By Rod DREHER
Yesterday I wrote about how Alphonso David, the head of the rich (thanks to corporate donations) and powerful Human Rights Campaign, took to the pages of The New York Times to call on government officials and administrators to defy laws limiting transgender rights, e.g., forbidding hormonal treatments for minor children. People like David, and the elites who fund his organization, have no respect for the law or anything else that gets in the way of their totalitarian goals. We should be grateful to him for showing his hand.
Comes today this new City Journal piece by the courageous journalist Abigail Shrier, who writes about what happens when the State comes for your children. Read on:
Ahmed is a Pakistani immigrant, a faithful Muslim, and until recently, a financial consultant to Seattle’s high-tech sector. But when he reached me by phone in October 2020, he was just one more frightened father. Days earlier, he and his wife had checked their 16-year-old son into Seattle Children’s Hospital for credible threats of suicide. Now, Ahmed was worried that the white coats who had gently admitted his son to their care would refuse to return him.
“They sent an email to us, you know, ‘you should take your ‘daughter’ to the gender clinic,’” he told me.
At first, Ahmed (I have changed names in this essay to protect the identities of minor children) assumed there had been a mistake. He had dropped off a son, Syed, to the hospital, in a terrible state of distress. Now, the email he received from the mental health experts used a new name for that son and claimed he was Ahmed’s daughter. “They were trying to create a customer for their gender clinic . . . and they seemed to absolutely want to push us in that direction,” he said when I spoke to him again this May, recalling the horror of last October. “We had calls with counselors and therapists in the establishment, telling us how important it is for him to change his gender, because that’s the only way he’s going to be better out of this suicidal depressive state.”
Syed had been a “straight-A student” and—according to his parents and the family’s therapist—quite brilliant. He is also on the autism spectrum, a young man who neglects to make eye contact and must be given rules for how long to shake hands, shower, or brush his teeth. High school was a slog for him, as it often is for kids on the spectrum who find that the social demands of adolescence have risen beyond their capacity to meet them. “He tried to ask a few girls out. It didn’t work out and he got frustrated and angry, and that kind of thing. And so, those girl-boy things get kind of tough for autistic kids, those developmental issues. And that’s where puberty can be very, very hard with the hormones rushing and all this stuff.”
Syed was depressed, and spent a lot of time on the Internet. He barely slept, and started having hallucinations. And he began to fixate, as many autism spectrum people do, on an idea: in Syed’s case, that he is transgender. More:
As child psychiatrist and expert in gender dysphoria Susan Bradley said to me: “The messages these kids pick up [from trans influencers] when they’re online is, ‘We’re the only people who understand you. Your people, your parents, don’t really understand you.’ And it may be the first time in their lives that anybody has said to them, ‘We understand you. We know you. You’re okay. You’re just like us.’ And it’s powerful.”
I asked Bradley if introducing gender ideology to kids who tend to fixate is like introducing cocaine to those susceptible to addiction. She agreed: “It has the same power to assuage all the alienation and grief and distress that these kids have been struggling with.”
They put Syed, who was spiraling into some kind of psychosis, into the hospital, against his will. He was diagnosed with gender dysphoria. More:
The age at which minors in the State of Washington can receive mental health and gender-affirming care without parental permission is 13. In other words, the emails Ahmed received from the hospital were effectively a courtesy; the hospital did not require Ahmed’s permission to begin his son on a path to medical transition.
But unlike some other parents I would later speak with, Ahmed’s cool head prevailed. Believing he might be walking into a trap, Ahmed reached out to both a lawyer and a psychiatrist friend he trusted. The psychiatrist gave him advice that he believes saved his son, saying, in Ahmed’s words: “You have to be very, very careful, because if you come across as just even a little bit anti-trans or anything, they’re going to call the Child Protective Services on you and take custody of your kid.” The lawyer told Ahmed the same: “What you want to do is agree with them and take your kid home. When the gender counselors advise you to ‘affirm,’ go along with it. Just say ‘Uh-huh, uh-huh, okay, let’s take him home, and we’ll go to the gender clinic.’”
Ahmed assured Seattle Children’s Hospital that he would take his son to a gender clinic and commence his son’s transition. Instead, he collected his son, quit his job, and moved his family of four out of Washington.
