Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Really Big Issues Are Never Black and White

The life forming things of great consequence. If we listen really close we hear dissonant reactions in our souls. I read two stories in the newspaper this morning, that are completely unrelated, but strangely resonate a simple truth. They make you examine your commitment, and find it shallow and wanting. You walk out on your partner, because “I just don’t love him anymore” or “he snores” or it isn’t fun. Or you skip church because it is too early or the preacher finally got around to “your” sin. You don’t bother to vote, know bigotry is wrong and don’t speak up; drive blocks out of the way to avoid a homeless person, all the time calling yourself the follower of, let’s face it, a homeless person (Matthew 8:20).

The first, a story about an elderly couple who committed suicide together, because the wife was dying of cancer (Couple devoted until end http://www.thestate.com/mld/thestate/16006148.htm). My God, most of us won’t get out of bed to get our wives a glass of water, this man would rather die than be without his. We are saddened by their act, but filled with both hope and joy, that they were so devoted to each other. Love in all of it’s earth shaking furor does exist. When we were very young and first married, we knew a couple, Gladys and Ray, who were in the autumn of their lives. Oh, the stories they told, of fortunes gained and lost, of struggles surmounted. In my youthful ignorance, I found these stories frightening, that they could rise so high, amass so much and in their declining years be living in the same run down tenement as us. Now, we had run away from our respective homes to be together, before we were legally old enough to even wed; we had stories of our own about sleeping in Laundromats and on church lawns and struggling to live day to day, and when we were old enough to marry walking to the Holiday Inn in the center of Bridgeport for a one night honeymoon that a relative had paid for (and Patty cutting her foot on the way and a kind convenience store owner giving her a band-aid), but I had hope it would eventually end; the struggle and the pain. Now, many years later, Gladys and Ray give me hope, even after all that, what they had, what they could really own, each other’s love, had prevailed. Imagine showing up in glory, hand in hand, saying “we are a package deal, nothing will change that.” In the Biblical myth of Adam and Eve, it appears that Adam began to step up and stand with Eve, but punked out when God confronted him. It is a thread that winds through our literature; think for example of Winston’s betrayal in 1984. But this couple, they stood together.

The other story is about a new citizenship exam that the Office of Citizenship and Immigration is proposing (Feds testing new citizenship exam http://www.thestate.com/mld/thestate/news/nation/16006151.htm). The article states that the test would emphasize less of the “trivia” and more about democracy. More about the Bill of Rights, the Constitution and other documents that define our democracy. More about civics and freedom and justice. Well, bravo, I guess. When do we give this test to a citizenry that said idle while the Bill of Rights was shredded and shepherds and taxi drivers were kidnapped and tortured and killed? When do we administer this test to college students who believe the first amendment to, frankly, not exist. How do we convince the populace that there is something wrong with a ‘democracy” have fourteen thousand political prisoners in prisons around the globe (according to the State Department report to the UN), being tortured; seventy five to ninety five percent of whom are guilty of any crime (according to the military officers charged with their custody). How do we get the press to report the truth, and the government to stop living a lie? And what of the danger that naturalized citizens will know much more about democracy than those born to citizenship. And the bold faced hypocrisy of the most oppressive administration in U.S. history presuming to teach others about democracy. But, America isn’t about what the mountains are called or the capital of Wisconsin, it is about those funny words, freedom, justice, honor, democracy; I guess at least somebody will know what they mean.

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