Think of the tallest building you’ve ever seen in Kansas. Now tell me if you think it worthwhile traveling all that way just to see it again.
That’s what I thought. So, why would I want to read someone like Jamie Stiehm again? The first go around having failed to inspire, why would I want to repeat the exercise?
But first a word or two about who she is. While she is no household name, one might easily think otherwise after a glimpse or two at her bio, which lists several pages of her accomplishments, none of which, however, are likely to get her a Pulitzer. She’s no Walter Lippmann, in other words, but that hardly matters since no one reads Lippmann anymore. And why should anyone since nothing fades faster than yesterday’s opinions. But, don’t you see, Ms. Stiehm thinks you should be reading her opinions, which are widely syndicated and, by her account, full of wise and acute observations about everything.
Orthodox. Faithful. Free.
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Every Monday afternoon her column shows up in our local newspaper, announcing itself as the last word on current discontents. These are almost always the fault of Republicans, specifically those of the MAGA persuasion. And so she will rail and rail against the idiocies and iniquities of Trump and those who voted for him.
She is especially scathing on the subject of the January Six Riot, which she never wearies of describing as an attempted takeover of the government, as violent as anything in the annals of human history. And, of course, as she will painfully remind her readers every time the subject comes up, she was there. In real time, mind you. And the sheer unspeakable horror of the experience remains seared upon her memory.
Over time I’ve tried my best to resist reading her, on the grounds that she really isn’t good for the repose of my soul. Plus, she has no style, which will often serve to season a salad which otherwise has nothing in it. And I nearly succeeded until last week when, taking a quick glance at one of her sentences, I nearly fell off my chair in sheer disbelief.
Actually, it was more disgust than disbelief. Also rage. Heaps of rage. So, I read on; and by the time I’d finished I was in a state of high dudgeon. What do I do now? I asked myself. Cancel the paper? Consider something even worse? Get a grip, man. Just send an email. Then, if that doesn’t work, write your own article.
So, what was it that set off all those alarm bells? Well, suppose I reproduce her first three paragraphs, and you tell me. Begin with the title, which was the launching pad for all the provocations to follow. It reads: “The Roberts court: Something rotten under the robes.” She means the Court’s decision to repeal Roe v. Wade, of course, thus providing final proof apparently of its barbarity. Followed by three brief paragraphs:
Picture us as peasants in medieval Europe again. We have no human rights, a concept far in the future. That’s how the Supreme Court likes it.
Six Catholics powerfully rule the land now, wielding religious beliefs like a weapon. They are known as “justices.” They are anything but, yet nobody can touch them.
They literally have the last word on running millions of lives, with no milk of human kindness. Their bitter arrogance is breathtaking.
If you didn’t know it, you’d almost think she was describing Julius Streicher and the People’s Court he presided over in Nazi Germany. Or one of the Star Chamber Proceedings during the Soviet Purge Trials.
Does she really believe this bilge? She’s pulling our leg, right? Alas, she believes every overwrought word, as this revealing snippet near the end of her screed will show:
Anyone not a white, straight, wealthy male has something to fear or lose from the Roberts court. Its close ties to the arch-conservative Federalist Society and Opus Dei Catholic lay organization serve to underline this truth.
Opus Dei? Is that the enemy looming before us, whose oppressions threaten to bring down the Republic? Please.
Some of my best friends are members, for heaven’s sake. And none of them are wealthy. Is this the face of today’s tyranny? Husbands and wives living in the suburbs?
Ah, but they’re all Catholic. And to hear Ms. Stiehm tell it, there is no greater threat and thus no fear more necessary and urgent for her to stoke.
So, I sent Ms. Stiehm the following email:
Let us agree [I began] that you don’t like Catholics, at least not the uppity ones, which apparently includes any Catholic who has the effrontery to rejoice in the repeal of Roe v. Wade. But does it ever occur to you that the most obvious and persuasive argument against abortion has less to do with theology than biology? If the life in the womb is human, which is a datum of science not a dogma of faith, then it follows that it ought to be protected by law. Even a secularist can see that. In fact, the late Nat Hentoff certainly did and it wasn’t Catholicism that moved him to say so. What moves you? I mean, besides anti-Catholic bigotry?
Well, she wrote back, which I thought rather astonishing. Promptly, too. But her response was totally evasive, employing fewer words than any one of her paragraphs. I decided to fire off another salvo. Here is the salient part.
So, if science is not on your side, on what basis is your claim to reproductive freedom, i.e., the right to kill an unborn child, going to be made? I’d say it’s pretty obvious, wouldn’t you? The sheer convenience of those in power, who are at liberty to take any child’s life because the latter are simply too powerless to protest.
I then launched my own warhead:
There is a word for where your position has taken you. It’s called Fascism, which found a home in Nazi Germany, where a great many Jews were killed because they got in the way of people in power. Or, if that’s too harsh, then the Pre-Bellum South, where blacks were kept in chains because, having been stripped of their humanity, they could then be regarded as chattel.
If this is not your position, then I’d be grateful to know why not.
Well, did she reply? She did. “I find your letter very aggressive and offensive in your accusations,” she wrote. She then closed the correspondence by saying, “And of course some of my best friends are Catholics.”
Now there’s an icebreaker. “Because they agree with you?” I asked in our final exchange. “Not even Catholics,” I told her, “are exempt from thinking their beliefs must never get in the way of their behavior.”
I’ve not heard from her since. Perhaps I’m writing to the wrong person. Maybe I should be sending emails to these Catholic friends of hers. What do you think?
[Photo Credit: AFP via Getty Images]