Grief Without Wisdom: Joe Biden’s Empty Authenticity

I’m very sorry Joe Biden’s son died recently. I truly am. I know it’s a deep, genuine pain, “overwhelming,” as he told Stephen Colbert, and he will carry it the rest of his life. But when I see all our earnest media progressives gushing over Joe’s “authenticity” in sharing that pain on national TV, I also think of the hundreds of thousands of people who lost children and other kith and kin in a pointless war that Joe not only voted for, but also actively encouraged with heated Senate hearings that whipped up war fever.

That faithful service to the demented war aims of the Bush Administration was also the “authentic” Joe Biden in action. Yet now we have many of the same earnest progressives who fiercely opposed that war, who eloquently denounced the invasion and diligently catalogued the monstrous crimes and follies of the occupation, praising one of its chief bipartisan architects for his “authenticity” in speaking of precisely the kind of grief he helped inflict on thousands upon thousands upon thousands of innocent people. The parade of such people who are grieving for their losses as deeply and genuinely as Biden is grieving — and because of actions that Biden directly and eagerly abetted — would take days on end to pass across Stephen Colbert’s stage, where Joe sat in comfort and basked in the sympathy of the nation. For each one of these — whose human pain is the equivalent of Biden’s — to sit down and tell their story as he did would take years on end.

But who would listen? Who would care? No one cared then — Joe Biden certainly didn’t, when he was recklessly peddling cooked intelligence and bellicose bombast, and warning of the “imminent danger” posed by the broken, bombed-out, hedged-in, already half-occupied country of Iraq. He didn’t worry about the suffering to come for individuals who loved their children exactly as he loved his. And he didn’t worry about that suffering when it came to pass in the war he helped engender.

But now he has lost a child, another child; his young daughter was killed long ago, with her mother, in a car accident. Now he grieves again. And now he is a hero of “authenticity” for many progressives, who declare that this authenticity alone qualifies him to be president. Yet it looks as if this new grief has taught him nothing, given him no insight into the suffering of others. It has not led him, a religious believer, to a conviction of his sins, to an awareness of the cruel and pointless, endless horror he helped inflict on multitudes of innocent people — a horror that continues to this day, as the blood and chaos spawned by the war he supported continues to produce fresh victims without ceasing, every hour, in an ever-widening circle.

If Joe Biden’s grief, authentic as it is, does not lead him to a confrontation with the terrible crime that sits in the center of his soul, then what good is it to anyone? What good is it to him, or to the son he’s lost? Without that insight, that conviction, without confession and recantation and acts of expiation, his televised grief and private suffering will be as pointless and meaningless as the war that he and Bush and Cheney and Hillary created.

“What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? Can faith save him? But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?” — James 2:14, 20