THE LEAST OF THESE
I originally decided to call this blog “Church of the Bad News” for several reasons. First, I thought it was a marginally clever take on the oft-used name seen on houses of worship across then nation.
Second, my fundamentalist (pertinacious?) religious upbringing instilled in me an overbearing sense of right and wrong, one that defies such narrowing, thought-precluding concepts as nativism, patriotism, and nationalism; I felt that my political outlook, such as it is, owes its soul and structure to the tenets of that upbringing and should be reflected on the welcome mat, if not always in the content, of this blog.
Finally, as there are numerous sects and individual levels of devotion to be found here, there is no doubting the self-identified Christianity of most of this nation’s citizens. Sadly, though, the behavior of our nation as a whole has historically run counter to the teachings and example of Jesus Christ. It is only fitting, then, that a political blog which incessantly points an accusatory and warning finger at the U.S.A. should do so from a quasi-Christian vantage.
Goodness knows I’ve pointed that finger a lot, as I did recently here, here, and here. There is no shortage of targets, and the downward spiral (quickening its pace of late) of this republic has given me ample targets on both sides of the increasingly irrelevant U.S. ideological divide (Mickey Z. knows of what I speak; check the comments to this post of his at Daily Kos).
It is time to point that finger yet again. Consider, if you will, a parable of Jesus Christ:
When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
“He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
I could wax on about our disdain for the poor and hungry in our midst, but I will instead apply the previous parable to something far more specific and sinister. Friend and regular reader Flo has been spending a lot of time at Truthout.org, and she has sent along links to the following articles (both found at the same url):
Home-Grown Gitmo by William Fisher
Immigrant Detention Blues by Diana Welch
I don’t believe the institutionalized cruelty in action at these facilities is going to remain isolated within their walls for long. In many respects, that cruelty is just another incarnation of that which has been on the loose in our republic from the beginning, in various shapes and forms. Some U.S. citizens, like Mickey Z.’s Kos commenters, will respond to this critical warning with a version of the ‘love-it-or-leave-it’ aphorism: ‘there may be some flies in our soup, but try finding a place that is better.’ Guiding oneself by comparison to those one considers less righteous is a road map to moral failure.
I would go further in chastising the self-imagined liberals and progressives who hold to the aforementioned moral relativism; as they are apparently aware of the self-immolating myopia of their more avowedly conservative and reactionary cousins, they ought to know better. What is it, then, that makes an entire nation so stubbornly unaware of its karmic recklessness? Why have we not yet risen up in righteous anger against the government that has so frequently sponsored and enacted some of the worst humanitarian atrocities– and done so in the name of freedom and democracy?
At this point I recall some words of John Locke from his Second Treatise of Government:
…Such revolutions happen not upon every little mismanagement in public affairs. Great mistakes in the ruling part, many wrong and inconvenient laws, and all the slips of human frailty, will be born by the people without mutiny or murmur. But if a long train of abuses, prevarications, and artifices, all tending the same way, make the design visible to the people, and they cannot but feel what they lie under, and see whither they are going; it is not to be wondered, that they should then rouse themselves, and endeavour to put the rule into such hands which may secure to them the ends for which government was at first erected; and without which, ancient names, and specious forms, are so far from being better, that they are much better, that they are much worse, than the state of nature, or pure anarchy; the inconveniencies, being all as great and as near, but the remedy farther off and more difficult.
Locke’s conditions for revolution have not come to fruition in the United States. Our wealthy and powerful governors have been very careful to see that the worst of our government’s profitable iniquities are foisted upon the people of foreign lands, and that the worst of our government’s domestic oppressions are made to appear isolated to the least popular and most despised among the citizenry.
Meanwhile, we all distract ourselves with the bounty of empire, and our artifice of democracy rolls right along. We are democrats of easy virtue– said virtue being that which Montesquieu believed was necessary to keep popular governments healthy– and our capitalist structures have thus far been easily able to meet our price.
The problem with this dynamic is that it is not sustainable. Democracy and capitalism can only coexist as long as the corruption inherent to the mating of the two doesn’t cause the whole thing to rot through. Where totalitarian variants of communism tend to fail due to their denial of the idiosyncracies of human nature, the capitalistic democratic republic tries to exploit that human corruption while hoping that Hobbesian self-interest will serve as the ultimate check. This insane balancing act has worked as long as the stick has been used judiciously and strategically domestically, and as long as there has been enough wealth acquired and generated to keep the hoi polloi distracted.
What will happen though, when the scale explodes? What happens when the house-of-cards economy collapses, and the pretense of a middle class dies violently? What happens when our brutally avaricious foreign policy really comes back to get us (or at least becomes so costly that the domestic repercussions are disregardable)?
I believe that’s when Jesus Christ’s “eternal punishment” will be visited upon the U.S. Whether it will come from within or without is for prophets to debate, but my guess (which you know if you’ve been reading this blog) is that it will come from within. For that outcome, the pieces are already in place.