I just watched the Railway Man with Colin Firth. Considering the events of the past few days, it is what some would call a coincidence. I don’t believe in coincidence. Perhaps that is because I believe in the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. The movie is about the horror, the torture that the Japanese inflicted upon the British during WWII; after their surrender to the Japanese in the Far East-Singapore. The Japanese were raised on an ethic that is far beyond our comprehension. They, too, worshiped a cult of death- Kamikaze pilots; of martyrdom; death before surrender. There was no room in their world for “the other.” Torture was never a moral conundrum. And the torture they inflicted on their British, as well as Canadian and America prisoners was so horrific that no words could be put to the pain.
How odd; how sad that we hear so little about it. In the movie the main characters tell us that neither the British nor the Japanese wanted to talk about it. Neither the victim nor the victimizer wanted to speak about the unspeakable. Yet, yet…there has been reconciliation. There has been forgiveness and acceptance.
Near the end of the movie, there is a scene about the importance of language-the need for the precise use of words. It reminded me of Obama’s speech, June 14, 2016, following the massacre at Pulse in Orlando. What difference does it make what words you use? he demanded. He should watch this movie. We know the difference.
Forty-nine people did not die in Orlando; nor were they killed. They were murdered; by a man who declared himself to be a Muslim. A man who was raised in the West but chose Sharia as his ethic. How many times has the word killed been used and abused, when in truth the word is murdered. Jewish people, in Israel, when attacked by the barbarians, are not killed. They didn’t just die. They were murdered. Death is passive; natural. Murder is an act; intentional.
The Japanese people have changed, dramatically since the end of WWII. After the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It is possible for a people to repent. To do what is called Teshuva in Hebrew. To return and try again-following a different path. The Japanese people turned away from their earlier beliefs; their culture of death. For that to happen it took the courage of a great man to call for the bombing of innocent civilians. To end the culture that refused to lay down its arms. President Truman made that call. President Roosevelt commissioned the building of that bomb. These men were great leaders-perhaps even visionaries-for they had to believe that what they were doing would bring an end to the horror. Did they know that their actions would change the morals, values, and ethics of the people who were their enemy? Did they know that the Japanese people would reinvent themselves and take on the morals, values and ethics of the West?
Listening to Obama on June 14, I realized that he has no inherent greatness, no great vision for America. He is no leader of “men.” He has besmirched the office of president. He no longer deserves the honorific for he has sullied it. He has done damage to the office of President of the United States of America. He has no understanding of the power of language. He has no understanding of the importance to name a threat in order to defend against it, while attacking it.
This man will not name evil when he sees it. For the Islam that is showing its face today is evil. He has some innate need to protect and defend Islam despite its call for death to America while too many adherents wantonly murder in its name across the Middle East and in Europe, and too often in his own country under his watch. He seems to be holding on to some ideal of Islam that perhaps spread across the known world during its Golden Age more than seven hundred years ago. And it is only golden through the glasses of nostalgia; for in truth, it was not golden-it was just better than what had been before and what is has become in the 21st century. This man is defending a religion stuck in hate for the other- a religion, a culture, that speaks to supremacy over others: a religion that idolizes death-of others, and themselves in the name of martyrdom. It is a lifestyle that is anathema to those of us who have been raised bathed and swaddled in freedom and pluralism; in an ethic that demands care for the other, that calls on us over and over to choose life over death that teaches us that life is sacred.
He will never be a catalyst for much needed change in Islamic culture because he will never have the courage of his predecessors to do the right thing-to stop the scourge of this horribly practiced culture that may at one time have been honorable. He will never stop the terror. He will never put an end to ISIS. He cannot stop the terrorizing of his own citizens because he won’t name it. Because he will not say “Islamic terrorism,” he will never defeat it.
Wilhelm von Humboldt said, in the eighteenth century, “Language is, as it were, the external manifestation of the minds of the peoples. Their language is their soul, and their soul is their language.” In the twentieth century, Roland Barthes wrote; “Man does not exist prior to language, either as a species or an individual. We never find a state where man is separated from language, which he then creates in order to ‘express’ what is taking place within him: it is language which teaches the definition of man, not the reverse.”
The language of History will define the soul of Barack Obama.