had no more dignity than my child’s enslaved ancestors (who are also of course, my own). If it is true, then it is truly a miracle that they went on, nonetheless, to surpass all the previous achievements of their feudal, imperial history. Given the context of his slur, Mr. Takei seems never to have come to terms with the struggle between the soul within him that respects what is honorable in Japan’s samurai tradition, and the right spirit of America, which respects the self-evident truth whereby it is God’s intention that informs human worth, not any human government’s power.

George Takei’s outspoken participation in the push for legalization of so-called “homosexual marriage” gives evidence of the importance that some sense of America’s spirit must have in his own sense of identity. I doubt that someone who did not take that spirit seriously could misunderstand it as completely and passionately as he has. Nothing proves that misunderstanding more certainly than the fact that Mr. Takei could assert that “slaves had no dignity,” especially in the context of ridiculing Justice Thomas’s all-American observation that human dignity is not something human government can bestow. Of course, contrary to the also widespread misunderstanding of the samurai tradition, it’s not a function of martial prowess either. Such dignity is the calling of humanity. It is within the purview of anyone who rightly bears the name of human; anyone who therefore respects the bonds of obligation and wholesome self-respect that give meaning to the name, as it applies to individuals and to the species as a whole.

Why does George Takei need to believe that human dignity is a function of government power? His participation in the push to wrest marriage from its natural sphere suggests that he sees it as the only way to dignify, in human terms, the relationship he has apparently chosen as the definitive basis for his identity. Yet whatever satisfaction it may bring to him as an individual, what does that relationship have to do with the preservation of human nature? The capacity to overstep our natural limits is undoubtedly a function of humanity. But using it to defy and erase the boundaries that reveal human nature is just as obviously an act of wholesale suicide. Contrary to the assumption of the push to accept homosexual marriage, the mere fact that one is capable of doing something doesn’t make it right.

As I recall, in the end this was the moral of the story in “Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country.” Ironically, Mr. Takei missed the point his talents as an actor helped to get across. Moreover, he called Justice Thomas names, and slurred all Americans whose ancestry included the enslaved, because he (Justice Thomas) made the same mistake Mr. Takei himself is making. He conflates capacity, right and power in much the same way the Justices did in their opinion in the Obergefell case. On account of this confusion they ignored the basis for humanity that the founding premises of the United States should help us all to recognize, share, and celebrate. Human dignity is not simply a function of power. It is not simply a function of superior ability.  It is certainly not simply a function of human passion, sentiment and emotion. All of these things are as likely to be motives for wrongdoing, perhaps even more so. To incline us to do “right as God gives us to see the right” is, by contrast, the essential function of God-endowed right. God’s program for our nature places it within the reach of every human being who is willing to use our natural powers in ways that respect the terms of God’s endowment, which inform and give meaning to the identity we have in common.

In terms of natural right, therefore, homosexual relations do not involve unalienable right. They do not correspond to right action, by nature, or to the institution of marriage that arises in the course of it. The integrity of America’s respect for God-endowed (which is to say God delimited) unalienable rights stands against recognizing homosexual relations as a basis for marriage. Therefore the form of government that presupposes such respect can never justly use the force of law to impose acceptance of any redefinition of marriage that abandons it. This is not just a matter of my Christian faith. It is a matter of respect for God’s authority over justice. That is essential to the meaning and survival of liberty as a God-endowed right, which constrains and limits the use of human power. To defend its integrity and maintain the just limitation of power it requires I am obligated, and therefore willing to risk and even give my life, as Americans have for generations before me. If that makes me a clown, I take comfort in the fact that “He who sits in the heavens” will have the last laugh (Psalms 2:4).