At any rate, whoever the real terrorists are, they seem to be winning. It’s evident that fear has become the dominant trait, baked into our national character, manifest in our xenophobic bigotry as well as our truckling predilection to bow the knee rather than incur the cost and discomfort of resisting the blatantly delusive designs of the police state. A quiet kind of terror rips through the hearts and minds of Americans, snatching away virtue, compassion, integrity, faith, and love. It isn’t just about Muslims on airliners; it’s the buzz on the street, the force that drives us on through daily life and enslaves us – rather, compels us to dutifully enslave ourselves to every false shepherd – to the unjust magistrate, the employer, the charlatan preacher on television, the lender, all promising to deliver us from evil and give us our daily bread.
This tyranny of fear produces in us – indeed, in the soul of entire nations and generations – the vilest forms of bitterness and contempt, the darkest extremes of human nature: cruelty, hatred, and violence. This is the path along which all the horrors of history were brought to pass. It’s the path we’re on right now, yet knowing this is not enough to turn us aside. We march on. We curse and condemn. And, in the manner with which we judge one another, so are we being judged.
This is hardly some imaginative new sociological theory I just made up. Neither is what I describe a uniquely American phenomenon. It’s just people doing what people do and have always done. Human beings have been maligning one another, kicking each other off trains, planes, and automobiles, enslaving, slaughtering, and setting each other on fire for as long as anyone can remember. It’s wicked and it sucks and it never stops. Despite the irrefutable testimony of recorded history reflecting our ugliness and all it teaches us about ourselves and our kind, we still haven’t managed to rise above our consummate state of depravity – not even a little bit. Nor can we since, to the degree that we’ve advanced in understanding, technology, and global unification, so we have advanced the instruments of our humiliation and totalitarian oppression. On the other hand, we’ll find no lasting relief in avoiding understanding, shunning technology, or in the narrowness of nationalist exceptionalism. We can’t just turn around and work our way back to paradise. We’ve been fruitful and multiplied. We’ve filled the earth and subdued it. Now here we all are spinning around on this rock – far more together than separate when viewed from above. And the truth we would do well to face is that man is not basically good. No, in a nutshell, man is basically screwed.
That’s why our self-righteous efforts to overcome our own savage condition will never succeed. How can we protect ourselves from ourselves by degrading and abusing ourselves? But isn’t this how we function when we violate the basic dignity of others and, on that account, ourselves by imposing our answers to the problem of evil in the world on each other by force? Whether it’s at the hands of Islamic fundamentalists, the Department of Homeland Security, an airline pilot, or SEAL Team Six, the use of violence or threats of violence and other coercive means to arbitrarily control the affairs and prerogatives of others can do nothing to restrain our common affliction. On the contrary, our affliction is never more conspicuous than when we cower under or aspire to rule over one other. Man is unfit to rule himself, much less his fellow man. Neither is the greater part of humankind intrinsically worthy to rule over the lesser part. True liberty isn’t the result of good government conquering evil by force. Freedom is not a grant of the state and to treat it as such by subjugating ourselves to the state is a logical absurdity. Indeed, a free society first requires a free people to build, sustain, and defend it against the state’s inherent lust for power.
Then what is true freedom, and where does it come from? Whatever is the answer, finding it would not entitle us to foist it on each other by compulsion or intimidation (civilized people sometimes call this legislation or regulation). To do so would belie the authenticity of our wisdom and add another exhibit to the body of evidence against us. Sadly, no party is more guilty in this regard than the Christian church. Following the publicity surrounding this story, I feel obliged to respond in some way to the unfortunate sentiments expressed by numerous Christians and reprove my fellow disciples for the heinous part many have played in the broader scene of anti-Islamic persecution and statist idolatry in this age of terror. For me, the discussion can move no further forward without fully acknowledging this painful truth.
Note: I’m stepping off the reservation now. What follows isn’t entirely unrelated and, for me, it informs the entire discourse concerning the criminal assault of the air transportation police state, etc. But I think it’s only fair to let you know that I’m going to talk about Jesus and the Bible and stuff now. I hope you’ll keep reading, but if it’s going to make you feel all wiggity or whatever you may want to bail out here.