It should be no great surprise to anyone that I have been guilty of, at worst, a transgression, and at best, being bloody obnoxious. Nor should it come as a surprise that the episode has stirred me to write.
A few hours after trying to watch the 2nd debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, I wrote a bit of pretty serious invective, in which I called Obama several names, and accused him of hatred and insanity. At least two friends have taken me sternly to task for trading in hate instead of brotherly love – in judgment instead of Christian charity. My friends were exactly right, and I thank them for slapping me up ‘side the head. They have moved me to put down a less explicit and, hopefully, more accurate explanation of my reaction to the debate.
Those who remember the original will notice that it contained quit a few less words than this version. That’s because it requires a good bit more verbiage to explain one’s opinion of another than it does to just thumb back the hammer on one’s vocabulary of profanity and squeeze the trigger. I was lazy the other night, and I apologize, sincerely.
It is my belief that we will all be judged by our maker. A full pardon has been offered to us if we will but pick it up and meet its very simple conditions, but that is up to us. Indeed, that faculty of choice is at the heart of why we are here. It is the greatest and most dangerous gift Our Creator has bestowed upon us in mortality. Without that gift of agency, or free will, there could be no moral questions asked of us. One might say, “Good dog,” or, “Bad dog,” but one would not say, “Bad moral choice, Dog.” That’s because only Mankind, of all earthly species, has that gift. It is what makes us fully human. (And no, I’m not for an instant saying that they are less than Human, who, through injury or congenital defect, are incapable of exercising agency. The use of terms such as, “handicapped,” “impaired,” or even, “special,” explicitly define them as not typical of the species. Being atypical does not in any way define them as less than Human.)
To ask a fish to live out of water would be absurd; fish don’t live out of water. To ask an eagle to live in a burrow and never come out would absurd; eagles don’t live in burrows. To force a creature to live in a way other than that which is natural will kill it. Oh, you might, by force of technology, keep an eagle alive in a burrow, but it wouldn’t be an eagle; it would be some wretched thing with feathers – an abomination. All of this seems painfully obvious, and yet a great many of our fellow Humans are eager to inflict this horrid condition upon themselves - to deny the central tenet of Mankind’s mortal adventure. If they wished it only for themselves, it would be tragic, but they wish it for all of us, and that makes it, by my reckoning, evil.
To deny the value or virtue of Human life is to deny the value or virtue of God’s creation, and that, I believe, is evil. Not different. Not unpleasant. Not bad. Not Democrat. Not Republican. Evil. It is also, sadly, very much Human nature.
We all have in us that spark of Lucifer’s instinctive solution to bringing us all back to Heavenly Father at the end of our mortality. It may be expressed as bullying others, as coercing our spouses or children, or even criminal assault such as rape or robbery. It might seem instinctive but for the fact that we can be aware of it, judge it, and abandon it. The heartbreaking incidence of crimes against the agency of others indicates that not all of us are willing or able to abandon it. A person may be wonderful in all other ways, but still fall into the trap of violating the agency of others. However, the effects of such violation are so powerful and traumatic that it is equally natural to condemn the person as equivalent to the violation. It is perfectly legitimate to do so, but only in a very specific sense. We may judge the person guilty of a crime and levy punishment, but we may not judge the worth of the person’s soul. That judgment is reserved to God, and He has warned us against trespassing on it.
I do not mean to judge or condemn those who cross over the line when they have been wantonly assaulted or a loved one hurt. For myself, to hurt one of my children would be a great way to get a free express ticket across the river. The role of law and government in such situations is another topic, altogether, but for me to punch someone’s ticket, no matter the cause, would be wrong; it trespasses on that judgment that God has reserved to Himself. But, Oh! How impossible it would be to control that impulse to destroy one who hurt my child! I do not for a second claim as certain that I would control myself!
The proper course would be to judge the morality of the action, then judge the person’s culpability in it, but we should not, at any time, judge the worth of that person’s soul.
So it is in politics, too. One of the dominant ideas of the role of government flies squarely in the face of my own beliefs. The results of this idea can be directly observed in history if one has the patience to look and the openness to understand – but it takes a strong stomach, because there is much blood and horror. At the heart of this idea is the belief that it is right for the government to deny the people free exercise of their agency. Right up against that is the belief that people in the government have sufficient wisdom and moral character to determine whose agency to deny in what ways, and on what days. Since some people will resist the constraint of their freedom, it has always been the resort of all governments based on these beliefs to use force, even the shedding of blood, to gain compliance. Barack Obama and his administration are very clearly, unequivocally proponents of these ideas, but they are by no means the first or the only! They are, however, the ones we have to deal with today.
This is not opinion, or brainwashing, or talk radio. This is historical fact, and, in my opinion, such practices are evil and those who pursue them are… guilty of doing evil, but the judgment of their souls I must leave to God. Men have sufficient wisdom to judge the morality and legality of actions – well, the good ones do, anyway – but lack the omniscience necessary to make those judgments of eternal and celestial consequence.
After watching a few minutes of the debate, I made several intemperate remarks about Barack Obama. They were purely my opinion, and were based on an overwhelming emotional response to what I believed his attitude to be. I’m not convinced I was wrong in my assessment, but sharing it the way I did was inappropriate and gratuitously brutal to anyone whose opinion is less extreme than mine.
Mitt Romney’s statement about Barack Obama at the Al Smith dinner made this very point so gently and kindly that, when I compared it to my words, it filled me with shame. He said, "Our 44th president has many gifts and a beautiful family that would make any man proud. In our country, you can oppose someone in politics and make a confident case against their policies without any ill will and that's how it is for me. There's more to life than politics."
Evil exists in this world, and there are people who love it and practice it. The rest of us are either the victims or conquerors of evil, but we must always be its enemy. If unchecked, evil will destroy everything we all hold dear. But of all it destroys, evil’s greatest triumph, perhaps, is when it turns a good person toward its own, insidious ways that seem, at the time, perfectly reasonable. Thomas Jefferson pledged undying hostility to all forms of tyranny over the human mind, and I think his phrasing was trenchant. He pledged hostility to tyranny, not to deluded men and women who love it.
So here is the refinement of what I said about Obama after the debate. I was terribly upset at Obama’s expressions of approval for ideas that I hold morally wrong. To see those ideas put forward with a smirk was more than I could take at the time. The ideas of which I speak have many very powerful proponents, and are deeply embedded in our population, in general. Those ideas, if not stopped by the ballot box, will inescapably lead to bloodshed, and I fear there may be no way around it. However, we are not absolved of our duty to seek a peaceful path forward. We will be held responsible for what we attempt – whether good or bad - as much as for what we do.
I will fight against the ideas expressed by Barack Obama and those who agree with him. Whether he or his followers are good people or bad is not for me to say, but his ideas are bad, and to stop them I will spend my time, energy, money, and, if no other way is available, my life’s blood. There are worse things than war; slavery and serfdom are but two. I cannot pretend otherwise, no matter how many friendships it may cost.