Sunday, July 16, 2006

A doctrine, a dilemma, a decision

As I sit in an air-conditioned hotel room here in San Diego watching rogue Israel's wildly immature "response" to Hezbollah and Palestinian militants, I'm reminded of the affluent American's privilege of being able to quite literally live outside of history. We are supposedly a nation at war (Karl debunks this effectively in an earlier post), and even if we are "only" an occupying power, the fact remains that back at home, life rolls forward ever fatter, ever more carefree, and ever more innocently. It sickens me that our nation isn't also suffering to the same extent of suffering we cause in order to bolster our decadence - and then it shames me that I can't find the moral fiber to give up my decadence for long enough to change anything. Fucking shameful.

This is what I mean by living out of history - nothing in America changes anymore. What's given seems to be given - the winners have won, the losers have lost, and that's all there is to it. The nation exists in some collective "end-of-the-movie" bubble. What has happened to our ability to imagine an existence of peace with justice for all people?

It is doubly frustrating that I can't see it because, as a self-professed "Christian", I am supposed to be proclaiming a new order of peace with justice to the entire world: a.k.a. "the Gospel."

The so-called Bush Doctrine is an example of Christian blindness to real peace with justice. I've pieced together its crucial elements from the National Security Strategy of the United States of America:

"We make no distinction between terrorists and those who knowingly harbor or
provide aid to them. ...we will not hesitate to act alone, if necessary, to
exercise our right of selfdefense by acting preemptively against such
terrorists, to prevent them from doing harm against our people and our
country. ...[We will deny] further sponsorship, support, and
sanctuary to terrorists by convincing or compelling states to accept their
sovereign responsibilities." [source]

It is a reckless denial of human dignity and diversity to pave over long-developed differences and divisions that exist within a society and, instead, simply consider it a monolithic "enemy." And even more reckless that such a base simplification of circumstances is accompanied above by the threat of "preemptive" military force and "compulsion" of states to do America's bidding! Disgusting.

It's no surprise, then, to see Israel simply following the lead of Mother Hawk. The destruction of vast swaths of civilian infrastructure in "retaliation" for extremist attacks? According to the Bush Doctrine, it seems to amount to nothing more than "convincing or compelling states to accept their sovereign responsibilities." Not only does the Doctrine legitimate Israel's action, it almost actively encourages it. Rogue Israel's campaign against free and innocent people is a pall against humanity itself - the argument that "they" attacked first doesn't cut it for me, and nor should it satisfy any Christian person. After all, the central figure of our religion told us, "If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also." (Jesus has more to say on this topic, by the way.)

I don't think Jesus is calling us to stand by while violence is happening - he merely warns of the folly of responding to violence with even more violence. Our reactions to wrath and destruction must be tempered with respect, tolerance, dignity, patience, and peace.

Perhaps some feel that "now" is not that time to talk of dignity and tolerance when people are dying. I'd say it's actually the perfect time - a conversation long overdue - and additionally, I'm sick of hearing people pretend as if the idea of "now" was real to them. Let all middle-to-upper class Americans, rich and drunk off of the spoils of Empire, admit to each other and to the rest of humanity that there is no "now" for America. If there were, we would be feeling it. But where do we really FEEL the occupation of Iraq? Do we feel the genocide in the Sudan? Do we feel hunger of North Koreans? Do we feel the plight of a half-century of systematic explusion of Palestinians by the Israeli government? We only engage in "now" whenever it suits us - when we are assured of our unquestioned ascendancy. When facing uncertainty, we much prefer to wallow in our pioneer innocence, watching history whiz by us like fish behind the glass. Do we really resemble a nation that feels responsible to the rest of the world?

No, no, no, no, no - I think history compels us to recognize just how complicated our times are, and to respond not in ignorant, simplifying fear, but in complex love and discerning hope. Can we imagine a discussion of violence where we don't always revert to creating enemies and out-groups? Can we imagine a peace where even those who do us harm do so knowing that they are welcome back to the table?

I am commanded by my God to not only imagine it, but to make it happen. Lately, it's been really fucking frustrating. But what else is there to hold on to? I want to be an American in history. I want to rejoin my people. Come with, because I don't think I have the courage to do it alone.

"Therefore, never send to know for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee." - John Donne

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