History is but a charred carcass from Revelations through Revolutions. To the victors go the spoils of historical revision, and last Thursday our burning Bush roasted up another round.
His inaugural history smoldered with evangelical grandeur: "From the day of our founding, we have proclaimed that every man and woman on this earth has rights … because they bear the image of the maker of heaven and earth."
That old version of history, in which we stole our nation with canons of religious tolerance, must have been tossed upon the pyre. This new version is nicer because it’s all about sharing. I get to share my divine resemblance with Native Americans, slaves and internment campers who all share with me their rights.
Bush claims, "Our duties are defined not by the words I use but by the history we have seen together." This is a peculiar move for rewriting history, especially considering the history we’ve seen together in Iraq and Afghanistan recently.
Appealing to empirical evidence only reveals confusing contradictions. But the words he uses assure us that "America will not impose our own style of government on the unwilling." If I were to rely on the history we’ve seen together, Bush’s gallant words would be lies.
As a pious U.S. citizen, I want only to believe. It just feels so Right. But how am I to pledge my allegiance to Myth if the lies are so ignobly exposed?
"When men observe the world in the light of ideals which they consider sacred and timeless, they tend to develop priests," explained Stuart Chase in his book "The Tyranny of Words."
If we understand that Bush was delivering a sermon, hope is restored for the fulfillment of his ideals. Not only is it useful for priests to lie but it is (historically) necessary. Altar boys across the nation can attest to this.
I’m ready to believe. Armed with faith, we can dispel the smoke screen of politics and decode Bush’s words with The Word.
Father Bush solemnly began, "After the shipwreck of communism came … years of sabbatical and then there came a day of fire." (Apparently China didn’t make it onto Noah’s – I mean – communism’s ship.)
The word "sabbatical" comes from "Sabbath," which is a biblical day of rest. Initially, observance of Sabbath was joyous and not enforced. But as it evolved into a socioeconomic institution, Sabbath became a problem because it was bad for profit. Humans and animals still needed to be fed, though nobody was working. Naturally, conflict arose to restore business as usual.
"Every case of danger of life allows for the suspension of the Sabbath," (Yoma 8:6). In other words, war became a way out of deficit.
This is where the fire comes in.
From the Greek "pur" derives "pyro," as in "pyrotechny" (the first use in English), literally meaning "the technical use of fire" or manufacture of gunpowder and firearms.
In the Bible, fire represents the divine, as can be seen in: "For the Lord your God is a consuming fire," (Deuteronomy 4:24). It is helpful to keep this history in mind as Bush rages, "we have lit … a fire in the minds of men … and one day this untamed fire of freedom will reach the darkest corners of the world."
It strikes me that when Bush says "freedom," he’s talking about "Christian God." The media has dubbed this "the freedom speech." He used the words "freedom, free, liberty" a total of 49 times. Freedom as a word is only an empty abstraction, but Bush deifies it with Christian characteristics.
On his pulpit, freedom becomes a force. The freedom Bush vows to expand is "America’s ideal," "the moral choice … which is eternally right," "the permanent hope of mankind" as well as "an ancient hope that is meant to be fulfilled." Under this God (or shall we persist in naming Him "freedom"?), citizens will find dignity, security, integrity, tolerance and mercy.
It sounds promising. That is, until we recall the vengeful dualism of Christianity and the wrath of "untamed fire." The Revelation of John condemns all non-believers to burn, boil and bubble in the lake of fire. Or simmer?
Bush judges that "whole regions of the world simmer in … tyranny – prone to ideologies that … excuse murder."
Are these regions those "darkest corners of the world"? The Oxford English Dictionary defines tyranny as "cruel, unreasonable or arbitrary use of power or control." Do the words torture, Guantanamo and preemptive correspond here?
Given that, it is all the more baffling that Bush’s policy will have "the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world."
Either our Father is struggling through an existential crisis or he’s not so keen on vocabulary.
Note: For the full-text of Bush’s inauguration speech go to http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2005/01/20050120-1.html#