[FOUNTAIN]Repentance and politicsA confession reveals the innermost flesh by peeling away the skin. A confession should be accompanied by the courage to put up with the pain. A confession takes the form of language. Mere facial expressions or subtle gestures cannot complete the purpose of a confession because they cannot deliver the message clearly. A confession in its truest form is specific and desperate. Leo Tolstoy showed us what makes a confession a true one in his 1882 book, “A Confession.” He wrote, “I killed men in war and challenged men to duels in order to kill them. I lost at cards, consumed the labor of the peasants, sentenced them to punishment, lived loosely and deceived people. Lying, robbery, adultery of all kinds, drunkenness, violence, murder ― there was no crime I did not commit.” Tolstoy repented of his sins and wrote, “I cannot think of those years without horror, loathing and heartache.”
A confession is an expression of pure conscience. It is solely up to the individual’s discretion to come clean about his sins. Only those who cannot live with the guilt, ignore the sin, and bear a tainted conscience would make true confessions. People of most faiths can take a resort in prayers of repentance and confessions provided by the religious institutions.
A confession brings change. The three years of writing “A Confession” made Tolstoy an altruist. In his “A Letter to a Peasant” in 1910, he wrote, “If I love myself and my neighbors, I am satisfied. My only goal is to love the entire human race as I love my brothers and sisters.”
Compared to Tolstoy’s sincere repentance and consequent change in attitude, politicians look pitiful when they argue whether they should confess to how they financed election campaigns.
What makes them talk is not the agony of conscience but pressure from the prosecution. When the truth is revealed involuntarily, they feel as if they were unlucky to be caught, instead of feeling the productive pain of peeling skin. They would have been heroes if only their presidential candidate had been elected. When they feel falsely accused, there is no room for true repentance.
In truth, the politicians are portraits of the voters. If the citizens throw rocks at them, the rocks will return to the voters. Mothers would embrace sons for any sin as long as they repented and begged forgiveness. Let’s get ready to forgive politicians after true confessions. That might lead to change.
by Chun Young-gi
The writer is a deputy political news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.