Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Unburdened by Conscience

The president was giving a speech last week about war issues and he used the memorable phrase ‘unburdened by conscience’ in describing terrorists and their actions. While I have vowed not to discuss politics here, I must say that I do believe that the terrorists in the world are doing evil things.

That evil makes this a cultural discussion and I want you to read it in that fashion.

Many speechwriters are artists when they are weaving big ideas together. Peggy Noonan is one of my personal favorites. They form words and ideas that interpret a world sometimes so large and complex that we have difficulty conceiving of the simpler ideas and values that surround it all. When they are at their best, the great speechwriters are capable of condensing the mess into a simpler whole and thereby they often steer history itself.

The phrase ‘unburdened by conscience’ galloped around inside my head to an extent that I quit listening to the speech, jotted the phrase down and then continued to admire it.

Where is the meeting point between a good conscience and a lack thereof? Can the meeting point between the two be identified? All of us have felt the stabs of a troubled conscience. That nagging feeling of knowing what we have done is wrong.

Most of us resolve our troubled conscience. We confess, apologize or repent in order to absolve our conscience, or in the negative we create a rationalization that we have been wrong about letting it bother us. We try to push our behavior uphill on the conscience scale.

The rational answer to the question I am posing about where the clear conscience intersects with the bad conscience is that if it is bad in your head, then it is real, and by default exists on the negative end of your personal scale. It exists on the scale of ‘bad conscience’ simply because you feel the pain produced from poor behavior. Only your personal mental black magic can slide it back up the scale to the good side.

Is this what has happened to a terrorist that will willingly kill innocent babies, children, women, everything and everyone in pursuit of global religious domination and extinction of the ‘conveniently labeled’ infidels?

Have they felt their conscience and then willingly pushed the bad feeling uphill on the scale to where they believe what they are doing now lies on the good part of the scale?

I think this is what happens.

I believe they have a conscience. Unless God is planning on a recall of faulty humans, assembled without consciences, then I think they must have one.

Why is this important?

It is important because I am telling you that we do not have a group of people without a conscience; the default position implied by the speechwriter and our president. What we have is a radical religious group that has taken the pain of conscience that it feels and is trying to slide it up the ‘this is OK’ side of the scale.

There are days I believe bombs are too good for them. There are days like this one when I think they are merely wandering in the woods without a moral compass.

When your loved ones die at their hands, the first option is an easy choice. If, like me, your family and friends have remained untouched physically, then you can hope to be more philosophical.

I am suggesting here that we are attacking the wrong things in this fight for peace from terrorism. I, for one, am weary of the Donkey vs. Elephant ranting and ravings that inevitably kill useful action and positive agreement like a raging fire destroys trees in a dry forest.

I do not believe George Bush is an idiot or a liar. I do not believe John Kerry is a coward or a wimp. I’m insulted by all those that want me to believe either position. The job is hard for anyone, and I will remind you of an old saying whose acquaintance we have all made about ‘walking a mile in someone else’s shoes’.

What we need in this war is an effective jury of religious peers for these terrorists. These peers need to convince their wayward that their destructive behavior and killing of innocent people cannot be pushed uphill on the conscience scale.

All of us need to join the fight to condemn their actions. There should be a global campaign of scorn and ridicule brought to the doorstep of these people. We must assault the faulty conscience that is surely there.

Mr. Bush’s speechwriter coined a powerful and interesting phrase ‘unburdened by conscience’. It is effective language. The writer may even agree with me that the conscience is there, but remains unburdened. That distinction makes the phrase even more powerful and agreeable.

They have a conscience, it may well be unburdened, but they have one. We need to resuscitate it with global judgment, bringing a worldwide negative reaction that pushes their conscience back down the scale into the zone it belongs, returning their God given understanding of what is clearly wrong.

The abetting Muslim and Middle Eastern nations, cleric and citizen alike, are as guilty as the terrorists if they cannot find the decency to join the rest of the world in doing so. At this point they have made it a habit to close their eyes, hearts and minds to these barbaric atrocities.

President Bush famously said “You are either with us or you are against us,” speaking on behalf of the United States.

I personally like his gunslinger attitude. Sadly, I think his attitude is acceptable for rallying his nation, but not specifically functional in a war against a terrorists’ confused conscience.

I think God is not a gunslinger, and I hear him calling worldwide in a far more clarion voice, trying to be heard over the noise and the bodies of his innocent yet fallen children, “Are you with me or against me?”

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