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Giving Thanks? Yes, Thanking God that I'm Not Like Them!

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While immersing myself in Russian literature during the 1970s, I was struck by the age-old Russian tradition of "kissing the earth." Russian women would kiss the earth as prisoners commenced their long trek into Siberian exile. Not only were they acknowledging the first step in the prisoners' redemption, but also acknowledging: "there, but for the grace of God, go I." Also implicit in their actions was the recognition that they were, in a small way, complicit in the prisoner's transgressions.

Dostoyevsky's famous anti-hero, Raskolnikov, -- having separated himself from the human family by committing murder -- eventually kissed the earth in belated recognition of his kinship with other human beings.

There, but for the grace of God, go I: Atlantic City today is reeling from the news that it might have a serial killer on its hands. The bodies of four women, placed so that their heads faced Atlantic City, were found behind a group of "seedy" West Atlantic City motels.

It's the type of story that would have set Dostoyevsky's mind reeling. He would marvel at the arrogant depravity or mental illness required to snuff out the life of a fellow human being - the possessor of an immortal soul. I thank God I'm not such a depraved, sick murderer.

There. But for the grace of God, go I: Randy Burbage is commander of the South Carolina division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. Mr. Burbage intends to file a legal suit against the NCAA, because it prohibits any championship events being played in South Carolina, so long as the Confederate flag flies on the grounds of the state capitol. The NCAA's position sounds fair to me.

But, according to Burbage: The NCAA has "no business getting involved in the politics of this or any other state." Ahhh, yes, the good old "state's rights" canard - first used to disguise slavery, then Jim Crow, then the Republican's "Southern strategy."

Too many people in the South have failed to repent for the abomination of slavery and Jim Crow. Not only did many a preacher and pastor defend slavery during the Civil War, many Christian fundamentalists today extol General Stonewall Jackson as the "Soldier of the Cross."

Thus, shame, not pride, should fill the hearts of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. But, for the grace of God, they might have been Nazi soldiers, fighting for a regime devoted to exterminating the Jews. Yet, their cause was equally repugnant. I've spent most of my career in the U.S. Government promoting equal opportunity and the understanding of other cultures. I thank God I was not born in the South or raised a racist.

There, but for the grace of God, go I: The United Nations reported yesterday that 3,709 Iraqi civilians were killed in October. It's the highest monthly death toll, since the depraved men in the White House, President Bush and Vice President Cheney, launched a war of choice - seemingly on a desperate whim. Flawed, weak and sinful characters both, they had to respond in some way, any way, for their demonstrably poor stewardship demonstrated by the al Qaeda attacks they failed to prevent.

"To whom much is given, much is expected."- Luke 12:48. Obviously Luke set the bar way too high for these immoral, incompetent clowns. Bush and Cheney may have received much in life, but most Americans today expect very little from them, They're in over their heads and they refuse to check the real world outside their vacuum-packed bubble.

They will go down in history as fools, incompetents, and evil men, who, on a desperate whim, unleashed Saddam-like death and destruction in Iraq, destabilized the entire Middle East and earned the hatred of the world. Thus, although I envy the exalted positions they were given, I thank God today, on Thanksgiving Day, that I am not them.

There, but for the grace of God, go I.
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Walter C. Uhler is an independent scholar and freelance writer whose work has been published in numerous publications, including The Nation, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the Journal of Military History, the Moscow Times and the San (more...)
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