When in wonder or in doubt

Musing for All Hallows Eve 2014

​A line from Herman Wouk’s The Caine Mutiny has been running though my mind of late. The line goes “When in wonder or in doubt, run in circle, scream, and shout.” It is both real and the scariest part of this All Hallows Eve.

​The world is a very uncertain place to be at this time. ISIS, Ebola, and a seemingly unending series of very complex and terrifying things fill us with an understandable measure of doubt, if not wonder. This season of our political division assures of the lack of cohesiveness with usually accompanies great tragedies. We usually pull together to accomplish what needs to be done. Instead, our lack of “United” among our “States” merely adds to the confusion.

​The arrival of Ebola patients to this country seems to have seriously damaged our false notion of our “splendid isolation.” We do not know how to respond to our being a part of the world. When it was “over there” we could allow our research into a cure for the dreaded disease to stay on the back burner – a cure was discovered in 2010 but not developed because it was not profitable. Our attitude of superiority has hindered our seeing ourselves as citizens of the world and the splendid words of John Donne (“Ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee”) are relegated to a work by Ernest Hemmingway.

​Even within our borders we seem unable to fathom the great racial divide evidenced by events in Ferguson, MO. It is that really “us” and not “them?”

​Last month I visited some of the “Painted Churches of Texas” – there are over twenty in the state. They remain as signs of the immigration of Germans and Czechs. Europe was in great upheaval during the 19th Century. Or consider my dermatologist Adam Czelustra whose family came from Poland to this country in the 1930’s. He describes their migration “for obvious reasons.” This easily translates into the wave of migration we current experience from South and Central America. These persons have stories and struggles for survival. We are part of the entire world.

​For many years I have wondered about the people we exclude from “our world.” (When exactly did we gain ownership of God’s world?) Somewhere in deep and darkest Africa there could be a child who would grow up to be the one who conqueres all the diseases we dread. We allow many things to keep us from discovering the delights of our differences.

​ I read that we may have a new immigration policy following the midterm elections. Immigration was a too hot a potato as we select our leaders. Indeed, our selection process appears to destroy any sense of “United.” The Four Billion Dollars spent in distribution half truths could have been spent in a more useful manner.

​`Our regionalized response to crises defuses the national will. Lincoln’s quote about “a house divided against itself” rings loudly within me and perhaps you.

​Mike Huckabee, erstwhile candidate for President, has gone so far as to encourage gubernatorial races because they then can decide who can vote and whether the votes will allow people to contest elections. It has already happened in Texas. The Supreme Court appears to not care except as the opinion of the minority. We have lost our cohesive center and we see the nation disintegrating.

​One moment during the past week needs to be remembered. It was the funeral of Benjamin C. Bradlee at the Cathedral Church of Sts. Peter and Paul, i.e. The Washington Cathedral. (The media coverage had not a clue as to what was happening liturgically.) The former editor of the Washington Post was remembered for things such as his support and encouragement of the Watergate reporting and his standing down the Attorney General Mitchell’s threats of retaliation. His tenacious search for facts and sources transformed the Post, according to many people. He had the encouragement and support of publisher Katherine Graham. Sadly, one person described the funeral as “the end of an era.” They marched from the church to the playing of Sousa’s “Washington Post March.”

​I sure hope someone picks up that mantel and can lead us back to a common concern rather than leaving us to “run in circle, scream and shout.”


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