Tags: The | Devil | You | Say

The Devil You Say

Sunday, 24 November 2002 12:00 AM

Do you believe in the devil? You probably do if you are a practicing Roman Catholic or an Evangelical Protestant. If you are an Orthodox Jew, you may. And if you are a mainstream Protestant, a Reform Jew, a vaguely "spiritual" person, an agnostic or an atheist, you don't. Or do you?

What if you're also a committed liberal, an environmentalist, or an animal rights activist? Then you do believe in the devil? No, not the guy with the pitchfork. Not the fallen angel who presides over the punishment of condemned sinners in the next world. Not that devil, but a devil nonetheless.

Since politics is the liberals' religion, those who disagree with them on political issues must be evil. Not just mistaken. Not just misinformed. Not just ignorant. But evil. Not just doing incorrect things. But doing immoral, destructive things. Not just doing them inadvertently. But doing them intentionally. And not just doing them alone, but also misleading others into doing them.

What do you call someone who intentionally does evil and leads others astray? What do you call someone who deliberately makes the world a worse place, and makes those who listen to him worse people? Isn't that a good description of the devil?

That, you see, is a problem. If I am religious and believe that Satan is tempting me to sin, I may picture my struggle as being against an external force. But in reality, I'm struggling against myself. I'm fighting against my own evil inclinations. I'm contending with myself to become a better person.

But if I believe there are devilish people working hard to make the earth a worse place, and its inhabitants worse human beings, then my struggle is not within myself. I need not examine my conscience. I need not exert myself to strengthen my good inclinations and overcome my bad ones.

No, my fight is purely external. I need not be introspective. I need only identify my enemies, then attempt to destroy them. All my problems, and those of my group, come from outside ourselves.

In the words of the song, I'm not at all to blame.

How convenient for the shallow. How effortless for the lazy. How painless for the cowardly. How useful for the hate-filled. How helpful for the racist, the bigot and the political fanatic. How handy for those looking for an excuse to attack "them" – the source of all problems.

When terrorists claim that Allah is on their side, we are offended by the arrogance. But it is equally offensive when environmentalists claim that Jesus would drive a small car. Then who, precisely, would drive an SUV? Perhaps he needs the extra room for his horns and tail.

Demonizing those we disagree with can be habit-forming. Watch TV "news" and commentary. Listen to talk radio. Read magazines and newspapers. Note what people are saying about their fellow Americans.

A leading newspaper recently published a letter claiming that the Muslim countries with which we are "at odds" (of course, not "at war") refer to Bush as the "Great Satan." The writer goes on to claim that the term fits our president "like a glove."

In fact, our enemies, from Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979 to bin Laden in 2002, refer to America itself – not the president – as the "Great Satan." But neither the writer nor the editors admit this. They try to deflect our enemies' hatred from themselves to a political figure with whom they disagree.

The editors try to conceal the fact that our enemies use the term for us, regardless of whether our president is Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton or George W. Bush. Why would the editors do this? Do they hate Republicans more than they hate al-Qaeda?

Newspapers receive many more letters than they can print. They should select ones that reflect a broad range of opinions, especially those that disagree with the paper. But this paper used valuable space to call our president "Satan." Now, there's deep thought for you. There's solid political analysis. There's reasoned argument.

No, there's the ranting of fanatics who have taken the self-righteousness of the Spanish Inquisition, the ignorance of the Salem witch trials and the malice of the czarist pogroms, and updated them for today's politics. What a journalistic achievement!

Did they ever refer to the world's greatest mass murderers – Hitler, Stalin or Mao – as "Satan"? Did they ever compare lesser tyrants, from Saddam to Fidel, with the devil? Did they ever use the term for Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, Charlie Manson or the Beltway Snipers? No, they reserve that abuse for our president during wartime.

But if you use up your worst insults on our president, you have nothing left to describe those who release poison gas, practice genocide, produce anthrax, try to obtain nuclear weapons or crash airliners into office towers. You have shot off your most powerful ammunition at political opponents, and have none left for real enemies.

Even worse, if you see your political opponents as devils, you are absolved from any responsibility to look in the mirror. Did your party just lose seats in a midterm election? There's no need to examine your candidates or your platform. There's no need to face the bitter truth that the majority of Americans reject your ideas. There's no need to change a thing.

No, just keep doing more of the same. Just keep moving further to the left. Just keep pushing a socialist, pacifist, radical environmentalist, abortion-up-to-the-ninth-month agenda. Someday people will see the light and come around to your way of thinking, if only they are freed from the spell of those devilish Republicans.

And when all else fails, blame talk radio, as Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle did. No, ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC and National Public Radio aren't enough. The New York Times, Washington Post and Los Angeles Times aren't enough. All these media with liberal slants aren't enough. Even Hollywood stars spouting liberal mantras aren't enough. If only those devilish conservatives were removed from talk radio, everything would be fine.

That is, if all criticism were silenced,

If Democrats continue thinking in this simplistic, self-righteous and unproductive manner, things will continue to go poorly for them and well for the Republicans. But in the long term, it would be better for all Americans if more Democrats believed that the devil is Satan, and fewer believed that he is George W. Bush.

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Do you believe in the devil? You probably do if you are a practicing Roman Catholic or an Evangelical Protestant. If you are an Orthodox Jew, you may. And if you are a mainstream Protestant, a Reform Jew, a vaguely "spiritual" person, an agnostic or an atheist, you don't....
Sunday, 24 November 2002 12:00 AM
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