I guess this will be a little briefer than usual, but I suppose everything now demands a response. Most of my own responses are intended to reveal some sort of perceived truth. However, my facebook experiences showed me that, if truth cannot be properly articulated in less than 100 words or so, I can indeed show everybody how witty I am. Of course, this invites others to show that, I may be witty, but I am seriously misinformed. This is properly referenced by a quick google check, and some well-placed sarcasm. As it turns out, my responses to each and every event – my need to have an opinion, is really not much more than wanting to feel vindicated in my world view, and feeling victorious. I like winning.
The reality is, however, that only elections seem to be won, and everyone else is suffering losses of dignity and respect. We want to win, and when we realize that the vast array of media outlets that give us more and more opportunity to share our voice serve just as well to show us how little meaning our voices have when presented within the context of opinion and self-validation instead of servanthood.
Of course, most opinions of late have to do with the death of bin Laden at the hands of special forces. Amazingly, or, perhaps not, is that now that the end has come for this individual, there is debate over whether people should cheer for his demise, or whether the killing was legal according to international law. There is also debate over the effectiveness of torture (enhanced interrogation) in gleaning information that may have potentially led to locating the “enemy of the state.” Obviously, every Quaker needs to have an informed opinion, not only about the reach of international law, but the legality of killing, and the poor taste indicated in torture.
Yet, certain questions remain. Do all the online arguments about the moral ambiguity of war and international conflict serve to provide clarity of our own beliefs, or do they exist to mock the intellectual shortcomings of our opponents. Quick wit and straw man attacks do not an argument make, a seminary ethics instructor assured me. I would drive him crazy by calling any theologian or ethicist I disagreed with a “hack.”
In fact, to speak about the morality of killing, whether it be an assassination, by bombing, in combat, or by flying airplanes into buildings, is somewhat moot if we are not changing our lives in a manner that reflects our willingness to step back from the nature of killing and reject the benefits we receive from it. It amazes me that pacifist would speak to the morality of lethal methodology and certain weaponry, when our own moral witness is that all violence is “bad” and that we should be “better” than that. It often seems to me that Friends are properly concerned with the plight of the oppressed, but rarely concerned with the plight of our opponents, and less concerned with the self-degradation that comes from our marginalization of those we see as a threat to our beliefs.
The notion that others might cheer for,an individual’s death may indeed offend our Quaker sensibilities. But arguing in a self-righteous manner that this is a poor exhibition of human nature are failing to accept folks where they are at, and how fear drives responses as much as a thirst for vengeance. More than one Friend has indicated verbally that they feel satisfaction when a politician is pointed out as having failings, though we rarely recognize our own. The other side cheers murder and accepts torture. We simply benefit from it, and I will personally be the first to admit I have the high ground. Pass me the car keys, please, and give me more stuff. I hate torture, and murder and drones make me uncomfortable. Let’s write a minute to indicate to other Friends that we are as indignant as they are.