Was Ahmed’s reaction extreme? When I first heard it, back in October 2020, I wondered whether he hadn’t overreacted. But as a growing number of parents began contacting me with similar stories, and I delved into the state laws of Washington, Oregon, and California, I came to a different conclusion. Taken individually, no single law in any state completely strips parents’ rights over the care and mental health treatment of their troubled minor teens. But pieced together, laws in California, Oregon, and Washington place troubled minor teens as young as 13 in the driver’s seat when it comes to their own mental health care—including “gender affirming” care—and renders parents powerless to stop them.
Lest you wonder whether there is some madcap elixir polluting the groundwater of Washington State alone, in 2015, Oregon passed a law permitting minors 15 and older to obtain puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, and surgeries at taxpayers’ expense—all without parental consent. In 2018, California passed a similar bill for all children in foster care, age 12 and up. The California state senate is now considering an amendment to the Confidentiality of Medical Information Act that would bar health insurers from disclosing medical information to parents about their dependents, on pain of criminal liability.
Read it all.This is America, 2021. States whose lawmakers are trying to protect families from these ghouls are now under attack by the LGBT Industrial Complex, which, as I wrote yesterday, is trying to encourage its janissaries to defy the law.
In Romania over the weekend, after I gave my Live Not By Lies talk about soft totalitarianism, a prominent conservative commentator who heard it wrote something saying that Dreher was too alarmist. Liberal institutions will protect us, he asserted.
I am losing faith in the state, and in our democracy, because those who have gained control of its institutions have declared that people like us are evil. They want our children. Yesterday I spoke to a Hungarian who said to me that if we will not defend our children from these devils, who are we, anyway? This is exactly right.
I predict in a decade, the GOP will have gone this same direction. The purpose of the Republican Party is eventually to ratify whatever progressive gains Democrats made years earlier.
We have to act now, in concrete ways, while we have time, and the liberty to do so. Never, ever forget this warning story from Live Not By Lies:
Sometimes, a stranger who sees deeper and farther than the crowd appears to warn of trouble coming. These stories often end with people disbelieving the prophet and suffering for their blindness. Here, though, is a tale about a people who heard the prophet’s warnings, did as he advised, and were ready when the crisis struck.
In 1943, a Jesuit priest and anti-fascist activist named Tomislav Poglajen fled his native Croatia one step ahead of the Gestapo and settled in Czechoslovakia. To conceal himself from the Nazis, he assumed his Slovak mother’s name—Kolaković—and took up a teaching position in Bratislava, the capital of the Slovak region. The priest, thirty-seven years old and with a thick shock of prematurely white hair, had spent some his priestly training studying the Soviet Union. He believed that the defeat of Nazi totalitarianism would occasion a great conflict between Soviet totalitarianism and the liberal democratic West. Though Father Kolaković worried about the threats to Christian life and witness from the rich, materialistic West, he was far more concerned about the dangers of communism, which he correctly saw as an imperialistic ideology.
By the time Father Kolaković reached Bratislava, it was clear that Czechoslovakia would eventually be liberated by the Red Army. In fact, in 1944, the Czech government in exile made a formal agreement with Stalin, guaranteeing that after driving the Nazis out, the Soviets would give the nation its freedom.
Because he knows how the Soviets thought, Father Kolaković knew this was a lie. He warned Slovak Catholics that when the war ended, Czechoslovakia would fall to the rule of a Soviet puppet government. He dedicated himself to preparing them for persecution.
Father Kolaković knew that the clericalism and passivity of traditional Slovak Catholicism would be no match for communism. For one thing, he correctly foresaw that the communists would try to control the church by subduing the clergy. For another, he understood that the spiritual trials awaiting believers under communism would put them to an extreme test. The charismatic pastor preached that only a total life commitment to Christ would enable them to withstand the coming trial.
“Give yourself totally to Christ, throw all your worries and desires on him, for he has a wide back, and you will witness miracles,” the priest said, in the recollection of one disciple.
