Saturday, May 06, 2006

A vain show

No Spot today, just his inner human, as the General might say. I have had something running through my head for a while now. It’s the opening baritone solo in the third movement of the Brahms Requiem. In English, it says:
Lord, make me to know the measure of my days on earth, to consider my frailty, that I must perish.

Surely all my days here are an handsbreath to Thee, and my lifetime, is as naught to Thee.

Verily, mankind walketh in a vain show, and their best state is vanity.

It’s from Psalm 34. And it’s about as sobering and humbling a scripture passage as you’ll find. The Psalmists tell us to remember the shortness of our lives and to consider that we spend it too often in vain and self-aggrandizing pursuits. I think author of the Psalm is also trying to warn us against over-reliance on our own capacity to know and to make sound judgments. To show a little humility, in other words.

I think that the United States is walking in a very great vain show right now, especially as it pertains to foreign policy. The country collectively thinks that the projection of military power around the world and achieving global hegemony is the best way to maintain “our way of life” and secure the resources, including especially the fossil fuels necessary to support that way of life. Besides, we know what’s best for everybody: democracy, purple fingers without democratic institutions.

Mona Charen wrote a column this week advising us to take our children to watch “United 93” so they can be properly indoctrinated by seeing “the face of the enemy.” Clifford May has a column (both are in the Star Tribune) wherein he says Islamo-fascist bullies are our problem; that they are intimidating the world. These two are hardly alone.

But nobody in charge around here seems to want to ask the question posed by nutty old Zacarias Moussaoui as he was dragged off in chains: Why do you suppose we hate you so? The answer we are supposed to accept is that the Islamists are just crazy and that there is nothing to be done except kill ‘em all. Kill ‘em all! Kill ‘em all! You can hear the cries echo in the streets.

Is it so believable to think that a large number of people just went off the deep end and set out to kill Westerners? If anyone is so bold as to question that explanation, he is branded as an “America hater.” Maybe, just maybe, it’s more nuanced than that. And questioning your country’s action is an act of love, not hate.

In the Brahms Requiem, the baritone (and the Psalm) continues:
Man passeth away like a shadow, he is disquieted in vain, and he heapeth up riches, and cannot tell who should gather them.

There has been a lot of disquietation and heaping up around here of late. The vain show of our political leaders should give us pause to reflect with a little more of the humility recommended by the Psalmist.


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