home > archive > 2004 > this article
The sacredness of human imperfection
By Michael Moriarty
Osama bin Laden and his followers have provoked a virtual thunderstorm within the soul of the entire Free World. From those nightmare clouds, like hail from an icy hell, he has sprayed our lives with hijacked planes and trains, and sundry atrocities. Sitting on a self-proclaimed throne, he declares that his enemies, particularly America, are ungodly, greedy, corrupt and diabolical. As if talking about his own brand of evil, he declares that he and Allah must rid the earth of such vermin.
While buildings crumble, planes fall from the sky and American civilians like Nick Berg and Paul Johnson are butchered on video, a virulent, meta-chemical plague is infesting the souls of free men and women. Gulf rabies has infected our own military. The wrath Osama is provoking in us is the very saliva of the rabid dogs that have bitten us. We first glimpsed this agonizing disease in Timothy McVeigh who, so far as we know, single-handedly destroyed the Oklahoma City Federal Building. A Gulf War veteran, he returned to our homeland with his own one-man holy war. His last words, before his death, read like the suicidal oath of al-Qaida: "I am great! I have carved my fate!"
Yet the American press views the behavior of our troops with horror, forgetting that the insane rage within our enemy can be transmitted to anyone. With our death toll in Baghdad at about six to 10 American Marines a day, a slight smirk or set of contemptuous Iraqi eyes can set our occupying force off on a rampage.
Both the Koran and the Bible describe the chaos of holy war in minute detail. If Osama is right, then the war is Allah versus Yahweh. Both cultures are seasoned in vengeance, and both have paid the price for their pursuit of perfection.
The Pursuit of Purity
When I view all cataclysmic wars and crusades, I realize that the common denominator for all of them is the heartless pursuit of a paradigm, purity or perfection.
From Christendom's Crusade against Islam to Osama's Holy War on the West, I see the same obsession. It threads through Hitler's dream of Aryan purity, the French Revolution's beheading of the royal family, the aristocracy and traitors to the Revolution, Stalin's purge of his officers, Mao's body count from the Great Leap Forward and his Red Guards storming through Beijing, Pol Pot's killing fields, Milosevic's ethnic cleansing, and more recently, the repeated genocides in Africa and the nightmare we now face from Osama's so-called Holy War.
Islam is reliving the French Revolution. The Muslim purists are forcing our lives and the hands of their own people into the fires of perfectionism. Robespierre, Danton and St. Just were once the glorious Three Musketeers of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity.
The Fate of Robespierre
After wallowing in the beheaded blood of the aristocracy, the leaders of the French Revolution soon began purging their own committee of its impurities. St. Just was assassinated and Danton executed. It was only a matter of time before Robespierre, the authority who instigated those deaths, would face the same reprisal. His death was gruesome and excruciatingly painful, but imbued with poetic justice, as he had authorized the death of hundreds by guillotine. Since the blood of so many men and women stained the hands of the very people Robespierre committed himself to save, it was no wonder so many of the vaunted "people of the revolution" would cheer the ghoulish death of their savior. Robespierre freed them from the aristocracy, only to plunge them into a bloodbath that consumed the revolutionaries themselves.
Robespierre paid for his shameful bloodlust. The mobs cried out in joy as his body was laid on the gallows face up. They thrilled that he would have to see the blade of the guillotine coming down toward his own neck. His gasp of horror as it fell caught the blade in his jaw. Rather than finish him off, the post-Robespierre Committee decided he should spend the night in jail with his mouth in pieces. The next day, his body was turned face down and his head lopped off from behind.
Al Zarqawi, the butcher of Iraq, the man who beheaded poor Nick Berg with a knife, would do well to remember the fate of Robespierre. He should also never forget that, because of the shame Robespierre brought on France, his head was cut off. I cannot believe that either Allah or Mohammed are pleased with the innocent blood bin Laden and Zarqawi have shed on the altars of Islam.
Perhaps Allah is now hunting both of them. To that, I say, Godspeed.
A Divine Revolution
In 1776, a revolution within the English-speaking peoples was begun. It ended in the creation of what is still, to this day, the Free World's most divine trinity of governing documents: The Declaration of Independence, The Constitution and The Bill of Rights.
Thousands of years after Israel's great Exodus from Egypt and less than two millennia after the birth of Christ, the Judeo-Christian civilization flowered into the United States of America.
What distinguishes the American Revolution from all others? Its recognition of the sacredness of human imperfection! Nothing so encapsulates that right to be human than the First Amendment. Though labeled Freedom of Speech, it is, in reality, our right to be wrong with our words without the threat of a beating or imprisonment or death. Speech has never been free or without price. Anything we say or don't say can and will be used against us in the court of life. Before our parents, our fickle friends and the enemies we make when we try to stand taller than a tyrant, we are answerable for our words, right or wrong. Barring perjury and lying before God, words alone should never, under the First Amendment, be held as probable grounds for any action of the state. The newest category of so-called "hate crimes" has begun the slow but steady erosion of our most profound right, the right to be wrong with our words.
We have the right to be what all of us are, at one time or another. Wrong. The perfect human being is a contradiction in terms.
Our Lord's Message
There are many disturbing phrases in Christ's gospel, one of which is, "If thine eye offend thee, pluck it out." Sounds like a prescription for ultimate suicide to me.
Perhaps the context for such words can be explained. One lovely evening, over dinner and amidst a bountiful supply of wine and wit, Christ and 11 of His apostles were filling the night air with laughter and song.
Through the door comes a very embittered-looking Judas. He carries his glowering face to the feast, sits down and begins a tiresome monologue about the conditions in Bethlehem. He lists his hatred of the filth in the streets, his anger at the parents who don't clothe their children properly, his rage at all the corrupt officials in the local city government. He goes on and on with his aria about all that is wrong with life in general.
The table, of course, has grown silent. Christ and His disciples are exchanging looks, because Judas won't stop with his highly depressing monologue.
Finally, Christ reaches across his plate to pick up a carving knife. He holds it out toward Judas. The disciples watch their Lord's every move.
"Yes, Lord?," the depressed young man answers.
"If you don't like what you're looking at, cut your eyes out."
"What?," exclaims Judas.
"If you don't like what you are seeing, then blind yourself," murmurs Christ, as he holds the dagger calmly before His confused disciple.
Everyone is bewildered now. Judas is shocked.
"Blind myself!," Judas exclaims, looking around at the other disciples for approval. "I'd have to be crazy to cut my eyes out!"
After a slight pause, Christ said, "Then shut up."
Within seconds, the other disciples began to understand Christ's message. Their growing fellowship expanded until the table erupted in laughter. Christ smiled and used the knife to feed Himself His lamb.
Apparently for Christ, unless you see like little children, you can't possibly receive the slightest glimpse of the eternity He promised us. And therein lies the sacredness of human imperfection.
Michael Moriarty is a Golden Globe and Emmy Award winning actor who has appeared in the landmark television series Law and Order, the mini-series Taken, and the recent TV-movie The 4400. In May, Moriarty won a Leo Award (celebrating excellence in British Columbia film) for best supporting actor for his role in the TV-movie Mob Princess.
Get weekly updates about new issues of ESR!
© 1996-2018, Enter Stage Right and/or its creators. All rights reserved.