Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Cheney, Dylan and the Old Testament

I'm a plain vanilla Christian, not a fundamentalist type who believes the Bible is the literal word of God. That tradition derives from conservative Judaism based on the belief that the first five books of what we call the Bible and they call Torah are direct revelation of God and everything else is incidental. However, I know from personal experience that the books are revelatory in more ways than one. Some say that the age of miracles and revelation, as it was demonstrated in what we Christians call the Old Testament, is past. Those folks are kidding themselves. They think we are no longer accountable for our "sins" on a grand scale; they also think that the devil isn't afoot in our world, saving their horror for the 90 minutes they spend in a movie theater and take with a grain of salt the news that we have decimated most of the oceans' fish stocks beyond recovery. Not to mention the news that almost one-quarter of the Arctic Ocean has melted in the last fifteen years. In biblical times everyone would be on their knees repenting for their personal contributions to the disasters being visited on their people and the world. Instead, we go to the movies, turn on the TV, or pick up our game yolks. I have a small suggestion: Get your butt up early next Saturday or Sunday and set it down in a temple or a church. You can bet that on Friday the rugs in the mosques will be covered.

Where do Dick Cheney and Bob Dylan come into this you ask? First, the Jew Robert Allan Zimmerman. I have watched him in interviews and he seems to be a very un-self aware man. Of course, Dylan is nothing if not smart but his confusion when pressed about his vision seemed genuine enough. When he was singing his "protest" songs in the 1960s and after, people called him a prophet and he protested. Later he flirted with fundamentist Christianity but, as demonstrated in his music, it was drawn from the southern black gospel tradition. He sang, metaphorically, about the states of the "widow and the orphan". Mr. Zimmerman is a prophet indeed, but a prophet in the Old Testament tradition of Aaron and Elijah, both of whom feared the work being pressed upon them. But they had to do what they had to do, and God gave them everything they needed to warn the world. But the world didn't listen, even though their fortunes had been cataloged in detail. And they paid the price.

Dick Cheney. I know Dick Cheney, though peripherally. We are the same age and both come from the exact same culture—Wyoming of the 1940s and 50s. He and my twin brother went to Boys State where my brother was elected Superintendent of Schools. I don't know which office Cheney was elected to but I'm sure it was a high one. Later he would be my congressman for several years, and he was a good one. He had a sense of humor then, like our favorite senator Alan Simpson.

I also know Cheney because I helped guard him at his bunker after 9-11. The "bunker" is a blue-gray Cape Cod house a stones-throw from the clubhouse of the Teton Pines golf course in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. I was one of two security guards for the gated community where he and Lynne own that house. It was there that he retreated and I am still surprised that not one member of the press showed up during all the time he was there. How the secret was maintained, or what arrangements were made with the press, is a puzzle because he was anything but invisible. As a matter of fact, he used to do his shopping at Albertson's supermarket (he cooks for relief from the pressure) and I talked to him a couple of times, even gave him a copy of one of my books. He will talk to you but, unlike when he was our congressman five times, he is now wary as hell. I did break through once, when I talked to him about my personal relationship with one of Senator Simpson's sons when I was a deputy sheriff in Simpson's home town Cody. But I could tell that he had now put on a suit of mental armor and his sword was close by. Of course, because I worked closely with the Secret Service guys guarding him at the time, and he knew me on sight, it was easier for me than most to approach him.

I have an anecdote that might help explain where that toughness comes from. In the fall of 1957 the Asian flu made its way to Wyoming and it was bad stuff, would kill 70,000 people in the U.S. alone. It was football season and most of our team, the Kemmerer Rangers, were in bed by mid-week. But our coach wasn't going to let that get in the way and he refused to cancel the game. We all obediently suited up and won the game. The headline of the local paper read: 'A Sick Bunch of Ranger Beat Montpelier 27-7!" That was the Wyoming Dick Cheney and I grew up in. You never, ever, ever give up. Never doubt yourself, just keep plugging and you will win. The Washington Post described it this way: 'The Cheney doctrine was cast iron strength at all times - never apologise, never explain.' It served him well all through his career and so it should come as no surprise that he depends on that attitude to this day. He's another man who understands very little about himself. And in this case his wife Lynne helps him maintain his suit of psychic armor. She, and now his daughter Mary, cover his flanks as he moves out from behind the cover of the vice-presidency.

How does qualify Mr. Cheney as a biblical character? The "doctrine" of the banality of evil, which is that great evils are mostly committed by rather ordinary people who accept the evil premises of their state and therefore participate with the view that their actions are normal. The devil was definitely afoot during the Bush administration and Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld were his agents. How else explain the fact that America, the birthplace of Democracy, would duplicate Stalin's 'Gulag Archipelago' with secret prisons spread all over the world under the rendition program? That, if nothing else he has done, ranks as an evil of biblical proportions.

That's my rant for the day. Thank you for your support.


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