April 1, 2023

Zealots at the Gates:

by Hal Gershowitz

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Actually, they’re well past the gates.

With the American political center essentially vacated or increasingly enfeebled, the political zealots among us see this as their moment. They are rushing the gates and pulling and pushing the guardrails that, for many years, made America unique among the nations, a place where a representative constitutional democracy worked, sometimes raucously, sometimes fitfully, but on balance, remarkably well.

Those days, for the time being, seem a distant memory. Today, power seekers abound for the sole purpose of consolidating power and satisfying the demands of those they believe can bestow it and attacking those they believe stand in their way. Special interests provide massive funding to those who will do their bidding. So, the zealots are having their day throughout the country.

It is absurd that assault rifles that can swiftly fire multiple rounds that essentially explode upon entering a child’s body are readily available throughout the United States, even to teenagers who are not old enough to buy a six-pack of beer. That’s why grade-school children, beginning in kindergarten, have to be drilled on what to do when there is a shooter in their school. And let’s get serious; what can they really do? 

There were 930 active and non-active shooter incidents in our schools in the past decade, Non-active shooting incidents are those where a gun is fired, but no one is hit, or a gun is brandished but not fired. Last year alone, 300 such so-called active and non-active gun incidents occurred in our nation’s K through 12 schools, including school shootings that resulted in 31 children being shot to death. A growing number of families are now, reportedly, home-schooling their children because they deem our K-12 schools too dangerous

Sadly, this gun mania isn’t really tolerated because our elected officials, who could do something to reign in this absurdity, are strong second amendment people. The politicians simply fear the zealots at the gates will spend big bucks to defeat them if they embrace sensible gun regulation.

The notion that the gun conundrum is a second amendment issue is rather spurious, given that the founders formulated this constitutional amendment to protect the nation. One doesn’t have to be a mystic to understand how the founders would feel about the zealots who tote around AR-15s, AK-47s, and high-capacity magazines. The founders would all turn over in their graves at the mockery our 21st-century gun zealots have made of their intent.

Zealots and Zygotes

And, of course, there is now a patch quilt of anti-abortion laws in various states in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to reverse Roe. This decision ended a half-century of law recognizing a woman’s right to terminate an unintended pregnancy during the first trimester of gestation. One state, Oklahoma, makes abortion illegal from the moment of conception. In the Sooner State, a zygote, a single fertilized egg cell, is codified as an unborn child with rights that supersede those of an impregnated woman.

Zealots at the school door.

Classic books and depictions of classic art are banned today at the protest of even a single parent. Just this week in Tallahassee, Florida, a grade-school principal was forced to resign because he allowed a depiction of Michelangelo’s David to be displayed in the school. His offense was that he referred to the world-famous sculpture as non-pornographic. One child’s parents thought the nude was pornographic.

Zealots on the left take a back seat to no one when advancing their worldview, and, not surprisingly, tolerance of zealotry on the left has begun to wear thin. Even in Minneapolis, where left-wing zealotry soared following the brutal death of George Floyd, the people turned thumbs down on the leftist campaign to defund the police. In ultra-liberal San Francisco, the voters tossed out their ultra-liberal district attorney and then went on to toss out three left-wing zealots on the city school board. Almost immediately thereafter, merit-based admissions was reestablished at one of the city’s traditionally high-performing high schools. So even the nation’s most liberal city finally said enough is enough.

Zealots on the left and the right

The indictment by a New York grand jury this week of former President Donald Trump has, of course, dominated the news. While, as of this writing, no one knows precisely what comprises the 30+ charges against Trump in the New York indictment, a doctored payment to a former porn star is known to be the basis of the indictment. It also seems likely that this may be the first of several criminal charges forthcoming from ongoing Federal and State investigations in Georgia, Florida, and Washington, D.C.

On the left, the commentary is focused on how much legal exposure the former President has. On the right, the commentary is focused on the fiction that the United States Justice Department has been weaponized against Donald Trump. It is impossible to separate the former President from the attempt to interfere with the peaceful transfer of power on January 6th, 2021, or the cache of classified documents that were spirited to his private residence in Mar-a-Lago, which he, apparently, falsely claimed he had previously returned to the U.S. Archives, or the attempt to pressure the Republican Secretary of State in Georgia to “find the votes” he needed to overturn the 2020 election results in that state. These are all serious offenses if they occurred, and the “weapon” the United States has to address these offenses against the nation is the United States Department of Justice.

The alleged offenses in Florida, Georgia, and Washington, D.C., if they result in indictments against the former President, will be adjudicated in courts presided over by competent judges, some of whom may have been appointed by former President Trump.

Former Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE) and now President of the University of Florida, summed up the country’s zealotry dilemma in a Wall Street Journal opinion column earlier this year. “…More than anything else, zealots—on the right and the left—seek total victory in the public square. They believe that the center of life is government power. They preach jeremiads of victimhood and decline. On the left, they want a powerful bureaucracy. On the right, they want a strongman. But they agree on a central tenet: Americans are too weak to solve problems with persuasion. They need the state to do it.”

Zealots are, indeed, at the gates.

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