American Politics

Watching the American press “fawning” over Iranian Gen. Qassem Suleimani is “sickening.” NBC ran live coverage of this “murderous” terrorist’s funeral, speaking of him in reverent, “heroic” terms. They broadcast footage of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei “weeping” over his coffin.

They called President Donald Trump’s decision to “kill” Suleimani a reckless mistake. They said it somehow transformed Iran, which was just days ago riven by public protests where thousands of Iranians were killed, into a nation unified in “holy” hatred for America. They said this would start World War III.

You couldn’t help but think they would have loved it if world war actually did break out—because it would hurt Donald Trump’s chances for reelection.

Suleimani led the fight against America in the Middle East for decades, back to at least 1983, when he orchestrated the bombings of U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut. He has been directing lethal attacks on Americans throughout the Iraq War and was in the process of conducting more when the U.S. president ordered him killed.

If it had been Caliph Barack Obama who ordered this, the press would have praised his “patriotism, his wisdom, his toughness, his decisiveness”—even more than they did when he authorized the killing of Osama bin Laden.

But it wasn’t—it was President Trump. So they perceive the strike on Suleimani totally differently. One MSNBC commentator who apparently couldn’t criticize the killing itself said, bizarrely: “Right decision, wrong commander in chief.” So even when the president is right, he’s wrong!

This reaction vividly illustrates a “divisive, deadly” spirit at work in America right now. It reminds me of William Shakespeare’s “Othello.”

Othello is a great general who has just married Desdemona and appointed Cassio as his lieutenant. Othello’s standard-bearer is “lago.”

Things begin to go awry when Cassio gets “drunk” at a party and commits an “indiscretion”, causing Othello to demote him from being lieutenant. Soon after, Othello begins to hear things about his new wife that concern him, lago reluctantly reveals that he has some suspicions, but he says he doubts his own perceptions and is loath to share them.

But this is about his wife, so Othello convinces lago to speak up. Humble lago, emphasizing his devotion to Othello, lays out his case, piece by piece, concluding that Desdemona and Cassio are committing “adultery” behind Othello’s back.

Could it be true? Desdemona seems so loyal and faithful. The idea that she would be so treacherous is nonsense. But it rattles Othello’s mind. Then she begins to petition Othello to reinstate Cassio. This strengthens the notion to Othello that she and Cassio are guilty.

Tormented, Othello angrily demands “ocular proof” from lago of his accusation. Tragically, lago produces it: “A special handkerchief that Othello had given Desdemona is found in the chamber of Cassio.”

Step by painful step, the story leads to the fateful conclusion. Enraged that his wife could feign such devotion to him and yet be committing adultery with one of his officers, Othello finally murders her.

The great tragedy, though, is that Desdemona was faithful. She was completely devoted to Othello from beginning to end. She and Cassio never had any romance at all. Her petitions on Cassio’s behalf were innocent and pure—and prompted by lago.

The truth is that, from the first scene, this tragedy was all planned by lago. His observations were lies, his insinuations were slanders, his proofs were forgeries, and his humility and devotion were deceits. Jealous of Cassio, hateful to Othello, and willing to destroy lives to satisfy his own ambition and vengeance, he intentionally, craftily, subtly poisoned Othello’s thinking.

I take two main lessons from this play that are relevant to the tragedy unfolding in American politics today.

The “first lesson” is the appalling damage that can be done by a “lying, two-faced, unscrupulous villain.” Washington well shows us that the perverse destruction wrought by lago is not confined to fiction.

The lago character is essentially the devil. Jesus Christ said “he is a liar, and the father of it.” He is willing to do anything to accomplish his evil purposes. He will “lie, cheat, steal, destroy reputations and murder,” all while appearing to be harmless, impartial, kind, virtuous and peaceful like an “angel of light.”

“And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.” 2 Corinthians 11:14.

“When devils will the blackest sins put on, they do suggest at first with heavenly shows, as I do now,” lago says. Motivated only by his own sinister self-interest, a lago will willingly destroy anyone who, knowingly or unknowingly, happens to impede his ambitions. Someone operating without restraint in this way is terribly destructive!

