“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things:
Of shoes—and ships—and sealing-wax—
Of cabbages—and kings—
And why the sea is boiling hot—
And whether pigs have wings.”
– The Walrus and the Carpenter, by Lewis Carroll
The death of a President of the United States of America always presents itself as a time for a bit of national self-reflection; a time, as it were, to talk of cabbages and kings. Gerald Ford’s passing is no exception, although I fear that the execution of a madman may steal the center stage for a bit. Still, I am sure that there will be news specials, articles and books aplenty in the coming weeks and months, which should be quite interesting, since Ford was President during one of the more unsettled periods of our recent history.
Gerald Ford was a decent president, in both meanings of the phrase. He was, perhaps, not the best of our Presidents, but certainly not the worst. He also seemed to be a decent man, understanding concepts like discretion (a trait which is not shared by all living ex-Presidents). Ford gave an interview a couple of years ago which has been held under wraps, to be made public only after he had died. Of course, it was no time at all before the first snippets of that interview made its way to the press, with the headlines reading, “Ford disagreed with Bush on invading Iraq.” Of course, as you’d expect, the article’s characterization of Ford’s remarks differed somewhat from what he actually said.
One of Ford’s comments was he disagreed with the Bush administration’s justification for going to war; on this point, I would have to agree with Ford. He did also disagreed with the invading of Iraq itself; what really struck me about this was not his disagreement with the invasion, but it was his reasoning; Ford didn’t think we should involve ourselves if it was not directly related to our national security: “Well, I can understand the theory of wanting to free people… I just don’t think we should go hellfire damnation around the globe freeing people, unless it is directly related to our own national security.”
On one hand, I can see his point, and I think many, many Americans would agree as well. However, what struck me was this: That line of reasoning would result in making America the totally selfish nation that much of the world already thinks we are. Isn’t that the height of selfishness, to say that we will only free people if it’s in our own best interests? How does this relate to Isaiah 58? If we really did adopt this kind of philosophy, then where would it stop? Do we withhold charity as well, if it’s not in our national interest? Again, I understand what Ford is saying, and understand that he had to have been impacted by the Vietnam fiasco. His thoughts deserve to be considered.
I think that we as a country need to decide what kind of a country we are. Will we only fight to protect our own? We could be like Switzerland, who, as I understand, won’t join in other wars, but whose law requires that each man be issued a gun in case they need to defend their own borders. If this is true, then they are not anti-violence, they just only care about themselves.
Of course, Iraq raises many issues, and I’m not dealing with all of them, just focusing on this one point: is it ok, either militarily or by other means, to only take care of ourselves? Do we have an obligation to use our resources to free those in bondage, or should we let the Hitlers of the world have their way?
I respected President Ford for his loyalty, his discretion, his humility, and his commitment to his ideals. I’m looking forward to reading the full text of this interview.