Evolution may favor religious diversity, but the tail does not wag the fish.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

For a Wandering People:
Why is this night different than any other history?

The Past Meets the Future [David Brooks, NYT 041306] *

The central lesson of the past three years is that societies are not that malleable. Evils do not grow out of manageable defects in the environment that can be neatly fixed. We need to change our mentality, scale back to more realistic expectations.

David Brooks TimesSelect piece written between first and second Passover seders attempts to bridge the story of Exodus with the situation in Iraq, the story of liberation, and the historical process of democratization. However, he fails to do so adequately because his dialogue and dichotomy between a cynical, caustic Mr. Past and a patient, long-term optimistic Mr. Future fails to grasp the inimical persistence of evil alluded to above and the history of salvation through which humanity is liberated and redeemed.

He fails to do so because he filters out God’s role in the story of Exodus, preferring instead to say “[t]he finest things humans have done have been achieved in the Exodus frame of mind”.

While Brook’s dialogue between Mr. Past and Mr. Future models in some respects the seder’s format of a dialogue between generations, between parents and their children, it fails to grasp the overall import of the Passover celebration.

While his sentiments for true liberation encapsulated in the traditional proclamation of “Next Year in Jerusalem” are in the right place, he forgets that this toast is the last of four cups poured out, blessed, and shared on this night unlike any night. For we were a wandering people, adrift, before our own history was drawn up in an eternal covenant.

Why is this night, this time now, different than all others? Four cups of wine on this night to proclaim God frees us from our labors, delivers us from slavery, rescues us, and takes us as God’s own. (cf. Exodus 6:6-7).

Human history is not a compromise between Mr. Past and Mr. Future waiting for what will prevail. Without salvation history we flatter ourselves with our godless accomplishments or continue to wander the same unbroken pattern of a history built upon sand.

*This is a TimesSelect article. Unfortunately, only members have access to the full article.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Bush Leaks, Honestly

Bush's Search for Leakers Leads to His Mirror: Margaret Carlson [Bloomberg Op-Ed]

"The president wasn't unaware of the leaks; he was on top of them. And he isn't just a leaker, but a hypocritical one. He calls leakers of intelligence treasonous and vows to prosecute them. "
My word! While it's easy to be fatigued by the polls that trace the downward trending of Pres. Bush from "I've got a mandate" and "I'm going to spend my political capital" to "I'm a lame duck", I'm still quite shocked by the bald impunity of actions such as these.

Margaret Colson goes on to muse about abuse of executive powers during a time of war: the president through secret fiat does not "leak" but rather selectively "declassifies" information so that an aide, through his vice president can share such information with a NY Times reporter. Unbelievable!

But, this is the same president who wiretaps without warrant and can hold prisoners indefinitely without charge. "It's all of a piece, " she writes. "Since Sept. 11, Bush has acted as if he can do anything he wants because we're at war. How extensive are his war powers and when do they end? When Osama's captured? When the Iraqi Army ``stands up''? Before his term ends? He doesn't say."

Meanwhile, we seem to still be doing his dirty work unwittingly, by reflecting on the ill-conceived war in Iraq and giving credence to the outlandish and also ill-advised sabre-rattling about military (including nuclear) options against Iran.

The NY Times today shared at least two different stories about the sagging tide of democratization in the Middle East and the radicalism of U.S. military options in Iran. While one may argue that there should be no misunderestimating here because we should be able to see this time around who this maverick is, I'd prefer to see it in these simple terms: A loss of credibility.

I think of the SNL caricature of Mr. Bush fumbling over the maxim: "Fool me once, shame on me. Fool me twice, you can't fool me again."
Credibility. And just plain stupidity.

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*Unfortunately, TimesSelect is a subscription service, so you may only be able to read the summary.