We interrupt this program to bring you…

I have two excellent guest blogs queued up for my ongoing discussion of charity and Christian responses towards people who panhandle… But given that the topic of #drones is trending at the moment (or ought to be), I thought I would give some air time to Glenn Greenwald, who wrote yesterday that:

…many Democratic partisans and fervent Obama admirers are vapid, unprincipled hacks willing to justify anything and everything when embraced by Obama – including exactly that which they pretended to oppose under George W Bush…

I encourage you to take the time to read his entire article in the Guardian on this issue.  It is an important reminder of the purpose of the U.S. Constitution, and the intent of the Framers of the Constitution in setting up our vaunted “checks and balances,” rooted in their understanding that absolute power corrupts absolutely.

I have been concerned about drones for some time.  While it is in the news at the moment, Greenwald is right to remind us that it is not news in the sense of being new information – the drone program has been reported on briefly in mainstream newspapers since 2009. I have been quite vocal about my concern on Twitter and Facebook, but I have written only a little about it here.  But Greenwald’s reporting on the continued support of erstwhile “liberals” for Obama, even now as he justifies continuing to erode our civil liberties and consolidates more power for himself and his office, has inspired me to speak up.

I have long been appalled by the increasing shift away from liberalism in American politics.  I first noticed it when I was a social work student, just after Clinton dismantled welfare, separating poor women from their children while at the same time increasing their poverty, under the Orwellian label of “welfare reform.”  Five years ago, I had hoped that Obama might interrupt this slide to the right, as the Republicans demand more for the rich and less for the poor and the Democrats chase them to hold their accustomed place just to the left of the Republican position, whatever it may be. Instead, with his attempts at “compromise” and “dialogue,” Obama has accelerated this process.

However, I had even less anticipated the possibility that Obama would carry the torch of American exceptionalism. For 20+ years, it has been the case that Republicans and Democrats are indistinguishable in their embrace of the myth of redemptive violence.*  Unfettered by the end of the cold war, both Republicrats and Demublicans have accelerated the program of American world military domination as fast as our technology will allow us to go. But American politics has now well and truly jumped the shark. “A repudiation of the Magna Carta” is a sadly accurate read of the broad executive powers that people are accepting from Obama who would never have accepted it from Bush. Kill lists, acted on by executively ordered drone strikes? This much power should be opposed no matter whose hands wield it.

Is Obama smarter than Bush? Maybe. But intelligence isn’t a virtue. Somehow, there are those who believe it is possible to call a man “moral” who believes he has sole authority to decide who lives and who dies. At least we cannot consider him moral by any Christian standard.

I have written before about my father’s propensity to rely on what Dr. Mickey Efird has called “The King Jimmy” for disciplinary wisdom in child rearing.  One verse I remember Dad intoning to great effect was this one: “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord.” (Romans 12:19) We can trust no one but God for right judgment, for none but God has such insight into and love for each and every person.

It is so hard to believe now that I first became acquainted with Obama through the pages of Sojourners magazine when he was a Senator, and embarrassingly easy for me to remember how excited I was when he threw his hat in the ring for president. As I believe our last president was famous for saying, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice… won’t be fooled again.”

* The “myth of redemptive violence” refers to the collective cultural story of the need for violence to make us safe or bring peace.  It is a pervasive myth, and not unique to Western culture.  However, it is a myth that is denied by the story of Jesus, who overthrew death and worldly power through love for all, even his enemies.  Modern exemplars of non-violence have further given the lie to this myth of redemptive violence.  Well known examples include Martin Luther King, Jr and Gandhi, but the apartheid regime of South Africa, the surveillance state of East Germany, and the totalitarian rule of the Marcos family in the Philippines were all likewise overthrown with little bloodshed, thanks to coordinated non-violent direct action.

One response

  1. I tend to agree with you Sarah — both Democrats and Republicans seem unwilling to scale back American military might and expansion. The reasoning — I think — is that if America doesn´t use its military force the world will fall into the hands of despots and insurgents, since many of its allies in the west are simply not equipped to defend liberty (militarily that is). My thoughts are that although such reasoning may be true, the other side of the coin is that imperialism and expansion are huge temptations for governments that have the power to engage in such activites.

    That said … I suppose my question(s) would be to what extent must a society go in order to maintain peace and liberty? Is the use of violence ever allowable to achieve these ends? I see your points about, however I would add that in South Africa the ANC (Mandela´s party) did have an armed wing. There was indeed violence being committed by those who in fact wanted freedom from oppression and aparteid policies. In Mandela´s autobiography, when asked why the ANC wasn´t less violent in the expansion of its causes (like Martin Luther King Jr. was in the U.S. during the civil rights movement), he responded by saying that King was operating in a relatively free society (although King hiimself was in jail for a time) and his right to free expression was relatively respected — whereas in South Africa during the time of aparteid it would have been nearly impossible to achieve such goals via a complete stance of non-violence. One could have been tried for treason for simply peacefully marching through Johannesburg or Soweto.

    I share this not to defend violence (on any scale) as a way to achieve one´s political goals, but simply to state such in this example (South Africa) it´s just not true that there was no violence that lead to the eventual end of the aparteid state. Of Cold War Germany and of the Marcos regime in the Philippines as it relates to violence and non-violence … well … I cannot speak since I don´t really know, however I wonder if the Nazi regime could have been overthrown and eliminated without the use of military intervention? Even Dietrich Bonhoeffer (a committed Christian) sided with the use of violence against Hitler himself in order to stop the madness of WWII Germany.

    I guess in closing I can say that I myself am still perplexed by all this.

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