Thursday, May 31, 2007

IN THE FOREST OF REASON, FACT, AND CONTRITION

This is a story about how people tell the truth. The speakers did not deceive anyone so much as they accommodated their world-view. Each employs reason to shape facts so that the person articulating them shows – either tacitly or outright -- both wisdom and contrition for past errors. Only the last one is actually telling the truth as he sees it. That is what matters here.

President Bush is reported in today’s NY Times as now interested in AIDS in Africa as well as the war in Darfur. These are welcome revelations to him. Ruth Bader Ginsburg has at last found her voice in offering dissenting opinions on the abortion and the right of employees to sue for equal pay for equal work that the High Court this week denied them. Previously she preferred to preserve the court’s collegiality. Is it too little, too late? Did her silence delay these decisions or grease the way for them to be made?

Sam Brownback, Senator from my one-time home state of Kansas, offered an editorial on his opinions of evolution. In it he states that:

“The heart of the issue is that we cannot drive a wedge between faith and reason. I believe whole heartedly that there cannot be any contradiction between the two.”

The wedge between reason and faith is fact. Beyond that it is an intellectual necessity. Reason is a tool of seeing what is there. Faith is an emotional method of making it palatable. Brownback goes on to say that, “Man was not an accident and reflects an image and a likeness unique in the created order.”

What that uniqueness might be is almost a total mystery to me, but I would concur that man is not an accident. Humans are a mathematical result of various probabilities. An accident would imply that man was intended to be one thing, but became another.

Man as an accident may be a plausible explanation for many cynics regarding human character. However, to Mr. Brownback that idea is ultimately irrational because it would imply that God made a mistake. To Senator Brownback that is an error that defies the notion of God. To me the error begins with the assumption that conscious intention entered into the process of man’s evolution. It is an unnecessary and blurring complication. A result is simply a fact within the larger context on which it is predicated. Multiplication tables don’t work because they were intended to do so. They simply work.

Senator Clinton goes on saying she would have done things differently had she known what she knows now about the war in Iraq. She continues to straddle the issue of the war by financing it at every opportunity; a position that as we all knows is arguable. What is not defensible is her failure to outright to repudiate the disinformation, origins, aims, prosecution and results of War in Iraq. Perhaps she does not want to look like a fool or an opportunist or both, which she well might. I get the reasoning. But it does not jive with the facts and shows no sign whatever of contrition.

In the June 4 issue of The New Yorker, the author and political leader, G√ľnter Grass, explains in detail his adolescent journey into the Hitler Youth, and his subsequent induction into the SS where he fought a buffoonish, nightmare, losing war against the oncoming Russians for about a week. He never once presents himself as anything but a willing dupe of the Third Reich.

He makes no excuses or apologies for his naiveté, ignorance, stupidity, and skittish sense of self-preservation. He makes clear that even as a teenager buried in Hitler propaganda, nothing gets him off the hook for not being more aware, decisive, and active in opposing the German state. He bumbles, stumbles and sneaks away from the onslaught of the Soviet Tanks (the famous T34s) that entered Berlin in the spring of 1945.

Grass rationalizes his history. He has to in order to form it into a narrative. We all do. He makes no bones that he kept his war secret for a large part of his life. What separates Grass from Bush, Ginsburg, Clinton, and Brownback is that he does not use reason to arrange the facts to his advantage. He was the dupe of criminals and admits it. He has the good grace to be ashamed of it as well. That is the meaning of contrition.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

THE PARTY'S OVER

Many of us have spent the last forty years sending money to what was called the Democratic Party. Yesterday, Mr. Reid led his party to its final resting place in the arms of the Republican hegemony which seems to be approaching a monarchy. We are now all of one mind and arrived there at the precise moment that time limits fell from the discussion of funding the president's war of economic acquiaition in Iraq.

If you send money to the Democratic Party, you are now supporting the aims (however mysterious) of that war.

Steven Hart