This old Doubting-Thomas of a palaver-some pundit has been much troubled of late. The cause? Having heard a rising chorus of voices, belonging to public personae who, one expects, should know better, urging their faithful friends and fellow citizens to relinquish the precious possession that all those members of the military we’ve been sending into harm’s-way (ostensibly to preserve) have been dodging danger for--- and simply hand the franchise that makes our freedom meaningful over, to some unprincipled penny-pincher of a political proxy.
Those prejudiced political power brokers, now trying to hang a liturgical lock on this nation’s spiritual inception, as a Christian entity, had best beware of history’s recurrent habit of self-correction…much like proof that appears to be surfacing, now. For starters, let’s not forget the Native American tribes who were here, when the Holy-Roller "conversionists" first set out to "civilize" the “savages” who helped them survive the rigors of this untamed land, they’d come to conquer. The Amerinds’ own religion taught them to respect and preserve what nature had provided but their fortune-hunting Christian conquerors were determined to despoil. One hesitates to contradict historic errors that have (for some) become part wish-prejudiced and nationally accepted misstatements…but when facts surface, despite repetition to the contrary, truthful contradiction must intercede, like it or not.
In 1920, some fourteen years before she spoke these words to members of the U.S. Congress, Edna St. Vincent Millay wrote them at the start of the second part of her prize winning poetic masterpiece, “A Few Figs From Thistles.” She had come to Washington, D.C , to urge Congressional support for legislation to give women equal rights with men in all facets of learning, earning and political determination, which they still lacked. It’s taken eighty years since, for that deprivation to be successfully addressed and signed into law by our current President, Barack Obama.
I’ve visited this issue earlier; even quoted Teddy Roosevelt’s warning, that “…the one absolute certainty of bringing this nation to ruin, would be to permit it to become a tangle of squabbling nationalities.” I might have left the matter there, if the “This is a Christian nation!...” claque hadn’t decided to intensify their contention several decibels louder than before. What seems to have gotten them steamed up now, is a complaint from a Jewish person and an Atheist, both of whom took issue over having to sit through public prayer sessions before their Town Council’s meetings (the council being an all-Christian one) and pushed their complaint all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Court, citing other instances of pre-meeting prayer by higher government units, allowed as how something similar, at the local level, wouldn’t be that bad to sit through and said so in writing, which emboldened the ‘pro-Christian-Nation choir’ to add heft to their chant.
There’s something awfully wrong with our nation. Too many Americans have a propensity for killing. Not only do we no longer heed the authorized execution of prisoners with concern for useless pain or suffering, as the law once prescribed but we’ve also made physicians accessories to the process. Add also, the strange and troubling return of frontier desperatism, in which ordinary citizens once had the right to carry hand-guns and dispense so-called lethal justice, whenever they felt necessary.
In the realm of recorded religious history, regardless of geographic location or form of belief, disagreements that evolve into armed violence mostly have been the result of familial differences, fuelled by ill defined loyalty and interference by meddlesome outsiders. These invariably have led to blood feuds, unresolved to this day. Those who interpose themselves as mediators, well meaning or not, are doomed to certain and expensive failure.
In the past week, an important event in theatrical history celebrated an even more crucial event in our nation’s political history, when Gerald Rafshoon and Lawrence Wright (confidante and Pulitzer Prize winning playwright) presented “Camp David,” a dramatization of the thirteen volatile days of intense debate that produced the first negotiated agreement on a peace initiative between Egypt’s Anwar Sadat and Israel’s Menachem Begin; the most historically vital achievement of the Carter Presidency.
Those who would pillory our current President with biased blame for every current ill, to which their own calculated intransigence has contributed, are at odds with political history. Before they finagle with falsehood and fabricate pure political fiction, to capture unworthy vindication by voters, they should consult the 1978 edition of a tiny text, this commentator still finds invaluable. It’s titled “American History At A Glance.” This is a brief quote from Chapter 14, titled: “The Harding Administration.”
In the strange reversal of circumstances that have taken place since the Sochyi Olympics seemed to have breathed new vitality into a lifeless Soviet cadaver, this commentator intuits and fears the possible return to times we all could and should have done without.
The current saga being played out by Vladimir Putin, the former spy-master and head of the Soviet Secret Police, before declaring himself Executive In Chief of the on-again-off-again Russian Democracy, with its on-again-off-again Presidency-cum-Premiership, puts this ancient, moss-back memorialist in mind of some simple truths, it might be helpful or hurtful but important to bear in mind, never-the-less.