Martin LeFevre: Is The Devil In The White House?
Is The Devil In The White House?
I’m no fan of Hugo Chavez. He has all the earmarks of a demagogue, and has repressed dissent in Venezuela. But his UN performance, mixing theater with truth, was astounding. Delivering a line with panache that will go down in the annals of history, he said, “Yesterday the devil came right here, and it still smells of sulfur today.”
Making the sign of the cross with perfect timing as nervous laughter and sustained applause, rippled through the UN chamber, his words seemed like a perfect example of hyperbole. That is, until he earnestly repeated his accusation in New York the next day. "Sometimes the devil takes the form of people," Chavez told hundreds of supporters at a church in Harlem. Obviously he really believes it, but is there any truth to his declaration of presidential devil possession?
To even consider such a question is crazy to most people in the United States. As one of America’s leading comedians, Jon Stewart, said on ‘The Daily Show,’ “when you call Bush the devil, it brings discredit on those who would oppose the man’s policies while not necessarily being [bleep] insane.” However, given the continuing apoplectic reactions in the American media, Chavez is crazy like a fox.
While in New York, Chavez also increased his heating oil program for the poor in America from 40 to 100 million gallons, an 'in your face' political act if there ever was one. Chavez hates Bush because he believes, with reason, that the Bush Administration tried to overthrow him in the failed coup of 2002. He’s emboldened by sitting atop the world’s largest oil reserves, while, ironically, the United States’ “addiction to oil” (in Bush’s words) continues to fund Chavez’ social programs, even as he whips up fear (sound familiar?) of a US invasion.
Whether one is a well-intentioned Christian believer on the Right, or a well-intentioned agnostic or atheist (yes, atheists often are well-intentioned people) on the Left, continuing to see the world in terms of the two-dimensional reality of Right/Left politics puts you in bed with some unsavory bedfellows.
Though most would not call Bush the devil, many people, at home and abroad, agree with Chavez that evil rules in America at present. When asked to comment on Chavez’ invective, the President of Chile said she would express herself in a different way. CNN’s founder, Ted Turner (a.k.a. “the mouth”) was uncharacteristically diplomatic, saying, “The UN gives people the chance to let off steam.” These are non-denunciation denunciations, implying implicit agreement with Chavez.
One of philosophy’s most intractable problems is the nature and operation of evil. Lacking a satisfactory explanation for its origin and purpose, evil continues to be fertile ground for religionists, or psychologized away by secularists. However neither approach is adequate, much less working to stem the tide.
Ironically, the man who made the sign of the cross at the UN, affirming his belief in the supernatural, used a book by a dyed-in-the-wool secularist to support his charge of devil possession by Bush. Noam Chomsky attributes evil to the system, not to human nature, the human condition, or human consciousness. He would certainly disagree with Chavez’ characterization of demonic possession of the President of the USA.
Evil exists, but does the devil exist? If so, is it a byproduct of human consciousness, or does it have non-human origins? If human in origin, can the devil take possession of a person?
Though it violates the canon law of individualism to even ask such questions, they are valid, not irrational, given the evil that the Bush Administration, in concert with Islamic extremists, has unleashed in the world.
The Bush Administration willfully opened the gates of hell in Iraq, and Bush continues to believe that the death and destruction America unleashed there is justified, repeating ad nauseam “we fight the terrorists there so we don’t have to fight them here.” In actuality, Iraq is the mirror image of the hellish place America has become.
The sticking point on the question of evil is intentionality. Most non-religious people will reluctantly acknowledge that evil exists, but they deny intentionality to it, to anything other than the individual.
But evil is a latent or explicit manifestation of the darkness of collective consciousness. Just as when a person surrenders his or her individual autonomy and becomes part of a mob, evil can and does flourish when numbness, conformity, and fear overtake people. That’s what has happened in America, and it gave rise to the evil of the Bush Administration.
The devil’s own does not become president of the most ‘free’ and powerful country in the world without a large base. Bush’s base is not just the Right-wing extremists (what used to be far Right has become middle of the road here), but results from a far wider dormancy, indeed deadness in the American people. America has become a nation of conduits for collective darkness, and Bush is but conduit in chief.
- Martin LeFevre is a contemplative, and
non-academic religious and political philosopher. He has
been publishing in North America, Latin America, Africa, and
Europe (and now New Zealand) for 20 years. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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