I Served a Different Country
My wife’s family came from a part of Europe: Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Germany, or Austria, depending on the year. I only learned this a few years ago, but I would wonder what life was like for a time. Imagine changing nationalities four times without ever leaving your farm.
Now, I kind of know how it feels. This is not the country I grew up in. I grew up in a Christian country where individual freedom and responsibility were paramount. I now live in a despot country where conformity to a ruling elite’s weird and shifting moods is a life-or-death struggle.
Take today’s news that the Veterans Administration plans to deny all benefits to veterans who refuse to submit to the COVID vaccine. To me, this is proof that the swath of North America that was the United States for the past two centuries (give or take) is now a different country.
If this were still the country I grew up in, those veterans would be treated according to the service they rendered that country. But an invading government would have no obligation to them. Their service to the conquered nation would be considered a black mark beside their names to the new government. They were soldiers of an enemy. They deserve nothing.
Is this new government a foreign invader? Yes. Even though the individuals running it might have been born here, they have abandoned their old citizenship and adopted a new one. Perhaps the COVID vaccine changed their species and their nationality. But, one way or another, the people in charge are no longer what anyone would recognize as Americans.
My country is gone.
I don’t particularly like the new country I live in. I liked the one I served in its Navy. I liked its history, its founding principles, and its people. My dad served in its Navy. His dad sailed from Ireland in 1910 to live in that country. On my mom’s side, the first Mahon sailed here from Ireland in 1703, before it was a country. Her ancestors fought in every war, from the French and Indian to Desert Storm.
But all those battles and wounds and flag-draped coffins and tall tales of service conjured up to conceal the real experiences of war were for naught. They only delayed the inevitable: empires die. And the Empire of the USA died on or about January 20, 2021. Or maybe it was 3:00 a.m. on November 4, 2020. Whatever history determines as the time of death makes little difference: you and I are on the wrong side of the dividing line.
Selfishly, I hope the dividing line was January 20. My dad died on January 3. I’d like to believe his whole life was lived in one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all. I’d hate to think a man who fought in World War II and Korea outlived the country he fought for.
I believe that citizens of a dead empire don’t know it’s dead. Like the ghosts in Sixth Sense, they know something’s wrong and try to tell the living about it. But the living cannot see or hear them unless the living have the sixth sense—the Shining.
I’m sure there were people in the sixth century who thought they were Romans after Rome fell. We know there were Japanese soldiers still fighting the war on Pacific islands in the 1960s. And Germans who kept alive the Third Reich long after Hitler died (supposedly) in a bunker. (Please don’t accuse me of equating the late USA with the Empire of Japan or the Third Reich.) The point is, you can walk like a Roman and talk like a Roman, but if Rome’s gone, you’re not a Roman.
Likewise, I can walk like an American and talk like an American and wave the American flag, but if America’s fallen, then I’m just a sad refugee who looks foolish. Like Granny Clampet from *The Beverly Hillbillies," who refused to accept that the South lost the war. “Lee didn’t surrender his sword to Grant; he gave it to him for a sharpenin'!”
I want to believe what so many people like me believe. So many people think we’re in the midst of a national freakout that will vanish as quickly as it appeared. Forensic election audits will prove that Trump won. Trump will magically and overnight return to the White House. Republicans will magically take control of the House and Senate. And, within 30 days, everything will be as it was on February 1, 2020.
Oh, how I want to believe. But I can’t.
If you read the Constitution, the people don’t elect the President; the electoral college does. And the people don’t commission the electors: the state legislators do. Those legislatures have only about five weeks to make their best guess as to which electors best represent the interests of their state. They did that.
Congress accepted and certified the decisions of the legislatures and accepted the votes of their electors on January 6. And on January 20, the man and woman who received the largest share of the electors' votes were sworn in as President and Vice President of the United States.
Further, the President’s and vice president’s term ends at noon on January 20 of the year following the election. So even if somehow, the election were still up in the air at that time, Trump’s term ended. The Speaker of the House would act as President until the matter was resolved.
But there was no stalemate on January 20. Biden was sworn in. The fact that he may have been the wrong man and that the legislatures may have misread the interests of their states or the will of their people became irrelevant. Biden won. Maybe he lost the vote, but he won the electoral college. And there is no provision in the Constitution for removing a president because he was later found to have been elected (in the electoral college) by mistake or fraud.
The method of removing a president is impeachment and conviction by Congress or by a declaration of unfitness by the cabinet. In either case, the Vice President becomes acting President. And, if the Vice President is simultaneously removed, the Speaker of the House takes over.
As much as I’d like to make an exception in this case, I can’t. I can’t call myself a constitutionalist and then make an exception when it’s convenient for me. That’s what the damned Democrats do—I hypocrite (for a change).
No, we can’t make an exception to the Constitution to reinstate Donald Trump, even it’s proven that he won the election and should have been sworn in on January 20.
