A call to ask questions

By Ray McGovern
That America is in deep moral trouble is clear to everyone, save perhaps those emulating Rip Van Winkle downstream on the Hudson. This truly is a summer of discontent. The question is whether discontent will move us to action.

The gap between the very rich and the jobless (and often homeless) poor has become a Palisades-size chasm. Do we dare ask the key questions? Is it right to close libraries, leave students in permanent debt, gut safety-net programs? Is it moral to squander on the Pentagon the equivalent of what the rest of the world spends for defense?

We are guided by profits more than by prophets. Lucrative war-making serves up an inexhaustible supply of militants, insurgents, terrorists and simply “bad guys” to be hunted down by our killing machines. With muted murmur from progressive supporters, the Obama administration is playing fast and loose with the rights guaranteed by the Constitution, which many of us took a solemn oath to support and defend “against all enemies foreign and domestic?”

Rabbi Abraham Heschel said that wherever injustice takes place, “Few are guilty, but all are responsible.”

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. warned: “A time comes when silence is betrayal.”

No one has put it better than author and poet Alice Walker whom I met two years ago aboard the Audacity of Hope — the U.S. Boat to Gaza: “Activism is my rent for living on this planet.”

I think of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the Lutheran pastor who founded an authentic “Confessing Church” during the 1930s as a haven for Germans with the courage to resist their bishops’ unconscionable decision to give priority to keeping the churches open rather than to opposing the abuses visited on their Jewish and other neighbors.

Bonhoeffer was disconsolate watching his fellow churchgoing Germans acquiesce in the timidity (dare we say cowardice) of the church hierarchy, as it ignored Martin Luther’s call for Christians to put themselves “where the battle rages.” Before Bonhoeffer was hanged, he directed the following lament at his fellow Christians: “Are we still of any use?”

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