The “Road to Damascus” has long served as a term signifying discovery and conversion, a reframing of one’s attitude toward life. It may be gradual, or it may be instantaneous, just as one may spend a long time traveling a road, hundreds of miles even, or one may just turn a corner onto a new road, and be immediately overwhelmed.
Known as the “City of Jasmine,” Damascus is the capital of Syria, and has therefore been identified as one of America’s key enemies for many years. Bashir Assad, like his father before him, has supported terrorist organizations – Hezbollah in particular – for decades. They have been at the heart of every attack on Israel since 1948, ruining the once prosperous and peaceful nation of Lebanon, serving as a client state of Iran.
When journalists report on this country, rather than repeating themselves by naming the same dictator again and again in the same paragraph, they often refer to the capital city, saying “Damascus attacked…” or “Damascus declared…” or “Damascus threatened…” Fairly or not, we Americans therefore think of Damascus as a synonym for the government of Syria and the administration of Bashir Assad.
As America’s president has spent the summer of 2013 rattling a saber for war with Syria, it is perhaps instructive to think of the irony of Damascus’ involvement in our language and culture, as well as its current literal location as the planned target of President Obama’s current fury.
The Conversion of Saul of Tarsus
In the early days of the Christian era, after the Resurrection but long before any hierarchy was established, Christ’s apostles and other disciples traveled around the middle east, spreading the message of Christ’s teachings. They were persecuted by many in the establishment, including one Turkish-born Roman citizen, a Pharisee named Saul of Tarsus. A zealous anti-Christian, he was involved in the very first Christian martyrdom, the stoning of St. Stephen. Saul spent a long time – no one knows how long, but likely some period of years – persecuting Christian preachers – getting them arrested, getting them banished, getting them killed. Saul did a lot of damage to the nascent Church.
Then one day, while riding to Damascus, he had what he reported to be a moment of conversion. He saw the errors of his ways, changed his name to Paul, and became in short order the most zealous ambassador of Christianity in history, travelling the Mediterranean, establishing churches and continuing to advise their communities through communiques that have survived to this day as epistles in the Christian Bible.
We don’t know if that conversion was a single moment – whether he was really struck from his horse with a thunderbolt, scared straight by hearing the booming voice of God – or if it was just the culmination of weeks or months of gradual, serious contemplation. All we know for certain is that he finally decided, on the Road to Damascus, that his violent support for the anti-Christian forces had been wrong all along, and he was now bound to set things right, to repair the damage he had done, by becoming as great a Christian evangelist as he could, from that day forward.
The Plight of the Modern Democrat
The American Democratic Party has spent a century opposing conservatism. Not out of malice, originally at least, but out of a belief that their every enlargement of government, their every law restricting individual choice or further regulating businesses, churches, and schools was somehow for the common good.
When conservatives opposed these unconstitutional laws and agencies, the Democrats have persecuted them, calling the Republicans every imaginable name, hurling every invective at them. The Democrats have attacked Republicans as heartless monsters, Nazis and Fascists, extremists and bigots. Because of their control of the news media, schools, pop culture and government schools, their message has been the only one heard by an ever-larger segment of the populace.
But there has been a problem, one most evident during the past decade: As the Left has gained power and been able to win near absolute power in America, everything they touch has gotten worse. The more they’ve demolished the Constitutional limits on American government, the more our society has suffered.
They passed massive stimulus programs, and the economy continued to tank. They stuffed the schools’ curriculum with all their pet programs, and test scores plummeted. They passed mandate after mandate on American businesses, and job opportunities shrunk. They passed nationalized healthcare, and even more people will end up lacking coverage, rather than more as their illogical dreams had promised.
They eased up on prosecutions for crime, lightened sentencing guidelines and all but eliminated capital punishment, and the big cities have become so dangerous that residents, employers, and tourists alike have fled them.
And all the while, as voices in the wilderness, conservatives from niche magazines and blogs, from western states or rural districts, have continued to preach the true message of the American system for all those who would hear it. And it is resonating. The conservative movement grows; the tea parties move in meet-ups and social media. However persona-non-grata the Right may be in Barack Hussein Obama’s America, still the Right remains active, growing in the electorate, spreading its message of limited government, traditional values, and the economic prosperity of laissez-faire policy.
Even Democrats who have worn blinders for decades can no longer honestly deny the facts that confront them daily: the Left’s methods have failed utterly; they only make things worse. Perhaps the Right is right after all.