Besides, as I’ve been telling you, the country I grew up in no longer exists. And the country I grew up in was the sole owner of that Constitution. Our Constitution died with my country of origin. Therefore, I have no recourse to the Constitution. This new government operates by different rules. And this is where things get interesting.
I am an American, but my country went out of business. So, my allegiance is not to a country but to a faith. The faith I am sworn to seeks a country like the one I grew up in, the one that died on January 20. So, I’m a many without a country.
As a man without a country, I’m morally bound to no government. I am bound only to the tenets of my faith. And, those tenets are old. Some go back to the first century anno Domini. Others go back to about 5,000 B.C.
It’s funny that the founder of my faith—the human founder—was also a man living under foreign occupation. He was Jewish, but The Roman Empire had subsumed his country. And, like me, He was never a citizen of the Empire that owned His land. So he remained a Jew, and only a Jew, never becoming one of Them.
Like me, He never left His country: His country sort of left Him. More precisely, outsiders took over His country. But He remained a Jew.
So, for me, the question of how to live under occupation is a simple one. Simple but terrifying. Like a rabbi, I’ll answer the question with another question.
(Aside: Why do rabbis always answer a question with another question? Answer: Why shouldn’t rabbis answer a question with another question?)
The question I ask in response to the question is: What did Jesus do?
Not “what would Jesus do?” That’s cheating. That allows us to make up any answer we want.
Instead, I ask, “what did Jesus do?” After all, He was a Jew, not a Roman. He didn’t move to Rome; Rome moved to Him. Did He stop being a Jew and start acting like a Roman? No. Did He deny His Father to win favor with the Romans? No. Did He make an offering to a Roman god? No. Did Jesus deny who He was to save His life? No.
Jesus lived a perfect Jewish life. So perfect, he infuriated the Jewish hierarchy. The Jewish hierarchy appealed to Roman law to put Him to death. But Jesus remained a good Jew to the end.
So, what do I do in this occupied country? Assuming I accept the grace God offers, I try to live like a perfect Christian and a perfect American, even though the America I grew up in no longer exists.
Further, I try to live as perfect a Catholic life as possible, just as Jesus lived a perfect Jewish life. Unfortunately, like the Jewish hierarchy of Jesus' time, the Catholic hierarchy of my time has lost its mind. They do not believe what the Church has always taught; they bastardize the Church’s teaching to win favor with the world. The same way the chief priest won Pilate’s favor to put Jesus to death.
Today, the Catholic hierarchy is handing over its members to the modern Pilates for persecution and execution. And I’m not talking about the pope’s restrictions on the Traditional Latin Mass, though that’s related. I’m talking about the pope and many bishops refusing to acknowledge the Church’s teaching regarding vaccines made from the bodies of tortured and mutilated babies. I’m talking about wicked pastors like Blaze Cupich of Chicago, who has ordered their employees to take a (lethal) injection made from baby parts. I’m talking about bishops who have forbidden priests to follow the Church’s constant teaching on conscience. I’m talking about a Church hierarchy that is the mirror image of the Pharisees who persecuted Christ 2,000 years removed.
Am I comparing myself to Jesus Christ? Yes! How else can I see my own weakness and insufficiency than to compare myself to the perfect model? We are faced with the stark choice: to die with the world or to die with Christ. Looking at perfection makes our imperfections painfully obvious.
The Church is the Body of Christ (Ephesians 1.22-23; 1 Corinthians 12.12-13; Romans 12.3-5; Colossians 1.24).
I became a member of the Body of Christ through baptism (1 Corinthians 12.13; Galatians 3.27).
The members of the Body of Christ will be persecuted just as Jesus was. “Then they will deliver you over to be persecuted and killed, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name.” (Matthew 24:9)
I could go on, but it’s vainglorious to believe we can follow Christ everywhere but to the cross.
The mission, then, is to live like an America, just and free; and to love God with all my heart and soul and strength and mind, and to accept whatever happens as coming from Him.
To do this, I will need the strength that no human being can muster, but everything is possible with faith in God.
And I’m writing this because I believe you, too, can remain an American and a Christian. But you have to be willing to give up everything of this world. Not just conveniences and your home, but even the very idea of America. And indeed, you have to give up the expectation that Donald Trump will be triumphantly re-throned as President after the audits. That’s a Hollywood ending, not a worldly one.
Our only hope is to give up. Give up attachments to our things. Give up attachments to our history. Give up attachments to people. Give up attachments to the way things ought to be.
As I have often written over the past three years, we are the lowest buck privates in a war that began when Lucifer refused to submit to God. Only when we fully submit to His will does our chastisement end. When we are prepared to give up everything (and I certainly am not, yet), will we begin to realize that heaven is already in us and we in heaven.
My country is gone. I am a citizen of His Kingdom. A kingdom that will last forever.
Praised be Jesus, now and forever.