In the Christian and Jewish traditions, the Old Testament offers us many models -- Amos and Hosea, Jeremiah and Isaiah. The prophets condemned corrupt leaders but also called out all those privileged people in society who had turned from the demands of justice that the faith makes central to human life. In his study of The Prophets, the scholar and activist Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel concluded:
"Above all, the prophets remind us of the moral state of a people: Few are guilty, but all are responsible. If we admit that the individual is in some measure conditioned or affected by the spirit of society, an individual’s crime discloses society’s corruption. In a community not indifferent to suffering, uncompromisingly impatient with cruelty and falsehood, continually concerned for God and every man, crime would be infrequent rather than common."In our society, crimes by leaders are far too common. George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, as individuals, are guilty of their crime against peace and war crimes in Iraq that have resulted in the death of hundreds of thousands, just as Bill Clinton and Al Gore before them are guilty of the crime against humanity perpetrated through an economic embargo on Iraq that killed hundreds of thousands of innocents as well. These men are guilty, beyond any doubt, and they should be held accountable. But would those kinds of crimes be as frequent if the spirit of society were different? For that, we all are responsible. (Read More)
Robert Jensen is a journalism professor at the University of Texas at Austin and board member of the Third Coast Activist Resource Center. His latest book is Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity (South End Press, 2007). Jensen is also the author of The Heart of Whiteness: Race, Racism, and White Privilege and Citizens of the Empire: The Struggle to Claim Our Humanity (both from City Lights Books); and Writing Dissent: Taking Radical Ideas from the Margins to the Mainstream (Peter Lang). He can be reached at rjensen at uts.cc.utexas dot edu and his articles can be found online.