I know this makes me sound old, but how can I fight the feeling I have that our country is in a moral quagmire and a decline as a civilization? On the TV behind me, I am watching (well, mostly listening to) the cross-examination of 68-year-old Bishop Thomas O�Brien by a young Maricopa County prosecutor. The Bishop is accused of hitting a drunk pedestrian with his car and leaving the scene of the crime. His defense is that he didn�t know he had hit a person; in fact, he never looked to see what he had hit. Hardly a strong defense for a man of the cloth.
The prosecutor is doing the equivalent of beating the crap out of the Bishop, who I�m sure has been advised by his very good defense attorney not to remember as much as possible.
The Bishop, however, can barely conceal his contempt for the prosecutor. A lifetime of being in control must be difficult to abandon, and the Bishop is in danger of being caught in his own subterfuges and cover-ups. It�s becoming clear that the Bishop didn�t answer his phone because he was afraid it was the police calling to implicate him, and that he was going continue in denial as long as possible.
Listening to this trial is like watching a tennis match or a basketball game where the momentum shifts back and forth. Right now, the prosecutor has the mo; fifteen minutes ago, the Bishop had it, because he sounded sincere and concerned while the prosecutor hammered him. But the Bishop has become clearly disgusted by being endlessly asked to remember things he considers trivial, even though the prosecutor thinks they are critical. In revealing his contempt for the youthful prosecutor, the Bishop also reveals that he still considers himself an authority figure who shouldn�t be subjected to his indignity.
I�m not a religious person, but I would like to think that Bishop O�Brien is a sincerely committed cleric whose spiritual life is more highly developed than his practical life, which is why he testifies that he doesn�t know where to take his car to get the windshield replaced. But I am nagged by the suspicion that he is just another executive trying to get his secretary to take care of an errand he doesn�t want to run himself.
Taking a break from the trial, I read an article in the New York Times online. Howard Dean has decided to stay in the race, even if he loses in Wisconsin. Dean says his supporters, who have raised him $1.1 million over the Internet, won�t allow him to drop out. They are begging him to stay in, so their money doesn�t go to waste.
This complicates the field for the Democrats, forcing the ABB (anything but Bush) faction to wait longer before aligning behind a single candidate. But it also complicates things for Dean, who may well know he can�t win and wish to drop out, but must bow to pressure from the people who give him money.
To me, this �in and out� waffle clearly demonstrates how politicians are controlled by their contributors � the Howard Deans as well as the George Bushes.
So religion is broken, and politics is broken, and if you look further, you will find that health care is also broken and education as well.
I think I�m beginning to see why. In our lives, we rarely focus fully on anything, and even more rarely focus on one thing for long enough to consider the consequences.
Bishop O�Brien was preoccupied by issues in the Diocese involving pedophile priests, and he was driving home from an event when he heard something strike his windshield.
He was not focussed on driving, nor was he focussed on helping the victim of his accident, even if it were an actual human being. He didn�t call the police, and he didn�t focus on the consequences of that, either. Or of not answering his phone when the police called him.
Howard Dean didn�t focus on his contributors, even when he took their money. He wasn�t focussed on the fact that by taking the money he might be responsible to them, and might have to alter his decisions and positions accordingly. Now, when it makes the most political and financial sense for him to leave the race, he is forced to focus on them, because they won�t let him drop out.
Can�t we all just find some focus?