Monday, February 14, 2005

Good and Evil

So I happened upon a speech by Ward Churchill playing on C-Span over the weekend, that apparently was from earlier last week.

I agreed with most, if not nearly everything, he said. Americans tell pollsters they like someone who tells it straight up, who isn't afraid to say or do what isn't popular. Conservatives blanch at "political correctness" and say they admire people who speak the "truth" even if the person saying the truth isn't very nice about it. But what if the straight up truth isn't popular and doesn't come out very polite-like? Well, that's Ward Churchill. He thinks America's been exploitive and murderous and he doesn't much care whether you like that suggestion or him very much.

Alongside the good the country has done, America has also shed much blood in a variety of open as well as hidden causes, not to mention exploited the lives and natural resources of others for the sake of profit and power. And if there is a Higher Power that ultimately judges such things, then we can expect America to face the consequences of these actions, regardless of whether the American press knows of them or reports them if they do.

But it is the course of things in the U.S. that the murkier sides of America's involvement overseas has received little or no attention, much less thoughtful analysis or debate. So understandably, most people have little sense of what Churchill and others are talking about and are for that reason, offended, and easily provoked by the right wing rabble that does or should understand the basis for Churchill's comments but would rather glamorize America's past and present for the purposes of achieving its own cultural and ideological objectives.

Furthermore, because of the harmful acts of America's military establishment and corporate empires overseas, I don't think it's a big stretch to suggest that the events of 9-11 were a payback of sorts, if not directly to the real or imagined grievances cited by Al Qaeda, then to that of a Higher Authority, who has informed us that He Will Repay. Abraham Lincoln himself mused that the elongated course of the Civil War may have served in part to repay the nation for the sin of slavery through the blood that was shed. In the same way, decades of persecuting political opponents of corporatism and militarism in Latin America, favoring profits over healing in Africa, and offhandedly supporting or opposing dictators in the Middle East based on material or ideological concerns rather than human rights will bear fruit.

That the innocent also suffered on 9-11 is no refutation of this fact. The innocent always suffere for the sins of others. It is the nature of evil. And furthermore, the notion of 9-11 as a divine rebuke was not lost on religious conservatives such as Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell in the days and weeks afterward, who while pointing to different national sins as the root of the trouble, also fingered God as at least allowing the events to take place.

Although religious conservatives like to claim the God of the Bible is on their side, the judgements of God on the nations recorded in Holy Scripture suggests something else is at work in the mind of the Almighty. Pride, violence, and the trampling of the poor play as critical role, if not more so, than sexual immorality in causing God to first warn, and then inflict punishment upon nations that will not repent. And above all else, America is a proud nation. Pride goeth before a fall, the scriptures tell us. Surely it would be folly for us to not recognize the eventual harmful effects of an exploitive and militant foreign policy?

Which leads me to another point. Conservatives frequently complain that issues should be discussed and decided on on the basis of their contribution to the struggle between Right and Wrong (rather than on some cost-benefit ratio determination--although conservatives themselves favor this efficiency approach on many business regulatory matters, but that's another post for another day). But in doing so, conservatives should recognize that in trying to move the arguing of public policy to this domain, that they also risk having the moral implications of policies turned back on themselves, particularly in matters related to social justice and when the issues involve our killing of others in foreign lands for dubious or self serving purposes.

And it also means that the terms and tones of the debates will not necessarily lend themselves to being able to fudge the differences, to claim that a strict black and white definition of a particular problem (such as the conflict between tax cuts for the rich and cuts in food stamps) doesn't apply in their pet case. They are opening a can of worms they may regret later.

And it also means that if the other side adopts the same confrontational rhetoric and tactics that they themselves practice, conservatives will find themselves enraged by and attempting to argue with a lot more Ward Churchills.

As for Ward Churchill, I hope he hangs in there and rides out the attempts to fire him. At the same time, I concede that his style is not one that encourages reasonable debate and isn't geared towards winning over opponents. But, as I've indicated, this is the fallout for conservatives from pushing a strict, no holds barred, right or wrong way of looking at the world, a debate they will not always win or be able to control.

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