Why “Good Will Toward Men” Has Become More of a Challenge for Me: My Christmas Thoughts

A couple of weeks ago, I did a radio show to Virginia, and after that one in Minnesota, that was framed by these questions:

What are your feelings toward humanity, meaning toward people in general? That is, what do you feel when you look at, or think about, the mass of humankind? What has shaped your feelings? Have they ever changed, and if so what changed them? Are you glad about what you feel toward people generally, or do you wish you felt something different?

In general, my choice of topics for discussion on my radio shows is largely shaped by what issues are alive for me, and this one was no exception. For more than two years, I have struggled with a subtle but deep-seated shift in my underlying sense of people in general.

This was the result of two profound, evidently somewhat traumatic, experiences that came close together.

One was local, where a group of people –and an institution– whom I trusted and for whom I’d had very high regard shocked me by acting in a way that was altogether without integrity and honesty.

But the main cause was the other experience: watching as half my countrymen gave their support to this Bushite regime, well after the evil of these leaders –their dishonesty, their bullying, their arrogance, their utter disregard for any larger good than their own self-aggrandisement– had become starkly visible.

What kind of creatures are these humans, these experiences seem to have caused me to wonder, even below the level of consciousness, when those who seem to be among the best of people will act so dishonorably, and when so large a proportion of humanity can choose the evil and call it good?

I read a book review in the recent October 2 issue of THE NEW REPUBLIC. The book under review was FEAR: ANTI-SEMITISM IN POLAND AFTER AUSCHWITZ, and it tells the shocking story of how –even after the Nazis had been defeated, and the concentration camps liberated– a wave of killings, by ordinary Poles, of the remnant of the Jews still alive in Poland. The review quotes a contemporaneous statement by the Polish journalist, Wincenty Bednarczuk, made in the wake of this “bloodbath”:

“We hypothesized that the frightening tragedy of the Polish Jews would cure the Poles of anti-Semitism. It cannot be any other way, we thought, but that the sight of massacred children and old people must evoke a response of compassion and help…But we didn’t know human nature… It turned out that our notions about mankind were naive. The country surprised us.”

I understood Bednarczuk’s painful surprise.

Since the traumatic discovery of what my own countrymen were willing to embrace –and my subsequent discovery that there is plenty of ugly intolerance and viciousness on both sides of our divided country– I have found myself drawn to reading Jonathan Swift, whose cleverness I’d always appreciated, but whose misanthropic views of our species I’d found repugnant.

Earlier this month, sitting in an airport looking at the throngs of hundreds of people I don’t know, I found my subtly implicit feelings toward those strangers to have a different flavor from what I’ve been accustomed to having all the previous decades of my life. My accustomed feeling has always been fairly open-hearted, appreciative, embracing (albeit in a shy way). But now I found myself feeling more detached, untrusting, vaguely recoiling.

I missed my old feeling. It seemed like a light and warmth of great value had gone out of my life, out of the world. When I asked, on those radio shows, “Are you glad about what you feel toward people generally, or do you wish you felt something different?” I knew from inside what it meant to wish to see my fellow human beings and to feel toward them differently.

And I do believe that something like my old feelings are what I should still strive for. I do not believe that they were simply naive. In my view, the spiritually most enlightened place for a person to reach is one where the evils people do are not what define them in one’s eyes. Not that we are such perfect creatures by nature. But the world is a sick place and we humans are, in various ways, the carriers of the sickness. (My PARABLE OF THE TRIBES offers an explanation of that sickness that does not require any indictment of human nature.) I do believe that, if properly nurtured, people grow into something beautiful. But even if we are not so splendid, we are what we are, we are what we can be.

If I could choose, I would not turn away from knowing fully what is dark in human beings, but I would still regard my fellows with an open and compassionate heart. “Hate the sin but love the sinner.” That sounds to me like wisdom, and it is what I aspire to return to again.

It is likely my own hurt and fear that have pulled me away into my dimmer view of my kind.

That and my confusion. For I’ve been having trouble integrating in my heart what I have experienced of people. (An alternative framing for that radio show was from a different angle:

Has anyone ever surprised you greatly by acting either much better or much worse than the person you thought them to be would act? Have you ever had an important experience of someone you thought basically good did something surprisingly bad? Or an experience where someone you’d written off as a bad person did something unexpectedly fine?

Have you ever struggled to understand the ways that people are mixtures of the good and the not-good?

