Why Not God?


I was going to post another abysmally depressing column today. Then I convinced myself that I needed to find some reason for optimism to begin 2013. So here goes—what passes for optimism. It’s the best I can do.

Ferenc Feher, my philosophy professor and mentor in graduate school, once said to me: “After the Holocaust, we decided that God didn’t exist. God would never have allowed the Holocaust to happen.  We knew that it was up to us to stop evil.” His father had died in a concentration camp when he was a young boy.  Pointing to his stark, shoebox-sized office in one of the New School buildings in Manhattan, he said, “this office has all the ambiance in the world,” compared to the room lit by a single lightbulb, where he had been tortured and interrogated because of his criticisms of the Hungarian Communist Party.

This is the memory that came to mind several days ago as I read Maureen Dowd’s column, “Why, God?” More accurately, her friend Father Kevin O’Neill wrote that column, a moving rumination on searching for reasons behind the horrific tragedies that surround us, such as the deaths of the children and teachers in Newtown, CT and the ambushed firemen in upstate NY. Among his thoughts, he writes:

I don’t look for the hand of God to stop evil.

On that, Father O’Neill, Prof. Feher, and I agree. I will not count on God to stop evil. I will however look to those of us who recognize humanity on its own grounds–to vociferously, courageously, dangerously challenge and resist those who refuse to do so.  I will look to like-minded folks to insist that the U.S. Constitution, as flawed as it may be, must remain a model of human and political rights. I will count on those same folks to argue against the horrible dehumanization of others–to whom we have no relation whatsoever, except that they are human like us.  I will count on my allies, regardless of whether we can agree on strategies, means, or the details, to insist that torture, renditions, indefinite incarceration, warrantless surveillance, detention without habeas corpus, racial profiling, entrapment of innocent men and women, harassment and persecution of poor people and people of color—that all of these are an abomination of what it means to be human, to be a dignified and respectful American, to be a moral person. And I look to my intimates, neighbors, friends not yet met, colleagues, pundits, and students to insist that the presence of such actions in this society is an abomination to our aspiration to a fair, just, and democratic society. I look to them–to you–to insist that it is up to us to eliminate these from our existence, from our vocabulary.

But in the meantime, a girl can dream the impossible, can’t she? In that vein, here are my desires and hopes for the New Year:

-Sen. Dianne Feinstein suddenly comes to her senses and insists on a special session to repeal the 5 year renewal of FISA and warrantless surveillance.

-Former Sen. Joe Lieberman quietly moves far, far away and wrestle with his conscience. On everything he stood for.

-Somehow, magically, Pfc. Bradley Manning and Yemeni journalist Abdulelah Hayder Shaye are released from prison and hailed as the whistleblowing heroes that they are.

-Julian Assange receives safe passage to Sweden to be questioned on rape charges—without being extradited by the UK to the U.S.

-A Federal court will mandate that Mahdi Hashi be returned to Somalia on the grounds that he was kidnapped illegally by the US.

-Remaining Guantanamo Bay prisoners are finally moved out of limbo and released if no legitimate charges can be waged, or receive fair trials quickly in proper (non-military) courts.

-Omar Khadr will be pardoned and finally released, after having lost his childhood to miscalculations, suspicions, torture, and bureaucracy.

-Adnan Latif’s family will receive an apology from the US government for their mistaken incarceration, torture, and abuse of him. (yeah, right).

-We will stop rendering foreign nationals because they are Muslim, Arab, or live in close proximity to foreigners that POTUS and his people find “suspicious.”

-Drone strikes on the multiple countries with whom we have never declared war will miraculously cease. In large part, because President Obama has somehow come to his senses on the immorality and illegality of these strikes. And that the Supreme Court will rule to end such attacks.

-All Senators and Congresspersons will request an audience with Dean Baker, or William Black, Stephanie Kelton and other members of the UMKC School of economics—and finally realize/concede that the ‘fiscal cliff’ is a non-issue and that a fully funded Social Security program is necessary to the well-being of American society.

-The Department of Justice will realize that it is a useless drain on resources to police a drug war that has been resoundingly challenged by voters in CO and WA. And that Congress will find a way to end that futile exercise that has cost so many their lives and freedom. Having a bit of time on their hands, perhaps DOJ can start going after financial fraud at the largest banks.

-The Department of Homeland Security will reunite the 200,000 parents who have been wrenched away from their children because they are undocumented.

-The Obama Administration will end the war on undocumented migrants.

-All the homeowners who had their homes and life-savings wrested away from them due to unscrupulous mortgage companies and banks will be able to file a class action suit against the bankers and be awarded their houses back, with interest-free mortgage payments for the next 10 years.

-People suddenly take to the streets to protest rape culture and patriarchy. In the United States.

