Jewish World Review Oct. 12, 2001/ 25 Tishrei, 5762

Marianne M. Jennings

Marianne M. Jennings
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Of human nature and monsters -- HUMAN nature has reared its, well, natural head. Social reformists have long denied its existence or, alternatively, suppressed it through scoffing. But fright and flight arouse human nature. We have become children with monsters in our closets. We are at once irrationally fearful and spiritually susceptible.

Human nature pursues self-preservation, despite its politically incorrect demands. Guns are flying off the shelves into the homes of those who have never owned a weapon. Those who mocked the Second Amendment find guns soothe nerves. Guns sales are up, 500% nationwide since the WTC attacks. Guns ward off the monsters.

Human nature knows danger. A Time bureau chief in Jerusalem, Lisa Beyer, discloses that Israelis profile unabashedly in their fight against Arab terrorists. Racial profiling is an incendiary term used to intimidate police officers. Now human nature has a majority of African-Americans supporting profiling to curb terrorism. Survival instincts ignore the magnanimity of intellectualism. Diversity be damned, we got monsters here.

There is the monster within -- diabolical human nature. Father Judge and New York's finest aside, there was ugliness in NY with looting by rescue workers of the WTC Tourneau watch shop and sprinting by financial district types past day care workers from WTC 5 who had babes in arms and frightened toddlers in shopping carts. Some men tossed their shirts over the tots to deflect dust, but failed to lend a hand as they ran past women plodding along in shredded cloth slippers. Shirtless monsters.

Human nature's greed ghoul slowly emerges. With a mourning period less respectable than that of Scarlett O'Hara's token one for hubby 2, Frank Kennedy, the lawyers now circle Ground Zero, eyes wide with contingent fee wonderment. Mighty ugly battles over who gets how much financial relief from charities are percolating.

September 11, 2001 exposed our soft underbellies, both the vulnerable part and the smarmier side. Much to the chagrin of New Age theorists, good and evil exist; we speak freely of both. These absolutes belie the postmodern notion that all bad conduct is in the genes, the chemistry, the upbringing and thereby excused. There is not only agreement on evil, there is consensus that what was eating the perpetrators is no excuse.

The likes of such universal moral condemnation haven't been seen since Roseanne's version of the national anthem and Tom's leaving Nicole. No one has spoken of possible bipolar disorder in Mohamed Atta or Hani Hanjour. Capitalist deprivation lectures are missing. The hijackers are evil - even Tony Blair allows so.

Human nature craves such absolutes. Absolute authority without judicial review frightens relativists. The godless era of moral relativism with its butterfly reincarnations, candles, soul mates, and Enya music is terribly unsatisfying for monstrous fears. Intellectualism mixed with sensitivity and brownie-flavored espressos starve the spirit.

Human nature seeks something more than detached and comfy spirituality. Fully 82% of the country went back to church within the first week after the WTC destruction. Christian bookstores reported double-digit growth, mostly due to Bible purchases.

Absolutes, church attendance and scripture purchases are manifestation of human nature's recognition of the existence and jurisdiction of a higher authority. Human nature wants a force greater then self for solace and some absolutes and accountability for curbing its dark side.

What can lasso human nature, retaining its charming vulnerability while curbing its ugly side? Channeling human nature requires divine accountability in a disciplined life. The structure of religion works.

But, my colleagues argue, religion got us into this for the hijackers wrote of their desire for eternal glory with their higher authority via mass slaughter. Their conduct was hatched in envy, revenge and all that is the antithesis of any religion. Those who self-select religious tenets are dangerous in their cloaks of self-righteousness. They honor only what appeals to them and become enslaved by the dark side of the soul.

Several of the hijackers visited topless bars in the days before September 11. A religion offended by women's foreheads showing in public hardly endorses lap dances. These religiously motivated hijackers spent their final hours of life in utter disregard of their faith. Two others toured Wal-Mart, ate at Pizza Hut and filled a rental car with gas on September 10. Not exactly the stuff of worship and spirituality, unless the reverence is for MTV's Real World.

Religion should not be condemned or ostracized. It should be welcomed back for its absolutes can quell the fear that grips those in survival stores purchasing masks. Religion, when all of its tenets are honored, seizes the best of human nature and condemns and curbs its monster side - something difficult for relativists to accept as their hollow and spiritually unsatisfying theories collapse about them.

JWR contributor Marianne M. Jennings is a professor of legal and ethical studies at Arizona State University. Send your comments by clicking here.


