The Mere Rhetoric blogsite here and here has been following Ariel Sharon's third surgery. "(3:28am PST) There has just been a discussion about whether or not the family is prepared to instruct the doctors to cease trying to save Sharon. It appears that the family has left it up to the doctors - 'it is the decision of the entire country'".
It's funny how the man so reviled as a warmonger in health has, on his sickbed, become the symbol of peace in the Middle East. Kofi Annan says he pleaded with Sharon to cut back on his workload after his first stroke. Newsday reports that:
Even former critics on the Jewish left expressed regret Thursday about the events that followed so quickly upon Sharon's change of direction. "I just returned to New York from Israel less than 24 hours ago and I'm having great difficulty collecting my thoughts," said Jamie Levin, director of Ameinu, a progressive Zionist group. "Had you told me a year ago that I would be a cheerleader of Ariel Sharon, I wouldn't have believed it. To me, it is inconceivable that this staunchly militant warrier has become a peacemaker, albeit a unilateral one. But he did. And now, with him lying comatose in a bed, I'm seriously worried for the prospects for the future of peace."
Are we talking about the same man who Belgium wanted to try for war crimes? The same Ariel Sharon who Amnesty International wanted investigated for crimes against humanity? Their absolution should be as worthless as their condemnation. And if so, what yardstick of opprobrium or praise can a man bear with him to eternity if he wants more than the judgment of the UN Secretary General? There is the comfort of good intentions, though those too can be mocked. After Neville Chamberlain died at the height of the Blitz, Winston Churchill, of all people, was asked to deliver the eulogy. Churchill never doubted that Chamberlain had meant well, despite all the ill that followed, and held those intentions up like a light to dispel the darkness of the legacy.
It fell to Neville Chamberlain in one of the supreme crises of the world to be contradicted by events, to be disappointed in his hopes, and to be deceived and cheated by a wicked man. But what were these hopes in which he was disappointed? What were these wishes in which he was frustrated? What was that faith that was abused? They were surely among the most noble and benevolent instincts of the human heart ... This alone will stand him in good stead as far as what is called the verdict of history is concerned.
But there was in Churchill's eulogy disappointment that "what is called the verdict of history" would render its judgments past Chamberlain's hearing. He was sorry most of all that Neville would never know how things turned out.
After he left the Government he refused all honours. He would die like his father, plain Mr. Chamberlain. I sought permission of the King, however, to have him supplied with the Cabinet papers, and until a few days of his death he followed our affairs with keenness, interest and tenacity. He met the approach of death with a steady eye. If he grieved at all, it was that he could not be a spectator of our victory; but I think he died with the comfort of knowing that his country had, at least, turned the corner.
This last must have been said to ease the grief of those present, for Winston himself could not have known in the winter of 1940 that "his country had, at least, turned the corner". Whatever Chamberlain thought on his deathbed, Winston at his funeral was supplying enough faith for the both of them, knowing perhaps that faith was all there was. The best of us live in the hope of receiving judgment, not escaping it. Ariel Sharon's course is run, but he too, I think, would have wanted to know how it turned out.