Can a person be a kamikaze pilot for Jesus?

— Photo from the Library of Congress

Walt Whitman was photographed by Matthew Benjamin Brady during the Civil War.

For George Carlin

DEAR ABBY: I need advice and I need it now; I’m besieged on all sides.

First of all, every time I turn the TV on, I see Ukrainian families blown to bits, some while sitting in the kitchen drinking tea with friends. Ukraine’s cities are boulevards of sunken ash.

I listen to what pundits say; they say the head of Russia is crazy, that he’s an old-time ideologue lost in a world where he projects himself and Russia as beneficent beings on the world stage when in fact, Abby, he neutralizes people who oppose him and shows little regard for the quality-of-life needs of the average Russian; Russia is close to a failed state.

His black eyes reach down to Dante’s inferno.

Not long after Russia started bombing Ukraine, the senior United States senator from South Carolina, Lindsey Graham, offered a solution. On Twitter he posted, “Is there a Brutus in Russia? Is there a successful Stauffenberg in the Russian army?”

The next day he was back at it: “I’m begging you in Russia … you need to step to the plate and take this guy out.”

He was clearly aping: “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you find the 30,000 emails that are missing.”

Such pleas are acts of treason in that leaders of a sovereign nation are asking citizens of another sovereign nation to intervene in a nation’s future, to transgress the geo-political-cultural boundaries that allow a nation-state to be a sovereign.

How different was Walt Whitman’s America — he called it a “Body Electric” — the converse of the dystopian virus infecting America’s heart today.

In his poem “To Foreign Lands” Whitman does not ask a foreign power to intervene in America’s future but points to her vibrancy as an “athletic democracy.”

In the poem, he tells the leaders of the world, “I heard that you ask’d for something to prove this puzzle, the New World,/And to define America, her athletic Democracy;/ Therefore I send you my poems, that you behold in them what you wanted.”

What nerve. Telling the world that his “Leaves of Grass” is the true heart of America, a benevolent sovereign that takes into account the needs of the very least (without resentment).

Nowhere does Whitman encourage the fox to enter the hen house.

And he never called for civil war the way the past president of the United States keeps doing — he was in a civil war, and heartbroken that America was resolving her differences with one side shooting the other down.

And though he was 41 when the war began, Walt signed on as a nurse; he went into hospitals and talked to soldiers who’d lost an arm or a leg; he wrote letters home for them — some to a sweetheart — and gave absolution to those tortured by guilt for having killed a soul from the next county over.

Like a teddy bear, he hugged the men; he gave them kisses on the cheek, he called it manly love. Like a good shepherd, he never sought a nickel in return.

“One Sunday night, in a ward in the South Building,” he tells us, “I spent one of the most agreeable evenings of my life amid such a group of seven convalescent young soldiers of a Maine regiment. We drew around together, on our chairs, in the dimly-lighted room, and after interchanging the few magnetic remarks that show people it is well for them to be together, they told me stories of country life and adventures, &c., away up there in the Northeast.”

Whitman’s America is what Norman Brown means by Love’s Body, a collective soul that burns so bright with kindness that it treats its least as the very best — without resentment.

The Stauffenberg who Lindsey Graham mentioned was Claus von Stauffenberg, an officer in the German army during World War II. On July 20, 1944, he became world-famous after he tried to kill Hitler with a bomb.

While Hitler was meeting with his staff, Stauffenberg slid a suitcase under the table packed with a bomb; it went off and three officers were killed; the thickness of an oak table saved Hitler from demise. His pants were blown to shreds.

Stauffenberg had tried it before but something always happened and Hitler went unscathed. He himself helped with the cause on April 30, 1945.

After the failed assassination, Stauffenberg and three comrades were arrested; they were shot dead before the next day’s sun rose.

In Berlin today, there’s a museum called the German Resistance Memorial Center that celebrates Strauffenberg and every other Nazi resister from 1933 to 1945.

Abby, tell me: Can a person be a hero, be without sin, for killing another for ideological reasons?

The memorial center is located on Stauffenbergstrasse [sic] and opens onto the quadrangle where Stauffenberg and his comrades were shot as enemies of the state.

In 1944, it seems some Germans had a vision of a Germany that resembled Whitman’s America when “Leaves of Grass” appeared on July 4, 1855 — a homeland teeming with largesse.

As soon as I heard Graham mention Stauffenberg, I was brought back to my youth when we played a game called “Would You Assassinate Adolf Hitler?” It was me, my cousins, and a brother — I do not think it was at school — but I remember the “game” as clear as day.

We asked each other: Would you do it? Would you take the Führer out, especially if you could get away with it? I don’t remember what we said but we were Roman Catholics and the Catholic Church said transgressing the sovereignty of another’s person was murder, a mortal sin for which the sinner would spend eternity burning in the fires of hell. The forever-and-ever part was always stressed.

When one of us waffled with an answer, he was asked right away: OK, what if you knew that, by assassinating Hitler, you would save the lives of three million Jews — and never be detected — what does your Catholic Church say about those odds?

It’s a radical means-ends question, and economic in nature because it deals with the worth of one thing/person/community/nation over another. I’m fascinated with the dilemma still: Can a person be a kamikaze pilot for Jesus?

Are these the kinds of questions you’re dealing with these days, Abby? Are you up on the political-economy of nation-state sovereignty? How would you handle a man who calls for civil war?

And what about all those shootings where kids in schools and Black people buying cereal at a supermarket are taken out, desecrating Whitman’s body-electric America? I think it means the civil war has begun.

In my Orwellian moments, Abby, I project that someday there’ll be a museum on Drumpftstrasse [sic] in some southern parish featuring Donald Trump as a Stauffenbergian hero for trying to kill the vice president of the United States, Mike Pence, for opposing his fascist regime.

The more America’s Whitmanesque face-to-face communities disappear, the more isolates take up guns to settle differences. It’s a Euclidean axiom: The less face-to-face, the more the gun.

And when you write back, Abby, please tell me if there’s an elixir I can take to heal my despair.