Living in this fallen world takes a toll on all of us.)

And so for now I will try to regard my own current attitude itself with some compassion and patience– even while I hope that I will heal enough to be able once again to become again more innocent in my heart, even without being naive.

Good will toward men. Not as an acquittal. More simply, as an act of love. For it is love, after all, that ultimately heals us and our world.

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15 Responses to “Why “Good Will Toward Men” Has Become More of a Challenge for Me: My Christmas Thoughts”

  1. Nancy Connally Says:

    Dear Andy: You end your essay with a perfect expression: “Good will toward men. Not as an acquittal. More simply, as an act of love. For it is love, after all, that ultimately heals us and our world.”

    I believe the solution is a very simple one. If we are polarized in our lower nature (our own personal perceptions, prejudices, likes, dislikes, personal emotions, and lower minds of what we were taught and the way we believe things should be), there will always be something to be found everywhere that does not please us, or outright disgusts us and leaves us feeling despair for the human condition. It is completely true that lots of individual human beings do, say and believe things that are less than perfect and do not reflect the Divinity within them. They cannot help doing so, until or unless they contact that Divinity within and slowly allow those higher perceptions to transform their lower natures. The evolutionary process of changing forms and changing consciousness moves very slowly.

    When, however, we can stay focused in our higher natures and KNOW that we are made in the image of God and so is everyone else, we see others human beings from that higher perspective; we KNOW their true identity as beings made in the image of God (even if they themselves do not yet know it), and are flooded with compassion for the errors and evils that we see being committed all around us. If we believe in the Law of Cause of Effect (also called Karma; reaping what we sow; what goes around, comes around, etc.) then we know that those committing such acts will have to pay the price eventually, in order to learn what not to do.

    I believe the part of humans that is made in the image of God is our higher natures, called by some the Soul and it is only as we get in touch with that higher part of ourselves that we experience the love and wisdom that can transform, enlighten and fill us with Goodwill towards all, in spite of the weaknesses or ignorance or destructive thoughts and actions that we see in some.

    It is this higher vision that allows us to “judge not, lest we be judged” because we realize we don’t know the whole picture behind human evolution, nor the exact reason why some people behave as they do. For those still in the throes of their own lower natures without the benefit of having contacted that higher energy, they are victims of whatever they have been taught, whatever whim or desire moves them and are used by forces which are against the growth of the good, the beautiful and the true.

    It takes high courage and self discipline, plus a daily recollection of what is eternally True: the good, the true and beautiful, to be able to stay positioned within this higher part of ourselves so that we can cooperate in bringing about the growth of light and love and wisdom around us and not despair at the dark. Allowing ourselves to react emotionally to the darkness fills us with despair, hopelessness and sometimes hatred and destroys our ability to be a positive force for good.

    To you and to all who read this, I wish a joyous holiday season whatever one’s celebration might be and a New Year filled with hope for the future and the wisdom to know that things cannot change overnight, but the important thing for us as indiviudals, as nations and the whole world, is to decide to begin to travel in the right direction.

    Nancy.

  2. Morley Says:

    All power structures instill in the people they rule anti-people values as part of the religious, political and scientific worldviews that legitimate authorized power. When we are taught from childhood a respect for power, we are simultaneously taught, largely without our conscious awareness, a disrespect for the dispowered: i.e. the past, present and future persons of the earth.

    This is most easily seen in traditional religious ideologies. They teach us that people are depraved, sinful, willful and, above all, DISOBEDIENT to Divine and earthly power. Religions posit gods, like the bloodthirsty Jehovah of the Jewish Bible, that legitimate violence and theft, such as stealing other people’s lands. The class structure of powerstates instills these anti-people values in the people they rule, corrupting them to identify with oppressive power to oppress the dispowered.

    The full Christmas quotation is ‘peace on earth, good will toward man.’ which was posted around every home in the mining town I grew up in when I was kid. It seems to have atrophied for obvious reasons, not least the legitimation of the homocidal religions that support violence, torture and terror. I believe in it on principle, despite the historical decay of the US and liberal powerstates. As marxists put it, ‘pessimism of the intellect, optomism of the will.’

    Happy holidays to you and all the Blinders.

