It’s official: Friday’s \New York Times\ lead editorial said President Bush’s Thursday anti-terrorism speech to the National Endowment for Democracy “suggested an avoidance of today’s reality that seemed downright frightening.”
There is irony here, of course: Bush’s speech was an act of rhetorical terrorism, designed to scare all of us deeply enough to place our faith in his world-view: we are facing pure evil that can only be overcome through annihilation. The pivotal point of his speech sounded eerily like a tag-line for an alien invaders film: “In fact,” Mr. Bush said, “we’re not facing a set of grievances that can be soothed and addressed. We’re facing a radical ideology with unalterable objectives: to enslave whole nations and intimidate the world. No act of ours invited the rage of the killers, and no concession, bribe or act of appeasement would change or limit their plans for murder.” But his speech backfired, making many of us even more frightened of him, of his belligerent zeal.
President Bush also said this: “The radicals exploit local conflicts to build a culture of victimization in which someone else is always to blame and violence is always the solution.” He characterized the radical movement this way: “Its leaders pretend to be in an aggrieved party, representing the powerless against imperial enemies. In truth, they have endless ambitions of imperial domination and they wish to make everyone powerless except themselves.”
Increasingly, people report that President Bush’s intransigence–his determination to stick to the same program and repeat the same words, regardless of public response, to anoint his cronies, regardless of the consequences–is driven by a sense of divine mission. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you may recall my writing on 15 August about a great class I took this summer in how to be an intercessor, a spiritual technology involving prayer, negotiation and healing action by one who “stands in the breach” between worlds, trying to help. (Click here and scroll down to August 15th to read more.) Members of the class were wary, knowing that many thoughts appear in our minds, sometimes arising from fear or jealousy, or perhaps emanating from darker sources outside ourselves. “How do you know the voice you hear is holy?” one asked. Ruth Gan Kagan, our wonderful teacher, answered this way: “The message will be enveloped in love and compassion.” If it scares you or if you are counseled to violate fundamental moral or ethical precepts, the voice should not be trusted.
“Throughout history,” President Bush said on Thursday, “tyrants and would-be tyrants have always claimed that murder is justified to serve their grand vision. And they end up alienating decent people across the globe.” Proverbs 26:27 comes in handy here: “Whoever digs a pit will fall into it.” The President, mired in error, is talking about himself.
Terrorist threats are very real. I do not imagine that Osama bin Laden wants to be my friend. But it seems equally deranged to believe, after so much contrary evidence, after the spilling of so much innocent blood, that the war-loving actions of George W. Bush will do anything to diminish those threats. It is frightening to have this dangerous person at our national helm. When I see his eyes flash with the zeal of the true believer, when I see that crazed, off-center smile–just as when I encounter the fervent fanaticism of the terrorists–I fear for our lives.