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  • Reverend James Squire

Big Lie and Big Violence

Most of us have heard the country music song “Looking For Love In All The Wrong Places”. I think that Congress needs to look in all the right places in the history of totalitarian governments and dictatorships to get the right answers that they seek in the Impeachment Trial Part 2.

One can measure where many in the country are in their thinking by looking at the books that Amazon has had to restock after the Inauguration. One was George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty Four and another was The Origins of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt. Arendt isn’t a household name although I did reference her on the post title, The Wave. Arendt writes in her book, On Violence, published in 1970: “When institutions, particularly those of government, start to break down and lose their legitimacy, they lose their power over every day conduct of citizens. So what they do as a response to the loss of power is to incite violence. Violence floods into the loss of power rather than being an expression of it.” Can you think of a better description of what went on during the Insurrection on January 6? One can argue issues of constitutionality and intent “until the cows come home”, but history is about patterns of facts.

Arendt’s theory can be summarized by the phrase, “the bigger the lie, the bigger the violence”. Can you think of a bigger lie ever told to the American people than that the election was stolen? The lie is frequently mentioned, but why not ask the questions: “Is there any bigger lie ever been told to American citizens? Has there been any other insurrection as violent as that at the capitol in history that was linked to a president losing an election? That is where looking for the love of justice is.

“The bigger the lie, the bigger the violence” is on my mind because of a television series that I am watching on “Showtime”. It is the story of a judge’s son, Adam, who kills a teenager who is riding his motorcycle. Adam leaves the scene of the accident making it a hit and run. He tells his father who is a judge. They intend on telling the police until they discover that the person killed is the son of a notorious crime boss. They decide to coverup the crime because they fear retribution from the mob. They commit the big lie. An innocent man is accused. The series, Your Honor, is about what happens after their big lie. Innocent people die all through the narrative such an innocent victim’s family is blown up and the innocent victim himself is brutally murdered. Extreme violence follows their big lie. There are many twists and turns.

It is a gripping cautionary tale. I used movies in my Ethics class that were cautionary tales. I know that if someone watched Your Honor, they would think twice about leaving the scene of an accident.

From an ethical perspective, the Impeachment Trial Part 2, is a cautionary tale. If we see it as a “big lie and big violence” we are more likely to see it, for what it is, as a call for justice. But keep another distinction in mind. It is a political trial not a criminal trial. That is an important distinction. I am not holding my breath that justice will be served unless the Senate sees that this trial of someone who has told this “big lie/big violence” is an important part of history. Just think of any dictator or totalitarian regime that you have studied. Think Putin, Navalny, and Russia. Justice and Love are the two pillars that hold up ethical choices. Let’s look for justice in all the right places of history and Ethics. I hope that Congress does.

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