  3. kim Says:

    I have been reading, as you know, about cycles in history, and if they are correct, we are entering a dark time. It makes the people dark: selfish, self-centered, untrusting, violent. We see it all around us. Humans are very much influenced by what goes on in the culture around them. We are on a downswing.
    But –
    If you look at history overall, we are much better off than our ancestors. we not only have more and live longer, healthier lives, but there is more concern in the world for each other. We no longer crucify people as a common punishment. We don’t throw each other to the lions, or force gladiators to fight to the death for our amusement, or beat our servants to death for small wrongs. We, at least in the Western World, no longer burn people at the stake for believing the wrong religious details. We have courts, where often people can get redress for their grievances. Our prisons are somewhat more humane than in the distant past. Many more people have educational oportunities than a thousand or two thousand years ago, or even 500. We feel safer in our homes than at many times and places in the past (though less than a few years ago). While there are times that no one turns their head when someone is murdered on a public street, there are also times when strangers risk their lives to save someone, just because they are there.
    The arc of history really is bending toward justice — just very slowly and unevenly — hard to see in a single lifetime.
    When you look at people who seem mean and selfish, there is the question — what pain do they go through that makes them that way? What have they endured? How are they, tragically, separated from themselves and reacting to the pain by being mean? When you look around and see the world darkening, led by a dark man whose favorite emotion is fear, you can also see how the pain of that darkening produces more pain, which just speeds up the effect and creates yet more pain and sadness and separation. You are doing what you can to stop it. Just because you have trouble telling how much good it is doing, doesn’t mean it isn’t working, it just means the world is too big for one person to see it.
    Merry Christmas (or Happy Midwinter Holiday of your choice….)

  4. R Stein Says:

    A few words of ‘Cheer’ as Andy has run into thelimitations of the intellect.

    Re the “Goodness’ of Man where did this idea come from?

    From the teachings of Jesus as some claim ? You know what is written of Jesus understanding of Man :

    He committed NOT himself unto them for He knew what was in Man and needed not that any man should tell him.

    An earlier writer has written: Cursed is man that trusteth in man and maketh flesh his arm.

    Have you never heard of Diogenes who went about . . .searchimg for an honest man ?

    As a trusting ‘Child? Fool? or What?’ I went forth into the world determined to do business with a handshake imagining adults were Adults ,ie, responsible good .citizens. The first thing I learned :

    a promise is NOT a promise

  5. R Stein Says:

    must have hit some key to send before the end
    to continue :

    A promise is a promise . . .NOT SO
    My word is my bond . . . NOT SO
    I just came from Church BEWARE

    Why do we have background checks

    Investigations

    Detailed contracts spelling out thus and so and if not . . then WHAT

    Courts, Judges, Power to Levy, Jails, Prisons and Armies

    And then even these many times fail to obtain what is Right. Why ? Because People are People.

    So man who seeks is blessed with the knowledge historical AND spiritual/mystical of GOD on the scene the Righteous Judge from whose eventual justice NONE will escape and who knows the cause of the oppressed and mal-treated and deals with all according to his Word.

    As to the ‘mystery’ of ‘good’ people supporting incredible ‘evil’ in the political realm today I am willing to take the time to offer the following
    (from a Religious leader in the South published June 27, 1907) :
    “A sectarian(partisan) is one who defends everything his party holds or that will help his party, and opposes all that his party does not hold or that will injure the strength and popularity of his party.

    The partisan takes it for granted everything his party holds is right and every thing the other party holds is wrong and to be opposed.”

    (MAY I HERE POINT OUT THIS WAS WRITTEN IN AMERICA
    -IN THE RELIGIOUS SOUTH- ALMOST 100 YEARS AGO)

    “Hence the party lines define his faith and teaching. He sees no wrong in his own party, unless some one in his party should love truth and oppose an error in his party
    or defend a truth of the other party.”

    (Then THAT guy is bad, of course . . get rid of him)

    “A truth lover always looks into whatever party he comes in contact with and will first look to see what truth the party holds. All parties hold some element of truth. Usually each party holds and emphacises some particular truth in a way of its own.

    One seeking truth above all other things will searchout first of all this truth and appropriate it as his own. A true lover of truth seeks out and appropriates as his own every truth he finds, no matter who holds or teaches it.”

    (Did someone just call My name . . or Yours ?)

    “All truth is the heritage of the truth lover.

    He will approach every teacher and every system as holding some truth that he desires to learn and hold.

    He will feel kindly toward all. The love of truth is a spirit of kindness and love toward all, even the holder of error.

