In Gaza, Quest for Power Overrides Morality

When people are in positions of protected power, the result is unspeakable suffering on the part of others, with little accountability asked for.

It was Lord Acton who said, “”Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.”

Haven’t we all seen it? Law enforcement officers, in this country and in others, have shown the truth of Acton’s statement.  Too many police in our country are brutes; it seems that, for too many of them, the uniform, badge and gun gives them an inflated sense of themselves. Instead of being protectors, too many of them are predators, preying on the weak, the poor and the disadvantaged. The recent incident involving Eric Garner and New York police is, unfortunately, a prime example of power being used to abuse another human being.  Garner is just one of too many black people who have succumbed to brute power disguising itself as righteousness in the form of law enforcement. Blacks lynched in this country were often taken to their deaths by law enforcement officers who hid behind their badges and guns to do their dirty work.

Today I am wrestling with what is going on in Israel. I am more than disturbed; I am heartbroken that the Palestinian people are suffering at the hands of what Israel calls its soldiers: “the most moral army in the world.” I see no morality at all in what the Israelis are doing to the Palestinian people in their quest to wipe out Hamas.  I know the propaganda: that Hamas brings about the deaths of its own people by housing its weapons in heavily populated areas … but something about decimating women and children at will seems morally corrupt. No. It IS morally corrupt. Israel has a strong army, fueled and funded by the United States; the Palestinians, I read, have no army at all, but, rather, have a militia. The Israelis “warn” the Palestinians when they are going to fire upon them; but the Palestinians have nowhere to go! So, these innocent women and children …and Palestinian men who are NOT part of Hamas, are being gunned down like flies. I am appalled.

Absolute power. It’s absolute power in action. Israel has great power, buoyed by world-wide support. The Palestinian people have little to no such support. They are being forced from their homes, from their neighborhoods…

It feels too familiar. I am an African-American. I know oppression. I know what it is like to live in a country where absolute power has its way economically, politically and socially. It is a tribute to the strength and faith of black people in this land that we have not simple disappeared under the pressure. Theologian James Cone, author of many books but most recently penning The Cross and the Lynching Tree, said in reflections offered at the Proctor Institute of Child Advocacy sponsored by the the Children’s Defense Fund, that he didn’t know how black people have survived the oppression, the cruelty, the brutality, the bullying heaped upon them by white people historically. Power corrupts, clearly. White people in America have used the privilege of being white to trample upon people who built this country…and they have never had to answer for it.

It is what I am seeing, or feeling, as concerns what is going on in Gaza. The Israelis are pummeling the Palestinian people, and too many “leaders” are endorsing and supporting their actions. Yes, Israel has a right to defend itself …but this way? Seriously? Is it a fact that the only way Israel can defend itself against Hamas is by killing innocent Palestinians?

I heard Henry Seigman, a Jewish writer and scholar in this country, say that the conflict could be eliminated if 1) there was the development of two states in Israel (which he thinks is now impossible) or 2) there was the development of one state… with Palestinians being given full rights and full citizenship (of which now they have neither.)  Seigman said that Prime Minister Netanyahu will never agree to one state because he doesn’t want Israel to be such that there are more Arabs than Jews.

So, what? The massacre of the Palestinians continues? When (or if) the tunnels are all destroyed, then what? What will the powerful do as relates to those who have been decimated, dehumanized, and demoralized?

In this country, at least black people had the black church in which and from which to draw strength. We didn’t return fire for fire; we used God as the ultimate weapon. We fought, but not with weapons, because we knew we would never win that way. We saw power; white supremacy was and is our Goliath, and we certainly used “stones of faith” to fling against our oppressors.

Hamas, however, isn’t interested in stones. It wants to fight “man to man,” “missile to missile,” although it seems fairly obvious that such strategy is only resulting in the deaths of more and more Palestinians. Hamas is fighting the way Israel wants them to fight…and in this fight, there is no God, not from either side.

