evildoer

Denial

"St. Peter's Denial" by Rembrandt, oil on canvas, 1660. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

“St. Peter’s Denial” by Rembrandt, oil on canvas, 1660. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Armand Gamache had always held unfashionable beliefs. He believed that light would banish the shadows. That kindness was more powerful than cruelty, and that goodness existed, even in the most desperate places. He believed that evil had its limits. But looking at the young men and women staring at him now, who’d seen something terrible about to happen and had done nothing, Chief Inspector Gamache wondered if he could have been wrong all this time.

Maybe the darkness sometimes won. Maybe evil had no limits.

–Louise Penny, How the Light Gets In (Minotaur Books, 2013), p. 271

Perhaps evil knows no limit. Who hasn’t come to that conclusion from time to time? Perhaps it feeds on kindness rather than succumbs to it. Perhaps the light of conscience flickers and eventually dies in the darkest recess of our collective psyche. Perhaps our fears and insecurities ultimately prevail over the impulse to goodness and compassion. (more…)

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Church of Football (Part I)

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in September of 2014. (Credit:  Andrew Campbell / Wikimedia Commons)

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in September of 2014. (Credit: Andrew Campbell / Wikimedia Commons)

The country will not be brought down by the Islamic State or by Arab extremists; it will not be toppled by abortion or by same-sex marriages. In the future, history will tell that the U.S. defeated communism, avoided the wiles of Satan, but could not transcend its own internal contradictions.

The country will decline and fall because it observes the Roman policy of panem et circenses regarding its citizens, keeping them satiated with bread and games while its plutocrats enrich their miserable selves—even at the expense of the destruction of the planet. We no longer worship—if we ever did—at the Church of Jesus Christ. On Sundays during the season we worship at the Church of Football, and the rest of the year we follow the vagaries of football teams and their players as if we were watching the war of the final days between angelic hosts. (more…)

Return of the Evildoers

Former Governor of Florida Jeb Bush, 7 November 2012. (Credit: The World Affairs Council)

Former Governor of Florida Jeb Bush, 7 November 2012. (Credit: The World Affairs Council)

Barack Obama generally avoids the use of the term “evildoers.” That is the language of his predecessor, Bush-the-warmonger. One can make too much of the differences between the two presidents on matters of foreign policy. Both are leaders of the war state and, accordingly, conversant with the demonology of US war culture, which can be more or less nuanced. Early signs are that Jeb Bush prefers his brother’s bluntness.

Jeb’s anticipated run for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination has occasioned the return of the language of evildoers (Ed O’Keefe, “The World According to Jeb Bush,” Washington Post, April 16, 2015). The term distances him from Obama’s foreign policy, which is a policy of “retrenchment,” according to the younger brother of George. (more…)

On the Category of Evil

Variant of the jihadist black flag. This particular version is used by the "Islamic State of Iraq" and by al-Shabaab in Somalia.

Variant of the jihadist black flag. This particular version is used by the “Islamic State of Iraq” and by al-Shabaab in Somalia.

The President considers what kind and how much of a military engagement the U.S. should undertake against the “cancer” of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Meanwhile, high-ranking administration officials (the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Secretary of Defense, and the Secretary of State) characterize the Islamic State as a “barbaric” and “apocalyptic” terrorist organization that must be “contained,” “defeated,” and “destroyed” because it poses an “imminent threat.” This enemy is “beyond anything we’ve seen,” the Defense Secretary insists, “so we must prepare for everything” (The Guardian, 22 August 2014).

Columnist Richard Cohen, originally a supporter of the Bush administration’s decision to invade Iraq, says now “we are once again up against the question of evil.” The slow and painful decapitation of photojournalist James Foley in the name of the Islamic State was an act of “pure evil.” This enemy “murders with abandon. It seems to love death the way the fascists once did.” It “massacres” Shiite Muslims and kills Yazidis, taking “as plunder their women as concubines.” (more…)

Terrorism in Trickster’s Mirror

MostwantedterrorbannerTricksters sometimes use mirrors to disrupt the projections of the war state. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke at Riverside Church on April 4, 1967 to reveal the hypocrisy of a racist society fighting a racist war in Vietnam under the flag of freedom. One year later, to the day, he was murdered in Memphis by a racist.