    He loves the holder of truth because he receives strength and truth from him. He loves those in error because he sympathizes with them and desires to impart strength and truth to them. . . . ”

    Another quote now from Solomon:
    “There’s nothing new under the sun” I might want to add ALMOST but will leave it as it was writ.

    Ah Truth . . blessed Truth . . such peace !

    and to you on this day

    r d

  6. Nancy Connally Says:

    I happened to come across an article about Plotinus today which gave a very down to earth example about learning to listen to one’s higher nature. We have televisions sets with many different channels available and all sorts of information and programming at every conceivable level, however, we can only tune into one channel at a time and we are the ones who decide which channel to watch at any given time.

    If we deliberately set up a time and space in our lives to get in touch with the “still small voice within”, and really LISTEN, we begin to see glimpses of Truth that put ourselves and our lives and the lives of humanity in a larger context. We stretch our minds and capacities to include those higher perceptions. We use our imaginations to try and see how God or the Universe would view a particular situation.

    The voices of the world, and indeed those of our own bodies, emotions, desires and minds are very loud and we must learn to temporarily still them in order to be able to hear that still small voice within that comes from our higher nature.

    This does not mean we lose our common sense, become Pollyannaish or Panglossian or begin wearing rose colored glasses! We still see the darkness and pain present in the world and in fact, we sometimes become even more sensitive to it so that it becomes unbearable if we remain focused in our lower feelings about things. But in order to become a cooperator of light and to truly help make significant changes in our world for the better, we must learn to get above our own personal thoughts and feelings and begin to search after that higher vision.

    It doesn’t come all at at once, but one step at a time, one illusion seen through at a time, discovering more and more about ourselves as we proceed and what we need to change in ourselves to become better receivers and then transmitters of that higher vision.

  7. VERA DAHM, PHD RETIRED COUNSELOR Says:

    ANDY

    I ADMIRE YOUR WILLINGNESS TO SPEAK OF HOW YOUR VIEW OF HUMANS IS AT THIS TIME OR MOMENT. I THINK OF IT AS A HARD PLACE TO BE AND YET VERY REAL FOR YOU. BETRAYAL IS A MAJOR ARCHETYPAL WOUNDING. I AM SORRY YOU HAVE TO BE WITH WHERE YOU ARE.

    I BELIEVE ANDY IS SEEING MORE CLEARLY INSIDE HIS OWN PROCESS. IF HE DOES NOT RUN FROM NAMING AND ALLOWING THAT SEEING, IT WILL EVENTUALLY GIFT HIM WITH THE ABILITY TO EMBRACE A MORE INCLUSIVE VISION OF THE ORDER BEHIND THE CHAOS.

    I BELIEVE THAT WE, HUMANS, HIDE BEHIND MAKING EVERYTHING, INCLUDING OURSELVES, THE WAY WE THINK IT SHOULD BE RATHER THAN THE WAY IT IS. WE COVER, HIDE AND CLOSE THE BLINDS. WE SUPPRESS AND REPRESS OUR FEELINGS AND EXPERIENCES INSTEAD OF BEING WITH THEM TO SEE HOW THEY LEAD US TO A NEW INSIGHT AND UNDERSTANDING.

    WE DO NOT SHARE, AS ANDY HAS DONE, WHAT WE ARE STRUGGLING TO COMPREHEND IN OURSELVES THAT APPEARS NOT TO BE OF LOVE. SHAME BLOCKS OUR HONESTY.

    AS HUMANS WE ARE AN UNFOLDING DYNAMIC PROCESS OF THE CREATION AND RE-CREATION OF SOMETHING MUCH GREATER THAN WE ARE. TO APPROACH THAT SOMETHING GREATER, IT IS A MUST THAT WE ALLOW ALL THE ORGANIC PROCESSES ROOM TO BE. IF WE BLOCK ONE PROCESS, THEN THE ENERGY OF WHAT COMES AFTER MAY NEVER MANIFEST.

    I THINK WE NEED TO ATTEND TO AND TO EXPLORE THE DARK AND TO EMBRACE OUR PERSONAL THOUGHTS AND FEELINGS BEFORE WE CAN BEGIN TO ACHIEVE THE HIGHER VISION. SEARCHING FOR THE HIGHER VISION IS NOT A “TO DO.” IT IS ONLY IN BEING WITH ALL THAT WE ARE THAT THE HIGHER VISION IS CREATED WITHIN US WITHOUT ANY EFFORT AT ALL.

