A Very Practical Man

This weeks UPI #99 We had ministry at FFC on Sunday about the practical applications of Quakerism. ONe minister was speaking about the piece of the Serenity prayer that reccomended Letting go. The Friend said that he could not get serenity about what our government was doing. I caused me to think that the real hard part of serenity is having the wisdom to know the difference and that often, we give up while there is still something we can do. Well, I still have a voice, and a Blog and at least this week a column at United Press International.

So There I was…

Watching “The City that works” work.
I grew up on the edge of Chicago. Much to my mother’s dismay, I had a profound interest in politics. Late in adolescence I wrangled an entry level job in the office of the 44th Ward Alderman, the Honorable Dick Simpson. Mr. Simpson was one of the two aldermen in the city who did not belong to what was lovingly referred to as the “Daley Machine.” Richard J. Daley – Richard the first, as he is now referred to - was in the waning years of his power, but that power was so immense that the waning was not much noticeable. This regime is considered by many to be one of the most corrupt oligarchies ever to exist in America. It was also one of the most stable.

Because it worked. The snow got plowed, the garbage got picked up, the river got dyed green every St. Patrick’s day without fail. People knew what to do to get their problems fixed. The regime failed certain groups of people rather badly, but they were, after all, minorities. The majorities knew that a certain level of corruption was tolerated, but as long as the garbage got picked up, they did not seem to care.

I got to watch the workings of the City Council from a slightly closer vantage point than the average citizen. Because I was a pup, and a girl to boot, no one paid any attention to me. I watched and listened. The first surprise that I absorbed was that by and large these men were not evil. With a couple of notable exceptions they appeared to be sane. Many of them considered themselves to be religious men. They certainly considered themselves to be practical men. This was their bottom line. They absolutely believed that the ends justified the means. They did not usually say that out loud, of course, because when I was a child, society still nominally agreed to general moral truths, and most children could have told you that the ‘right’ answer was that the ends did NOT justify the means. But the right answer was not the practiced belief of that oligarchy.

We are presently witnessing the waning days of a president who considers himself to be a practical man. He considers himself to be a religious man. And surprisingly he is slightly more transparent than the pols of my youth. The other day, he stood up there on the porch of that stately old house and said approximately this.

I know y’all don’t like torture. I don’t like torture. But we need to keep it in the tool box, ‘cause sometimes it is the only practical tool for the job. My job is to keep all y’all safe from the bad guys, and the bad guys are bad, and they want to hurt y’all. And sometimes the only way I can stop them is to let my boys, hurt them first. It’s not nice, but it is practical.

He only got this honest when push came to congressional shove. He had been saying for a long time that we never used this tool, and didn’t have this tool.

Thank-you, Mr. President for the last ditch transparency.

I wish the president had gone one step farther, and given us a similar spiritual transparency. Something like this.

I know y’all like Jesus. I like Jesus. I talk to Jesus. But Jesus was never president. Bein’ president is a hard job. The stuff that Jesus said is just not practical. Not for dealing with these bad guys and keeping y’all safe.

I think the president also believes that most people, when it came down to it, would agree with him. That torturing ‘bad’ people to save the lives of ‘innocent’ people is ugly, but perhaps necessary.

Maybe he is right. I hope not. But it is the natural and logical result of a nation that believes that war is sometimes justified. After all, if you can sometimes honorably kill people on the field of battle, than doing something less than killing them off the battle field for the purpose of saving civilian lives is certainly the lesser evil.

The only person I can speak for is myself. This I say. Please, do not torture anyone to save my life. Do not torture anyone to save the lives of those I love – that includes my children, I do not think they would disagree.

I believe that the means are more important than the ends. I am going to die. Everyone I love is going to die. I accept that. But I believe that I am safe in my life now, and that I will be safe in the hands of God when I die – regardless of how that death comes to me.

If you can prolong lives by promoting justice, and thwarting evil, please do so. You have my permission to capture, interrogate, charge and put on trial anyone you suspect of plotting evil. You may, with my permission, use any method that the police department here in Salem Oregon, could use on me, if they suspected me of plotting evil. But not one right more than they have. And yes, I accept the consequences of that.

I have had another life experience that most American have not had. I have met, worked with, learned to deeply respect, and earned the respect of, torture survivors. I have done this in both the US and in Africa. I have also listened to young American veterans, ones who have implemented your practical policy. They tell me that the ‘spooks’ (the CIA) do not like to do the work themselves, and often delegate the actual implementation to whatever enlisted person is nearby. I have learned that torturer and tortured are both gravely damaged in the process. The long-term damage to society is far more expensive than the obscenely expensive wars that we commit in the name of practicality. The legacy of the present regime will be costly in ways we cannot quantify or qualify.

I believe that the means of Jesus are eminently practical, and get results as good as or better than your means.

I believe that that the simple, secular ethics that our country was founded on are practical. Dick Simpson taught me this.

Do the right thing. Let the chips fall where they may. It will work just as well as the practical corruption that surrounds you.

When I am willing to become vicious to preserve my privilege or even my life the terrorists have already won.

In His Love,
hmm would have expected this article to get more comments. guess people like the bible talking confined to the abstract better.

And as your child, I would never want anyone tortured to save my life. Nor would i want you to have people tortured to save me.

-Daughter #2
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