Russian Premier Vladimir Putin likes to taunt the United States from afar for its “amazing, primitive, blunt cynicism” (March 18, 2014):

Our western partners, led by the United States of America, prefer not to be guided by international law in their practical policies, but by the rule of the gun. They have come to believe in their exclusivity and exceptionalism, that they can decide the destinies of the world, that only they can ever be right. They act as they please: here and there, they use force against sovereign states, building coalitions based on the principle “If you are not with us, you are against us.”

Since we can’t kill Putin, we dismiss him as a bully and a monster. (more…)

Creating World Order

President George W. Bush and first lady Laura Bush wave the flag and sing "God Bless America" during a memorial service at the Pentagon on Oct. 11, 2001, in honor of those who perished in the terrorist attack on the building. President Bush, Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Richard B. Myers, U.S. Air Force, eulogized the 184 persons killed when a terrorist hijacked airliner was purposely crashed into the southwest face of the building on Sept. 11, 2001. Photo credit:  R.D. Ward.

President George W. Bush and first lady Laura Bush wave the flag and sing “God Bless America” during a memorial service at the Pentagon on Oct. 11, 2001, in honor of those who perished in the terrorist attack on the building. President Bush, Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Richard B. Myers, U.S. Air Force, eulogized the 184 persons killed when a terrorist hijacked airliner was purposely crashed into the southwest face of the building on Sept. 11, 2001. Photo credit: R.D. Ward.

Creation is always divine and often brutal.  Even the explosive violence of science’s Big Bang Theory is expressed in reverential overtones:  “The Universe was formed by a colossal explosion . . . . In the first millionth of a second after the Big Bang, the Universe expanded from a dimensionless point of infinite mass and density into a fireball about 19 billion miles . . . across”  (Oxford New Concise World Atlas, 3rd ed., 2009, pp. 18-19).  Creation stories, like myth in general, are outward projections of inner worlds involving a fantastic force or sheer willing of the world into existence.  A continuous cycle of creation and renewal is common to the mythic theme.

The recurring burden of bringing about and maintaining world order falls first and foremost on the United States.  America’s creation story is almost too familiar to be recognized as such.  (more…)

The Spectre of Chaos

Ground Zero, New York City, N.Y. (Sept. 16, 2001) -- A lone fire engine at the crime scene in Manhattan where the World Trade Center collapsed following the Sept. 11 terrorist attack. Surrounding buildings were heavily damaged by the debris and massive force of the falling twin towers. U.S. Navy photo by Chief Photographer's Mate Eric J. TIlford.

Ground Zero, New York City, N.Y. (Sept. 16, 2001) — A lone fire engine at the crime scene in Manhattan where the World Trade Center collapsed following the Sept. 11 terrorist attack. Surrounding buildings were heavily damaged by the debris and massive force of the falling twin towers. U.S. Navy photo by Chief Photographer’s Mate Eric J. TIlford.

Crises prompt politicians and pundits to draw deeply from the well of myth. The President turned to the biblical language of evildoers to make sense of the tragedy of 9/11. More recently, the Cold War language of falling dominoes and containment has resurfaced in the face of Russia’s sudden annexation of Crimea. It, too, is mythic at its core.

Indiana’s U.S. Senator Dan Coats, among others, speaks in Cold War terms (March 17, 2014). Hoosiers should care about what happens to Ukraine even though, he observes, it is 5,000 miles away, trade with it is miniscule, it has no energy resources or critical materials, it is a corrupt and unstable state, and only 30% of its population is religious.

Why should we care, then, asks the Senator? Because “conflicts grow from small beginnings,” as in the case of Hitler’s unchecked aggression and other incidents before and after World War II, when policymakers failed to draw the line. Disaster in Ukraine undermines European security and stability, which penetrates to the “permanent core” of U.S. strategic interests and threatens a chain reaction. (more…)