wJeremiads
"Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored." -Aldous Huxley

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wFriday, October 17, 2003


WHAT IS TRUTH?: Minor flap over my comparison of Jeb Bush to Pontius Pilate in a recent column about the in-progress killing of Terry Schiavo. In the letters page today, one Roger Ross writes

What more would Mr. Lott have Governor Bush do??? To compare him to Pontius Pilate is absurd and obscene in several ways. Get a grip JL, we have laws in this country, including Florida, and unless you've got some better idea leave absurdities out of it, it does your cause no good.

(I pause briefly to note that this is the first time I have been referred to as "JL" by ... anyone.)

Steve Martinovich was likewise put off. Though he refrains from giving me climbing advice, he calls that paragraph "completely off the mark" and "more than a little unfair."

My reply to Mr. Ross followed his complaint. I'll pick up with Martinovich after I reproduce it here:

Not sure how the Pilate comparison hurts my "cause," so I'll bite: Where does the analogy break down? Assuming Mrs. Schiavo's death isn't halted, in both cases you have a governor who reluctantly presides over the taking of an innocent life for the sake of preserving the peace. How is that a get-a-grip worthy statement?

This must be one of those times where my background in biblical studies and church history put me at odds with a number of readers. Pilate is viewed as a diabolical figure by some, but that is hardly a monolithic view. The four gospels paint him with varying hues of sympathy (Mark the least sympathetic; John the most), and this ambiguity was reflected in the church. As I understand it, certain Orthodox sects have declared him a Saint. Others have viewed him as an unabashed monster whose cruelty was masked by the gospel writers, who wanted to make nice with Rome.

My view: He was a governor, an effective one, who usually did a good job of imposing Pax Romana on a restive populace. As a whole, he made the best of a bad situation. But, of course, few remember him for how he handled the day-to-day affairs of ancient Palestine. What they remember is that he chose to send a complete innocent to his death.

I wrote in response to Martinovich that the analogy "wasn't meant as a vicious shot" but it was barbed. I believe Jeb Bush can stay what amounts to a state sanctioned execution. I hope, for his sake, that he does.

posted by Jeremy at 1:33 PM