10/05/01: Sensitive man
10/01/01: Post-September 11 security
09/20/01: No tinhorn terrorists can frighten us
09/06/01: If there is no honor in youth sports, it is because of the adults
08/27/01: The draw of Condit
08/23/01: Lowering expectations and flying high
08/17/01: Thoreau, Walden and stems cells
08/13/01: Our masters: The animals
07/30/01: When principle hits too close to home
07/13/01: Rage born of sublimation
07/06/01: Patient's rights and the Valley of Death
06/29/01: There is no excuse
06/21/01: I want an eternal soulmate, but the marriage thing is another issue
06/14/01: Which way maverick McCain? An Arizonan's perspective
06/07/01: No stroke of genius
05/30/01: The lesson of the Mr. Green Jeans senator: 'Moderate' is a classy term for wishy-washy
05/25/01: Baseball has not been so good to me
05/18/01: Clothes make the woman
05/11/01: Selective precaution
05/04/01: Grades: Equality of students, by students, for the students
04/27/01: The Horowitz revelations as seen by a college professor
04/20/01: First, let's kill all the tests
04/13/01: The continuing mistake of underpricing electricity
04/06/01: That pill, Julia Roberts
03/29/01: If it weren't for the parents, we might accomplish something
03/23/01: The melt down of the academy
03/15/01: Columbine redux: Moral infants
03/09/01: The lessons of Tom and Nicole
03/01/01: Pardon the temporary outrage
02/23/01: In defense of homework
02/20/01: A Message for faith-based organizations: Don't take the money, just run
02/06/01: Enough already with the Clintoons
01/26/01: The challenge to be better than we have been
01/19/01: Where have you gone Frieda Pushnik?
12/29/00: The year that was
12/23/00: Litigation: It's the American way
12/15/00: In defense of rhetoric
12/06/00: The company we keep: Lawyers and elections
12/01/00: Liberals' art of trashing of women
11/20/00: Put me out of my misery
11/17/00: On being a statesman
11/13/00: When it's broke, fixing it wouldn't offend the Framers
11/08/00: ELECTION 2000: I SURRENDER
10/27/00: Al in the package? Memo to women: Choosing presidents and husbands
10/20/00: Ten things the gay community should understand
10/13/00: "You Have a Lump."
10/06/00: The government as the pharmacy: Don't
09/29/00: The capacity for truth
09/22/00: Charity with strings and an agenda
09/15/00: The taming of the shrew: Gloria Steinem takes a husband
09/09/00: Why rich folk don't bother me none
08/28/00: Survival of the not-so-fit but conniving
08/25/00: Conventions: A study in contrasts
08/18/00: Resenting the accusations of racial prejudice
08/04/00: Women: Their own worst enemy
07/21/00: Hillary: Our longshoreman First Lady
07/21/00: SUVs: The root of all evil
07/14/00: The basketball gene and white men not jumping so well
07/07/00: I wanna be around
06/23/00: The liberal conversion
06/14/00: Sex and the City: The shallow but vulgar female
06/08/00: No excuses schools
06/02/00: Oh, Canada: Our Nutty Neighbors to the North
05/23/00: The new mollycoddling coach
05/16/00: On adultery and leadership
05/12/00: Taking your lumps
05/02/00: Elian: There's never a liberal around when you need one
04/25/00: Life's circle and tenderness
04/18/00: Womyn who want it both ways
04/11/00: The monsters we're raising with the ergo proposition
04/05/00: Endowing the Hooters Chair for Literature Appreciation
03/28/00: Dr. Laura: The passive/aggressive kid's mom
03/21/00: Dough and campaigns
03/14/00: The volunteerism of conscription and pomp
03/07/00: Hope and pray that religion remains a force in politics
02/29/00: Ditzes in TV Land
02/22/00: Cranky nitpickers make writing a [sic] experience
02/15/00: Those chameleon 60s activists
02/08/00: McCandidate McCain: Flirting with principles
02/01/00: The demise of marriage
01/25/00: Stroke of the pen, law of the land: Clinton's Camelot
01/18/00: Off the Rocker Rorschach Test
01/11/00: Oprah's lemmings
01/04/00: Struggling mightily amidst the comfort
12/23/99: Confused fathers
12/14/99: Drop-kicking the homeless
12/07/99: Turtles and teamsters, side-by-side in Seattle
11/29/99: When conservatives behave badly
11/22/99: Compassionate conservative: Timing and targets
11/18/99: The elusive human spirit and accountability
11/11/99: Succumbing to the intellectual child within with the help of crackpots and screwballs
10/28/99: Live by litigation, die by litigation
10/22/99: Jesse, Warren, Cybill, Donald and Oprah
10/14/99: Inequality and injustice: It's the big one
10/05/99: Dan Quayle, morals and schoolyard bullies
09/30/99: The monsters of epidermal parenting
09/21/99: The Diversity Hoax
09/15/99: Waco Wackos
09/09/99: Selective censorship
09/01/99: The village, the children, judicial imperialism and abortion
08/24/99: Naughty Newt?
08/17/99: In defense of Boy Scouts and judgment
08/10/99: Ruining the finest health care system in the world
08/03/99: Nihilism and politics: ethics on the lam
07/26/99: Of women, soccer and removed jerseys
07/23/99: Not in despair, a mere mortal doing just fine
07/20/99: "Why me?" How about "Why us?"
07/13/99: Bunk, junk & juries
07/06/99: An Amish woman in a Victoria's Secret store
06/30/99: That intellectually embarrassing Second Amendment
06/24/99: Patricia Ireland eat your heart out --- but check out the recipe in 'women's mags' first
06/22/99: Dems and the Creator coup
06/17/99: True courage is more than just admitting troubles

© 2000, Marianne M. Jennings