To Comfort The Afflicted
And Afflict The Comfortable

To Comfort The Afflicted And Afflict The Comfortable

Friday, February 26, 2021

Observercast

These Terrible Times

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BY HARRY T. COOK

So now we have 59 people shot in cold blood in Las Vegas, without a sense of why. It seems clear even from this point of view that the shooter had no idea whom he was shooting.

President Trump and other people in power hasten to assure people of their prayers and sympathy without a hint that anybody wants to do anything about guns and their relatively easy access. Until the Supreme Court can be persuaded that the Second Amendment does not give free license to firearms as they are now so easily obtainable, that may be one of the huge absences from the law of a supposedly civilized country.

The abuse of the Second Amendment is not our only problem. Just now, a majority of the two houses of the U.S. Congress appear to be finding ways to “reform” the tax code in a way that suggests that those with much get to keep it and then some. That’s a helluva way to run a country.

One could go on for paragraph after paragraph to ask what in the name of all that’s sensible is wrong with this country. Wall Street and those who feast on its largesse remind one of the grand circus of ancient Rome – a grab-all and get-all by those who could do it.

As to the proliferation of firearms and ammunition and the utterly loose laws that govern it in various ways and various states, this country is out of control and gives no indication that things will change anytime soon.

Of course it is easy to blame President Trump, but a whole host of others in Congress and in the executive branch and, for that matter, in the judicial branch, have given us a reprise of the Wild, Wild West.

In a related way, the country seems not to have understood what happened during the 2007 financial collapse that still haunts people of the middle class and lower in the economic ladder. And from what I read, the financial-economic thinking – if it can be called that – of those who are running that system of government is proving to be a madhouse.

I write this somewhat brief essay from a sick room and I am dictating these words to my wife, a most excellent editor, who should not be blamed for any soft thinking. So as I re-read the paragraphs that have preceded this, I find myself doubly and triply afraid, not so much for myself, because my life span is likely not to be what I hoped it would be, but for my wife, my children, my grandchildren, and the many friends I have. I find myself looking sidewise at the major stories in the daily New York Times having to do with what appears to me to be a very careless and dangerous attitude toward North Korea.

That’s added to all the rest of the chaos and old night about which I have written. I am old enough to remember air raid drills toward the end of World War II. I remember the Cold War, people who, for the sake of their family’s safety, built bomb shelters – which would have been, as we understand now, futile – but it was what they of that time could figure out to do. I remember the Cuban crisis, when many people in the country thought we were about to go to war with Russia. And who knows how many close calls we’ve had?

I think you would agree that something has gone cockeyed in the recruitment of government and legislative members and leaders in the country. Also I think you would agree that what passes for legislative leadership from the states right up to Washington is largely partisan first and getting re-elected second, with the third thing that should be the first – that is, leading a country in a way that makes sense.

Readers might say that being cooped up most of the day in a sick room reading the New York Times brooding over all these things gives one a skewed view. Yeah, well, I have in my briefcase my breviary, which monks, friars, priests, and the devout have read for 2,000 years. The wisdom in those ancient texts is as sharp as the sharpest knife in your kitchen. Words are not bandied about. They’re straight. I don’t care if you’re religious or what you religion you belong to – I’m not sure that I can claim real membership in any religion – you will find the most poignant wisdom in those ancient texts. Written, we think, by people who lived through terrible times as we are doing and about to do. Is there a possibility we could learn from them?

Harry T. Cook is a Michigan-based Episcopal priest, journalist and author whose essays appear frequently in The Oklahoma Observer