Friday, May 26, 2006

Enough of Something

Hobson's choice is a false dichotomy, because it implies there are only two alternatives, both of them bad. It may be true in some situation somewhere, but not in the situation I posited. Although, in another sense, it is exactly true in the situation I posited.

Pastor Dan touches on this point, and recognizes the solution is the people united (can never be defeated!). Pardon me, however, if I lived through the '60's and saw the "people united" turn into yuppies who fueled the first "high tech boom" which became the "internet bubble" which finally became the economy of the Clinton era, and now has become the people united in seeing to it that their children get into the right kindergarten, in order to ensure them entry into the right college, and so secure the proper income level in life. My daughter has just finished 8 years in a private school among such children. My cynicism is well earned.

But not the defining characteristic I sometimes make it out to be; or at least, it it needn't be (yes, I do have my mini-crises in public, and no, it's not just performance art. I am no hunger artist. But I am, or try to be, intellectually and spiritually honest; which is its own kind of vulnerability). The issue is, still, one of power: an issue touched on by the responses, but not quite grasped (is it a rose? or a thorn bush? or just the third rail?). Politics, it would be foolish to deny, is about power. Power wielded rather ruthlessly, in point of fact. Don't be fooled by Dwight Eisenhower's grandfatherly demeanor; the man was a barracuda. Jack Kennedy was no slouch, either. His brother Bobby was well known as a knife fighter in government battles, which is why Jack kept him close by. LBJ knew where the bodies were buried, and buried some himself. Nixon's reputation is known, but it is with Reagan that things really change.

Reagan's minions taught the Bush White House, and they taught them that substance means nothing, and style means everything. Reagan put the mentally ill on the streets, swelling the homeless population of this country to record numbers. What has happened to correct that? Nothing, that I know of. EVery year since, as a political body we have repudiated a little more some program, doctrine, or ideal, of the very meager efforts of LBJ to redress the grotesgue social injustices that this country doesn't even blink at anymore. Reagan retrenched and divided and carved up and basically wielded power like the ideologue he was, and the ideologues he surrounded himself with. Carter didn't do that. Carter relied on goodwill and reason and cooperation. Reagan handed him his head and proceeded to revamp the Presidency. Clinton defeated Bush, and proceeded again to administer through cooperation and coalition, and compromise.

Bush II changes course only when it's clear he's headed for the rocks and the consequences will be immediate and dire. Otherwise, he's done more damage to the government than Reagan or Nixon ever dreamt of doing. His administration is driven solely by ideology. For this Administration, politics is power purely for the sake of power. Looking back, it's almost as if LBJ and Carter and Clinton, never held office. As I said before, will anyone really come along behind Bush II and do any more than stop doing what Bush did? It took a Civil War to repudiate the power grab of the states over the authority of the federal government. No state since, even at the height of the civil rights struggle and school desegregation, dared again wholly defy the power of the federal government. What will it take to retrench and redraw the boundaries of the power of the Presidency? More than just a goodwill Democrat who isn't as interested in wielding power as the last four Republican Presidents have shown themselves to be.

It is about power, then. The raw, untrammeled, unrestrained exercise of as much authority as the Executive can get away with. Nixon's was called the "Imperial Presidency," as much because he wanted the Marines around the White House to wear re-designed uniforms, as because he investigated his enemies and recorded conversations in his own office. Bush II is truly the "Imperial Presidency." Greg Palast says Bush is using the NSA, not to catch terrorists, but to build voting lists to repudiate ballots in 2008. Why not? He did it in 2000; he did it in 2004. As Palast says, he got away with it twice; why not 3 times? Will that be dismantled, forcibly? Repudiated, stricken down, blotted from the history books, burned to the ground and the ground sown with salt and the ashes scattered to the four winds? Will we one day see plaques in buildings such as I have seen in the Texas Capitol, claiming the Civil War was not about slavery, because the shame of slavery is so great in our culture? Will the establishment of monarchical privilege by the Bush Administration be one day just as shameful? And can anyone tell me seriously that is not what is needed?

Because if you can: now who's being cynical?

But where will that come from? More importantly, why do we need it? Because our salvation is in politics? Because what happens in Washington really is that important to us? Because we must have an enemy, even if it is George W. Bush, who doesn't know who we are?

You see, that pessimism was not idle despair, though it was the product of feeding on too much tainted meat. I admit my hopelessness, I repent of the sin of despair, I turn my countenance toward the sole hope of all of creation.

And it ain't a political party. Something I had forgotten. Something I needed to relearn. Something I needed to turn away from the world, to find.

So what is the answer? The answer is not more politics, or better politics; because that is merely "My power, which I will wield wisely." That is what I finally remembered. Not only does power not bring about the kingdom of God; power has no place in the kingdom of God. And ultimately, one cannot serve two masters. It is not a matter of choosing Matthias (that would be confusing the world with the ekklesia); it is a matter of getting ready for the parousia. And that preparation is made, among other ways, by learning to love your enemy. Something the world definitely does not teach us to do.

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