Almighty God, who hast given us this good land for our
heritage: We humbly beseech thee that we may always prove
ourselves a people mindful of thy favor and glad to do thy will.
Bless our land with honorable industry, sound learning, and
pure manners. Save us from violence, discord, and confusion;
from pride and arrogance, and from every evil way. Defend
our liberties, and fashion into one united people the multitudes
brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues. Endue
with the spirit of wisdom those to whom in thy Name we entrust
the authority of government, that there may be justice and
peace at home, and that, through obedience to thy law, we
may show forth thy praise among the nations of the earth.
In the time of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness,
and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in thee to fail;
all which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
From the Book of Common Prayer
The tragic events of Saturday January 8th 2011 have revealed the best and the worst aspects of our society. From the heroism of individuals and the kindness and prayers offered by many in this time of darkness to blame being spread about by those seeking to demonize their opponents once again. The tragedy was scarcely hours old when partisans on the left and the right without any real evidence sought to blame the actions of Jared Lee Loughner on those Americans that have become their enemies.
In the midst of a real war against enemies that attacked us we have engaged in a political civil war that is only equaled in hatred, bitterness and rancor by that which consumed the nation in the years preceding the Civil War or in Germany’s Weimar Republic. Led by a new class of take no prisoners’ political pundits and talk show hosts politicians of both major parties have allowed the tenor of political debate in the land to descend to the crassest, hateful and even violent rhetoric imaginable. Ordinary citizens now see those that disagree with their party or ideology as enemies and not fellow American citizens worthy of their respect and forbearance. Both sides have had elements resort to physical violence and intimidation at polling places, local party headquarters and political rallies.
Preachers of many faiths and opposing ideologies have allowed their pulpits to become bastions of bombast and do all that they can to ensure that others know that God is on their side and not the other. By doing this they make a mockery of faith before a watching world and all for the sake of a share in the spoils of hard wrought political victory. The words of Jesus to “love your enemies and pray for those that persecute you” are lost on such preachers who are no better and perhaps worse than the pundits, talk show hosts and politicians that have done the same. Men and women of faith should know better. It seems they forget the passage of Isaiah quoted by Jesus “Here is my servant, whom I have chosen, my beloved, with whom my soul is well pleased. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles. He will not wrangle or cry aloud, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets. He will not break a bruised reed or quench a smoldering wick until he brings justice to victory. And in his name the Gentiles will hope.”
Quite simply while our military wages a war abroad and police agencies seek to prevent more attacks we have allowed ourselves to declare war on each other. Without a shred of evidence from the accused as to why he committed this crime we have labeled the other side responsible for the attack of a madman based on hearsay while ignoring the few things that the accused had communicated. This isn’t public debate or political discourse it is civil war.
In fact the verbiage used by the political combatants is that of war. There is a culture war, a war against the family, a war against the elderly, a war against the poor, a war against immigrants, a war against workers, you name it the terminology is there, it is if we are waging a Jihad against each other. People talk of armed revolution, the shedding of blood or military coups and some actually pray prayers for the death of political leaders of whom they disapprove. The difference in 2011 than in 2007 is that the ideologues making these statements are from different parties; now the target of the anger is President Obama rather than President Bush.
What it all comes down to is that it really doesn’t matter if Jared Lee Loughner is a liberal or conservative. We have strong reason to believe that he is mentally ill. But even still his ideas that he espoused on his web posts didn’t occur in a vacuum. Loughner’s may be mixed up and at times nonsensical but they still come from somewhere because as screwed up as some of his ideas are they occur in saner form on a daily basis. In our hate filled political and social climate where adversaries don’t measure the impact of their words on the maladjusted or the mentally ill Loughner probably picked up a mixed bag of hatred and make it his own.
On Wednesday night President Obama gave what I thought was the best and most thoughtful speech of his Presidency. He made the speech about the people not him and he brought words of comfort to a hurting community. He mentioned the political climate in passing in these words referring to the hopes and dreams of the youngest victim Christina Green:
“If this tragedy prompts reflection and debate, as it should, let’s make sure it’s worthy of those we have lost. Let’s make sure it’s not on the usual plane of politics and point-scoring and pettiness that drifts away with the next news cycle…. I want us to live up to her expectations. I want our democracy to be as good as she imagined it. All of us – we should do everything we can to make sure this country lives up to our children’s expectations.”
The speech was in my view having always admired President Ronald Reagan was “Reaganesque.” I have not shed a tear during a Presidential speech for a very long time, perhaps dating back to the Challenger speech. I was touched by the President’s words and have included the link here.
I think it is fitting that we also remember the closing words of Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address given not long before he was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth. Lincoln knew that the great divisions in the country that resulted in the Civil War would not go away with the defeat and dissolution of the Confederacy as they were too deep and in fact in some ways still with us today. But with words seldom equaled by an American President he said.
“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”
It is time that we choose to work to heal our divisions as Americans, as people of faith and people that believe we have been and still can be that shining city which has been a beacon to freedom loving people of all races, nationalities, creeds and colors. We are better than what has been represented by members of the media, pundits, politicians and yeas preachers. I hope we can again learn to love and respect one another again even though we may not agree and may we lay down the language of hate and replace it with love.
In the words of this prayer from the Book of Common Prayer:
O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us
through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole
human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which
infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us;
unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and
confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in
your good time, all nations and races may serve you in
harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ
our Lord. Amen.