But what about the corporal and spiritual qualities of a more communal, national entity such as that of our own nation, the United States of America?
Corporally, the United States, as a religious body, seems to be doing quite well, no doubt willing to pit the validity of its own static dogma against that of any other nation. As a mere four percent of the worlds population, it has established one of the highest standards of living in the world, at present consuming nearly 35% of the worlds wealth. It has attained the rather fine distinction of becoming the foremost military power the world has ever known, so powerful that it has the capacity to destroy all life on earth several times over.
As in the days of the Roman Empire, it, as well, leads the world in its ability to entertain, no doubt fielding some of the greatest professional and Olympic athletic teams the world has ever seen. Its woman are most beautiful, and its men rather handsome. A people with such an excess of time, such an enormous supply of nonessentials, that it has become a worldwide haven for those who enjoy games of chance, erotic stimulation, and the corpulent pleasure of gorging on the finest of foods.
On the other hand, what about its soul the spirit of our nation, a force so vital that it once enabled our country to stand tall amongst all others in the world; a certain quality that commanded the attention of all; a national charisma that marked us as unique, distinctly different from all other nations in the world; an inner strength that everyone, every single nation, could count on; the shared knowledge that, of all nations in the world, the United States was one of true integrity; a nation willing to share its wealth with those in need; a nation willing to defend those whose rights have been stripped away; a nation willing to take a determined stand for truth, justice, and peace on earth; a nation ready and willing to defend the sacred nature of every human being on earth; a true beacon of light for the whole world to see.
However, realizing that our country has not always lived up to such high standards, that we have made mistakes, no doubt far too many mistakes, we, as a nation, have achieved the reputation of being moderately civilized. Compared with some of the more ruthless regimes; Adolf Hitler of Germany, Joseph Stalin of Russia, Emperor Hirohito of Japan, Pol Pot of Cambodia, and Idi Amin of Uganda, we have, at times, demonstrated a degree of humanity.
However, not to lose perspective, our loss was no doubt quite minimal considering the twelve-year long embargo placed upon Iraq that eventually lead to the deaths of one half million Iraqi children. Rather amazing that so many of our own people (most who refer to themselves as Christians) chose to become so terribly upset about the death of such a meager amount of folks, while nary shedding a tear over the mass execution of perhaps as many as 500,000 Iraqi children!
However, unlike most who would suggest that our country was severely wounded on that day, I beg to disagree. Yes, it is true that we were wounded, but the wound was not severe, and it is clear that we have no doubt fully recovered. The stock market eventually rebounded, and a new improved building will soon take the place of the one that was lost. However, on the spiritual front, there has been no recovery. In fact, far from having recovered, we have regressed. You see the lesser wound was physical. Conversely, the much greater wound was spiritual. The real wound, the spiritual wound, came not from the enemy, but rather from that of our own hand. The spiritual wound was self-inflicted. It was something we chose to do to ourselves. The real wound was not a matter of what the enemy did to us, but rather the way we, as a nation, chose to respond to our enemy; the manner in which we willingly allowed the injured pride of a once great nation to bleed into such hate, to transmute into such a frenzied need to destroy our enemy.
Thus it seems that our nation has become afflicted with a vengeance so virulent that it has turned us into a veritable crowd of beasts, an unruly people so bent upon destroying our enemy that it has become a Sword of Damocles, a pointed blade hanging above our heads ready to strike at the very heart of everything that we, as a nation, once held dear, a weapon so terrible it is poised to deliver the final blow to the one, and perhaps only, thing that we, as Americans, have in common; an ardent desire to maintain freedom and democracy for all. We have seemingly forgotten the old rather prophetic adage that warns: Those who live by the sword are, no doubt, bound to die by the sword!
There was a very good reason why The Messiah taught that we should refrain from hating our enemy, why we should learn to forgive and perhaps even to love our enemy. The reasoning behind such instruction has always been easy to understand. Hate for ones enemy, an eye for an eye/tooth for a tooth approach to life, the natural desire to strike back rather than to turn ones cheek, is at the very heart of evil. Like pouring gasoline onto a fire, it fans the flames of hate and violence. Rather than humility, which requires one to ask what he may have done to cause the other to have become so upset, the arrogance that so often accompanies hate compels one to find a flaw in his enemy (any flaw at all) that might serve to justify his own violence. Something like the messianic parable suggesting that we first remove the plank from our own eye before requesting that our enemy remove the speck from his.
