We Don’t Know Them*

“I don’t know him. I don’t think
I ever met him,” so go the denials.
It’s too close for comfort. And
the truth in the denial is that

they don’t know him, the person
dismissed as a mere volunteer, the
person who passed through the camp-
aign, the fellow conspirators, the

professor, the Russian banker,
the “coffee boy.” The cliché is
that there is no loyalty among
thieves, but the young (naive

perhaps) foreign advisor lied out
of loyalty and is called a liar by
the one for whom he lied. No, they
don’t know “the other,” because they

don’t know themselves — empty
vessels thundering denials like
frightened tweety-birds, “I never
met him,” and it’s true, in an

ironic way, just like St. Peter
in the courtyard outside where
Jesus is interrogated. In that
moment, Peter really did not know

Jesus while Jesus was too close
for comfort. Guilt by association.
And so we, too, run from others
who are too close for comfort who

could hurt us with incriminating
testimony in a court of law or
simply by showing us our shallow,
self-deceptive, cowardly selves,

like Peter cowering in the court-
yard. They are all too dangerous
and no, we don’t know them (even
fellow thieves not just Jesus)

because, perhaps, they know us
all too well.

*Thanks to a Frederick Buechner meditation for the idea.

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