The recent death of my grandson, just days before
he was to be born into this world, has reinforced
a long-held personal sentiment on behalf of the
inviolate nature of life itself. The death of our
fourth daughter, some three decades ago, was an
earlier, painful reminder that life – particularly
of young children – is both resilient and
fragile. The grief that all of us feel in the death
of a loved one – even of one we had not yet
come to know – is an expression of the very
best of what it means to be a human being: it is
not irrelevant to us that others have died; it is
not a matter of indifference to be hidden in statistics.
We cry because we love; because we can love.
For all the many reasons I hold political systems
in utter contempt, this is by far the most dominant:
the state is in a constant war with all of life.
It always has been and it always will be, and no
mouthing by politicians of empty bromides about
"caring" will ever change this fundamental
fact. Political systems war against the spontaneous
and self-directed nature of all living systems,
using violence as a weapon to force life to go in
directions it does not choose. The state is the
most fundamentally indecent of all human inventions,
a fact that most of us prefer to keep from our conscious
mind, which we obfuscate with lies and rationalizations;
anesthetize with drugs or alcohol; or trivialize
The most contemptible expression of the state's
war against life is found in its abuse, maiming,
and slaughter of children. I have long opposed abortions,
knowing that a "person" – with a
unique DNA – comes into being at the moment
of conception. (Although I once had a feminist try
to convince me that one did not acquire DNA until
after he or she was born, a mysterious process
she was never able to explain to me!) As one who
rejects the state in any form, I am likewise opposed
to governments intervening to prevent a woman from
having an abortion. "Does this mean,"
I am sometimes asked, "that in a free society
people are at liberty to kill others?" Of course,
I reply, but this is equally true in the most tyrannical
of societies. To one who regards liberty and responsibility
as inseparable, the question always comes down to
this: how will you exercise your liberty so as not
to inflict harm on others? Whether a society is
to be peaceful or destructive will – as Carl
Jung and others have expressed it – always
be determined by the nature of the inner lives of
those who comprise it.
While the war system has long plagued mankind with
its organized insanities, it has been in recent
centuries that destructive technologies have made
all of humanity a target for attack. This is a fact
that has still not sunk into the consciousness of
most Americans, who do not understand the atrocities
of 9/11 as the playing out of war games on a world
– rather than regional – stage.
Wars are supposed to be conducted "over there:"
we even have popular war songs to remind us of this.
But to those long victimized by American or British
militarism in their lands, New York City and London
have become the "over there" battlefields.
All of humanity has become the target of state
warfare, and children are now part of a homogenized
"enemy" force to be destroyed along with
all other members of "them." Frankly,
I have no problem with a bunch of lunatics choosing,
voluntarily, to engage in mutual head-bashing rituals.
If gladiators or knights-in-armor wish to contend
with one another out of some twisted sense of "honor,"
let them do so, as long as there are no spillover
effects – what economists refer to as "socializing
costs" – and non-combatants are not bound
by the outcomes. I would regard such foolishness
with the same indifference I have to professional
wrestling, pursuits that seem to attract the same
nitwitted following of fans.
But I draw the line at dragging non-belligerents
into this insane game, particularly when children
are affected. If there is any activity that is more
of an abomination to even the most meager sense
of decency among humans, it is to be found in the
systematic and unapologetic slaughter of children.
If one chose to personify such a depraved disposition,
one could find no more fitting paragon than former
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright who, when
asked in 1996, if American economic sanctions against
Iraq were worth the deaths of half a million Iraqi
children, replied "we think the price is worth
it." Her arrogance and contempt for the lives
of the most innocent of human beings is reflected
in the sneering lips through which she speaks.
This is what not only America, but other statist
regimes, have come to represent. That there were
no adverse political or criminal consequences to
such actions – just as there are none attaching
to President Bush's slaughter of Iraqi innocents
– is an indictment of a society that has lost
its very soul. The conservatives who answer that
"other societies are just as bad" reveal
their own moral bankruptcy, as do those who charge
critics of governmental policy as "America-haters."
I have a great love for this country, but
not for the political system – or those
in control of it – who seem intent on flushing
the country into the same moral swamp that destroyed
When societies organize themselves into war systems
– which is the nature of all political
entities – and purposefully destroy each other's
children – be they soldiers or non-combatants
contemptuously dismissed as "collateral damage"
– they are placing themselves in a state of
war with the very future of mankind. The casualties
of such a war are not to be measured just in the
calculus of young persons destroyed in the process,
but in the general diminution of respect for life
itself; for the sense of truth and reality upon
which life depends; and for the value that is fundamental
to any vibrant and decent social system, namely,
that neither the dignity nor the will of harmless
people shall be violated.
We may not always be able to protect our children
and grandchildren from biological forces we do not
understand, but we can – and ought to –
protect them from the dangers of our thinking, and
from the destructive systems that our thinking creates.
Right now, there is a tug-of-war taking place for
the soul of Americans. We can personify this struggle
as one between two mothers, although all of us are
contestants. One mother is Cindy Sheehan, who continues
to ask President Bush the question he regards it
as irrelevant for any American to even ask: "what
was the noble cause for which my son died?"
The other is Bush's own mother, Barbara, who declared:
"Why should we hear about body bags and deaths?
Oh, I mean, it's not relevant. So why should I waste
my beautiful mind on something like that?"
It is easy to understand the different perspectives
of these two women. Cindy's son died because of
the cascade of lies, forged documents, and other
deceptions employed by Mrs. Bush's son to send Casey
Sheehan to Iraq. Unlike Cindy, Mrs. Bush never had
to "waste" her "beautiful mind"
waiting for the knock on the door that informed
her of her son's death. During the Vietnam War,
Mrs. Bush's son enjoyed the immunity from personal
harm that attaches to members of the politically
privileged classes: he safely manned a bullet-proof
desk at air national guard facilities in Texas and
Alabama. This is what is at the heart of our difficulties.
As long as it is other people's children
who are dying, many of us have a calloused indifference
to the suffering.
Which mother's question is central to the future,
not just of this country, but to mankind itself?
If Barbara Bush – like Madeleine Albright
– regards the systematic, politically-driven
slaying of children as "not relevant"
to her "beautiful mind," what prognosis
are we to make for humanity? And does the answer
to that question matter to you?