Tuesday, April 20, 2004

The Patriot Act and the Meaning of History

This blog is prompted in part by news reports this morning of efforts being made by President George W. Bush to build support for the renewal of provisions of the "Patriot Act" which are due to expire in the coming year. It is essentially a reply I sent to a friend in an email after he had read and commented on an email I'd sent (hoping to be humorous) of the "Robin Williams Plan for Peace." (If you haven't already received this yourself, here's a link to it; together with a report dispelling its attribution to Mr. Williams.)

It's not easy sometimes to face up to the truth. This is true for each of us personally, as we reflect upon our own lives, and the shortcomings, sins, and wickedness we have expressed in thoughts, words, and deeds. It is also true for us as a nation: it is hard for us to admit our mistakes, and hard for us to admit we are wrong. I have a "joke" that is used from time to time: What are the nine most difficult words to pronounce in the English language? I'll give you the answer in a paragraph or so! My own study of history has given me an unusual (I think) perspective on things; and all the more so as I have tended for years to read history with at least a part of my brain focused, not from an American perspective, but from a Christian understanding of the meaning and purpose of time, and therefore, of history. This is more than "merely" a record of the names and dates of persons and events: it is the development of all things from the beginning of time (Creation) to the end of time itself -- the great and awe-full day of Judgment; when time itself ends, and we move from time into eternity. Underneath all of "history" from the world's point of view is history accomplishing God's purposes, in His accomplishing our salvation. The ultimate end of history is, in one sense, the "ultimate end" of everything; and the establishment of a new heaven and a new earth, in which the redeemed of the Lord dwell with Him without separation, and without end.

It's hard, then, when viewing history (and "history in the making" -- as today's current events become tomorrow's history) from this "from creation to eternity" perspective, and seeking to observe what we can of God's working as can be seen therein, to look at things from the more parochial view of nationalism, whose highest focus and interest is on the "success" and fate of the nation. Among other things, the Bible tells us that the signs of the coming of the end include wars, and rumors of wars; and nations rising against nations; and "famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places." The fact that these have happened before without the "end" coming does not take away from the truth of such signs. The Bible also tells us of another piece of the puzzle that must be in place to indicate that the end is near: the establishment of the kingdom of the anti-Christ, who shall rule the world.

OK, so now I'm starting to sound like a "nut-case of the Apocalypse." But this thought struck me in a profound way after September 11, 2001: what is needed to move people to desire such a government? Is it not, indeed, the reality of wars, and rumors of wars, and the rest of that sentence? Is it not a fear of instability that will lead us to trade freedom for security? The "Patriot Act" is but one step in that direction. It's not so great a leap to see an advancing American hegemony as serving that end as well. I can't find a copy now of an editorial I found in an overseas source before the war began in Iraq; but the columnist -- a supporter of the US efforts in Iraq, and in the war against terror -- openly advocated a radical change in American foreign policy. Stop building coalitions, he said; stop trying to gain the support of others to legitimize what the American government believes should be done. Rather, he proposed that we declare the establishment of the American Empire; and move into the Middle East to stay; and not to put in power a friendly regime, but to rule it ourselves. Here's a thought: now that the one power on earth that was capable (or, at least, so we thought) of resisting our extension of hegemony has vanished (the Soviet Union) -- have we not become the "bully" in the schoolyard of the world, imposing our will simply because we have the power to do so?

The nine most difficult words to say in English are: "I was wrong. I am sorry. Please forgive me." Typically, you hear this from the bully only after he has been caught; and then you are never certain whether his contrition is genuine; or just an attempt to avoid or minimize his punishment.

I have been a critic of American foreign policy for many years; probably since Vietnam. I will be the first to acknowledge that, until after 1972, I had a personal reason to be non-objective about that particular conflict -- from which I was delivered by having a very high number in the draft "lottery" in a year when the number to be taken was low. Since the early 1990's, and our flawed policies in eastern Europe (and especially regarding Serbia), I have become more cynical still. The "Patriot Act" is indeed, I think, a surrendering of liberties granted under the Constitution; and I do not think we will see it reversed in our lifetime. In fact, I suspect that, should the public sentiment become significantly shifted towards that end, we will experience another terrorist attack that will not only lead to new calls for the provisions of the act to be renewed; but that it be expanded as well. The liberties of the American people must be curtailed in order for there to be a one-world government; and we must be persuaded to yield them up. The enemy of our salvation knows this; and will move his servants to accomplish this end. Note, too, that we are increasing our military presence around the perimeter of the Russian homeland, both directly, with bases in "the land of the -stans" (Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, and Afghanistan); and through the admission into NATO of the states of the "cordon sanitaire" and former Warsaw Pact: the Baltics, Poland, Hungary, Czechia, Slovakia, and so on). Let me go paranoid again: Why? Because Russia is the last center of the Orthodox faith, which must be destroyed if the evil one is to gain his success. Remember this: Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean that they're not out to get you...