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"Strange Days"

Jim Baumer


We are living in strange days. Days when that which seems real, isnt and that which would seem surreal, is in actuality, truth. Words can mean whatever the speaker wants them to mean. While George Orwell's 1984 is often invoked whenever there is remotely a hint of government overstepping its bounds, the current epoch would qualify Mr. Orwell as a certified prophet. Every time a Bush administration official steps to a microphone, we witness Orwell's Newspeak acted out. Words mean whatever the speaker chooses to impregnate them with for meaning. Context doesn't matter any longer. The Bush administration has become the modern day version of Orwell's Ministry of Truth.


I must confess that Mr. Bush has become my worst nightmare. I foolishly supported much of what Mr. Bush championed for a good part of the past 10 years. It has been through my re-examination of my faith and my desire to understand the message of Christ as interpreted by people like Martin Luther King Jr. and others that has helped me to begin to correctly view the Bush administration and its doctrine of Pax Americana. I'm thankful that I've been like Rip Van Winkle, awakened from a long slumber, to return to my more progressive roots and an understanding of current events filtered through the screen of a more radical (but, Id argue correct) Christian theology. In some ways, I feel a certain affinity with Orwell's Winston Smith, as he keeps his diary and seeks to join the Brotherhood. 


Take for instance, Mr. Bush's definition of his ideology compassionate conservatism. Now here is truly an astounding oxymoron. The last I checked, Webster's defined compassion as, pity aroused by the distress of others, with the desire to help them. Might I add, that this term traditionally was extended to those less fortunate than the wielder of the compassion. Sort of like when Jesus had compassion for the multitudes who had followed him and were without food, just prior to his miracle of feeding the 5,000. Now if George Bush was rewriting this tale, he would have Jesus and his disciples sitting there eating in front of the masses, who were hungry. You see, to George Bush and his minions, compassion means taking what little the poor and underclass has and redistributing it to the wealthy power-brokers, who already possess more than enough. It makes a mockery of everything that Jesus stood for.


Since Mr. Bush often invoked the name of Christ during his campaign for president, I thought I would look at some of the things that Jesus spoke of and see how our president is measuring up. Since he seemed to be operating in some parallel universe during his recent state of the union address, I thought Id hold him to a different standard than most of the analysts seemed to hold him to. First and foremost, Jesus talked about how He came not to do away with the law and prophets but was sent to fulfill them. So, that means that the 10 commandments, which by the way, many conservatives seem to want to plaster in every public place, would still be applicable. Such as in the commandment, Thou shalt not kill. This means that when leaders promote war, which inevitably leads to killing, then those leaders would be guilty of breaking that commandment. Yet, those same conservatives, the stellar spokespeople for God that they are, by and large support George Bush's desire to go to war with Iraq. How do these people justify this logic? Possibly, the killing of Iraqis is acceptable? Maybe the commandments doesn't apply to Americans? Somehow, I'm having trouble with this concept. Maybe one of the spokesmen for the religious right such as Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson could help me here. They seem to be quite joyous about our upcoming attack upon the beleaguer red people of Iraq. As Orwell's Ministry of Truth drummed out its propaganda, so does our current version with its mantra, War is Peace.


There is another interesting passage in the Christian New Testament where Jesus was speaking to his disciples and he made the statement that not everyone who professed to be a follower of him was necessarily honest in their intent. He warned about false prophets. Those who would even perform miracles, yet, Jesus clearly delineated that these would not be part of his kingdom of Heaven. Maybe Mr. Bush has never read that part of the Bible? Probably a better explanation is, that he doesn't think it applies to him, since people like Mr. Bush are used to bending laws and regulations. They love to apply the law with impunity, as long as it isn't applied to their actions.  


Getting back to the killing issue, our President at one time was governor of Texas. While governor, he had the dubious honor of being the leader of the state that executed the most criminals. While he was at the helm in Texas, our current President had 131 criminals executed. Remember Karla Fay Tucker? Even when she pled for her life, our compassionate conservative was unmoved by this. He had laws to uphold. There is some interesting writing on Bush's reign in Texas and the lack of competent representation of its death row inmates in their capital cases. Whenever Bush was asked about this during the campaign, he would answer questions with a certain sadistic certainty.


Is it too much to ask for some consistency from our president? Must we continually be fed disingenuous patter? Is he so cynical as to think that no one in America sees through this sanctimonious facade? Interestingly, I think the answer is that most Americans really don't care. Its gotten to the point where thoughtfulness and consistent actions from our leaders is no longer important. Ignorance is strength.


As someone who tends to hold to a more evangelical understanding of Jesus message, I am still deeply troubled by Mr. Bush and also many of the so-called religious right, who refuse to use the same standard of judgment when dealing with Mr. Bush, as they did when dealing with his predecessor, Mr. Clinton. It has always been interesting to me how a conservative, whether in ones religion or ones politics, has a certain pecking order when dealing with right and wrong. For the conservative, anything remotely affiliated with sexuality will be labeled with a scarlet letter. However, this same diligence is not applied to the misuse of money, sometimes referred to as greed or avarice in scripture. No, if one is a conservative, its fashionable to rail against gays, adulterers and a multitude of other sexual perversities. At the same time, ones business dealings with Harken Energy and Haliburton are given nary a mention. I'd like to remind the conservative lobby that like to invoke Gods name whenever convenient to drum up votes from some of their core constituencies, that Jesus spoke out against the misuse of money and greed more often than he spoke about ones sexual proclivities.


I know that many people who read this will be unable to put aside their predispositions about Mr. Bush and his rush to war. There are many in America who feel that Mr. Bush is Gods chosen servant. However, I am unable to justify the killing of people who are created in the image of the very same God that America invoked in the days following the WTC attacks, as in God Bless America. My reading of scripture and my understanding of the teachings of Jesus lead me to hold the position that the Iraqi people have the same value in Gods economy as the American people do. I know that in certain circles, this is not a popular concept. However, I am not looking to please man in the positions that I hold. I wish our President might seek to please the God that I serve, rather than his cronies in the oil business. Might his conservatism truly begin to reflect Gods compassion for people of all races, creeds, and ideologies



Jim Baumer is a free-lance writer living in Durham, Maine.  He is a follower of Jesus, seeking to involve himself in activism and causes that he believes express the heart of God in Christ.





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