How quickly my opinions change. One moment I am sneering at Michael Cohen, the President’s long-time lawyer and fixer, a hired hand whom we see dipping his fingers in the milk of corruption, sipping from a bowl that is growing larger and larger as he sits before it — and suddenly he pushes it away, and my opinion shifts. This is the man indicted this week by the Manafort investigations for a variety of election crimes and illegal payments on behalf of his “handler” (the Pres). And what changed my mind? He refuses to be pardoned by the current President. He has chosen prison (probably) and freedom. Freedom, I mean, of his soul. You’ll say I’m romantic. It’s true.
I remember a novel by the poet and brilliant writer, Robert Wright, called Native Son, about an ignorant, poor, Southern, young black teen, who finds himself in a difficult situation, makes one bad decision (he has no other choice) and finds that each possible next step thrusts him deeper and deeper into trouble, until he has killed a girl, and now is fleeing, and everything is getting worse and worse. It was so disturbing, so inevitable, that I threw down the book, unable to finish it.
I wonder if that was the way it happened with Cohen. Does he feel relief? Is he filled with joy? Found out! Redeemed! I guess what I’m saying is that we are forgiven even for egregious crimes, once we accept responsibility, once we choose to be free. May I use the word pure?
I’ve been thinking also about the American Indian story that each of us has within us two wolves, snarling and fighting each other: one is kind and loving, the other angry, fearful, filled with hate. “And which one wins?” asks the little boy who is hearing the story for the first time. His grandfather answers, “The one you feed.”
Meanwhile, we watch our President, poor man, who does not know about the wolves or freedom of the inner heart, and who pours out a cornucopia of anger, fear and hatred as the banquet he serves to us; for these are easy emotions to arouse, and like sex and violence, easily divert from difficult moral considerations. Thus his latest rants are directed against immigrants and those who are fleeing for their lives. Yes, they are illegal, having entered the country without documents, but shouldn’t we be weeping at their circumstances even if we do nothing to ease their burden? Really, should we feed the wolf of hatred? Does expressing fear and hatred make us happy? Life is so very short — the blink of an eye and we discover we’ve gotten old! Why aren’t we working toward happiness for ourselves and others?
Hate is such an easy emotion, such a satisfying and self-righteous one. It’s a relief to despise someone “out there,” someone different, “Other.” By hating, we find for one more moment that we can avoid noticing what we dislike in ourselves, or what we are ashamed of. We don’t have to accept responsibility or ask forgiveness of ourselves.
So it is that I send my best wishes to Mr. Cohen. I hope he finds his happiness and freedom–his redemption, if I may use that word, while in prison.
© 2018 Sophy Burnham.