“The greatest achievement of the devil in the modern age is convincing people that he doesn’t exist.” I don’t know who said that, but it rings true with almost funereal finality in this moribund land.
Former vice-president and prime mover of the illegal, immoral, and unnecessary war against Iraq in 2003, Dick Cheney provides a not quite living study of the nature and operation of evil. Can we learn about how evil works through this heartless, heart-diseased, heartthrob of the extreme right?
The tendency to demonize Cheney by most people on the left is too easy, and fails to see that something much larger than this small man is flowing through him, something that we have yet to even begin to come to terms with in America. The United States entered the darkest period in its history after 9.11, and Cheney, more than George Bush, still embodies it.
Cheney is not the devil, no person is, but he has been one of its favorite puppets in the new millennium. He’s also a testimony to how Darkness never quits, never lets go even when the policies of its dummies have been completely disgraced.
To understand how Dick Cheney, who was literally comatose for months after being metaphorically comatose for years, is still able to carry out a media blitzkrieg, we have to look behind and beyond his sickly mass of flesh and bones.
Making a punch line out of the devil’s own is better than hating him, but it doesn’t remove the rot and stench of evil from the land, much less make for a fresh start after the malignancy of the Bush years, probably the first truly evil administration in American history.
From the beginning (or rather the ending) that was 9.11, Cheney knew what the central issue was: How would the nation deal with the atrocity of 19 young men bringing down the Twin Towers with commercial airliners, armed only with box cutters? Would the heinous crime be seen and treated as a crime against humanity, or as a declaration of war? Cheney has grown hoarse from his Johnny-one-note war whoops, whereas Obama has vacillated and tried to have it both ways. In the end, I’m not sure which is worse.
The tendency is to believe that the ostensible target of Cheney’s wrath, President Barack Obama, is, by virtue of Dick’s attacks, the antithesis of what he represents. But that fallacy is the trap the media and much of the left has fallen into for six years. In fact, President Obama is not good to Cheney’s evil, but a placeholder for the darkness that erupted with the election of Bush-Cheney. Therefore the nation and world have continued to drift down.
Yes, it’s a much more chaotic world, largely due to the gates of hell that Bush and Cheney opened up, when they could have brought people together as they were together to confront and combat terrorism after 9.11. But the choice between Cheney’s hawkish and mawkish America, and Obama’s defeatism and retreatism is no choice at all.
It isn’t that Cheney should be barred from television because his view has been utterly discredited; it’s that he, George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz and a few others should have been held accountable in the public arena for their crimes against humanity in invading Iraq, even though it was impossible to try them for such. Yet Obama repeatedly said that all he wanted to do was move on from the Bush-Cheney debacle. But without a reckoning, he and we have been stuck in it, unable to move legislation or the nation beyond the poisonous politics ushered in with the new millennium.
South Africa has remained stuck in apartheid economic divisions, but by having a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, at least it was able to bring the evils out into the open and largely move beyond the divisions and hatreds of apartheid. After Bush and Cheney, America needed an honest examination of the immense war crime of invading Iraq, but what we got essentially from Obama was a whitewash.
A saying attributed to Jesus but not found in the Bible goes like this: “Bring forth what is within you, and what you bring forth will save you; do not bring forth what is within you, and what you do not bring forth will destroy you.” That truth could not be more antithetical to the way the vast majority of Americans, and the President, think and live, which is why Dick Cheney and all he represents hasn’t gone away.
Evil plays both sides, usually successfully. There have been times in human history when a flawed goodness, such as the Western democracies led by Britain and America during World War II, stood against a clear and present evil, at that time in the form of Nazi Germany. But in our times, evil is much more difficult to discern, and the world is beset by an indistinguishable grayness that makes everyone equally victim and perpetrator.
The source of evil is never in one person or group of people, however bad he, she, or they are. Evil is a collective phenomenon in consciousness, a distillation of darkness plus intentionality, which acts through complicit conduits like Cheney. To be dispelled it has to be seen and confronted where it is and when it is. Otherwise, it just keeps dragging all of us down.