Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Nice decent folk just don't like thinking about this

What's this? Evil. Cloaked and hidden behind euphemisms and behind manicured flower beds. Like at Auschwitz, where the Nazis prison administrators had tidy, well-maintained homes outside the prison walls. Like in Germany, where work-a-day citizens avoided asking too many questions when they heard about trains of Jews being sent to Dachau, Buchenwald, etc. There is one story in particular I find gut-wrenching, about a church somewhere in Germany besides a railroad line, where the gathered worshippers on Sundays, to their shame, sang hymns loudly to drown out the screams of Jews in the cattle cars being trundled off to their deaths.

Hannah Arendt spoke of the "banality of evil" -- of how evil is cloaked by the banality behind which it can be hidden, maintaining a veil and illusion of ordinariness and decency. Another atrocity that has been compared to the Jewish Holocaust, and one that nice decent folk equally don't like thinking about, because it can be so easily "contained" by keeping it behind the tidy landscaping of clean, well-lit, welcoming clinics, is abortion. Around 4000 babies a day. That's what they say is the average per day in the United States alone: 4000 aborted babies. But of course this is merely one of those many "single issues" obsessed upon by "single-issue voters" that can easily be swept aside as we focus on more urgent matters like mortgages and stock markets and the price of oil.

So all of you good, fine and decent folk who plan to vote for the terminally-nice Mr. Obama this year, just a word of advice: try to avoid thinking about all this negativism. Like those good German parishioners who sung more loudly to drown out the screaming, avoid this at all costs. I'm warning you: do not, for example, see this video: "Kill and Destroy." Like I said: don't even think about it. Let life just go on. It will: for you. Not much may significantly change. For a while. You'll enjoy Mr. Obama's winning energy and smile. For a while. But trust me: the worship or Moloch has its price. Judgment will come. Whatever you do, don't read Walker Percy's Thanatos Syndrome.

I think, too, of Pascal's words in his Pensees, where he wrote that human beings, finding themselves unable to cure death, ignorance and wretchedness, "have decided, in order to be happy, not to think about such things." Maybe this is why political discourse no longer seems capable of seriously engaging real, political issues, instead contenting itself with image and spin and opinion polls.

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