No sooner did I post my last entry about how my zealous opinions about politics were getting in the way of my passion for peace than my buddy Tony Seton released one of his most insightful SetonNotes ever. Titled "Righteous Anger," it contained some of the pithiest observations I've heard on the subject. It further moved my thinking toward finding ways to prevent or avoid the conflict that now occupies center stage in my daytime thinking.
Here are some of my favorite quotations from Tony's insightful and thought-provoking piece.
"The sooner we begin to defuse our tendency to get angry and cause anger in others, the more space we will leave for joy."
"One can't discount the importance of reducing the level of anger in our world."
"No anger is a great asset when examined in the light of peace."
Thanks, my friend. I am blessed to have you in my life…and your thoughts nagging at my mind.
"If peace mattered more to you than anything else and if you truly knew yourself to be spirit rather than a little me, you would remain nonreactive and absolutely alert when confronted with challenging people or situations." — Eckhart Tolle, "A New Earth," p. 188
This is easily my biggest earthly challenge these days. I believe peace does matter more to me than anything else but when issues of war, peace, politics and the such come up, I tend to move into "I have a need to be right" mode. If I'm asked, "Would you rather be happy or right?" I hesitate. "Can't I be both?" I wonder. Yes, you can, but not always. And when being right fails to bring happiness or peace — or worse yet sows the seeds of conflict and anger and violence — then do I still have a right to choose being right? What about my oblgation to the world as a self-avowed peacemaker?
Heavy questions to ponder.
I was in high school and college during the height of the Cold War. I remember the horror with which those of us who were the liberal thinkers of the day viewed the then Soviet Union for its gulags and fake insane asylums and torture. Such inhumanity was so outrageous to our sensibilities, so over the top, that we scarcely had words to describe our disgust. Of course we didn't actually know that the Soviets did any of that stuff for a while. But then Russian writers started smuggling out the truth that bore a surprisingly strong resemblance to what our own government had been telling us. We were dumbfounded and aghast.
After yesterday's release of the internal CIA study of its torture tactics, I am having difficulty finding words to describe how I feel. My country — once a bastion of civil liberties and human rights — is now at least as despicable in its treatment of other human beings as the old Soviet Union in its heyday.
And what are Bush, Cheney and their underlings saying in response? They don't deny the patently criminal behavior. Instead, they defend and justify it on the grounds that it worked, that it played a key role in keeping America safe after September 11, 2001. As if "it worked" is any kind of defense — legal, moral or rational — for engaging in heinous behavior that violates dozens of international laws and treaties that we have historically demanded be enforced by other nations whose misguided leaders engaged in similar acts.
Never mind the complete absence of any proof that torture worked. The point is that even if you had such evidence, it would not excuse the criminal conduct. "It worked" might be a defense you could raise in a trial but if you break the law for what you think are justifiable reasons, you're not exempt from arrest and trial, only possibly from acquittal or mitigation.
Bush, Cheney and their direct reports who were involved in this activity need to be tried as criminals if we are to avoid perpetuating our growing reputation as amoral bullies and murderers. It really is that simple.