On pages 20-21 of Richard Nixon: The Shaping of His Character, Fawn Brodie states:
Graham, Nixon's 'spiritual adviser,' who had led the prayer breakfasts
at the White House and had given the funeral service when Nixon's mother
died, described to his own biographer, Marshall Frady, how he vomited
after reading the Nixon tape transcripts. He said, 'I thought like John
Wesley when he said, 'When I look into my heart it looks like hell.''
He did not say 'when I look into Nixon's heart,' but 'when I look into
Brodie then goes on to say that Graham "soon saw his own
escape from responsibility", and she goes on to quote Graham's
statement in which he blamed Nixon's downfall on sleeping pills and
Brodie argues that many people seek to differentiate
themselves from Nixon, in an attempt to make themselves feel better
about themselves, amidst their own shortcomings. They ask what made
Nixon so bad because they want for him to be worse than them, for their
problem is that they see a bit of themselves in Nixon. On page 20,
Brodie gives examples: "We need reassurance that his lying is
pathological whereas ours is simply 'white' lying, lying out of
kindliness or unwillingness to give offense. We want to be told that
our small evasions, if any, in reporting our income tax do not compare
with his fraudulently backdating a deed to win a tax break of half a
This sort of theme has come up previously in my
reading for My Year (or More) of Nixon. Both Joan Hoff and Monica
Crowley contend that Nixon was a scapegoat for flaws within the United
States. And David Greenberg in Nixon's Shadow stated (or
perhaps he quoted someone who stated----I don't remember offhand) that a
number of Americans could identify with Nixon. Nixon was one who
played roles and wore masks in his life, for instance, and many
Americans realize that they do the same thing.
I've been thinking of doing a post on the hit TV series, Breaking Bad,
but I'll comment on it here, even though I realize that more people
would probably read what I have to say were I to write a separate Breaking Bad
post. More than one Christian blogger has stated that the show teaches
them about Christian truths, such as original sin, and the slippery
slope on which evil can place a person. I have to admit that I myself
do not think about spirituality when I am watching Breaking Bad.
I'm intrigued by the plot, the characters, and all the money that
Walter White is making, but I don't contemplate how the show relates to
my life. I tend to identify with something that Matthew Paul Turner said on Facebook: "
One reason that I was hesitant to learn any moral lessons from Breaking Bad
was that I had a hard time judging Walter White. Walter had cancer and
a kid with special needs, and his jobs weren't making him much money,
so he went into the meth business to provide for himself and his
family. It's a "situational ethics" sort of scenario, in which none of
the options is great.
As I thought some more, however, there did
come to be a time when it was no longer a matter of situational ethics.
Walter's cancer eventually went into remission, so he didn't have to
worry about that anymore. But he continued to be in the meth business.
Why? Well, he was good at it, and he was making a lot of money.
Moreover, he had lingering resentment because, years before, he was part
of a scientific discovery, and he was excluded from the huge profits
that were made on it. He thought that he had been cheated out of what
he deserved, and he was making up for that by making tons of money in
the meth business.
There, I believe, Breaking Bad teaches
me something about morality and spirituality: Can greed and resentment
lead me to do something that's wrong, something that ends up hurting
people I don't see, and people I do see? In this case, by looking into
Walter White's heart, I see the flaws in my own.