“They remember, however, that there is something they cannot remember.” (Robert Penn Warren)

The Ministry of Truth, 1984

The Ministry of Truth, 1984

A couple of days ago I wrote about ultimate reality. Today I think I’ll write about faith.

Not that I have any.

In much of anything.

Immediately after the bombings of “9-11,” President Bush announced the creation of the “Office of Homeland Security,” with former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge as director. On November 25, 2002, the “office” was elevated to a Cabinet-level “Department” of the Federal Government.

At the time I—like many other wannabe “liberals”—was profoundly uncomfortable with the use of the word “homeland” because it smacked of Hitler’s use of the word to instill an overwhelming sense of nationalism in the German people.

Hearing “homeland” (always with “security”) even now causes an involuntary tightening in the back of my throat. Especially when I have to take off my shoes at the airport (Oops! I no longer have to do that because I’m so old).

It’s not so much that I dislike peripheral connotations of the Third Reich (although I do) as that I’m mystified by what the government counts, and the people accept, as “security.” No one can actually believe that my taking my CPAP out of my suitcase with one hand while I hold my cane with the other is making the airport—much less our nation—safer. It’s just crazy.

Oh, I know, I know. We all have to do it in order to prevent the one person who might be up to no good from getting on a plane to do something unspeakable. That’s reasonable, logical.

Well, maybe. If that’s so, why do “frequent fliers” and “executive class” airline passengers not have to do it? None of them could be a terrorist?

The whole kit and caboodle is nonsense.

We only do it because we have elevated the Department of Homeland Security to the level of, oh, say, the Pope as the arbiter of a belief, a FAITH, if you will. And don’t let Bill Maher or any other atheist who puts up with taking off their shoes at the airport tell you otherwise (of course Bill Maher flies around the country being important so he doesn’t have to do it—executive class, don’t you know). It’s a religion.

And so is investing in the stock market as a hedge against poverty in retirement.

And so is voting for a Republican. (Sorry, I had to say that.)

If you listen to people (your next door neighbor or the Attorney General of the United States) talk, and you have any ability to hear what people are really saying, you will understand that we are living out the prophecy of George Orwell in 1984.

Before the Hate had proceeded for thirty seconds, uncontrollable
exclamations of rage were breaking out from half the people in the room.
The self-satisfied sheep-like face on the screen, and the terrifying power
of the Eurasian army behind it, were too much to be borne: besides,
the sight or even the thought of Goldstein produced fear and anger
automatically. He was an object of hatred more constant than either Eurasia
or Eastasia, since when Oceania was at war with one of these Powers it was
generally at peace with the other. But what was strange was that although
Goldstein was hated and despised by everybody, although every day and a
thousand times a day, on platforms, on the telescreen, in newspapers,
in books, his theories were refuted, smashed, ridiculed, held up to the
general gaze for the pitiful rubbish that they were—in spite of all this,
his influence never seemed to grow less. Always there were fresh dupes
waiting to be seduced by him. A day never passed when spies and saboteurs
acting under his directions were not unmasked by the Thought Police.
He was the commander of a vast shadowy army, an underground network of
conspirators dedicated to the overthrow of the State.

I’m not making any judgment about whether or not ISIS or Al-Qaeda or Vladimir Putin or Obamacare is out to destroy America. I frankly don’t know. Here’s the point. You don’t know either. None of us knows.

We believe.

And our belief brings us to faith in the Department of Homeland Security (and in other things, such as “open-carry” and “stand your ground” laws).

The Holy Sacrament

The Holy Sacrament

To be clear. I am not advocating disbanding the DHS or any other radical action. I’m too old to care (and I was too meek and scared before I got too old) how we structure things to keep us “safe.”

All I’m advocating is that anyone who wants to live in reality look carefully at their faiths—what they put their faith in. What’s your God?

I don’t know if God—as anyone understands it/him/her/them—exists. But I know this for sure. It/him/her/them has nothing to do with the DHS in which the vast majority of Americans put their faith.

