Ah, Dubya, all is forgiven. *hic*

beyond the raveI feel unsettled. Horrified, even. I think I’m in shock. You see, I just read an excerpt from an interview that made me feel sympathy for George W Bush. I’ve washed and washed but I can’t seem to get clean. Last week, papers reported how President Bush had spoken rather candidly on television about his past struggles with excessive drinking. I’m not ashamed to admit that his candour and humanity, his willingness to admit weakness, moved me. So much so, in fact, that I had the urge to forgive his political wrong-headedness, the many who have died because of his foreign and economic policies and forgive his giving evangelicals a bad name. And maybe buy him a drink.

It’s the way you feel in horror movies, when the monster turns to look mournfully out of a window, a single tear tracing a silvery line down its disfigured face, as it watches children playing happily in the snow outside. from Willis O'BrienTo shout: ‘Kill! Kill it now! Hit it with the ashtray! Feed it unsaturated fats! Stab it in the head with a fork while it’s not looking!’ at that point is considered bad form. We’re encouraged, instead, to enjoy the complexity, the grown-upness of stories that supposedly go beyond simplistic black and white moralising and finding beauty in paradox (as Jeremy Clarkson would rather die choking on a Greenpeace flyer than say).

It’s a technique that reflects a larger socio-philosophical trend: moral relativism that reduces the world to one big ethical grey-area, and one that will present problems to Christians. We’ll see it, I’m sure, in the latest Hammer Horror vampire film, Beyond the Rave, which papers last week told us will be released on the internet, but about some issues we seem to have a phobia of paradox and complexity. Take the tiny two-column piece in the Independent on Sunday last week about Osama bin Laden’s son, Omar.

Omar talks about his dad as a ‘good father’ and of how Osama loved barbecues, flowers and ‘beautiful desert trips’. He tells of how his father would read him ‘really lovely poems with his calm, soothing voice’ and how he would carry his son on his shoulders after a game of footy. It’s a side of Osama bin Laden that, I think you’ll agree, we don’t hear much about. Why? Because we don’t want to. And why is that? Because he is the enemy. And it’s easier to fight enemies who are monsters rather than humans. It avoids the Hammer Horror scenario of sympathy for the vampire losing you valuable seconds in despatching him. But those of us called to love our enemies (and call me old fashioned, but I count people who want to kill me as enemies) would probably find that command easier if we tried to see them as human beings, flawed as we are and with differing political agendas, but every bit as much made in the image of God as we are.

Seeing George Dubya or Osama the Terrifying (depending on your politics) with as much empathy as we muster for King Kong, Frankenstein, or whatever poor creature crawls out of the proverbial black lagoon would make it easier to love them. We must always remember that a monster is a monster. But identifying that flicker of humanity would also help us to see past the hate, self-interest and dehumanising rhetoric that make war, torture and intolerance possible and engage like humans over the real issues. But when it comes to doing the right thing, I think sometimes we don’t want easy, we want an excuse.

 

Bush drunk? never! This video puts that little myth to bed like the bad girl she is:

 

 

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