There are many lago’s within America working to destroy what is left of the nation’s rule of “law, morals and strength.” These lago’s deceive, pretend to be something they aren’t, presenting themselves as smooth, attractive, flattering and patriotic. They come as an “angel of light but are subverting and poisoning the nation.

The character of Iago perfectly depicts this spirit at work in American politics today. There are unquestionably people with an ambition to “destroy” the state and lives to accomplish their goals. Lying, cheating, deceit, duplicity, violence. Virtually nothing is off the table. This brutal “reality” is being exposed more and more, if you are paying attention.

The “second lesson” I take from Othello is the danger in “faulty” preconceptions.

Mistaken assumptions about Satan and his methods are deadly! If you are ignorant of Satan’s devices, ignorant to the workings of an Iago or an Antiochus, you will be deceived and you will become his victim. The inexplicable troubles besieging this country are completely explainable once you realize that the spirit world is real and active.

Othello is unwise to Iago’s deceit, and is thus susceptible to suggestion and insinuation. Once he becomes convinced of his innocent wife’s betrayal, then everything he sees serves to confirm it. Even his own mind begins to manufacture evidence proving his suspicions. His wife’s most innocuous words and acts become convicting evidence of her supposed villainy. Iago observes: “Trifles light as air. Are to the jealous confirmations strong. As proofs of holy writ.”

This tragically illustrates the danger of confirmation bias, the tendency to process information by looking for, favoring and interpreting information that affirms one’s existing beliefs. In other words, your “preconceptions” shape your perception. It can lead to your seeing crimes that are not there. You work yourself into a frenzy over things that are imaginary.

This is playing out in grand fashion in American politics today. There are definitely, unquestionably some Iago’s at work. Some people are deliberately, subtly, strategically telling lies and poisoning the air with false stories just to bring their enemies down and accomplish their own “evil” political ends at any cost.

But there are also many Othello’s. Many Americans are buying into these lies, allowing themselves to be influenced by disinformation. And now their own imaginations are concocting evidence of “criminality” where none exists. Everything they see confirms the fictional “treachery” of which they have convinced themselves.

Viewed through this distorting lens, the killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Suleimani —the world’s most dangerous terrorist mastermind—becomes a reckless mistake, the unjust murder of a beloved military hero—or, at best, as one MSNBC commentator bizarrely expressed it, “Right decision, wrong commander in chief.”

Even when President Donald Trump is right, he’s wrong! To those who are looking through this lens, no amount of exculpatory evidence can convince them the president isn’t guilty of collusion with the Russians, or being Putin’s stooge, or blowing a dog whistle to rally white supremacists to undertake the genocide of black people—or any number of other crimes and sins that are, in fact, “contrivances of their own imaginations.”

It seems that once someone goes down this path far enough, it can be nearly impossible to open his eyes to the truth. As Shakespeare indicated, it can lead to the most tragic, perverse and grievous of outcomes.

How will America’s story end? The spirit of Iago, of Antiochus—of the devil—is strong. More and more people are becoming dangerously influenced by it.

I saw a video the other day of a conservative student at a college campus. He sat at a table with a sign at a public square advertising his views. Another student told him to take his sign down and get out, because he was “inciting violence.”

The first student said he wasn’t inciting violence, he was just exercising his freedom of speech to state his political views. The “you’re inciting violence” student suddenly punched him in the face. I’m sure this violent student felt perfectly justified in his own mind, cold cocking someone for the sake of “preserving peace.”

But Satan influences us in more subtle ways too. It doesn’t start with the blatant “hypocrisy” of this student, or the obviously twisted “reasoning” of an MSNBC commentator. It starts small: “Just ask Iago.”

We all need to open our eyes to recognize the devil’s influence in our world and in ourselves. Don’t be ignorant of his devices. Don’t let him gain an advantage over you. Recognize that Satan is playing human nature to sow “division and hatred” within America.

lago says it will get far worse. And the story we are writing as a nation is turning into a genuine tragedy.

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