Wednesday, January 19, 2005

MH - A Thought For the Inauguration

Well, the inauguration is tomorrow. I'm sure the President's speech will be adequate, although I like P.J. O'Rourke's version better. And unless something unexpected happens at the last moment, there will be a prayer, and the oath of office will conclude with the phrase "So help me God," despite the best efforts of buffoons like this. (Ah, we must pray for these misguided folks, although frankly I think they overestimate the amount of influence religion has in this country. If only.)

Speaking of which, it's time to play guess the author again. Check out the following quote:

"The decay of deceny in the modern age...the treatment of human beings as things, as the mere instruments of power and ambition, is without doubt the consequence of the decay of the belief in man as something more than an animal animated by highly conditioned reflexes and chemical reactions.

"For, unless man is something more than that, he has no rights that anyone is bound to respect, and there are no limitations upon his conduct which he is bound to obey. This is the forgotten foundation of democracy in the only sense in which democracy is truly valid and of liberty in the only sense in which it can hope to endure. The liberties we talk about defending today were established by men who took their conception of man from the great central religious tradition of Western civilization, and the liberties we inherit can almost certainly not survive the abondonment of that tradition."
Now, if you guessed that this came from Rush Limbaugh, you'd be wrong. Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, or some other right-wing religious zealot? Ditto. Likewise, if you thought this was ripped from yesterday's headlines.

The writer was in fact the famed columnist, Walter Lippman - anything but a conservative. Lippman died in 1974, but the quote above actually appeared in The New York Times of November 25, 1963. Even more amazingly, the quote, cited by James Reston, was something the Times clearly agreed with. Imagine today's Times approving of such things!

I have no idea when Lippman actually wrote it - Reston simply says it was "many years ago." But isn't it amazing how prescient Lippman was, how accurate his forecast? For we have indeed gone far down the road of abandoning our religious traditions, as well as much else that was once seen as the glory of Western civilization. We see our fellow man as an economic tool, a sex instrument, a lump of flesh that doesn't even deserve to be born. He is an inconvenience, one that should be put out of his misery when he becomes sick or old. His creation is to be prevented at any cost, unless we decide to play creator ourselves, to make spare parts. We harvest his cells while still in a test tube, and throw what's left in a trash can. While living in this vale of tears, we abuse, we ridicule, we ignore, we hurt. Self-gratification is the name of the game, and "anything goes" is the rulebook.

At this point it might help to recall the words of the Psalmist in #52: 1-9:

Why do you boast, O mighty man, of mischief done against the godly? All the day you are plotting destruction. Your tongue is like a sharp razor, you worker of treachery. You love evil more than good, and lying more than speaking the truth. [Selah] You love all words that devour, O deceitful tongue. But God will break you down for ever; he will snatch and tear you from your tent; he will uproot you from the land of the living. [Selah] The righteous shall see, and fear, and shall laugh at him, saying, "See the man who would not make God his refuge, but trusted in the abundance of his riches, and sought refuge in his wealth!" But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God. I trust in the steadfast love of God for ever and ever. I will thank thee for ever, because thou hast done it. I will proclaim thy name, for it is good, in the presence of the godly.
Trust in the love of God, indeed. Trust, and remember Lippman's words. The decay of decency. It's happing all around us, but we don't have to help it along. Trust, and pray that the men and women on the steps of the Capitol tomorrow will meditate on such sentiments, as a warning and a lesson, for our own lives and our own times.

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