Eye-Opening Perspectives for Heroic Hearts

Eye-Opening Perspectives for Heroic Hearts

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Cost of Centrist Thinking: Reflections on the Tucson Tragedy

by  Logan H. Winslow for CPW News Service

It was the Jewish rabbi, Joseph B. Soloveitchik, author of The Lonely Man of Faith, who eloquently described in theological terms what William Shakespeare described in dramatic, theatrical ones with Hamlet's famous soliloquy..."to be or not to be".   In Hamlet the choice was between whether it was nobler to peacefully co-exist with evil or to take up arms against it.  Evil is, after all, ubiquitous, containing within it the seeds of its own destruction.  Do you just wait it out or is its pervasiveness the reason for your double-mindedness?  Neither hot or cold and you get spewed out.  There is no room for centrists.

Soloveitchik describes a man torn between these two realities reflected in the Genesis story...two accounts of creation, not just one.  One is of the peaceful husbandry of tilling the soil and keeping the garden.  The other is of subduing the earth and subjugating its resources.  Both images are there to inform, inspire and confound. Both images provide a type of tug-of-war..."liberal" and "conservative"...."left" and "right"...."drill here, drill now"..."go green".

It is not until push comes to shove that civility is pulled apart.  Until that happens we pacify ourselves with the belief that the rule of law will save us if all will just adhere to the rule of law.  But whose law?  If the OJ Simpson trial showed us anything it is that not everyone who has experienced this "rule of law" sees it in the same way.  There is a grand canyon between law and love.

In Abby Mann's script of Judgement At Nuremberg, the judge played by Spencer Tracy recasts the Hamlet soliliquy:

"You were speaking of crimes against humanity... saying that the defendants were not responsible for their acts. I'd like you to explain that to me. - I've just been explaining it. - Maybe. But all I've heard is a lot of legalistic double-talk and rationalization. You know, Curtiss, when I first became a judge... I knew there were certain people in town I wasn't supposed to touch. I knew that if I was to remain a judge, this was so. But how in God's name do you expect me to look the other way... at the murder of six million people?"

When I heard that Judge John Roll had been gunned down in Tucson by what appears now  to be a lone mad man, I must admit that I wondered, like so many, if the shots weren't motivated by something even more sinister.  As a Federal District Judge appointed by George Herbert Walker Bush, could Judge Roll tell us a thing or two about knowing that "there were certain people in town I wasn't suppose to touch"? I thought of the judge who early on in the story backed out of town the love-promoting preacher in Cormack McCarthy's Blood Meridian?  I thought of Soloveitchik.  I thought of Hamlet.

I thought of a  pastor I knew in the South who knew that his church, built twenty years after the Civil War, had a slave balcony in it. I thought of how old customs die hard and how sin, like mold, seems to grow from the corners of our minds even after what we thought was a good sanitizing.  I thought of how we keep artificial borders and promote fake wars on things like drugs or poverty or immigration and human trafficking, thus promoting at the same time privatized revenue streams that the pedestrians cannot see from the street and which are hidden by the very laws put in place to prohibit corruption.

There were very narrow steps leading up to the church's balcony, five or six inches wide, so that one had to be very careful coming down...off balance by design.  Only one stairway with a locking door on the first floor and the balcony twenty-five feet above the chancel so that any attempt to jump would at least break a leg.  Then I read about our slow, slow progress toward equality of opportunity and of merit often based less on one's ability to promote excellence than to stomach the distasteful.  I thought of the loss of American jobs, the dismantling of whole factories in the U.S. with their replacement in foreign lands where the workers were willing to stitch fabric, or vulcanize rubber, or mold plastic for three or four cents an hour to avoid starvation.  I thought of a move to an information-based economy and wondered how one can eat or wear information and whether Toffler's fourth wave wasn't a return to agriculture.  I wondered how information that has to travel across multi-national borders would not be subject to increasing protection from codes, firewalls and encryptions.  I thought of the UN Oil for food scandal and how it was really "business as usual".  I thought of Adam Smith's invisible hand and knew that if there was one it was not attached to a body and mind yet wise and sinless enough to bring anywhere near a semi-equitable existence, much less a Utopian one.  I thought of Karl Marx and how his policies are enforced by tyrants as equally uncivil as those exposed by General Smedley Butler.  I thought of the last five things I bought a the Dollar Store that would end up in a landfill.  I wondered why there were so many scratchy black and white movies of Nazis pushing corpses into open pits.... and thought.....at least they weren't eating their victims....but, how did I know?  Maybe they couldn't find slaves willing to do the rendering on a large scale.

 I thought of Edwin Black's book War Against the Weak that meticulously documents the truth of it and of Truman's words to Ike during Truman's last presidential campaign...."you have accepted the very practices that identified the Master-race."  I thought of Truman's overwhelming defeat by the Eisenhower who returned home from World War II like a Roman victor crossing the Rubicon.  I wondered if Ike had taken the words of Truman, who had to play hardball with U.S. industrialists to deliver the very weapons Ike needed to win, as if from the servant on the chariot who General George S. Patton reminded us whispered into the victor's ear "all glory is fleeting".  I wondered if that  informed Ike's warning about the Military Industrialist Complex after having to spend his life serving one form of it...ours.  I wondered if the army normally parked on the Rubicon's opposite shore hadn't already so infiltrated the halls of the Republic that no general could do anything other than what was commanded.   I wondered if Col. Ted Westhusing and Army Ranger Pat Tillman had tried to resist and lost.

Peace makers find themselves pulled between warring passions.  Left. Right.   Liberal.  Conservative.  God.  Godlessness.  Sometimes willing to become players in the game with justifying thoughts that if I can save the world from Godlessness I will have done my duty to God and country.   Hello McCarthyism. Michael Savage, the hate radio personality, spoke recently about a Rabbi Chanina ben Dosa who said: "Anyone whose fear of sin comes before his wisdom, his wisdom will endure; but anyone whose wisdom comes before his fear of sin, his wisdom will not endure."  I thought of Germany's Martin Luther who said "Sin and sin boldly".....meaning that this lonely man or woman of faith....who believes that God has already reconciled the wayward...will live with a certain fearlessness and passion for life that the person of faithlessness would not....and I wondered to what extent this idea was perverted in Nazi Germany or Vietnam or El Salvador, or Iraq and Afganistan and was 9/11 a predictable response to this perversion?  Dr. Peter Marshall, chaplain of the U.S. Senate used to say "whoever follows Christ will lead the world!"  So have we?   Do we?

On the door above the Southern pastor's church, the one built in the 1880's with the slave balcony,  were the words "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of Wisdom". I imagined that for the future re-enslaved who would pass through the church's door and read it, that they would see it as a caution, but whose?  I wondered why the pastor or congregation had not carved in stone another verse....."In Christ there is neither East nor West, slave nor free, Jew nor Greek, male nor female."  Of course I knew why.  That verse is not exclusionary.  It's too universal and anytime a person seeks to be universal in their caring sentiments they run the risk of being pulled apart from the warring factions.  Those who take up that task are the leaven in the bread....the salt in the earth....the salve that heals.....and we even battle over the place that healing plays using it, as we do food, as a weapon.   To live by faith is to live in a very lonely place.  Period.

For "A Letter To Ted Westhusing" see....

No comments:

Post a Comment