For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood; but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the world of this darkness, against the spirits of wickedness in the high places.
In the early days of spring a wild red fox made her home on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol. She started attacking passersby (including at least one journalist and one member of Congress) and turned out to be rabid. She died at the federales‘ hands on April 5, along with all her children.
On Monday, May 2, another fox chewed through a fence and found his way onto the grounds of the Smithsonian National Zoo. He killed a northern pintail duck and 25 flamingoes, injuring three more in the bloodiest scene of senseless violence the public attraction has experienced in decades.
The next day, May 3, I’m standing outside the Supreme Court when a strange-looking older man catches my attention. He’s more than a little over six feet tall, totally bald, broad nose and prominent brow. Something unsettling behind his eyes. White alligator-skin cowboy bits and an ill-fitting Roman collar under a black t-shirt that reads, in part: “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Morals are Worse Than Animals. Proof: The National Zoo.” He styles himself Reverend Leroy Swailes, though I’d like to know who actually ordained him.
He’s not the only one here with religious motivations. Jamie Manson, M.Div., president of Catholics for Choice, is among the featured speakers as demonstrators gather to protest Justice Samuel Alito’s leaked draft opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, which would overturn Roe v. Wade and its federal mandate of legalized child murder.
She “call[s] on President Biden, who is a pro-choice Catholic”—here the crowd cheers wildly—to “leave no stone underturned” in the attempt to prevent any restriction of abortion. This includes, for some reason, “publishing the Equal Rights Amendment so we can be in the Constitution.”
Manson has made a career out of publicly flouting the authority of the Church, especially when it comes into conflict with American left-liberalism. Last year, she did a Jack-Chick-in-drag act in the New York Times, ranting about “insidious papal teachings” on gender, sex, and life. Yet today she presents herself as some kind of authority on true Catholic morality. She cites some specious polling and celebrates the abominable tragedy that even Catholic women kill their children in abortions, as if to suggest that the ubiquity of sin is some kind of imprimatur.
Others are more honest about how far they’ve strayed. One woman (I don’t catch her name) explains that she grew up Catholic, “and then I learned that if women don’t have this fundamental right to abortion, they are nothing more than slaves to their reproduction.” Just like in other post-Christian countries like Mexico, Colombia, and Venezuela where abortion restrictions have been overturned, she sees the best way to preserve the infanticide license as enthusiasts demonstrating “in the streets with a wave of green,” with the express purpose of disrupting social order unless the Satanic demand is met. People have taken the message to heart: D.C. churches are already preparing for intruders at Mass this Sunday.
The night before—as the fox tore through the flamingo house—the spiritual war took on a different valence in front of the Supreme Court building. Young men from Catholic University prayed the rosary as pro-abortion demonstrators mobbed around them shouting vile obscenities. I intervened when an older guy placed his hands on one of them. He was tall but oddly built, an S-shaped figure comprising a beergut and a concave chest, craning neck topped by a balding head, face (of course) covered by a mask. He wore a lavender t-shirt that said “Hug Life” and seemed to depict two naked cartoon figures in a weird side-by-side embrace. In graphic detail he explained how he wished my “mother had strangled the life out of [me] the second [I was] born.” He mumbled some things about rape and murder. His honesty—the unflinching, unabashed evil with which he professed what he was there for—was jarring, but revelatory.
The exchange broke off when a fight broke out a little to my right. A pro-life man (I talked to him a little afterwards) in professional clothes had been standing on the edge of the crowd when another of the agitators—a scrawny kid with long hair, blacked-out clothes and a black bike helmet and his face hidden behind both a mask and a bandana—came out of nowhere and sucker-punched him. The pro-life guy took one hit back in self-defense; antifa bro crumpled to the ground, then got up and scurried off into the crowd. Here, even the violence is pathetic.
In daylight everything seems sadder still. The air of drama and immediacy that barely hovered over the proceedings Monday night has entirely disappeared by Tuesday morning. As Manson and others who see an opportunity here—Amy Klobuchar still thinks she might be president—rotate on the microphone, the usual cast of white-collar blue-city protestors filter through.
“We all know this court decision is some f—ked up racist nonsense, so I’m not going to talk about it,” somebody starts over the sound system.
One dude’s sign is a flattened-out U-Haul moving box with wire hangers glued to it. In red and black marker he’s written out: “Marbury v. Madison ≠ settled precedent. Judicial review is not in the Constitution either.” I doubt he came to that opinion reading The Warren Revolution. “Reproductive Health=Trans Health” seems not just counterintuitive but a little bit impossible. “Keep your rosaries off my ovaries” misses on a number of points. “You f—king f—ks” is vague but versatile, I guess.
The chants, like the man from the night before, are astonishingly shameless. “Abortion on demand and without apology” is a simple staple. “Free abortion on demand.” “Our children need abortion rights.”
Brad Sherman, a California congressman, takes the stand. An egg-shaped woman in a bright, translucent yellow jumpsuit demands to know through a megaphone of her own: “Why are men talking? Why – are – men – talking?”
The girl in front of me with two late-middle-aged women must be 7 or 8 years old. They’ve given her a cardboard sign with “My body, my choice” in the clear handwriting of a grown adult.
A little to the right of us a small group of pro-life protestors is counter-demonstrating. They have a huge poster showing the body of a murdered child fairly early in gestation: dark eyes sitting in a bulbous head, little arms taking form down by her side. One of the pro-abortion women ventures over to take a look. She almost falls down, and lets rip a screeching hihihihi cackle that is not just insincere but, in some way, inhuman. “They’re trying to say that’s a baby,” she shouts back to her friends in disbelief. “It’s, like, cells.”
The chants continue behind it all, responses all quick and well rehearsed. From the microphone an activist calls out: “This is what democracy looks like.” The ragtag gaggle echoes back the words: “This is what democracy looks like.”
On this, if nothing else, I fear they may be right.
about the author
Declan Leary is associate editor of The American Conservative. He was previously an editorial intern at National Review and has been a frequent contributor to Crisis Magazine.