Thursday, June 22, 2006

Of Fundamental Moral Principles, and the Value of a Single Human Life

Once Upon a Time:
"Look how consumed you are by hatred for America and for Bush!" the hawks bleated. "You can't even be happy that this monstrous son of a bitch has been killed!" Zarqawi was certainly a monstrous son of a bitch, and I shed no tears for him personally. But am I happy that he was killed? No, I most certainly am not -- because our very presence in Iraq represents an act of unforgivable immorality. We should never have been there to kill him in the first place. But that is precisely the point that the hawks want all of us to forget, and to never acknowledge under any circumstances. This is what happens what you forget basic moral principles, and when you seek to obliterate the chain of events that brought us to where we are today. Each event is judged in isolation, completely disconnected from every relevant fact. But judgments made in this fashion are completely meaningless and devoid of content: events occur in a complex, specific context, and it is that context that reveals their meaning and their moral import. Discard the context, and judgments are utterly arbitrary. Yet this is essentially the manner in which all our national debates now take place. There is one final point to be made about all this -- and that has to do with the supreme value of a single human life. In our desensitized, dehumanized age, most people have almost no appreciation for what I'm talking about, and our political establishment and media only make this grievous failing worse. Each of us is unique; not one of us can be replaced. Each of us has a family, loved ones, friends and a life that is a web of caring, interdependence, and joy. When even one of us is killed or horribly injured for no justifiable reason, the damage affects countless people in addition to the primary victim. Sometimes, the survivors are irreparably damaged as well. Even the survivors' wounds can last a lifetime. This is of the greatest significance. There is nothing more important or meaningful in the world.


Anonymous slate said...

Oh, SD, I'm such a groupie! :::::::::::holds up sign in puff pink glitter paint saying, "I love you Suspect!":::::::

I just emailed an article I found in the NYTimes today about how doctors are trying to find a more humane way to administer lethal injections. Maybe it's me, but it struck me as the strangest kind of research. Some of the lines in the article made me feel like an alien observing a weirdly arranged parallel universe.

"We try very hard to make executions easier on the witnesses." "Some states might adopt the new protocols to avoid lawsuits." "Medical practitioners refuse to take part in the executions, citing ethical issues, but claim that no one but them is trained to do them."

HUH? We've spent this much time, money and energy on better ways to kill people, individually or en masse (a la Pentagon), rather than spending that money on education, the homeless, health care or other social issues (forget things like good levees or a DA's office that works--I'm trying to think nationally here.)

I don't get it. I really felt like an alien, as I said earlier, until I read this from you today. Thanks. At least I can feel for today that I'm not alone out here.

6/23/2006 08:14:00 AM  

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