  8. Andrew Bard Schmookler Says:

    Vera, I appreciate what you say here. This statement of yours felt especially poignant to me: “BETRAYAL IS A MAJOR ARCHETYPAL WOUNDING.”

    It brought to mind a couple of men whom I’d admired before this Bushite era, but who have betrayed their own better selves and, worse, betrayed the nation.

    I’m thinking of Ralph Nader and John McCain.

    Of McCain I’ve written here more than once: a man who, up through the 2000 campaign, I’d seen as a man of integrity. (I’m not one, like some I interact with these days, who cannot see a political conservative as a moral and good person.) Perhaps he was, but we have subsequently see him sell out his soul: rather than standing up to lead his Republican Party back from the grip of evil, he has chosen to rise its evil to satisfy his own ambition. If that’s the way the horse is going, he’s been willing to ride it into the darkness.

    Of Nader I wrote of his betrayal in an op/ed published in 2003 in the CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR, but only occasionally and glancingly here. But I see in his presidential run in 2000 –not in the fact that he declared his candidacy, but in the way he made deliberate choices that predictably served to bring the Bushites to power– a deep betrayal of what had been a noble career, and of America itself. His conduct manifested his being in the possession of a kind of narcissistic rage, and for the sake of his ego he sacrificed the good of the nation.

    There are not so many heroes we have in public life in America that it is not profoundly disheartening when two of those who seemed quite admirable choose to turn to the dark side.

    Another thought– about the impact of the more direct experience of the human capacity for darkness, as opposed to only knowing about it from the distance of history or of news reports from elsewhere. As I said in my “Concept of Evil” as part of my explanation of what made evil a more palpable reality to me: “[I]t is one thing to study the pathologies of Nazi Germany or Stalinist Russia from the safe remove –in space and time– of my own comparatively humane America. But it is quite another thing to experience dark forces coming to rule the world around me.”

    Yet another piece of the picture: When I wrote about how “a group of people –and an institution– whom I trusted and for whom I’d had very high regard shocked me by acting in a way that was altogether without integrity and honesty,” I did not state that I was the victim of their dishonorable behavior. I wavered over whether to put that into the piece, but I decided not to because, in terms of substance, it was beside the point: it bothered me MUCH less what happened to me, personally, than the simple fact that people whom I’d appraised as good and honorable people would behave that way. But what IS relevant about the personal aspect of the betrayal is that it increased greatly the magnitude and intensity of the experience for me.

    So for these reasons, I can see how what I am struggling with is much more at the emotional than at the intellectual level. The question of “what kind of creatures are we?” that I am struggling with is one that I’ve dealt with in two of my own major books: THE PARABLE OF THE TRIBES, which describes the inevitable systemic forces that have warped the evolution of civilization toward the destructive reign of power, and OUT OF WEAKNESS, which describes how the human creature, caught up in that destructive process, has been wounded and made crazier and more destructive by the operation of those social evolutionary forces.

    THE PARABLE OF THE TRIBES, as I say in the piece above, does not require any indictment of human nature to explain the dark and tormented nature of the history of civilized societies. And as OUT OF WEAKNESS explains, given those forces, one would expect a pretty screwed up human animal to emerge from the inevitable trauma of such history.

    So nothing that I’ve encountered in recent times should require –in intellectual terms– any reconsideration of that compassionate and loving assessment of the nature of us human beings that informed those two books. Indeed, throughout THE PARABLE OF THE TRIBES is woven the notion that in our fundamental nature, from the Source, there is a truly sacred quality that, should we escape from the reign of power, we might be able to nourish and make manifest in the larger world.

    When I read Dostoyevski’s “Grand Inquisitor,” about the basically craven sheep-like nature of the mass of humankind, I do not believe it. I know enough about the nightmare that has been Russian history for the past 1000 years both to understand why Dostoyevski (or his character Ivan) would think that’s how people ARE, by nature. But I see that nature as having been molded by historical trauma.

    Nonetheless, all that I’ve just said notwithstanding, there is also something really troubling to me about what so large a portion of the American people have countenanced in this Bushite era. I do not see that our history in recent times gives us a reason –or an excuse– that’s readily visible and comprehensible to me to have failed so terribly at the moral level.

    When the Germans turned to Hitler in the 1930s, it was in the wake of such great upheavals and insecurities and pain –World War I, the Versailles regime, inflation at the wheel-barrow level– that I can more readily grasp and sympathize with their rage and fear and embrace of evil than I can with the American turn toward darkness in this decade.

