13 01 2018


Does the end ever justify the means?  Is it ever okay to say or do things that are morally or ethically wrong to achieve a goal deemed as “right”?

I’ve spent the last few years in open-mouthed dismay at the political goings-on in our country.  I’ve heard good people—family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers, all well-respected, big-hearted folk who serve our community with their time and talents—support the current administration.  Bewildered, I’ve listened to their rationale, trying to understand where they are coming from, hoping to piece together the jagged edges of a polarized people.

I understand more about the frustration felt by conservative Americans that led to the Trump presidency:  years of self-serving leaders, dead-end appeasements, and political correctness.  I’ve had devout Christians tell me in so many words to “pull up my big-girl panties and get over it,” to stop being offended by words meant to downgrade other people.

But “words mean things.” These words were spoken by Rush Limbaugh on his radio show in 1994, and are often repeated, as #34 of his 35 Undeniable Truths. Although I disagree with much of what he says, Rush did get this right.  Words do have meanings.  The pen (dare I say, “tweet”) is mightier than the sword.  Words hurt, far more than sticks and stones.  Words convey intent, motivation, and power.  We teach this to our children, yet we excuse it from our highest elected office.  How can our country maintain our footing on high moral ground while our chief diplomat insults entire continents with gutter talk?  Diplomacy begins with respecting all peoples, and diplomacy is conveyed by communications, private and public, both in-house and in the world at large.

I’ve listened to many Conservatives who shake their heads in embarrassment at these doings, but still support this presidency.  “He’s just saying what everyone else is thinking,”  they say. “He’s doing the hard stuff that no one else had the guts to do.”  “Just take away his cell phone, don’t let him tweet.”  While that may quiet the controversy, the hatred remains. We cannot let this ugliness infiltrate our country.  This is not us.

The problems of immigration are beyond my scant understanding, but I do know we are a nation of immigrants and stronger for it.  And I do know that it is our moral, ethical, and Biblical imperative to love our neighbors as ourselves, helping those who can’t help themselves.  How best to do this is a question I struggle with daily and one that as a nation we need to come to grips with.  I believe we can, we must, do this in a way that is morally right.

My father fought, one of millions, in a war to free Europe and our world of an evil empire that derived power from the oppression of people groups seen as sub-human.  His involvement has inspired in me a life-long interest—some would say obsession—in the history of World War II.  In my current read, Crimes of War: Guilt and Denial in the Twentieth Century, Jan Philipp Reemtsma says, “A public debate about war crimes is always a debate about the whole society’s moral standards—what we are, what we want to be, how we want to look, and how we really look.”

No war crimes here, but still the questions give pause:  How do we want to look to the world?  How do we really look?  Does the end justify the means?  Who are we, America? And what are we going to do about it?