The recently installed Pope Benedict gave a speech on Tuesday in his native Germany. Even though the Vatican has ruled that the pope as the prime representative of Christ on earth is as close to being infallible as anyone, such dogma has long since ceased to be newsworthy. Individuals designated as Catholics and Protestants have found other things to fight over (or even to agree with against a common secular enemy) and the thousands upon thousands of victims in Europe’s religious wars are more or less relegated to a historical footnote. Last Tuesday this doctrine of ex cathedra truth rose from the dead of church history and crashed through the gate of ecumenical tolerance.
In a speech yesterday before the annual convention of the American Legion, President Bush launched yet another premptive strike against anyone who dares to question the strategic logic and moral worth of his failed policies in the Middle East. Near the end of his self-congratulatory talk, patriotic fervor was appealed to with a reference to Thomas Jefferson: “In the early years of our republic, Thomas Jefferson said that we cannot expect to move ‘from despotism to liberty in a featherbed.’ That’s been true in every time and place.” Jefferson was a prolific author, and there are a number of other quotes that Bush’s speech writer chose judiciously not to cite. For example, “Experience hath shewn, that even under the best forms of government those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny.” The problem with the President’s speech is that it confuses the tyranny of his self-righteous refusal to admit mistakes with the diversity of opinions liberty necessitates. (more…)