Much has been made of George W. Bush’s devoutness; it rankles atheists and cynics, worries the civil libertarians, and disturbs the churchgoers who fear that his religious fanaticism undermines the tolerance that is the civil religion of our country.
I worry about Bush’s determination to end evil. End evil? Better men and women have tried and failed.
Evil defies definition. It eludes your grasp; it squirts out between your fingers like a crazed jellyfish, and packs a nasty sting when you try to grab it. While Americans generally agree that terrorism is bad and that it was a good thing that Saddam Hussein was captured, we can’t agree on what terrorism is, who the terrorists are, and certainly not on what the meaning of the word ‘evil’ is.
But W. keeps using it. The trouble with trying to end evil is that it requires an absolute rigidity and resolve--W’s favorite word-- but the likely outcome is not the end of evil but the imposition of one man’s or woman’s will on a community, an entire country, or worse.
One wonders what specific ills the president thinks are worthy of being labeled ‘evil.’ Funneling projects to his friends and cutting their taxes seems to be okay. Encouraging their greed and benefiting from it does not cause any pangs of remorse in this president. Letting poor people stagnate in a sluggish economy while their dreams of better lives dry up seems to be all right, too. Poor mothers without prenatal care? Tough luck. Youths who cannot afford to pay for college? Apply to Yale; if Bush could get in, you might be able to get a scholarship!
Of seven deadly sins--greed, envy, pride, anger, sloth, lust, gluttony--all seem to be evident in his administration, although not all are his own personal sins.
We’ll leave the consideration of lust to Laura. Greed, well, that one is self-evident. Pride is also known as vanity; that might describe a president who spends more hours exercising than most Hollywood starlets.
Anger: How much of our foreign policy is determined by Bush 43’s anger over Bush 41’s failure to capture Saddam Hussein in the Gulf War, his rage at Saddam’s subsequent attempt to assassinate him, and his father's defeat at the hands of Bill Clinton?
Gluttony: Can a man be gluttonous without weighing a single pound more than he should? Perhaps we should think of the essential meaning of the word: To consume more than one needs. That describes every SUV driver, and the government officials who are getting rich from the oil addiction in this country.
Envy: If only we had Iraq’s oil fields, we could drown ourselves in the oil, use it all up, then raid another oil-rich country.
Sloth: What other word is there for a man so bereft of intellectual curiosity? As Fidel Castro said when Bush assumed the presidency, “I hope he isn’t as stupid as he seems.” So do we, Mr. Castro, so do we.
Why aren’t hypocrisy and lying among the sins that are traditionally said to be the ones that impede a soul’s spiritual progress? Could it be because those who articulated the seven sins were members of the hierarchy and did not reflect upon their own sins as they judged others?
Considering that George W. Bush is pretty much a bust in relation to the traditional seven sins, perhaps we could turn his attention to the seven sins that Mahatma Gandhi, the great Indian leader and peacemaker, articulated:
· Wealth without Work
· Pleasure without Conscience
· Science without Humanity
· Knowledge without Character
· Politics without Principle
· Commerce without Morality
· Worship without Sacrifice
The list speaks for itself. By any measure, George W. Bush falls short. We can only hope, pray, and work for his defeat before he does any more damage to the moral fiber of this country.
Rosa Maria Pegueros, J.D., Ph.D., is an associate professor of Latin American history and women's studies at the University of Rhode Island. To contact her, write to firstname.lastname@example.org