Saturday, September 26, 2009

the enemy

I remember a story about an interaction Abraham Lincoln had when discussing the need to heal the nation from the wounds of that uncivil war. The pundit reportedly said to him, "Where I'm from, we destroy our enemies." Abe replied, "Do we not destroy our enemies when we forgive them and make them our friends?"

Who is our enemy? I think I finally have a bead on it. And, it's not any of the usual suspects. All the name calling has not really put a finger on it for me. It's not the liberals, the birthers, the terrorists, the commies, Obama Care, socialists, Glen Beck, the liberal media, Washington, Wall Street, China, Afghanistan, North Korea, Iran, or Cuba. (Though no doubt, there are many people in many of those categories who are serious threats to life and limb).

The greatest wound to the fabric of our country was when we fought ourselves. The death count of the (un)Civil War is still higher than all other conflicts combined. 9/11 was nothing compared to 23,000 casualties at Antietam on ONE day; 51,000 at Gettysburg over 3 days.

That was then, this is now? I no longer think so. Three factoids from just a cursory reading of the papers this morning:

1. Wall Street Journal: Florida (my state) and 11 other Southern state legislatures are actively considering bills that say Floridians are not required to follow any Federal law on health care. You might say, "Ridiculous. The constitution is clear. The Civil War settled this issue of states' rights versus federal authority. It is unconstitutional." If you don't get what is going on in the South, then I have this to say: Your daddy ain't from around here, is he?

2. The Washington Post: On September 12th, Bill Sparkman, a 51 year old Eagle Scout was found naked and bound, hanging from his neck in a cemetery in the Daniel Boone National Forest in Kentucky with a sign around his neck: "FED." He was a part time census worker, supporting his family by doing a job mandated by the Constitution, and essential to our representative democracy (among other things, congressional representation based on population). What some Floridians are trying to legislate, others are willing to kill for. (I actually wrote this on Thursday--I see this morning that USA Today is finally reporting this story--really? This wasn't news?).

3. New York Times: There is currently the highest demand in history on bullets (particularly for handguns), and the greatest shortage ever. Bullet makers usually sell more when there are Democratic presidents, afraid that the Dems will try to take their guns away (their spokesman says). Given the two factoids above, this story gave me a shiver. What do we need all the bullets for?

I think I know why we need all the bullets because I have figured out who the enemy is. Someone famously said, "We have met the enemy, and the enemy is us!" WE are the enemy, and we are preparing for war. This is more than the spirited debate of disagreement over policy. Something darker is going on. The financial strains have stirred up deeper dark demons and revealed more dire moral cracks in the foundation. Our excesses are devouring our liberties, and and we are not behaving well in the face of this adversity.

If we want to be safe from "the enemy," what we need most is not more advisors in Afghanistan. We need to destroy the enemy in our midst, by making them our friends. By hanging together. By helping one another. By appealing to "the angels of our better nature," and cleaning out the darkness inside and among us. Where I'm from, we forgive our enemies, and pray for those who mistreat us. Where I am from, the lion will soon lie down with the lamb.

"You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains" (Jesus, Matthew 24:6-8).