-Americans begin a constructive conversation about race, privilege, and white supremacy that acknowledges its complexity.

-Congress passes a law that mandates full employment for the next 10 years. And begins high-speed rail projects across the United States that employs every man and woman who needs work—at a living wage and full health insurance.

-Academics, lawyers, and journalists will stop legitimating drone strikes and murders of civilians and children on the grounds that “collateral damage” includes “inadvertent murders.” The same crowd will also refrain from justifying murders–by drone, invasion, village raids, or tanks–on the grounds that the U.S. and various legal traditions tell us that it’s ok to kill civilians in the name of war.

-Large numbers of Democratic voters will defect from the party and build an effective 3rd party in time for the next election. And a 4th party.

-Children all over the world–especially in countries that have experienced drone strikes, school shootings, and missile strikes–will no longer have to fear for their lives and parents and families as an existential condition.

-Children in schools all over the world will be able to attend school free of the fear of being shot–whether by lone individuals or military personnel or Al-Qaeda or Taliban.

And on a lighter note, I hope for the following:

-We finally get a reality show featuring South Asians.

-Cal finally beats Stanford in the Big Game.

-People will stop conflating Snookie and Teresa Guidice with real Jersey girls. Like me.

-A’s win the World Series. Failing that, the Giants repeat.

-I survive another winter in New England. In style.

-I get to finish my next book in a place that has gorgeous beaches. Or deserts.

-Corey Robin and I have drinks and talk about Hannah Arendt, great Broadway showtunes, and Friedrich von Hayek.

-The New Yorker offers Margaret Kimberley a regular column.

Rolling Stone offers NYT Public Editor Margaret Sullivan a regular gig.

-The NYT fires Nicholas Kristoff on the the grounds that he’s an ignoramus with colonialist impulses.

-Ditto Tom Friedman.

-John Cusack finally starts following me on Twitter.

-I get to visit Australia. And Argentina, or elsewhere in South America.

-I learn how to write shorter columns. More frequently.

-Someone donates to the “Falguni Sheth Designer Shoes Fund,” so that I can continue to pursue my remaining vice.

-Someone sends me a case–or two– of really good Bordeaux (Grand Cru St. Emilion). Or Malbec. Or Shiraz. So that  I can pursue my other remaining vice.

In the meantime, I hope that you, readers and allies and critics, prosper and find good health and spirits in order to keep fighting another year.  I can’t look to God to stop evil and horrific injustice. But I can look to us.

Happy New Year. Enjoy the day today. Many best wishes for the next 12 months. And thanks for the company, the feedback, the engagement, the support. It means more to me than I can express.

Tomorrow— back to work with another abysmally depressing column.



Author: Falguni A. Sheth

I'm a philosopher and political analyst who writes about all kinds of things, from national security, US politics, race, terrorism, miscegenation, feminism, philosophy, and whatever else captivates my attention. My views are idiosyncratic. I'd like to believe they're carefully considered, and I'm not particularly interested in following crowds.

3 thoughts on “Why Not God?”

  1. “Survive” another New England winter?? How many times must I remind people that winters in New England are FAR superior to those in California: the snow needed for skiing comes right to your bloody door! How much more convenience do you want?


    I have two lighter comments to make. First, admittedly pedantic, is that it’s not the U.S. Constitution that protects (or was designed to protect) our inalienable rights; it was the First Ten Amendments (which I believe were adopted to please the Anti-Federalists). This is an important point made by General Smedley Butler, one of the two most decorated men in the history of the U.S. Marine Corps: he didn’t give a flying fig for the provisions of governance in the Constitution itself, but he did hold the Bill of Rights in high regard. (See his book, War is a Racket.)

    Second, I look to the ancient Greek philosophers to teach me (or to remind me) about the power of looking for humanity in foreign peoples, and how to actualize these principles. In fact, here I’ll ask to tap your erudition: It seems to me that the Stoics, more so than any of the other schools of that era, worked to make their ethical principles, including sanctity of each individual, universal and universalizable. (Is that true, Ms. Sheth?) What this means to me is that serious minds were working on this concept thousands of years ago, and wrote this work down for us — so why do so many “educated” people in positions of power in the Empire today fail to grasp and act on the work of these ancients? Their work, especially because it’s seen as the bedrock of our own “civilization”, cannot fail to be grasped by people in power in a country purporting to be a [Western] democracy. In other words, people in power today in the Empire simply have no excuse for the crimes they have committed.

    Please correct me here if anything I’ve written is inaccurate.

  2. Were Ferenc Feher and Hannah Arendt at the New School at the same time?
    Did they know each other?

    1. Feher was there for a few years in the 1990’s, until his death in 1993. Arendt taught there well before. They may have met on some occasions, although clearly he knew her work.

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