Tom's Thoughts

Location: Granite Falls, North Carolina, United States

I'm an ordained United Methodist minister no longer pastoring churches, a former media producer with skills ten years out of date, a writer trying to sell my first novel, and a sales associate keeping body and soul together working for the People's Republic of Corporate America. I'm married to the most wonderful woman in the world, who was my best friend for 17 years before we married.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Some Thoughts From Chesterton

I have just finished reading G. K. Chesterton's 1905 book, Heretics, and I must say it is fascinating how things are still the same way they were a century ago.

He spends a lot of time refuting thinkers, philosophers, and writers of the turn of the last century--including Bernard Shaw and H. G. Wells. But he also makes some observations about societies and countries that are just as relevant today. For example, in the chapter, "The Fallacy of the Young Nation," he has this to say:

It may be said with rough accuracy that there are three stages in the life of a strong people. First, it is a small power, and fights small powers. Then it is a great power and fights great powers. Then it is a great power and fights small powers, but pretends that they are great powers, in order to rekindle the ashes of its ancient emotion and vanity. After that, the next step is to become a small power itself. England exhibited this symptom of decadence very badly in the war with the Transvaal; but America exhibited it worse in the war with Spain. There was exhibited more sharply and absurdly than anywhere else the ironic contrast between the very careless choice of a strong line and the very careful choice of a weak enemy.

Does that not sound like America a hundred years later? We went from fighting the Axis Powers in WWII to fighting North Korea to fighting North Vietnam to fighting Grenada, Panama, Iraq, and Afghanistan. In fighting these small powers there was a strong patriotic fervor whipped up against an overhyped enemy, followed by either a swift defeat of a non-threat (Grenada, Panama, and the first Gulf War), or a stalemate (Korea), or a quagmire (Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan). And now the same sabers are rattling against another non-threatening nation: Iran. When will we ever learn?

Back to Chesterton: In his "Concluding Remarks," he talks about bigotry. Observe this:

Bigotry may be roughly defined as the anger of men who have no opinions. It is the resistance offered to definite ideas by that vague bulk of people whose ideas are indefinite to excess. Bigotry may be called the appalling frenzy of the indifferent. This frenzy of the indifferent is in truth a terrible thing; it has made all monstrous and widely pervading persecutions. In this degree it was not the people who cared who ever persecuted; the people who cared were not sufficiently numerous. It was the people who did not care who filled the world with fire and oppression. It was the hands of the indifferent who lit the faggots; it was the hands of the indifferent that turned the rack.

Great ideas, huh? People who are indifferent are the ones who unthinkingly support the fanatics who carry out wars and persecutions. It is the ignorant indifferent who fuel the hatred the fanatics are building now against Iran. It is the ignorant indifferent who put George W. Bush into the White House, and are letting Barack Obama get away with continuing the worst of Bush's policies.

People, if anyone is reading this, we have got to take action. We have to let the voices of thinking, caring people be heard. We elected Obama and a Democratic Congress. Now we have to keep the pressure on to make them live up to what we elected them for.