I tend not to post much about current events on this blog because I generally feel as though I’ve got nothing new or interesting to add to the conversation. That’s not bad self-image, it’s more a reflection on a) the fact that I only stay moderately informed about anything, hardly enough to have time to analyze anything and b) there are a lot of smart people out there saying lots of things already. And yet, sometimes the news is so disturbing that I feel compelled to–well, react publicly, I suppose, more for my own attempts to make sense of it as anything.

This whole business about Cheney seeking an exemption for the CIA on torture? Are you kidding me? Are people actually saying these things out loud, and in public? Don’t we all miss the days when the U.S. was embarrassed to admit that they did that? What is the extent of our moral and spiritual degredation that we not only do these things, but we admit them so casually, as though nothing were wrong? That we don’t see exactly how far we have fallen? There aren’t words, really.

I’m reading a lot lately about the fall of the First Temple and the events leading up to it, including a lot from the prophets. You can see a progression, as things get worse politically (and morally), how the prophets’ words get harsher and more severe, more concretely portending disaster. Amos was relatively early in the game, more or less 150-200 years before the Temple fell. In Amos 2, we find this:

6. Thus says the Lord; For three transgressions of Israel I will turn away his punishment, but for the fourth I will not turn away its punishment; because they sold the righteous for silver, and the poor for a pair of shoes;
7. They pant after the dust of the earth on the head of the poor, and turn aside the way of the humble; and a man and his father will go in to the same girl, to profane my holy name;
8. And they lay themselves down by every altar upon clothes taken in pledge, and they drink the wine of the condemned in the house of their god.

Well, we’ve been selling the poor for a pair of shoes for some time now. I suspect we’ve already used up our three chances. Frankly, where we are in the fall of the empire sounds a lot more like the words of Jeremiah, who himself lived through the destruction and died in exile, but I almost can’t bring myself to go there, to face it.

How far gone does a civilization have to be before its collapse is inevitable? And if we made like Nineveh and repented immediately, how much of the damage could we fix? Not all of it. Not probably even most. Which doesn’t mean we shouldn’t turn the hell around from whatever road we’re on. It just means… I don’t know. Frankly, I’m scared. Scared to see how much futher down we’ll sink, and scared to find out what’s at the bottom.

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