"O' both your houses!"

How could we be surrounded with such stubborn stupidity?

Issue: "Dr. Laura: Taking static," April 8, 2000

It's pretty common to the human experience to get so weary of any particular disagreement that all you can do is lump everybody together-friend and foe-and wish them into the distance. "A plague o' both your houses!" snorted William Shakespeare's Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet when he realized what corruption he faced on both fronts. More than at any point in my life, I've had that same sense as I've pondered conflict after conflict throughout the world. Examples abound: Guns. The simplistic, foolish, and often anti-constitutional arguments of the gun-control folks are enough to send any thoughtful person-just on the basis of logic-straight to the headquarters of the National Rifle Association. But that's only until the NRA's Wayne LaPierre returns the absurdity by charging President Clinton with complicity in the deaths of gunshot victims. The argument gets so preposterous that you want to yell, "A plague ... !" Elián. Fidel Castro's cruel, overbearing, and seemingly indestructible regime doesn't deserve even a tiny victory on this stage of world affairs. But the Miami relatives of little Elián Gonzalez deserve not much more after continuing to stress all the material benefits Elián will gain by staying in the United States. Even to suggest that a visit to Disney World is a legitimate part of this debate is to forfeit the argument-although admittedly to a viciously unworthy adversary. School prayer. A plague, of course, on the American Civil Liberties Union and all the other radical groups so intent on trying to get every-thing that sounds remotely like prayer out of the public schools, and away from public life in general. But a second plague on those so intent on getting prayer back into the schools, and everywhere else, that they'll water prayer down to meaningless babble to do so. Real prayer is always passionate; if it isn't passionate, it's not prayer. Tobacco. No time, on the one hand, for a pompous federal government that ignores the Constitution in its relentless effort to do in the tobacco companies. If Uncle Sam can shut down R. J. Reynolds, who can survive? But who can shed a single tear, either, for big tobacco? Whatever wrongs Washington has done in chasing them down, the only immunity they deserve is purely technical. They are killers, and vicious killers at that. Political parties. It's no secret to WORLD readers that our editorial approach to the formation of public policy finds us more often in agreement with the platform of the Republican Party than that of the Democrats. But if anyone thinks that means we're always tickled pink with the performance of those same Republicans, they don't know how deeply we respect the observation of Lord Acton (and William Pitt before him) that power tends to corrupt. In many ways in recent years, Republicans have been even less faithful to their stated goals than Democrats have been to theirs. The Middle East. Whether your sympathies lie with the beleaguered Israelis or the oppressed Palestinians depends on which day of the week it is. But the closer you are to Egypt, the more careful you have to be referring to plagues on anybody's house. Boy Scouts. Who can hope for anything but vindication for the Boy Scouts of New Jersey in the court case by which they have been denied the prerogative of excluding homosexuals from their leadership ranks? But how much of a victory is it when that same Boy Scout organization constantly insists on reducing the God of its oath to a meaningless, generic deity who probably doesn't deserve a capital "G"? Catholics. Because of their conservative stance on abortion, feminism, and other moral issues, the Vatican and the Roman Catholic Church have made themselves enormously unpopular at the United Nations and in other geopolitical structures. "Go away," they are rudely told-and I find myself defending them. But then I think about the absurdity of having the UN or the United States appoint an ambassador to the Southern Baptists, or to the Mormons, and I wonder what the Vatican is thinking about. Enough? You get the point, I think. Nor would it be hard to multiply many times over such a list of adversaries in public disputes-both of whom in many cases are almost equally distasteful. How could we be surrounded with such stubborn stupidity? The problem for Christians, though, is that it's never enough just to wish someone away by saying, "A plague o' both your houses!" The great God who sits in heaven sees not just those terribly distasteful disputants whom we see in all these cases-but He sees us as well, along with our own arrogance, hypocrisy, and self-serving spirit. He could include us too in a cavalier dismissal-but He doesn't. He keeps showing patience with unruly adversaries, waiting for us to learn His truth. I hope I'll remember that the next time I'm tempted to dismiss my enemies overly quickly, rather than to engage them with the truth. I hope I'll remember that I too was once an enemy of God.

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Joel Belz
Joel Belz

Joel, WORLD's founder, writes a regular column for the magazine and contributes commentaries for The World and Everything in It. He is also the author of Consider These Things.


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