The Holy Bible with which I grew up says, “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). We hope for security and we are convicted that that DHS is protecting us. Neither of which is based in fact.

I didn’t say the conspiracy to kill us is not true or that DHS isn’t protecting us. I’m simply saying that, as for me, I don’t know. I have no faith.

Is that an ambiguity, a conundrum, I’m willing to live with?

There’s another interesting thing about faith in the DHS: It’s a middle and upper class religion. Poor people don’t have to take their shoes off at the airport. And the top 1% are free to ignore the religion altogether.

Because poor people don’t fly and the rich are exempt.

The poor are at home trying to keep from starving. Yes, in this country. My guess is anyone living in food insecurity is not buying a plane ticket (except in some mythical la-la-land dreamed up by the Tea Party where the poor are really selfish monsters).

That Holy Bible I mentioned above also says (in a translation I remember from childhood), “Put not your trust in idols or anything made by man” (Leviticus 19:4). So we trust DHS in direct contradiction of the Holy Bible most Americans say they believe in.

So when I say, “. . . write about faith. Not that I have any. In much of anything,” I mean just that. I’m left sort of dangling out there in space without much to hold onto. If God exists, I don’t know it any more. I used to. In my own way which I was never quite able to explain to anyone else. But now I don’t know. I’m 70 years old, and lots of people—most people—die when they’re this age, give or take a very few years. I think if you’re my age and not actively thinking about what the end of this life means, you’re living in another la-la-land. You’re in for some sort of surprise. Soon.

And see, the DHS isn’t going to protect you.

So what’s the take-away here?

I don’t know.

Robert Penn Warren says you would think nothing would ever again happen. And thinking that, knowing that, may be the way to love God.

“A Way to Love God,” by Robert Penn Warren (1905 – 1989 )
Here is the shadow of truth, for only the shadow is true.
And the line where the incoming swell from the sunset Pacific
First leans and staggers to break will tell all you need to know
About submarine geography, and your father’s death rattle
Provides all biographical data required for the Who’s Who of the dead.

I cannot recall what I started to tell you, but at least
I can say how night-long I have lain under the stars and
Heard mountains moan in their sleep. By daylight,
They remember nothing, and go about their lawful occasions
Of not going anywhere except in slow disintegration. At night
They remember, however, that there is something they cannot remember.
So moan. Theirs is the perfected pain of conscience that
Of forgetting the crime, and I hope you have not suffered it. I have.

I do not recall what had burdened my tongue, but urge you
To think on the slug’s white belly, how sick-slick and soft,
On the hairiness of stars, silver, silver, while the silence
Blows like wind by, and on the sea’s virgin bosom unveiled
To give suck to the wavering serpent of the moon; and,
In the distance, in plaza, piazza, place, platz, and square,
Boot heels, like history being born, on cobbles bang.

Everything seems an echo of something else.

And when, by the hair, the headsman held up the head
Of Mary of Scots, the lips kept on moving,
But without sound. The lips,
They were trying to say something very important.

But I had forgotten to mention an upland
Of wind-tortured stone white in darkness, and tall, but when
No wind, mist gathers, and once on the Sarré at midnight,
I watched the sheep huddling. Their eyes
Stared into nothingness. In that mist-diffused light their eyes
Were stupid and round like the eyes of fat fish in muddy water,
Or of a scholar who has lost faith in his calling.

Their jaws did not move. Shreds
Of dry grass, gray in the gray mist-light, hung
From the side of a jaw, unmoving.

You would think that nothing would ever again happen.

That may be a way to love God.

And that may be the way to love God.

Freedom Tower, 2014

Freedom Tower, 2014

About Harold Knight
Retired English prof, SMU. Old man. Musician. Passionate about justice, equality, freedom. Therefore, I am a fervent supporter of and advocate for the Palestinian People as they struggle to survive genocide. That also means, of course, I have no use for US 45.

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