Lately, I have become infuriated.
I don't mean the wine-sipping, limp-wristed outrage that passes for caring in groups of like-minded, let's-pat-outselves-on-the-back activists. I mean cuss-spitting, out-of-control, kill-'em-all infuriated. It blazes with a acetylene-torch heat gone haywire. It is consuming. It blots out the sun.
Having been 'brought up' in a spiritual persuasion called Zen Buddhism, I can hear all the smooth-lipped tut-tutting about "right speech" and "right thought" ... and imagine the countervailing pictures of serene gurus apparently unaffected by daily circumstances. They're kool. I'm not. Shouldn't I try to be like that? -- unruffled as a pond in a windless light? Maybe so, but I doubt it. I am infuriated and that overwhelming, blazing fire gives no quarter; it incinerates everything in its path. I may know that such emotional delights really don't work out when it comes to solving a problem or a situation but, for the moment, "fuck that!" I am just infuriated.
The proximate cause of my infuriation (if that's a word) has been a series of reminders about the sexual abuse scandals that have rocked various organizations. The Roman Catholic Church is an obvious one. Zen Studies Society is another. Penn State University is another. The list is long, longer, longest. And the patterns are always the same. Bring the matter to light ... and then paper it over.
What infuriates me is that I believe what Christians claim to believe ... the parable of the shepherd of with 100 sheep who leaves the 99 to fend for themselves while he goes to look for the one which is lost. Lost, alone, uncertain, afraid ... the shepherd attends to the one that is least capable and confused. That is his job because where the least is wounded, so equally are the most. This is not just some moral or ethical, Sunday-go-to-meetin' eyewash. I believe that this is the job of organizations that lay claim to a higher -- or even a moderately high -- calling and goal: To protect and nourish what is less obvious, what is less of a money-maker, what is less self-aggrandizing. To take responsibility for the edifice the shepherd has built ... that's a sine qua non of the job ... and it seldom if ever gets done. And that infuriates me because in my mind, I believe the shepherd's tale. Taking advantage of those weaker than yourself is, in my mind and out of a time when language still meant something, an infamy ... apostate at the most living part of any human being ... beyond the pale.
I believe in the shepherd.
Tant pis pour moi.
And still I grow infuriated. Really pissed. Touchy as a rattlesnake without its skin.
Today -- this very day -- a friend of mine who was abused with others in a school run under Catholic auspices is meeting with a lawyer for the Catholic church. He is in his 60's. He put up a web site some ten years ago that was dedicated to that abuse so far in his past. For five years, nothing happened. Then, five years ago, others who had likewise been abused started flooding the site with their own grueling recollections. And today -- this very day -- ten years after the web site and perhaps 50 since the abuse, there is a meeting. My friend is seeking some big-bucks damages. Perhaps he will get them, perhaps not. But for all those years, this single sheep was alone and ashamed and wounded and lost and aching and ... the organization that lays claim to being a good shepherd ignored or papered over his concerns.
And today -- this very day -- there is a story out of Penn State University about the president of the university trying to do damage control: Rodney Erickson was quoted as saying:
"It grieves me very much when I hear people say 'the Penn State scandal.' This is not Penn State. This is 'the Sandusky scandal,'" he said. "We're not going to let what one individual did destroy the reputation of this university."
Glib, evasive, self-serving, but, as always, well-manicured ... bullshit!
Penn State is not responsible. The Roman Catholic Church is not responsible. Zen Studies Society is not responsible. Anyone with two brain cells to rub together knows that the fish stinks from the head down, but acknowledging this very simple fact goes begging. What's wrong with making a mistake and then acknowledging it fully and trying to make amends? If you claim dominion over the realms of caring and nourishment, how can you possibly sidestep responsibility for fuck-ups within that realm? And, leaving all philosophical niceties aside, how can someone look themselves in the mirror after having been party to hurting individuals some of whom were children? Children, for Christ's fucking sake! That's living, breathing, flesh-and-blood fellow human beings... fellow sheep. Never mind if "God will forgive you." Will you ever be able to forgive yourself? How much papering over will that require? And will that papering over prove anything more than that forgetfulness, like thoughtlessness, is par for the course?
Yes, my infuriation can really get going. I won't apologize for it. I will not pretend it does not exist or that it cannot consume me. But more than that, I think there is something honest in it. And I think that honesty is the cornerstone of peace.
Yes, I can get my knickers in a serious, fulminating twist. It's just my truth at the moment.
But when I look over the paperings of the past, I realize that papering things over is the way of all depredations. Things slip into the past. Organizations and individuals make room for a fruitful future by overlooking or explaining a rotten past. It's the way of the world. It's honestly what happens.
So my bottom line is this. Go ahead and be infuriated. Let 'er rip! Then do what you decide to do about it and learn the only real lesson there is: Don't YOU do that! Don't become some Israel bemoaning the Holocaust and then treating the Palestinians to concentration camps. Don't you mouth "justice" and maintain a Guantanamo Bay prison without rights or judicial review. Don't be a hypocrite in your own life. Sure, try and fail, try and fail, try and fail ... but try.
Good, bad or indifferent -- don't be afraid of the truth. What truth? Your truth. Running scared -- donning the robes of virtue -- is no way to lead a peaceful life. It's a terrible habit, however popular.
Don't YOU do that.
End of rant.
PS. And as if all of this accumulated rubbish weren't enough, after I finished writing the above, I got in the car to go to the supermarket, only to be greeted by an eight-minute radio segment on (talk about icky karma) the Catholic Church sex abuse scandals.