The choice of moniker was purposeful. Like the biblical Ezekiel, I am in exile, having left the U. S. in 2005 for Europe. And while I have no special "word from the Lord" as that ancient prophet claimed, I have sat, as he did, watching from a distance as my native land disintegrates step by step.
Now the events of this past week in Washington, D. C. have reminded me of yet another Ezekiel parallel. Like many ancient peoples, the Jews of Ezekiel's time believed that God actually lived in the temple that Solomon had built in Jerusalem. They pictured Yahweh sitting on a throne in the midst of the Holy of Holies, and trusted that God would not allow Jerusalem to be destroyed as long as the Divine Presence remained in that temple.
In the climactic 10th chapter of the book of Ezekiel, the prophet has a vision inspired by the barrage of bad news coming from his homeland. In Ezekiel's typically psychedelic imagery, he sees the Lord get up from the temple throne, mount up on one of Ezekiel's bizarre chariots and ride right on out of town.
Americans' view of themselves and their country is not so different from the ancient Jews' concept of the temple in Jerusalem. America is supposed to be a uniquely free and blessed land where an almost divinely inspired Constitution, housed in a 21st century bullet-proof version of the Holy of Holies, serves as a kind of holy Shekinah guarding the country against tyranny.
Somebody should run and check the National Archives because the Constitution may have sprouted legs and walked right of District of Columbia sometime after 53 Republicans and 12 Democrats voted last night to end an 800 year-old tradition called habeas corpus. No Reichstag decree was required. No soldiers stood in the Senate gallery with rifles pointed to threaten those Senators who might be tempted to oppose rather than endorse dictatorship. The strongest motivation anyone has yet proposed is that the November mid-term elections are coming up.
And so the Spirit that was America has departed. Long ago, it left the White House. Its presence has barely been felt in the halls of Congress for the last six years as illegal wars have been authorized, the trampling of civil liberties condoned, treasuries looted and growing executive power and hubris went unchecked. The brief flickerings that were the Supreme Court's Hamdi and Hamdan decisions have now been completely extinguished by the legislative branch.
From exile in Babylon, Ezekiel looked back at a Jerusalem now bereft of the protecting Spirit of the Lord and saw nothing but disaster looming ahead for his countrymen who had remained behind.
As he put it, the city had become a pot and its people the meat.
In a country where only 34 Senators vote to preserve a citizen's right to a writ of habeas corpus, where Scalia, Thomas, Alito and Roberts are the final arbiters of the Bill of Rights, where Bush is ruler and lord, in such a country as that, it is America that has become the pot and its citizens the meat.
American Stew is the special this week. You can smell it cooking all the way over here in Europe.
If you're ready to jump out of the pot before you're cooked, do two things: view the Flash video "Shelter from the Storm" (a 4-5 minute download with DSL) and read "Why Croatia?"