Friday, February 08, 2008

It's Time to be Creatively Maladjusted

My newsletter article this week:

Something remarkable happened on Tuesday. It wasn't the events of Super Tuesday, although the caucus in Minnesota was pretty amazing in its own right. No, I am talking about the Tuesday admission by the Bush Administration that they have in fact used torture as a means of extracting evidence from suspected terrorists.

It appears that the news first slipped out a few days before so they decided they might as well fess up. Appearing before a Congressional Committee CIA Director Michael Hayden admitted that waterboarding had been used on three terrorism suspects. He assured the committee that it had been done only in this narrow window after 9/11 when there was a great fear of more immanent attacks. But he would also not rule out the possibility that it might be used again.

Since then the Administration has been conducting a PR offensive to suggest that although waterboarding might be considered as torture by the Geneva Conventions and by current US law (and by Republican frontrunner for President John McCain who has flatly stated that it is torture), if the Attorney General of the United States rules that it is lawful to be used in certain extraordinary circumstances, then no harm has been done and no law has been broken. We can trust our leaders.

It is a dangerous argument in its own right. But I think it is important that we see it is part of a larger narrative that we been fed for the past 6 years, a narrative that reminds us again and again that we were attacked by terrorists on 9/11 and at any moment it could happen again. We should be afraid, perpetually afraid. And we should not wait for that attack to come but take the battle to the terrorists wherever they are, and they could be, and are, everywhere. It follows, then, from this frightening fact that the enemy is widely dispersed and hard to find that we are going to need to be in a war with no end in sight, a war that will require an enormous proportion of our nation's resources to be devoted to the military; other pressing needs will have to take a back seat. This endless war will also require periodic suspensions of civil liberties, like illegal wiretapping, and violations of the law, like the use of torture. But it will all be done by our government which is made up of good people we elected to office, and it will serve the larger cause of protecting our American way of life. So we can feel OK about it.

A carefully thought out and concerted effort is being made to get us adjusted to a way of life that sounds like it was taken right out of George Orwell's novel 1984. "Reasonable," "deep-thinking" men who see the world "as it really is" are suggesting to us that perpetual fear, endless war, illegal wire-tapping, and torture are respectable and normal.

I strongly suggest that we must not become adjusted to this way of life. I offer as support these words from Martin Luther King , Jr., talking about the need to be "creatively maladjusted":
Everybody passionately seeks to be well-adjusted. But there are some things in our world to which (those) of goodwill must be maladjusted. I confess that I never intend to become adjusted to the evils of segregation and the crippling effects of discrimination, to the moral degeneracy of religious bigotry and the corroding effects of narrow sectarianism, to economic conditions that deprive (people) of work and food, and to the insanities of militarism and the self- defeating effects of physical violence.

Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted.

We must make a choice. Will we continue to march to the drumbeat of conformity and respectability, or will we, listening to the beat of a more distant drum, move to its echoing sounds? Will we march only to the music of time, or will we, risking criticism and abuse, march to the soulsaving music of eternity?
The time and the issues are different. But our task, our calling, remains the same: to be a creatively maladjusted people. This is the very definition of a healthy church.

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