William Newman, the lawyer, ramrods the local branch of the American Civil Liberties Union and came to mind because he wrote a column that appeared yesterday in the local newspaper.
The topic was an inmate held at America's Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba. Since Guantanamo stands at a pinnacle of what I think the United States does NOT embody and since the prison's applications are so profoundly and unconstitutionally shameless, naturally I gobbled up Bill's essay -- a bid to free one (and, by extension, others) of its prisoners. The man's name is Mohamedou Ould Slahi.
Some 6,800 miles to the west, Brian Victoria plies his trade as a Zen monk and educator in Japan. We are in contact now and then because Brian is a hell-raiser when it comes to the hypocrisies that invest and infect the religion -- if Zen will excuse that word -- he is and sometimes I am willing to tout. Notably, Brian wrote a book called "Zen at War" that detailed the complicit links between Zen Buddhism and the rapaciousness patriotism that imbued World War II and, by extension, Japan's invasion of and occupation in China. Since he wrote that book, he has been foolish enough to send me essays he was in the process of writing and later published here and there. I was a second pair of eyes.
This morning, it occurred to me that I am grateful to these men for doing the only thing that can be done when egregious unkindness is exercised -- point out the hypocrisy, aspect by researched aspect. Sweet and well-argued points may not stem the tide, but it suggests that without a factual basis, the issues involved devolve into a mindless shouting match in which sincerity replaces credibility: eg. I hate war, therefore war is hateful.
But I have to plead guilty to shouting and sincerity. It sets my hair on fire to think that anyone should be forced to
But when has weeping ever changed much?
Truth to tell, the fury I feel is directed at my two never-met friends as well. "Cut the well-reasoned crap. Just shoot 'em!" my mind insists. I am too old and tired to be dragged through the well-reasoned and viscous particulars. I want it my way and I want it now. The pain and suffering being inflicted deserves no less!
Like the Vatican's complicity in priest sexual abuse, Guantanamo and the almost universal religious support for a killing field religion may claim to abhor deserves consideration in more modulated and more fact-based tones. What else is there?
And yet, when all is said and done, facts do not persuade people and hence effect little, if any, change. Sweet reason is like Chinese water torture ... drip, drip, drip until the pain is unbearable. Facts don't persuade people ... beliefs, in all their glory and all their horror, do.
I admire my unknown friends for their patience and persistence. Amassing evidence may or may not prove the case, but since it is about all anyone can do, perhaps there is some hopefulness in creating a critical mass of revulsion.
My unknown friends have the patience and persistence I wish I had.
They may or may not win the case, but at least they are not losers.