from President Lincoln
Lincoln struggled to understand the inexplicable ferocity and
tenacity of the American Civil War. His thoughts are worth
considering today as we face even greater challenges.
In a moral universe,
the destruction of so many lives, over 700,000, over issues that
humanity should have contrived to eradicate by its own natural progression,
should not have occurred. No one wanted or expected such an unconscionable
war, but no one could stop it either.
not a religious man, but he turned to the Bible for an explanation.
His conclusion? Providence provokes suffering on those from whom
much suffering came - and nothing can stop it until the prideful
maliciousness of all those concerned is finally burned away.
malice toward none; with charity for all." So began
the last sentence of Lincoln's second inaugural address. Here he
is calling for those non-belligerent attitudes that will heal the
nation's wounds. Whether he realized it or not he also articulated
a moral formula to avoid such tragedies in the future. It is a lesson
we must focus on today in order to achieve its completion.
believe in God or not, justice will have its due in ways that we
cannot predict. From our limited, egocentric viewpoint, it may not
seem like justice at all. Surely we deserve better! Surely the innocent
should be spared! Surely peace should be everyone's goal, including
those of our enemies! How is it that things continue to get worse?
On the stage
of national and world politics, it is not just particular offenses
that provoke upheavals that demand moral balance. If only it were!
Selfishness alone would cause us to compensate in order to acquire
What we fail
to see, and what ultimately provokes so much suffering in the world,
is the insanity we generate in order to allow our continued trespasses.
It is that insanity for which we must account and initiate change.
You see, we
are responsible not only for our offenses, but for the world we
create in which these offenses arise. It is this blind status quo
that fashions our own punishments. And they continue to escalate
until we make sure that the moral insanity ends.
East has a long history of political and sectarian strife that
cannot and will not be easily erased. The innocent there, and there
are many, will suffer as a continued indictment against the rage
and barbarity of those who turn to violence in the name of religion.
This will continue until it learns the essence of all real religious
impulses, as Lincoln summarized, "with malice toward none,"
and "with charity for all."
has a long, sad history of imperialistic ambitions that contributed
to Middle Eastern strife. They find themselves today bearing the
cost of their own past offenses, and have embraced the remedy of
replacing the maliciousness of greed with the conscience-building
States has a history of proclaiming profound and universal ideals
while failing to protect them from the tainted subterfuge of greed.
Whereas it was once welcomed and respected throughout the Middle
East as a non-imperialistic conduit of modernity, it undercut its
own reputation by supporting dictators, political coups and engaging
in wars, the ramifications of which it could not begin to understand.
Once trust was lost, it could not easily be regained.
It could be
said that each of these regions are today being punished for their
sinsbut a moral universe, if ever we shall have one, is not
about punishment. The true wages of sin always point to the insanity
of their creation. We are all guilty of avarice, of pride bordering
on hubris, insisting that our way is the only way, and using power
disrespectfully for our own gain. This is the insanity we must now
confront on a global scale, for which Lincoln provided a remedy:
malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the
right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive to finish
the work we are in
to do all which may achieve and cherish
a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations."
As these words
unveil their deeper meaning to us now, let us strive to learn from
them how to defeat the insanity that escalates all around us before
it is too late.