Wolf and Wolfhound

A tempest in a teapot began to rage in the ever-shrinking fanbase of Marvel comics when the Woke overlords of Marvel announced their intention to emasculate the character of their popular antihero Frank Castle, the Punisher.

This is meant to discourage policemen and soldiers from admiring him, or from displaying his badass long-toothed skull emblem on their gear or garb. Woke Marvel does not want Patriots as patrons.

For those of you too thrifty or wise to dither with funnybooks, The Punisher is a Spider-Man villain from the 1970s, a knock-off copy of The Executioner, a popular slaughter-novel series by Don Pendleton, in which a war veteran, Mack Bolan, becomes a serial killer of criminals after the Mafia murders his family.


Those of you unfamiliar with the slaughter-novel genre, I commend you. They are the male version of a Harlequin Romance: light escapist fare crammed with action. With bombs and guns. Lots of guns.

An aside: Let no one mock either genre: it is harder to write light than one might think. And escapism requires a good escape plan. End of aside.

In the high-crime era of 1980s, when all comics took a turn toward the dark and gritty, The Punisher went from villain to anti-hero. At the same time, over at DC, the Batman went from hero to anti-hero. The public, including Marvel fans, began sympathizing with old-school vigilantes like The Shadow, who simply gunned down the Black Hats, and began losing sympathy with superheroes too high-minded to use guns.

The Punisher uses guns. Lots of guns. Big guns.

The character skyrocketed in popularity, because he embodied the uneasy paradox of the vigilante. That paradox is this: it is wrong to take the law into one’s own hands. But it is wrong when the law neither protects the weak nor punishes the wicked.

Also, he was a total badass, tough customer, and hard-boiled egg, after the fashion of the rough heroes of war stories and Film Noir.

Dismayed that certain Conservatives, especially “Blue Lives Matter” activists and marines, admire The Punisher, in retaliation, Marvel announced Frank Castle’s iconic skull emblem will be replaced with a different skull, and he will use ninja swords rather than guns.

One otherwise observant observer of the kerfuffle expressed puzzlement, if not disgust, that conservatives glamorize policemen and soldiers, while demonizing government overreach and intrusion.

He characterized this, or, rather, caricatured it, as mere hypocrisy: we conservative love policepower when used for our side, and hate it when used against our side.

Typical ad hominem.

When one lacks counterpoint to what all know to be the opposing stance, attack the opponents’ motives, which none know.

I can explain conservative love of police and hatred of police states. It is not a difficult concept. 

The opposite of tyranny is not anarchy. Both are opposite of liberty.

There is no hypocrisy, no paradox, if a shepherd loves his sheepdog and hates the wolf, despite both being canine.

Likewise, there is no hypocrisy, no paradox, if a conservative loves Washington but hates Lenin, despite both being revolutionaries.

Likewise, there is no hypocrisy, no paradox, if we hate Satan but love Michael. Both are angels but one is a fallen angel.

So here. Men in uniform who sacrifice to protect our rights we conservatives love. Men in uniform who trample our rights we hate.

It is not a question of who is on whose side. We love our rights because we love the Creator who grants them. 

So we love who protects those rights, namely, the men of law and order. Therefore we hate who threatens those rights, namely, men of anarchy and men of tyranny.

We hate men of anarchy who defund police, removing all their power; men of tyranny who deregulate police, removing all checks on their power.

It shallow to call this paradox. It is shallow to judge by surface appearance alone. It is shallow to see all canines as alike, all revolutionaries alike, angels and fallen angels the same.

Or, rather, there is a paradox involved, but it is one that involves men young and old, naive or wise, Leftwing or Sane.

The paradox is that man is wolf to man. We are our own predator, and the greatest danger to ourselves, as men raid and trespass and despoil others’ goods, steal their wives, spill their blood.

For aid and comfort and mutual protection, tribes and cities, nations and empires, enact laws, exchange vows, and combine their forces and elevate chieftains and princes, presidents and emperors granted power to ward off invasion from without and crime from within.

But, while arming a watchman to guard us in the night, we ask the old riddle: who watches him?

Princes can protect us against pirates but form greater danger to us than any pirate, for he embodies the force and majesty of the law.

When the law exceeds authority, this is tyranny. When law lacks power, this is anarchy.

Liberty springs from the meekness and strength of the sheepdogs loyal enough to guard the sheep from wolves, without becoming wolves themselves.

How can meekness be combined with strength? Only through the spirit.

That paradox, like most paradoxes, can only be resolved in heaven.

Without God, there is no answer. This is why even nations that call themselves republics and flourish written constitutions, if godless, end up in the hellish condition of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics or the People’s Republic of China, under regimes of torture and repression far worse than any mere Pharaoh or Mikado, Khan or Sultan could impose.

Unless there is law higher than human law, there is no proper check on tyranny; and if citizens do not keep that higher law in their hearts, human laws are merely matters of strength.

Without heaven, overthrowing tyranny merely invited anarchy.  With heaven, a vision of the City of God has hope of being copied, howsoever imperfectly, in the cities of men.

All that said, The Punisher is a controversial character and an interesting character precisely because he uses the wrong means toward right ends: so that his practicality clashes with his morality. Prudence jars against duty. Honor pulls in two directions. The deadly vigilante with a malfunctioning conscience, but a burning thirst for vengeance.

This is a darkly alluring and awesome character, because he allures while he repels.

At least, so he is for those of use who see the dark places in our own souls where we wonder what it would be like to have the drive and discipline to unleash the inner beast, to leave aside the niceties of the law, and declare total war, war without pity, war to the knife and knife to the hilt, against the evildoers who so richly deserve it.

Ever sinner daydreams what it would be like to be God, and take the vengeance of the Lord into our human hands.

What has this to do with the love Conservatives have of police, while we hate police states? It is the temptation to use the law in the lawless fashion conservatives are right to fear.

Some conservatives mayhap advance the idea of using the military against civilians in the name of the War on Drugs, or allowing the police to confiscate cash and goods used in crimes to augment their own budgets. I submit they have left the path of wisdom.

If we wish to take lessons from comics, then let none of us stray  from being an Avenger, like Captain America, to being a Punisher.

Although he does look hard core.