Questioning and Discomfort Begins
Many in the Left have already come to the realization that they had gone too far, but haven’t dared oppose their party yet. The Democratic Party has forbidden independent thought for decades; banishing the old “Scoop Jackson” wing in the 1980s, driving out even otherwise “good liberals” like Bob Casey of Pennsylvania in the 1990s for a single deviation from their orthodoxy.
A Democrat today must be pro-abortion and anti-capital punishment, pro-union and anti-employer, pro-deviancy and anti-tradition, pro-atheist and anti-religion. Even a minister, to gain their support, must choose the power of government over the Word of God. Even a teacher, to gain their support, must choose the propaganda of government over the truth of history. Even a scientist, to gain their support, must choose the dogma of global warming over the empirical truth of the scientific method.
And more and more Democrats realize this. Their constituents have pleaded with them to welcome back industry; to again encourage entrepreneurship, to relax the chains they have tightened around the neck of employers. Miners in Wisconsin shake their heads with wonder that the Democrats in Madison refuse new mining opportunities… laborers in the north cry out that Washington refuses to allow the building of the Keystone Pipeline. Refinery workers in the south plead for the EPA to go easier on the oil industry so that we can build new refineries. Californians, New Yorkers, and Illinoisans beg for a lightening of the tax burden that drive away more jobs every week…
But these conscientious Democrats have not dared to rise up against their leadership. They have always meekly obeyed as their bosses – Pelosi, Reid, and Obama, that triumvirate of economic and societal destruction – have ordered lockstep unity in favor of their march to socialism. They have always been told that yes, perhaps their general policy may be rough on one subset, but “we need unity for the big picture.”
A Window Opens
Now, however, that big picture is proving to be a big problem too.
If you’ve been told “your textile factory had to close for labor in general,” that argument collapses when labor in general suffers massive unemployment. The regime has had to recalculate how unemployment numbers are derived, to keep the current massive joblessness epidemic out of the statistics. 90 million citizens are “not participating” – they’ve dropped out of the workforce from lack of opportunity, so they’re no longer counted in the published unemployment numbers. The unemployed see through the ruse, and ask what their lockstep support of the left’s approach has gained them, as they line up for public housing or move back in with their parents in desperation.
If you’ve been told “we had to let these criminals go because the numbers on death row were unrepresentative of the population,” that argument collapses when these criminals remain at-large and active in the cities, recruiting for gangs, leading flash mobs in shopping malls, terrorizing our public schools and public places.
And if you’ve been told “we have to attack the military, attack the foreign policy establishment, and abandon Israel for the greater good of electing Democrats,” that argument certainly collapses when the top Democrat – the president, in fact – calls for a war against Syria in which there is no American interest whatsoever… a war in which our participation would, shockingly, assist the jihadist forces aligned (and in many cases trained by) Al Qaeda, America’s number one terrorist enemy in the world!
Nothing has worked – not their school policies, not their jobs policies, not their crime policies, not their tax policies, not their war policies. Everything the Democrats touch gets worse. People see their taxes and insurance bills skyrocket as their standard of living plummets.
They’ve always been told to tolerate one specific failure in favor of another better accomplishment somewhere else, and found that there are no better accomplishments anywhere else at all. Their policies haven’t hurt steelworkers in favor of textile workers, or hurt homebuilders in favor of auto workers. No, they’ve just hurt everybody at the bottom, helping only the politicians, the shop stewards and union bosses, and the politically connected. They’ve served their doctrine all their lives, and all they’ve accomplished has been to turn the nation into one great big Chicago.
And now the most blatant outrage of all confronts their eyes: the peacenik party trying to raise a war-weary nation to start another war, on the side of our greatest enemy, with no possible good result in sight.
Might the long-postponed recognition of the errors of their ways be here at last?
Barack Hussein Obama’s attempt to start a war with Syria might indeed be the last straw for many in the Democratic Party, not just the rank and file, but their elected officials as well. They’ve been good soldiers for the anti-American cause long enough; persecuting conservatives, poisoning the minds of their adherents against the well-intentioned Right so that the Constitutional message is buried.
They’ve been good soldiers for the wrong cause, and they’re waking up. They are beginning to recognize that the conservatives just might have been right all along, and perhaps they’ve been wrong demonize the Right, all these years.
Wouldn’t it be interesting indeed if the secular American Left were to acknowledge the truth, and open their minds at last to the wisdom of the Founders, today of all days, during the current Syrian war debate… rhetorically speaking, while traveling on the Road to Damascus?
Copyright 2013 John F. Di Leo
John F. Di Leo is a Chicago-based Customs broker and international trade trainer. A former county chairman of the Milwaukee County Republican Party, he has now been a recovering politician for sixteen years. His columns appear regularly in Illinois Review.
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