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Let the Prayer Continue

“. . . may all members be mindful that the institutions and structures of our great nation guarantee the opportunities that have allowed some to achieve great success, while others continue to struggle. May their efforts these days guarantee that there are not winners and losers under new tax laws but benefits balanced and shared by all Americans.”

These words freaked out Paul Ryan enough that he tried to get rid of Father Pat Conroy, the House chaplain who uttered this prayer back in November, when the debate on the massive overhaul of the tax system was going on.

What stunned me about this relatively small national controversy wasn’t so much the fact that Ryan’s action blew up in his face and he wound up having to “unfire” Father Conroy, but the fact that the prayer got to him in the first place — that he noticed it and had to defend himself (and his ideology) against it.

Moral accountability, ladies and gentlemen! It’s been banned from the halls of government for quite some time, but when it shows up it’s still upsetting to the powerful. They may not fear a tamed, caged democracy, but they fear a reckless chaplain calling out in prayer for a fair system of taxation.

Let the prayer continue.

As Gina Haspel — “Bloody Gina” — Donald Trump’s nominee to head the CIA, begins her congressional hearing, let awareness of the wrong of torture seize the powerful. Let remorse and outrage cry out in the hardest of hearts. Let truth flood the American conscience:

“As the CIA’s video cameras rolled,” writes Sarah Jones in the New Republic, “security guards shackled Abu Zubaydah to a gurney and interrogators poured water over his mouth and nose until he began to suffocate. They slammed him against a wall, confined him for hours in a coffin-like box, and deprived him of sleep.

“The 31-year-old Zubaydah begged for mercy, saying that he knew nothing about the terror group’s future plans. The CIA official in charge (Haspel) . . .  mocked his complaints, accusing Zubaydah of faking symptoms of psychological breakdown. The torture continued.”

Let this man’s cry for mercy be heard today. Let it not be too late for powerful men and women across the planet hear the cries of refugees, of children, of the wrongfully imprisoned. Let the Haspel hearings be more than a struggle between political parties, between competing clichés about national security. Let not merely torture but war itself be on the table and no longer protected by lies and by language itself — “enhanced interrogation techniques,” “collateral damage” — from its long overdue moral accountability.

And let the prayer continue.

Let the United States not go to war with Iran or foment a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. Let sanity — please, oh Lord — prevail, and the re-empowered voices of war and dominance return to shame and silence. Let the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action be the model for resolving future international conflict, not the bullying arrogance of You Know Who, oh Lord.

And speaking of nuclear war, let us, oh Lord, find the courage and wherewithal, as a national entity, to do more than “be against it,” even with eloquent language, as President Barack Obama was when, in 2016, he addressed a crowd at the site of one of humanity’s deepest scars:

“Seventy-one years ago, on a bright cloudless morning,” the president said, “death fell from the sky and the world was changed. A flash of light and a wall of fire destroyed a city and demonstrated that mankind possessed the means to destroy itself.

“Why do we come to this place, to Hiroshima? We come to ponder a terrible force unleashed in a not-so-distant past. We come to mourn the dead, including over 100,000 Japanese men, women and children, thousands of Koreans, a dozen Americans held prisoner.

“Their souls speak to us. They ask us to look inward, to take stock of who we are and what we might become.

“. . . The wars of the modern age teach us this truth. Hiroshima teaches this truth. Technological progress without an equivalent progress in human institutions can doom us. The scientific revolution that led to the splitting of an atom requires a moral revolution as well.”

Let us never again say such words and then approve spending more than a trillion dollars to upgrade our nuclear weapons, even as we hold other nations accountable for the weapons they possess or someday may possess. Let us find, in the depths of this prayer, the collective courage and strength necessary to bring about humanity’s moral revolution.

Let us learn to see beyond a longing for wealth and power, and as we see the possible future, let us dismantle the politics and economics of war, of military industrialism, of a belief only in the pseudo-peace of threatened mutual destruction.

Let us face the insanity of nuclear war and nuclear winter and vow that it will never happen. Let us bestow mercy on ourselves, and on our children.

 

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Robert Koehler is a Chicago award-winning journalist and editor.

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