Holy writ commands that Christian disciples “honor all men.” It also admonishes them to “honor the king.” These are important principles of faith, but I sometimes find them hard to follow. I want to honor and respect our leaders, but I also believe they should honor and respect me and my neighbors in turn. When leaders fail to live up to their obligations to us, we have the right and the duty to speak out.
The Bible is full of times when people of faith have spoken out. John the Baptist called the leaders of his day, “a brood of snakes and vipers.” The prophet Joel railed against Queen Athaliah, declaring that Judah’s society had been “shriveled beneath the clods” under her leadership. Jesus warned those who would listen not to follow leaders who “tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger.”
Nancy and I didn’t watch the state of the Union address on the 28th. It was our mini-protest. If we had wanted to watch kabuki or Peking opera we would have made more appropriate arrangements for the evening. We opened our I-pad instead. We found the episode of Downton Abbey we had missed on Sunday, plugged the I-pad into our TV, and settled in for an hour or so of really worthwhile viewing.
It’s strange, really. We’ve found ourselves preferring the compelling fiction of Downton Abbey over the reality and spectacle of our national politics. Will John and Anna Bates be able to weather their current storm? Will Mrs. Patmore be able to reconcile herself to the new electric mixing bowl? Will Tom Branson, the Irish firebrand, be able to reconcile himself to life as a member of the Crawley clan? Will Mary Crawley grieve forever? And, what new schemes will Thomas Barrow hatch?
It’s true. We really do prefer Downton Abbey to the pointless political theatre that our state of the Union has become. We’re weary of watching senators and congressmen¸ Democrat and Republican, pop up on cue and applaud. They look like the toilet seats Andy Griffith rigged up in “No Time for Sergeants.” It has become really nauseating.
I didn’t see it, but I read there was only one really compelling moment at the event. Sergeant First Class Cory Remsburg got the honor of sitting in the First Lady’s box. It was his reward for 10 deployments (not two or three or four or five) into combat zones. He bears the scars of that service – blindness in his right eye and the loss of the use of his left arm. As soon as the President uttered the words, “Like the Army he loves, like the America he serves, Sergeant First Class Cory Remsburg never gives up, and he does not quit,” the gallery erupted in one minute and forty-four seconds of spontaneous applause.
The irony was palpable. Sergeant Remsburg had earned the applause, and much more from the nation he has served. Unfortunately, the same political leaders (including the President) who had the temerity to send Sergeant Remsburg into harm’s way ten times had also cut his cost of living adjustments by 1%. A seat of honor next to the First Lady, a few minutes of applause, and a cut in benefits to boot. Some rewards for patriotism and service to the nation, eh? Even the fictional Thomas Barrow could never be that crass.
No, I didn’t watch the state of the Union address. I didn’t need to. I know things are bad – really bad. And more and more of us are seeing it. The President’s approval numbers are under water and the public is tuning him out. Things with our Congress are even worse. They’re at the bottom scavenging with the bullheads, channel cats, carp, drug dealers, and ambulance chasing lawyers.
Things are approaching critical mass. The justice department is bullying nuns and other political opponents. Government agencies are spying on us, for our own good they say. Not long ago, Congress passed the “Stock Act,” to create the illusion they’re also willing to obey insider trading laws like everyone else. Then as soon as the election was over they stripped the law of its power, by “unanimous consent.” When asked why they had changed the law in the dead of night, they told the press that doing so in the light of day would have posed a “national risk” to the people they served. Things have hit rock bottom when legalized theft under the cloak of darkness is considered service to the people.
People see it all and their mood is shifting. They’re more sad than angry. They feel there’s little they can do to turn things around. Peggy Noonan put it this way –“it feels more like grief.” I think she’s right. I’m past anger now. I feel a dirge comin’ on.