The Fight for Ideas, The Fight for Survival

So I went outside for a couple of days, attacking a weed-infested garden tract in my backyard, and allergies rose up and hammered me toward a sinus infection, which I’m currently refusing to bow to. Perhaps it’s an appropriate penance for the sin of neglecting this nice little piece of ground that could be used to actually grow something either functional or beautiful if I’d put a little thought and effort into it.

So now I’m back inside, drinking lots of fluids, and reading through articles dealing with politics, economics, spending cuts and revenue increases and debt ceilings, and wondering who in the world really knows how all this works?   I’m a guy that reads on the right and the left and I find a lot of commonality in what I read.  Not a commonality of ideas, but of emotion and tone.   Lots of anger out there, lots of name-calling and shaming, lots of rolling of the eyes at the ideas the other guy has, and lots of prejudice and fear.   Could it really be any other way?   What the world needs now is love, sweet love, but I blogged yesterday about the various ways that word can be used.  Utopian dreams of everybody just getting along seem to me to be ideals that really ignore what both personal history and the history of nations demonstrate–namely, that we are people quite capable and willing to do whatever is necessary to have what we want.   Depending on your religion, we are sinners, out of balance, out of alignment, ignorant, broken, or not as far down the evolutionary path as we should be or will be.

In other words, something is wrong with us.   By us, I mean everybody, all around the planet, in every culture, in every nook and cranny of human existence.

To some degree that is a statement of faith, simply because I haven’t been in all the nooks and crannies, but even with the advent of the internet, I’m not seeing anything that would lead to me to believe there’s anywhere on the planet where the “something-is-wrong-with-us” isn’t a big part of the equation.

Ideas and battles.   Yesterday I caught the end of Glory, the great ’90s film about the 54th Massachusetts in the Civil War, the first black Union regiment to see significant action and prove to President Lincoln and everyone else that black soldiers were perfectly capable and willing warriors.   As I watched that great final scene, it occurred to me again that in the moment of battle, the emphasis shifts from the ideas the battle is about to the need to survive and win.   It seems to me that political discourse that I read and watch and experience has the pitch and tone not of reasoned discourse, but of trench warfare, where survival by whatever means necessary the goal.    We start with laudable ideas of service to humanity, and end up slugging it out in a ditch.

No surprises, I guess.   We shoot down, imprison, and crucify those think it should be otherwise.

But ideas matter, and freedom is sweet.   On this July 4th, I don’t really have a point to make, but I’ll just say this.  I am both extremely grateful for the battles that have been fought so that this life can be lived so freely in this place, and I am sad that we are as broken as we are.   Who will save us from this body of death?

No matter who you are, that question posed by the Apostle Paul is the question all humanity faces all the time.   Who will save us, answer the questions, find the remedies, provide the guidance, straighten the paths, and calm the wars?

As we stand before the big questions of the day, I just think a little humility is needed…

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