is better than a faint-heart for any man who puts his nose out
of doors. The length of my life and the day of my death were fated
— Norse proverb
is a quality so necessary for maintaining virtue that it is always
respected, even when it is associated with vice." — Samuel
In the midst
of the Inauguration lockdown a certain truth emerged to me. That
truth was not to be found in the show of force designed to make
the earth quake. Neither was it in the wind of pomp and circumstance,
nor the makeshift protest fire set by protestors. Instead a small
still voice from the past came whispering to me.
It was on
June 8, 1978 that the great
jeremiad was delivered. Russian dissident Alexander Solzhenitsyn
mounted the rostrum at Harvard where he was expected to relate
the horrors of the Soviet system and, presumably, how happy he
was to be in the "free" world. But rather than deliver
a panegyric to the West, Solzhenitsyn proved to be that most troublesome
of invitees — the blatantly honest guest: the type who tells you
that the pot roast is dry, your home décor garish, and
your children poorly mannered. In short, Solzhenitsyn played Simon
Cowell while the West, despite its Diva-esque self-image, was
flatly told its singing was simply dreadful.
If only it
was that America couldn't carry a tune. What Solzhenitsyn described
was a deep-seated spiritual disease with its root in cowardice.
decline in courage may be the most striking feature which an outside
observer notices in the West in our days. The Western world has
lost its civil courage, both as a whole and separately, in each
country, each government, each political party and of course in
the United Nations. Such a decline in courage is particularly
noticeable among the ruling groups and the intellectual elite,
causing an impression of loss of courage by the entire society.
Of course there are many courageous individuals but they have
no determining influence on public life. Political and intellectual
bureaucrats show depression, passivity and perplexity in their
actions and in their statements and even more so in theoretical
reflections to explain how realistic, reasonable as well as intellectually
and even morally warranted it is to base state policies on weakness
and cowardice. And decline in courage is ironically emphasized
by occasional explosions of anger and inflexibility on the part
of the same bureaucrats when dealing with weak governments and
weak countries, not supported by anyone, or with currents which
cannot offer any resistance. But they get tongue-tied and paralyzed
when they deal with powerful governments and threatening forces,
with aggressors and international terrorists.
a great irony of the orgy of security seen at the Bush Inauguration.
While it would be completely reasonable for a monarchy or theocracy
to go to extreme measures to protect the "royal blood"
or the "chosen one" — democratic leaders are, by design,
expendable. The true strength of the democratic system resides
in a design where if a leader is felled, another with the requisite
talent and skill rises to take his place. Could anyone, with a
straight face, claim that George W. Bush possesses abilities that
make him irreplaceable? Then why was he cocooned in an urban assault
limo flanked by a 21st century praetorian guard? Fear.
Bush's behavior is merely the continuation of a trend. American
leaders have come to think of themselves as personally indispensable
to the nation. While this delusion of grandeur could merely be
a manifestation of megalomania, the actual root cause of the behavior
is a craven fear of death coupled with an inordinate desire for
worldly honors. In most traditional cultures, these are the signs
of spiritual sickness.
It was a
spiritual awakening that Solzhenitsyn received in a baptism of
fire through his sufferings of the Gulag. Living constantly on
the verge of death taught him the ultimate truth — man is not
God — and as such he is bound to the natural constraints of mortality.
Man's destiny is not here and now on this earth to live infinitely,
but to live well and die well. He came to believe not in the coercive
plans of Soviet bureaucrats, but the plan of Providence — with
which man can either cooperate or reject freely.
But if a
man believes that he can recreate a world anew himself (ridding
the world of tyranny), then he must ascribe the same power to
other men. As such, all those who differ with his vision become
rival gods — heretical faiths to by suppressed at any price.
So as we
bow down before the vision of our leaders, and prospective leaders,
who routinely pledge to make the blind see, the lame walk, and
bring a democratic kingdom of heaven on earth, we should ask:
what type of a true god-man is afraid of his own mortality?
Rossi [send him mail]
is a law student in Washington, D.C.