Don’t usually comment much directly on politics, and I must confess I’m following the political stumping during this election season as much as I managed to follow the London Olympics.
I have, however, through this summer been reading through David McCullough’s John Adams. Having watched the HBO miniseries a few times, I thought it was time to read the book. I’m thinking it would be an excellent text for a government class. Anyway, to the point. Came across this wonderful snippet from Adams later in his life from his correspondance with his dear friend Benjamin Rush during a time when he “dwelt much on ideas.” So here I’ll venture a wee political morsel:
Our electioneering racers have started for the prize. Such a whipping and spurring and huzzaing! Oh what rare sport it will be! Through thick and thin, through mire and dirt, through bogs and fens and sloughs, dashing and splashing and crying out, the devil take the hindmost.
How long will it be possible that honor, truth, or virtue should be respected among a people who are engaged in such a quick and perpetual succession of such profligate collisions and conflicts?
And whilst on a roll here with Mr. Adams, here is another:
Is the present state of the national republic enough? Is virtue the principle of our government? Is honor? Or is ambition and avarice, adulation, baseness, covetousness, the thirst for riches, indifference concerning the means of rising and enriching, the contempt of principle, the spirit of party and of faction the motive and principle that governs?
And why not – a third, writing to Mr. Rush (someone evidently of a different temper than the contemporary Rush that we know) about his worries about the future and sham of the political scene:
My friend! Our country is a masquerade! No party, no man dares to avow his real sentiments. All is disguise, vizard, cloak.
Remember that all this was composed circa 1812 by the one regarded by many of his time, at least, as the mind of the Revolution. I am struck by how his comments form a quite effective two-edged sword, cutting both ways. When one side of our factious political field would wield it against the other, they merely end up gashing their own political flesh. So I wonder. Just how well do we listen to our “founding fathers”?
There, I ventured.
And having ventured, let me venture one more ancient muse from David’s pen, voice through a version I have likewise been much enjoying through the summer – The Inclusive Bible (it reads aloud wonderfully ). The psalm (Psalm 1, actually) seems to apply well as commentary for our current political culture and society:
Happiness comes to those
who reject the path of violence,
who refuse to associate with criminals
or even to sit with those who belittle others.
Happiness comes to those who delight in the Law of YHWH
and meditate on it day and night.
They’re like trees planted by flowing waters –
they bear fruit in every season,
and their leaves never wither:
everything they do will prosper.
But not wrongdoers!
They’re like chaff that the wind blows away.
They won’t have a taproot to anchor them
when judgment comes,
nor will corrupt individuals be given a place
at the Gathering of the Just.
YHWH watches over the steps
of those who do justice;
but those on a path of violence and injustice
will find themselves irretrievably lost.
There, I ventured again…