by Rabbi Arthur Waskow
Perhaps the greatest archetypal tale in all of human culture about addiction to top-down, unaccountable power is the story of Pharaoh in the Book of Exodus.
Now, today, we are seeing this tale lived out before our own eyes. The present government of the United States has become so addicted to its own power, so swept away by its own arrogance, that it is playing out the tale of Pharaoh.
And the US government is not alone: the present government of Iran is talking like Pharaoh; Al Qaeda acts like a mini-Pharaoh.
Pharaoh begins by hardening his own heart to the plight of the poor and powerless, and after a series of disasters (the "plagues") brought on by his own arrogance, his addiction takes over.
God – read "Reality" – takes over, and from then on it is God Who hardens his heart.
What is this like? -- Use heroin once, twice, thrice – and you are making a free choice. But at some point the addiction takes over, Reality takes over, God takes over. Now it is the heroin that is doing you, not you doing heroin.
If you choose hard-heartedness so long you get addicted to it, at some point you are no longer choosing: God, Reality, is hardening your heart.
And arrogance is not only a moral and spiritual malady. It breeds stupidity. For those who are utterly convinced of their own absolute rightness cannot hear the warnings of others, cannot pay attention to the signals from the world around them.
Even when Pharaoh's own advisers shriek at him, "You are destroying Egypt!" he can no longer turn back.
Pharaoh has so addicted himself to his own uncontrollable power that he can no longer make a free choice. Unfortunately, when people who have great power insulate themselves in arrogance, the disasters they create do not wound only themselves. They wound the whole society.
Today, the Presidential cabal that –
• chose to ignore all the evidence that Al Qaeda was preparing a major strike inside the US,
• chose to ignore warnings of plans for a airliner hijacking,
• chose to ignore scientists' warnings about the onrushing climate crisis of global scorching,
• chose to ignore all the warnings that an invasion of Iraq would mire the US in a disastrous and unending occupation,
• deliberately chose to ignore all the evidence that Saddam was a toothless tiger with no mass-destruction weapons, and chose to invent evidence that he did,
• chose to punish honest officials who questioned these falsities by firing some (including leading generals and experts on terrorism) and trying to smear and humiliate and even endanger the families of others;
• chose to ignore warnings of hurricane disaster in New Orleans and chose to ignore the plight of hundreds of thousands of people who could not evacuate the city,
• chose as Attorney-General an advocate of the Presidential power to order the use of torture despite US and international law, and as Chief Justice a supporter of tyrannical power over prisoners;
• chose to become an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court a personal crony whose only "qualification" was obeisance to Presidential power (including the power to torture);
• continues choosing to ignore the health and educational needs of Americans in order to funnel obscene amounts of money to those already rich.
That Presidential cabal has become addicted to its own power.
Some of the results of this arrogance have been enormous disasters; some have been debacles.
Given this whole pattern, every rejection of top-down, unaccountable, arrogant Presidential power is good. So I am glad that the Meirs nomination failed.
BUT -- by far the most important rejections of top-down Presidential arrogance are those that name the danger.
That is what happened at the Burning Bush, when God spoke to Moses about Pharaoh's vile attacks upon workers, slaves, children, immigrants.
And by that standard, the liberals who kept their mouths shut about the Meirs confirmation failed. They failed to help build a movement to end this Pharaoh-like pattern of top-down unaccountable power.
Does the centralization of top-down, arrogant power reach any further than the Presidential cabal?
Yes. The Presidential cabal is closely connected with the most powerful institutional complex in the world, one that has substituted its own greed, power, and wealth for the well-being of the American people, the human race, and the planet.
The present US government went to war, killing 2,000 Americans and many more Iraqis, partly for control of oil.
Katrina's ferocity owed a great deal to the global scorching that heated the Gulf beyond all historical records. And much of that scorching came from the over-use of oil. An entire city lost, thousands dead,many more homeless. Partly for oil.
People die – and Big Oil makes the highest profits in world history.
In the next months, we will be focusing a great deal of our attention on Big Oil.
We urge you to check out the "Beyond Oil" section of our website.