Uncle Walter, Where Are You?
In the ongoing tribute to the late Walter Cronkite, journalists and historians have credited him with having single-handedly fashioned a series of seemingly unconnected and obscure scandals into the cohesive narrative known as “Watergate.” It is true that back in 1972, while the Washington Post had for some time been printing story after story of crimes and cover-ups, it was the CBS anchor who recognized in these convoluted tales a national epic that needed to be told. And so for two evenings, Uncle Walter took the pieces of a puzzle and put them together—and in a way that the Murphys in his home town of St. Jo could understand, including charts and other graphics, explaining why the story was significant politically, constitutionally. While Barbara Walters may argue that no single journalist should ever have that much power, Cronkite did it because no one else was, at least not on a national level.
Today, almost 40 years later, we have a series of stories or scandals that need that Cronkite touch. An economic crisis, bank bailouts and other corporate welfare, the blockage of health care reform, a Honduran coup, two foreign wars, executive bonuses, global warming, free trade and globalization, Israeli aggression, etc., etc. These may seem like unconnected issues, but the truth is they are as well connected as any Locust Valley debutante.
The bigger narrative is really one of the oldest in human history. Each of these crises, at its most basic, has a common thread running through it: a form of class warfare. Not the kind of warfare in which both sides are equally matched and each goes at the other like two pit bulls in a ring. Instead, the rich have declared war on the poor and are trampling them underfoot with uncommon savagery, not because they must, but because they can.
Take the war in Afghanistan, the graveyard of empires. For all its seeming justifications, at its core this so-called “war on terror” continues to be waged simply because we do not hear the cries of the poor. We do not hear because we do not want to hear. It is like the homeowner who is awakened in the night by the burglar alarm. So incensed is he at being disturbed from his slumber, he snips the wires to the alarm so that he can get back to sleep, never considering that a burglar may have broken in.
9-11, for all its diabolical cruelty, was a warning to America, a wake-up call. And did we take heed? Don’t be silly. The Muslim world is crying out for us to stop our oppression and our support for oppressors, to quit our global bullying, to get us off their backs once and for all. But we’re so arrogant, so obsessed with vengeance and power, we cannot hear that cry. After all, it’s the terrorists who need to stop, not us. Aren’t we the good guys?
When you oppress the poor, you become an enemy of God. And God can and does use evil to judge evil. If we would just stop, truly “humble ourselves and pray and turn from our wicked ways,” the Almighty would turn this futility into victory. Instead, we are bent on winning a carnival game of Pop Goes the Weasel. You know the game: the weasel’s head keeps popping up here or there, and you try to guess where he’ll pop up next and then WHAM! But no matter how skillful the player or quick his reflexes, the weasel always wins. Perhaps if we did really take the message to heart, then all those thousands who died on that gruesome day might not have died in vain. I’m sorry. I’m a fiscal conservative; I hate waste. Repentance is so much cheaper than war (although it may not make quite so much for GE, General Dynamics, and Dyncorp).
The battle over health care reform, too, can be seen from this perspective, a struggle between the haves and the have-nots. People screaming out for relief; others, content with their healthcare because they can afford it, shout, “We don’t need this,” while the insurance companies spend millions to purchase lawmakers and create media spots that spook the hell out of us so they can continue their uncontested reign of greed. Where’s the compassion? Where’s the church?
“Because of the oppression of the weak and the groaning of the needy, I will now arise,” says the LORD (Psalm 12:5). Fasten your seat belts, America; it’s going to be a bumpy ride.