edmund burke
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Quotes from Edmund Burke

“There is, however, a limit at which forbearance ceases to be a virtue.”

“It is a general popular error to suppose the loudest complainers for the publick to be the most anxious for its welfare.”

Observations on a Late Publication on the Present State of the Nation (1769)

“All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing”

Disputed quote


A few months ago, I put up a blog entry mildly supportive of my parish priest. I was stunned by the level of vituperation and anger contained in the responses to that post. Amusingly, one of the bitterest came from a man who lives in Belgium and works for some kind of interfaith organization for world peace.

As a result of the attack, I demurred and pulled down the comment. Now, the national church which contains my local church is in the middle of more turmoil and, for now, the bitterest and most vicious players seem to have the upper hand.

This technique is not new and it is certainly not limited to churches. American politics has been full of it for most of my lifetime. The clearest example was the vicious attack by Senator Edward Kennedy on Judge Robert Bork. That attack led to the addition of the phrase “Being Borked” to America’s political vocabulary.

The current game seems to be based on the idea that whoever shouts first, and the loudest, wins.

Most people seek to live amicably with their neighbors. This is all well and good if our neighbors want to do the same. There are times, however, when that is not the case.

We would like to think that “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.” We would prefer to just be nice and take our turn and get along well with each other. Sadly, that is not how life is.

I remember the day my father made me go back out and fight the boy up the street who had been picking on me. I wanted to avoid that fight, but sometimes fighting is necessary.

It is easier and far more pleasant to avoid confrontations or even avoid thinking about things that might be upsetting. But sometimes that can be a fatal mistake. Since I am of both German and Jewish heritage, I spent much of my time in high school reading about the Nazi era. One thing I noticed, most of the Jews who died in the camps were those who refused to see the danger coming and refused to believe it could happen to them.

I also tried to answer the question, “Why didn’t the German people stop Hitler?” But watching America and Western Europe today has shown me there is nothing unique about the Germans.

We are all too willing to condemn those who came before us for their faults. But that takes no courage. Courage is needed to criticize our contemporaries and the current policy choices. That does not mean getting together with “our kind of people” and criticizing “those people.”

Specifically, it includes stepping out and publicly stating things which, even if they are controversial, need to be said.

In my previous posts, I have tried to be “fair and balanced” and have sometimes used indirect language instead of speaking directly.

I see no point in crudeness or vulgarity. While that passes for directness and truth-telling among teenagers, I am long past my teen years.

But I will be more direct in what I say. Let the epithets fly. Epithets (Racist, Homophobe, “N-word lover) are the vocabulary of those who have no argument.

I also intend to state things which may provoke vituperative responses (As noted above). I refuse to let the loudest and bitterest voices control me.

I have long been struck by a quote from Shakespeare

“Cowards die many times before their deaths,

The valiant never taste of death but once.”

(Julius Caeser (II, ii, 32-37))

Unfortunately, I have held back too long. I have come to realize that my anger is not just at those who act in a certain way, but at myself to failing to speak honestly.

With God’s help, that will change.

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