    Even with 9/11, Americans alive today have lived through a stretch of historical experience that, by the standards of almost any other time and place, has been extremely privileged. Our wealth and power have insulated us from so much of the insecurity and suffering that most peoples in history have routinely experienced, there’s a part of me that feels that somehow we Americans have no excuse for our moral collapse.

    But in closing, I will site my earlier essay, “The Challenge of Affluence,” as my best attempt to explain just what it is that has led to that collapse. It’s not trauma, as in the case of the Germans of the Nazi era, but a kind of softening and erosion of the structures of character and morality that previous generations had developed as ways of organizing human energies and desires to create a viable and (largely) life-serving order.

  9. R Stein Says:

    Andy,

    Your lament is that of many that have posted on this Blog and it is the sole cause of my ever reading (and posting) here.

    You may recover your former view and attitude, I feel sure I never will- no, not of America and Americans as such. No, for me that is GONE. And I can’t imagine the Country can ever be as it was . . how could it? There have been mis-adventures before but this is an enormous departure from the spiritual ideal at the corre of America as I felt it to be all my lifel

    Explaining how it has come about- that the American have become what he has and seemed to accept and approve what to some of us is no less than a horror will not make it less so.

    The Truth and the real spiritual aspect and call to righteousness has been long gone from much of religion as prosperity and ‘security’ have, as you say, taken its place. Maybe it should not be surprising that it has happened to us nationally. It appears now many are beginning to think of aggression and Imperialism all is a GOOD thing if it will help maintain our corrupt way of life.

    I will be surprised if judgment is not on the way as it sure appears to be; yet they are blind to that.

    For me it is not necessary any longer to cherish the ideal

    if it is inconsistent with the truth. Only the truth, and the whole truth, is important.

    All said, it remains mostly true: There is good in the worst of us and bad in the best.

    Now we still have a nation such as it is and seem to have a political structure such as it is.

    For MERCY’S sake, for our own dumb deluded people and the nation’s victims abroad,

    we who care can still do all we possibly can to rein in the destructive inclinations that are having their way and then . . . What Will Be Will Be.

    As for me . . I Accept. I am at peace.

    r d

  10. Morley Says:

    let’s not get to excited, friends, about the corruption of the American people. In 2004, about sixty million people voted for Bush, if the official figures can be believed. That is 20% of the American population. This 20% were organized by the Gops and traditional religion, consisting of the more technically Educated and ideologically backward section of the population, the same grouping that voted for Hitler.

    While it is true that it amazing to think that this many people could vote for Bush after the disaster of his first term, it is necessary to understand that the Despotic Faction that has seized power in the US largely controls the media. And the Dems are led by right wing leaders and truthers who do not organize the rest of the population into a people-oriented movement.

    The alternative, after all, was voting for Kerry, who was for policies before he was against them, and conversely. This multivariate sequential positioning was no more inspiring than the triangulation of Clinton. And there is a tendency in a de-politicized polity to vote for the incombent.

  11. Philip Callas Says:

    Andy, you’ve articulated the problem such that we all can better understand what is in our own hearts. I’d like to express a thought regarding your subsequent comments. I’ve been living in a fundamentalist Christian household for several months now. The several very young children in the house regularly experience levels of humiliation, of physical and emotional abuse and neglect, of external control over their biological needs, of dehumanizing treatment that are all, while still legal and sanctioned by the social, legal, and health communities, have nevertheless deeply disturbed me and reduced me to tears on more than one occasion. My feeble interventions have been ill received and seen as an intolerable challenge. Even the victims outwardly embrace the authoritarianism. It does not surprise me that Christian communities enthusiastically support Mr. Bush and his policies–such as those policies are even known or understood. The blind worship of authority here–whether legitimate or not–has its political counterpart in fascism. Even human slavery is defended as sanctioned by God, and defiance against slavery as a SIN against God. The super-abundance of DVDs, of fashionable clothing, of processed food, of cars, and comfortable furnishings that are all part of this wealthy nation may do little to lessen the sting of the profound betrayal of our most basic emotional needs by those who profess to love us. The political freedoms and the material wealth we Americans enjoy are–plausibly–cold comfort for a familial love that has been travestied. An empty belly and a shivering body are hard to take–to say nothing of war and social upheaval–but they are simply more comprehensible to our natures, and they do less to provoke a desire for revenge upon the wider world than when the tears of our childhood are met with a sharp slap to the face.