Giving oneself totally to Christ was not an abstraction or a pious thought. It needed to be concrete, and it needed to be communal. The total destruction of the First World War opened the eyes of younger Catholics to the need for a new evangelization. A Belgian priest named Joseph Cardijn, whose father had been killed in a mining accident, started a lay movement to do this among the working class. These were the Young Christian Workers, called “Jocists” after the initials of their name in French. Inspired by the Jocist example, Father Kolaković adapted it to the needs of the Catholic Church in German-occupied Slovakia. He established cells of faithful young Catholics who came together for prayer, study, and fellowship.
The refugee priest taught the young Slovak believers that every person must be accountable to God for his actions. Freedom is responsibility, he stressed; it is a means to live within the truth. The motto of the Jocists became the motto for what Father Kolaković called his “Family”: “See. Judge. Act.” See meant to be awake to realities around you. Judge was a command to discern soberly the meaning of those realities in light of what you know to be true, especially from the teachings of the Christian faith. After you reach a conclusion, then you are to act to resist evil.
Václav Vaško, a Kolaković follower, recalled late in his life that Father Kolaković’s ministry excited so many young Catholics because it energized the laity and gave them a sense of leadership responsibility.
“It is remarkable how Kolaković almost instantly succeeded in creating a community of trust and mutual friendship from a diverse grouping of people (priests, religious and lay people of different ages, education, or spiritual maturity),” Vaško wrote.
The Family groups came together at first for Bible study and prayer, but soon began listening to Father Kolaković lecture on philosophy, sociology, and intellectual topics. Father Kolaković also trained his young followers in how to work secretly, and to withstand the interrogation that he said would surely come.
The Family expanded its small groups quickly across the nation. “By the end of the school year 1944,” Vaško said, “it would have been difficult to find a faculty or secondary school in Bratislava or larger cities where our circles did not operate.”
In 1946, Czech authorities deported the activist priest. Two years later, communists seized total power, just as Father Kolaković had predicted. Within several years, almost all of the Family had been imprisoned and the Czechoslovak institutional church brutalized into submission. But when the Family members emerged from prison in the 1960s, they began to do as their spiritual father had taught them. Father Kolaković’s top two lieutenants—physician Silvester Krčméry and priest Vladimír Jukl—quietly set up Christian circles around the country and began to build the underground church.
The underground church, led by the visionary cleric’s spiritual children and grandchildren, became the principle means of anti-communist dissent for the next forty years. It was they who organized a mass 1988 public demonstration in Bratislava, the Slovak capital, demanding religious liberty. The Candle Demonstration was the first major protest against the state. It kicked off the Velvet Revolution, which brought down the communist regime a year later. Though Slovak Christians were among the most persecuted in the Soviet Bloc, the Catholic Church there thrived in resistance because one man saw what was coming and prepared his people.
Why did Father Kolaković know what was coming to the people of Central Europe? He was not supernaturally gifted, at least not that we know. Rather, he had studied Soviet communism intensely to prepare for missionary work in Russia and understood how the Soviets thought and behaved. He could read the geopolitical signs of the times. And as a priest who had been organizing Catholic resistance to the Nazi version of totalitarianism, he had on-the-ground experience with clandestine combat against monstrous ideology.
Today’s survivors of Soviet communism are, in their way, our own Kolakovićes, warning us of a coming totalitarianism—a form of government that combines political authoritarianism with an ideology that seeks to control all aspects of life. This totalitarianism won’t look like the USSR’s. It’s not establishing itself through “hard” means like armed revolution, or enforcing itself with gulags. Rather, it exercises control, at least initially, in soft forms. This totalitarianism is therapeutic. It masks its hatred of dissenters from its utopian ideology in the guise of helping and healing.
Like the “healing” of an autistic boy whom they have convinced is transgender. What is it going to take to wake you up and make you understand what we are facing? I spoke to an American clergyman this past spring, urging him to warn his parishioners about gender ideology, and help them figure out how to combat it. He turned me away, saying he wasn’t going to let “politics” enter into his congregation. He said he believed that this was not going to be a problem for them — that they would be able to resist.
I’m afraid he is wrong, as the Slovak bishops of the 1940s were wrong. Readers, do not wait for your religious leaders to act. There is not time. Organize, build, pray, prepare. The day is coming ever closer when we are going to have to be prepared to break the law to save our children.