One more thing: the United States, in its quest for retention of power and respect, has shown no morality at all in supplying weapons to Israel with which to carry out its mission. The world is going to hell in a hand-basket, and America is complicit in the journey.

Power corrupts. Lord Acton was correct. In Gaza, the quest for retention of power is on the fast track, and when the race is over, I shudder to think of what will be left of the indigenous people, the Palestinians.

A candid observation …

The Problem with Fathers

I just read something by Fr. Richard Rohr about the sad fact that way too many people are not reconciled with their fathers.

Part of the reason many people find it hard to relate to God as “father,” he said, is because so many people have bad to non-existent relationships with their fathers.  Wrote Rohr: “Many people have had bad experiences with their fathers, and until that’s redeemed and freed, until they experience reconciliation with their fathers, or healing from the wounds of that father relationship, it is very hard, if not impossible, for such people to experience the loving, reconciling fatherhood of God.” (Richard Rohr,The Good News According to Luke, p. 61)

Rohr’s observation made me think about the problem with fathers. Although we in America hear a lot about African-American children not having fathers at home, being raised by single mothers, as I read and observe, it seems that many children, no matter their race or ethnicity, find themselves looking for a real father, a loving, consistent and powerful presence in their lives. It seems that well-to-do children have fathers who are away a lot for “business,” leaving them, effectively, to be raised by a single mother or worse, some caretaker or hired help. It seems that for many, a father in the home has meant seeing mothers being physically and emotionally abused, or the children themselves being physically, emotionally …and too often, sexually abused.  So often, we hear that “daddy was an alcoholic,” and because of that, life was hard and painful. Too often, the story is that “daddy” made promises he did not keep, causing little children to grow up into insecure adults, always wanting good things to happen to them but inherently doubting any promise of “good” for them to become reality. There has been no reconciliation with “daddy.” In many cases, there is a deep desire to pretend that the father didn’t exist. To expect better of a father who has treated, mistreated or ignored his children during their formative years is often too hard for the child, now grown up.

And God is presented, by and large, as a father.

If Rohr is correct, then it means that because so many people are not reconciled with their own fathers, they are not and worse, cannot, be reconciled to God, and to the “good news” that God offers.

I am stretching here, but perhaps the lack of good relationships with fathers is part of the reason America is filled with Christians who are not reconciled with God, and are therefore not reconciled with each other? Could racism and sexism and homophobia exist as entities if we were a nation reconciled with God? Could there be such a history of racial and gender discrimination, of great economic disparity, making an ever-widening chasm between the “haves” and “have-nots” if we were a nation reconciled with God?  Wouldn’t a nation filled with people who are reconciled with God …look different, have different policies, be more characterized by great compassion and forgiveness than is America?

Is the part of the world which says it is Christian, likewise, reconciled with God? I do not know much about what is really going on in the Middle East, but something feels wrong. Yes, Israel has a right to exist, but doesn’t Palestine have that right, too? Are the Palestinian people (not Hamas or any political group, but the people) being treated like human beings who belong to and are precious to God?  People who are reconciled with God, I would presume, see with God’s eyes and see with God’s heart; the child takes on the personality of the father, right? Is the fact that so many of us cannot take on the personality of God mean that our lack of reconciliation with our own fathers is really running our lives and the way we live our lives?

Fr. Rohr quotes the prophet Malachi, who wrote that when children are not reconciled with their fathers, “the land is struck with a curse.” (Mal. 3:24) He says, “When the eldering system breaks down, the male is no longer able to trust or entrust himself to anybody and the female is no longer able to trust the male or entrust herself to the male. At that point, people have a distorted and restricted view of the nature of themselves, one another, and God…This is a sibling society, needing but rejecting all mentoring.” (p. 62)

Is there a “father problem” in America, and in the world? Are there far too many people with bleeding spirits because they did not have a good relationship with their fathers, and are therefore not reconciled with God? If that’s the case, does it matter?

I think so.

A candid observation…