Updated: December 4, 2012 6:08AM
By this time next week we will have fallen further into the clutches of a crypto-Maoist operative hell-bent on driving our nation into a state of totalitarian perdition, or we will have sold ourselves into the hands of same plutocrats whose inept policing and criminal conniving triggered the recession that cost common folks their savings and jobs even as they stashed vast fortunes in secret, offshore accounts. Either way, we’ll have little to celebrate, except perhaps that our television sets will finally be liberated from involuntary servitude in the propaganda corps.
Lately, 24-hour sports channels remained the only sanctuary for those seeking refuge from political ads, a sign, perhaps, of what our culture holds most sacred. Anywhere else one ventured via the remote quickly left us splattered with nastiness and needing a bath of some kind.
That this pandering to our worst instincts actually proves the most effective way to sway the electorate should humble us. The Super PACs who spend billions to produce this stuff take us for ignorant, uncritical fools who fall for their lies and scare tactics, but recent election history suggests they understand us better than we know ourselves.
Come next weekend, however, the season of innuendo and oversimplification will have ended, and we’ll find ourselves again in a world of stunningly complex problems that can’t be understood, much less solved, solely by means of someone’s — anyone’s — ideology.
Perhaps Sandy, last weekend’s deadly visitor, serves as a parable of sorts. It took bitter Arctic winds, a tropical system full of moisture, and even the gravitational pull of the moon to bring about the destruction we witnessed. Moreover, it will take a long time, plus the coordination of every system known to humankind, to heal, repair and rebuild the lives and institutions that Sandy blew down and flooded out.
So, whether it’s the scum of the earth or the bloody assassins of the workers who remain standing next week as survivors of our vicious electoral process, we’ll have little choice but to count on them, even work with them, in the effort to recover.
Thankfully, to my mind anyway, only a few obscure voices have identified the hand of God at work in this newest disaster visited upon the eastern seaboard.
Theological dabblers who claim to know God’s specific intentions in this or that occurrence engage in some of the same, unhelpful oversimplification endemic to campaign ads. By taking God for a private attack dog whom they can set loose on their personal enemies, such folk blasphemously attribute to the Almighty a horrific trail of collateral damage.
Parents of children who perished beneath some of the trees Sandy blew down won’t find much comfort in the assertion that God had a righteous purpose in mind but his aim was a little off.
Richard Mourdock, a U.S. Senate candidate in Indiana, strayed onto a similar path toward absurdity with his seemingly innocent comment that rape is no warrant for abortion because “even when life begins in that horrible situation ... it is something that God intended to happen.”
Presumably, that thesis assumes God’s intentions accompany every act of human coupling, and in each instance, God says yes or no to fertilization.
Pregnant rape victims, childless couples who have prayed in vain for offspring, or those who have watched both mother and child perish in childbirth could hardly be blamed for finding little solace in imagining that God specifically intended such bitter fates for them.
In the real world, little, if anything, is simple and unambiguous.
Thankfully, next week we’ll have leave to return there.
Frederick Niedner is a professor of theology at Valparaiso University.