Patriot Day 2011 - I've been sitting here this morning watching the coverage of the sad reminder of the first attack by an alien force on the sovereign territory of the United States since Pearl Harbor. I spent 13 years in the military, in service to my homeland. I had an odd journey through the military, beginning as an enlisted infantryman in my state's National Guard, going on to Officer Candidate School (OCS) and a commission in the Infantry. After 5 years, I had the opportunity to move to the Army Reserve in a teaching position, then after my full 6 years were up, into the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR). But I wasn't done, I wanted a tour in the Regular Army, so I again enlisted rather than seeking to have my commission reinstated because I wanted to choose where I went and what I did. Young officers usually have no choice in the matter, but because of enlistment guarantees, and a generous bonus, I was allowed to choose my first duty station as an enlistee. Throughout my career, I raised my right hand and swore to protect the United States from all enemies, foreign and domestic, a total of 5 times, and I still hold myself to that sacred oath.
And that's what I was thinking about this morning as I watched the sun rise over Manhattan. We're faced with threats from without and threats from within. At least the external threats are known: Al Qaeda, the Taliban, others who wish harm on our citizens. The internal threats are far harder to sound because they come from us, from the body America.
But we can, if we remove the blinders from our eyes which prevent us from seeing the immediate and familiar, suss out the cancer which gnaws us root and bone. It can be a challenge, an agony, because the enemy, we're told, should be our paradigm. Our internal national enemy is the disparity between the super rich and the rest of us.
Greed in any form is bad. Amazingly though, we've been told that it's good to be greedy. It's a noble purpose to seek wealth. Increasingly we're told that charity is bad. During the GOP Presidential debate, last week, several candidates came right out and said that we need to cut off assistance to those who need it, that charity causes poverty. Jesus said that, right? One would imagine that he did, or at least these characters think so, since each and every one claims to be a staunch Christian, to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ, and to accept him as their personal savior. Or were they lying for the sake of political expediency?
I was reared as a Jehovah's Witness. Trust me, it's a cult, regardless that they protest to the contrary. But one thing that you can't take away from them - they study the bible. Evangelicals and other Christian Fundamentalists claim that Witnesses don't use the right bible, but the fact is that the Jehovah's Witness' 'New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures', the bible that they had translated using the newly-found Rosetta Stone as a translation guide, something that all other bible translators are now doing, is a much more accurate translation than the problematic King James Version.
Growing up in that religion, I read the bible. Actually read it twice from cover to cover, and probably a third and fourth time by chapter and verse. Jehovah's Witnesses read their bible regularly, they read it to understand it and not just be able to quote by rote. They have certainly misinterpreted it, but it is a modern translation in modern English and any reader should be able to understand it clearly, unlike the poorly translated KJV.
Having read it and studied it, even though today I am an atheist, I have a pretty good grasp of what it was that Jesus was trying to teach his disciples. Recurring themes were love, forgiveness, and charity. Nowhere I read of his teachings did it mention greed, wealth, or revenge, but you wouldn't know it from his modern followers. In fact, greed, wealth, and revenge seem to be their bywords, their mantra, their New Ideal. I can't purport to know why his followers have missed the message, but I have some ideas.
First and foremost is ignorance. Agreed, I'm rusty on the bible's specifics today, even though I still get the general gist. But so many who claim Jesus as their savior haven't really bothered to read his teachings. Instead, they keep a bible by their bed and they read a few passages late at night after they're already drowsy, they take them out of context because they don't bother to read entire stories or chapters and they soon forget the morals of the stories if indeed they even understood them anyway. It's alarming how many think that popular sayings like 'A penny saved is a penny earned' come from the bible rather than from popular folklore. So I suppose it should be no surprise that these people sit in a building at least once a week and listen to their religious leaders tell them what to think. It's the very definition of propaganda. Tell a story (or lie), keep telling it, keep swearing to its truth, and if anyone should question you about it, scream it...because SCREAMING ALWAYS PROVES YOUR VERACITY...RIGHT?
Of course not. But it's a tool they use. And that's part of my second point - propaganda. Adolf Hitler and his henchman Joseph Goebbels, his Reich Minister of Propaganda, were masters of the Big Lie. They believed that for a lie to be believable, it needs to be a big lie, it needs to be repeated, and it needs to grossly distort the truth.