Monday, June 8, 2009

The Power Of No

Dear Children:

My lazy Sunday afternoon was rocked recently by a story in the New York Times with the headline: “Reluctantly, Sufis Answer A Call To Arms In Somalia”.

You may know the Sufis. They practice of mystical form of Islam that honors tolerance and a personal relationship with God. It takes a lot to get them mad. The warlords of that benighted land fight over real estate and property without regard for human life, livestock and crops as if they still lived in the time of Tamujin or Attilla. The Sufis are catching a big part of the collateral damage.

More recently, there are stories coming out of Afghanistan and Pakistan where the locals are taking matters into their own hands. Peoples of the Swat Valley and in Upper Dir known for their fierce regard for hospitality and who have been at peace with all others since the early days of the British Raj have formed militias to end Taliban thuggery.

One thinks also of Dietrich Bonheoffer, a wunderkind theologian and pacifist in both Weimar Germany and The United States in the 1930s. He too took up arms against an oppressor in the form of Nazism and condoned an assassination plot against the duly-elected Chancellor, Adolph Hitler.

I bring this matter up at this time to say that our better natures and otherwise loathsome actions can sometimes coexist. It’s unstable ground to navigate, though. What is the difference between a righteous uprising and a vigilante committee, for instance? Who appointed The Rev. Dr. Bonheoffer judge and jury? When innocents die righting a wrong, who answers for their deaths? Is history spun by the victors of a conflict leaving truth as just one more victim? Is there a crime so great as to justify the employment of another crime? Is there a bright line between evil and indifference?

Good question. I don’t know the answer. People feel strongly. We’re passionate creatures. The man who murdered the family planning physician recently exhibits no remorse. He’s real clear he’s doing the Lord’s work.

Me? I think he’s the worst sort of criminal much on the order of Che Guevara who employed the flimsiest of reasons to justify murder. Still, the guy is secure in his righteous anger and will not be dissuaded.

Know this for sure: Whenever you say no and are prepared to back it up with unpleasant scuffling, sorting out the aftermath will be messy.

But wait boys and girls, the aftermath of indifference and apathy is just as messy. You can’t get by unscathed no matter what.

If you pay attention to anything I say, pay attention to this: Be a thinker. Know what you are doing and why. Know the possible outcome. Know that once you do a thing, it’s done. Know there will be consequences whether good or bad. Accept those consequences. They’re yours.

Still, you’re not excused from making informed decisions and acting on them. Just like those Sufis, those Pashtu and the cabal around Herr Bonheoffer made decisions and stuck around to watch them play out; you are privileged to participate in a principled and meaningful life. It’s really the only satisfying way to live.

I’m just sayin’

Much Love,