Since that fateful day in September, we have seemingly never looked back. All pride abject arrogance with no shame whatsoever. Never once questioning why so many people around the world have chosen to hate us.
I believe the countrys rather discernible slide into perdition began on December 12, 2000 when George Walker Bush and Richard Bruce (Dick) Cheney were so ardently declared by the United States Supreme Court to be the winners of that falls presidential election. That was bad enough, but much worse was the American populaces decision to re-elect the pair in 2004. Then came the nine-eleven event, an absolute stroke of luck for American fundamentalists (Hooray .. Armageddon and The Rapture are near!), the neoconservatives (the Pearl Harbor they had needed in order to declare war on Iraq), and Osama bin Laden (that led the United States to play right into his most grateful Qutbist-Salafist hands).
Next, there is a series of events that, taken together, may well become known as the Bush-Cheney Affair, or perhaps simply: Bush-gate. First, and foremost, was the rather well-planned, no doubt well-marketed, program of deception and lies, designed to manipulate the citizens, as well as the Congress, of the United States of America to support the massively illegal and immoral invasion of the country of Iraq and all of such originating from a president who promised to bring respect and honor to the Office of the President; Then came the Patriot Act, the beginning of the end of the American peoples 214 year-long struggle to maintain the Bill of Rights, an absolutely wonderful document; Next, the awful realization that the United States government had announced that it had given to itself the audacious authority to preemptively destroy (that is, to destroy without any prior provocation) any country that might be so presumptuous as to simply question Americas apparently preordained right to rule the world; After that, a rather remarkable disclosure that our government had embarked upon the development of an entirely new set of tactical nuclear weapons, in absolute violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty of which the United States had signed, all in order to frighten and, if necessary, to annihilate its enemies; Then the developing realization that the Bush-Cheney administration had orchestrated a rather monstrous accumulation of U.S. debt all in order to accommodate the mounting monetary needs of a multi-nationally dominated military-industrial complex through the provision of tax cuts for the rich (those who happen to own such corporations), cheap foreign labor (otherwise known as outsourcing), a mounting foreign debt (IOUs to countries and corporate enterprises scattered around the world), along with an uncontrollable urge to wage further war (and therefore subsidize the corporate infrastructure needed to fight such wars); The apparent death of a once-free press due to the Bush-Cheney administration having allowed the corporate community to take control of the American news media to the extent that it can no longer fulfill its obligation to tell the people of the world the truth; The absolutely unbelievable disclosure that the United States government (primarily that of George Bush, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld) have decided that our nation would become a culture of death and torture, that we would no longer honor, that we would no longer require ourselves to obey, internationally accepted law forbidding the illegal (and certainly highly immoral) torture its prisoners. And finally, the inevitable unraveling of the Bush-Cheney administrations laundry list of heinous crimes, no doubt having begun with the now infamous indictment of Lewis (Scooter) Libby, The Vice Presidents White House Chief of Staff, and likely ending with an eventual, far overdue, impeachment of George Walker Bush . a president that history will no doubt record as a fervently avowed Christian who, nearly single-handedly, with but a few strokes of the pen, after having so arrogantly declared that he had earned political capital (and by God) he was going to spend it, was able to bring America all the way down to its rather symbolic, and no doubt proverbial, knees!
However, whatever turns out to be the exact sequence of events in the inevitable downfall of the Bush-Cheney administration, far more significant will be the fact that the American republic, as we once knew it, will have ceased to exist. The corporal body of the American republic (barring a catastrophic terrorist attack) will no doubt remain. But the spirit, the constitutional construction of a once great democracy, the democratic freedoms once granted to each and every one of its citizens, will have been lost. And someday such will be nothing more than a distant memory of what perhaps could have been if the American people would have had the wisdom, the moral prudence the spiritual foresight, to realize what had befallen them as the embodied spirit of a once great nation.
Doug Soderstrom, Ph.D. DougSod@wcjc.edu