  12. Andrew Bard Schmookler Says:

    Powerful and moving words, Philip. Such tragedies.

  13. Morley Says:

    yes.

  14. Therese Says:

    I want to posit an idea here-
    The Bushite regime is defending the existing way of life in America – Business as Usual. All the materialism, consumerism, comfort, and home as castle.
    People like to live this way. (I admit I like going to the store in my warm car, grabbing some down-under apples and skim milk and soft whole wheat bread and lovely unspoiled eggs. Come home into my garage and turn on the electric stove, cook up breakfast, toss the dishes in the washer and put the leftovers in the fridge. Read the newspaper, throw clothes in the washer, watch some tube or listen to music on the stereo.) All these things are the simple things, but they all add up to many of the ills of our modern society.
    The alternatives of conservation, ecological responsibility, sharing and caring for other’s welfare require sacrifice, work for no compensation, discomfort sometimes.
    Why people voted for Bush a second time, I offer that we people aren’t as evil as we can seem – but we are
    complacent, willfully ignorant, lazy, and lovers of stability.
    We will do some very nasty things when faced with a challenge to these “rights”.
    We can no more simply shrug off this human nature than fly just by thinking “rise”. It takes a journey and many, many steps into unfamiliar territory.
    I love your last lines, Andy
    “Good will toward men. Not as an acquittal. More simply, as an act of love. For it is love, after all, that ultimately heals us and our world.”

    Only love can forgive without acquittal!
    And love is not easy nor sentimental.
    It is brave and dangerous and very subversive!!!
    It is just AND merciful.
    When one can see humans as they really are and still love them – wow!
    I definitely have a hard time with this – try it with your closest loved ones first – they can really be a challenge! Then try it with the jerk alone in the hummer that cut you off at the ramp while talking on the phone then flips you the bird!
    At the same time, I must be humble enough to admit I have been callous, mean-spirited, or even unaware of my intrusions on other people’s paths.
    It is a new path to see people and not like them very much….
    it is a recognition of the bad for what it is.
    However that can lead to cynical bitterness – that is dangerous in that then we can label others as “not with me” and then it is easy to dehumanize them….
    So – keep up the will to love your neighbors as you love yourself.
    It is a good place to return when feelings of “bad will” creep in!

    Peace and Joy!
    Light will overcome!
    Therese

  15. Paul Archibald Says:

    Andy,

    I read your comments about losing your love for your countrymen with tears in my eyes.

    Just yesterday I was thinking and feeling very much the same thing. I was out cycling in western Sonoma County (dairy country), and I kept catching myself looking into the faces of the drivers and just feeling hatred. Its not like they were doing anything (although wearing bicycling clothing is a good way to get unwanted attention in these parts), but I just kept having this awful feeling of disgust with them. I could even identify the moments it overcame me, and I would tell myself “maybe once you have sweated for an hour these feelings will go away”. They didn’t.

    Thanks for writing you piece. It helped me to now that it isn’t just me. I have never felt a lot of love for the human race, but that last few years have been very depressing for me.

    I always thought that as I got older the world would get better. I thought we could improve things through greater economic development, increasing knowledge of the world, and the recognition of past errors (Vietnam, anyone?). But instead it seems we are like deer in the headlights. The onrushing disasters created or ignored by the Busheviks have us all stupified. Nobody seems able to challenge them, much less challenge the petro-capitalist system that they are only the most venal expression of.

    And, thanks for pointing out something I had not quite considered: the behavior of the Germans leading up to the Nazis. I have often wondered if Bush is worse than Hitler (yeah, I know, no comparison, right?), but when you pointed out that the German people at least had an understandable reason to embrace Hitler, it hit me that this is part of my disgust with America2006. Of course we have our reasons, but compared to something as concrete as the experiences of post-WW1 Germans, our excuses pale to insignificance.

    And that is why I can compare Bush to Hitler without feeling such a comparison is entirely hyperbole. In terms of measurable destructiveness, Hitler wins on points. But, when one adjusts that measurement to take into account the chaos from which these two evils come, I think the “score” is much closer. Consider these two as points on a graph. Does Hilterism really stand out from the chaos of post WW1 Germany any more than Bushism stands out from the prosperity of America in the 1990s?

    Whew, I think I better shut up now. Keep those observations and ideas coming, Andy. I might not feel much hope for the world or love of mankind on a daily basis, but your writings do provide some sort of island in this sea of chaos.

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