HARVARD SQUARE COMMENTARY

April 9, 2007
Harvard Square Observer

St. Augustine, George W. Bush, and Original Sin

Ernest Cassara


I remember, years ago, reading the Confessions of St. Augustine Hippo, in which he tells us, page after page, what a naughty boy/man he has been.  The reader turns the pages, expecting that, soon, he will spill the beans and tell all about his torrid sex life.  One way to sell books, you might say, but, I’m not sure that that applied in the fourth and fifth centuries.  Of course, he never does tell us.

I mention the old boy, because one of the major points of his book is to convince the reader of the existence of original sin.  The doctrine, of course, stems from the belief that because Eve, that naughty girl, convinced Adam to eat of the tree of forbidden fruit, Augustine and the rest of us are condemned, stained by original sin.

I dismissed this notion years ago, but, I’ve had to reconsider it lately, all thanks to George W. Bush and Richard Cheney and the nefarious activities of this administration.

Last week, on C-SPAN, I heard an interview with a young lawyer, George Brent Mickum. I’m happy to say his law degree is from George Mason University, with which I had a twenty-year connection.  Pro bono, he has been working with one of the detainees at the Guantánamo prison with which the administration of George W. Bush has shamed us Americans. In the course of the discussion, he mentioned that there are about 800 jailed, some of whom were never on the battle field, but turned over for bounties. He, also, mentioned that some detainees at Bagram prison in Afghanistan, and elsewhere, are chained to the floor in a fetal position, often deprived of food and drink, and left to urinate and defecate on themselves.

Some of the prisoners never see another human being, even those who bring them their food.  In these conditions, some slowly go insane.

This is where original sin comes in.  Any human being who subjects another human being to this kind of treatment is depraved. If he/she does not understand this, then there is something basically wrong with that person, and, perhaps Augustine’s explanation - centuries later expanded by St. Thomas Aquinas - suffices.

You say, but, he/she often has authority from above to engage in such activity.  I answer, tell that to the Lord that these disreputable people most often claim to worship.  Furthermore, anyone up the line who justifies this kind of action is as guilty, in a sense more so, than the person who carries out the shameful act.

So, we come to George W. Bush and Richard Cheney, who should know better.  But, that they do not tells us much about their outlook on life.  I will not repeat what I wrote a couple of weeks ago, quoting an expert, Barbara Bush, on her son’s “shitty” outlook on life.  If you missed it, click here to link to this column in the HSC archives.


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