There is a belief that times of great evil have the capacity to shatter one's faith or to enhance it, and perhaps at no time in a person's or a nation's life does this quandary arise more notably than in times of war
Decades before Lord Acton wrote that "power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely,"
History has proven the veracity of the actions of
structured on the premise that people were basically "good" by nature, and thus no "check-and-balance" was needed, frequently evolved into brutal dictatorships. Now, as the check-and-balance system erodes in
There is something deceptively soothing about these new phenomena. When people no longer speak, think or act for themselves, they no longer have to assume any responsibility, nor take any blame, for their actions. Failure or success resides with a ubiquitous "big brother" and the injustices and erosions of freedom that result are ignored, as long as they happen to "other people." This "big brother" exists by exploiting the basest instincts in human nature, such as greed, bigotry, conquest, arrogance, violence, hypocrisy, fear, and the lust for power.
Because such appeals to the inherent evils of human nature appear to be the primary motivating force in the world, it was difficult for me to view the Iraqi war with anything but ambivalence. While I could commiserate with those who sought to support the troops because young lives were at risk, I feared that "easy" victory would simply fuel the war machine, resulting in more conflicts and ultimately greater casualties in the future. I understood the views of those who argued that dissent in wartime was potentially harmful to troop morale, but I was distressed by the prospect of future war planners taking succor in the belief that, no matter how unjust a war may be, the people will "fall into line" once the fighting begins. I could even comprehend the allure of a "herd" mentality that sacrificed individual thought for conformity. But I also recognized that blindly following the herd can lead one over a precipice just as easily as it can to greener pastures.
During wartime, revulsion is frequently expressed against those espousing unpopular opinions, even though those opinions, because of their unpopularity, resound with honesty. Yet similar revulsion is rarely expressed at those whose leap on the bandwagon of popular opinion is fueled by incentives other than sincerity. Recently events have revealed that a subsidiary of Halliburton, a company with ties to Vice President Dick Cheney, was "awarded" a contract to help rebuild
What the Iraqi war illustrates is that human affairs, on both the national and global level, rarely give rise to conflicts between "good and evil," but instead spawn conflicts between greater and lesser evils. Can one imagine, for example, the reaction in
Perhaps the world needs those individuals willing to sell their souls for a few years of power, who wrap warfare in the garments of respectability, and who can work to make peace, and those who seek it, appear to be the aberration instead of the norm. Unfortunately a world controlled by "the lesser of two evils" is still controlled by evil and only a fragile chasm needs to be traversed before a nation endorses with its deeds the very actions it claims to abhor with its words. So while
In fact, in perhaps one of the most ironic twists, the Bush administration is planning on following the example of the rest of the industrialized world by instituting a "system of universal health care" for the Iraqi people. While this is a concept I can and do support, the irony resides in the reality that Americans do not enjoy this same right. As one of the
millions of uninsured Americans, I cannot help but wonder, when I am ignoring an ache, pain or fever because I cannot afford a physician visit, why my health and my life are not as important to those in power.
Nevertheless what has enhanced my faith during these trying times in which we live is the knowledge that tyrants of whatever stripe always make one critical error. They forget that worldly power is constrained by the limits of mortality. So while the world may ignore, or even reward, their evil, they still may be compelled to one day atone for their crimes. Logic would seem to dictate this outcome, else those who are altruistic, compassionate and honest are fools for permitting such virtues to inhibit the greed, selfishness, cruelty and corruption of spirit that seem to be essential for worldly, or at least political, success.
Still, as this evil persists in the world, it is not difficult to understand why the founder of Taoism, Lao Tzu, turned his back on humanity and disappeared into the wilderness. Nothing really separates modern-day humans from their primitive ancestors except the capacity to kill in greater magnitude, and the ability to view the slaughter from a living room recliner instead of the coliseums of
David R. Hoffman
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