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Article ID: 6202
Age Group: Adult
Posted: March 10th. 2003
There is No Zuul
I really wanted to write about something beautiful this week. All this war talk is just so depressing. Maybe I could update my regular readers on what the ducks are doing down at the Little Pond? But that didn't seem quite right. Perhaps something a bit more sophisticated or witty then? I pulled down a few tomes of well-loved poetry, reread a bit of Emerson and devoured all of the Dave Barry archives. But that didn't work either. And so, this week's column will not be about something beautiful after all. I just wanted you to know that I tried. And that it is right here where you can choose to opt out.
We are on the brink of war. A final date has been established, a line has been drawn and -- barring any last-minute act of diplomatic genius or the arrival of an alien fleet from the planet Bluto -- we will be bombing Baghdad come March 17th or soon thereafter. It grieves me to say 'we'. But we, it is. For we are all in this together.
Whether you or I are for this military action or not doesn't really matter anymore. Whether we are liberals or conservatives, socialists or progressives really doesn't matter anymore. We are about to go war. Again. And again, for a good reason will say some. And again, for no good reason will say others. And again, I will say that those points don't really matter anymore.
It is not that the issue of war is not a serious one. It is perhaps the most serious issue that we must ever contemplate. And it is not that those who oppose a war shouldn't continue to speak out against it or that those who are for military action should not continue to support it. It is just that beyond the issues of right and wrong, just or unjust, necessary or contrived, this war -- if it is indeed waged -- really comes down to just this one point: Almost uniquely amongst the life forms that live upon this planet, we plot and we plan and we engage in the wholesale extermination of others of our own kind. Human beings kill each other.
Animals may chase others of their species from prime grazing lands. Predators will chase prey. Some groups in the ape family may even conduct campaigns against other ape clans for dominance of an area or for access to females. But animals act primarily from instinct or for self-preservation. It is only we, the humans, who work our great, vast and fully cognizant brains to embrace the idea of war as a noble undertaking in itself.
For we must. We have to come up with a marketable reason to engage in it. A reason that will subdue any qualms that we might harbor over the horrible implication that we may not be who and what we think that we are. For beneath any religious and nationalistic and patriotic jingoism that declares that we are made in the image of gods or are the true harbingers of freedom or that we are the ultimate protectors of all that is good upon the planet, the fact remains: We are the beings who kill other beings like ourselves. There is no Zuul.
When one strips away the self-induced differences that we impose upon ourselves and on others, there is only the 'we'. Peeking under the labels of Christian and Muslim and Pagan and Buddhist and atheist, we find ourselves pondering the same questions. Traveling past the checkpoints marked Alabama and Canada and Asia, we find that 'we' are living there. Looking into blue eyes or green or brown, we see ourselves looking back. Ten fingers, ten toes. A mouth that smiles in happiness and screams in pain. Arms that cradle infants and lovers and hoist the guns that may kill them. We are mothers and fathers and grandparents and sons and daughters across the world. In all of these things and many more, we are the same.
And that is the thing that we must ignore, that we must purge from our great rational human brains in order to wage our war. We must become an "Us" so that there may be a 'Them'. Our cause must be just, so that theirs may be unjust. We must be right, so that they can be wrong. We must become different from them. We must make them so unlike ourselves that we cannot see ourselves in them any longer. So that we cannot see our own son or daughter in that small body lying crushed beneath the tank or hanging from the barbed wire fence. They must become so unlike us that their cries of fear and pain do not sound anything like our own. They must become utterly 'not us' so that we can proceed convinced that their hearts do not break as ours do. That is what we all must do in order to wage our wars.
No one can deny that there are evil people in the world; that there people who commit offenses against individuals or humanity that are so vile, so heinous that it would indeed be madness to not stop them from inflicting further horrors. No one can deny that the 9/11 hijackers committed a crime against the innocent victims in New York and D.C. or that Saddam Hussein has not committed equally horrific crimes against people in his own country and neighboring lands. I have yet to hear one person outside of his own flunkies say that Saddam should remain in power. The current debate is generally not on if he should be removed, but on how he should be removed. And while this in itself is a complicated issue -- and there are many other factors at work here that are not so transparent -- it is still only a mere symptom of the underlying condition: Evil exists. Evil and greed and the lust for unbridled power exist in the hearts and minds of humankind and we still don't know what to do about it.
War may bring down an evil, but war comes with its own atrocities. To protect the innocent, innocents will die. To save one group, another will be exterminated. To remove evil, it seems that we must continue to do evil. And so we couch the entire the process in patriotic or religious rhetoric and pretend not to notice that good and evil for a time become merely the relative terms that separate 'us' from 'them'. We become all that is good; they become all that is evil.
Our dead are the martyrs and heroes in our great cause. Their dead are enemy combatants and collateral damage. They are all just as dead. Our mothers and their mothers will still cry tears. Our children and their children will still wonder where their parents went. Our lives and their lives will still never be the same again. And somewhere else, eventually another cause for war will arise and we will do it all over again.
I have always believed that every problem has a solution. Maybe I don't always know what that solution might be, but I continue to maintain that it is out there somewhere. And so, perhaps I can be remanded for going on about a problem for which I cannot offer a remedy. I would accept such a reprimand even as I continue to believe that there may yet be a solution to be found even as it is obviously far beyond my humble capabilities to discover it. But then again, I am perhaps not even looking in the right places to begin with and perhaps the solution that we call war really is the only answer that we shall ever entertain or are capable of enjoining.
Perhaps this war -- like all of the previous ones -- is somehow inevitable. Perhaps it is unavoidable. If so, then it will certainly not be the last one. If war is indeed an integral component of our humanness, then we should stop trying to pretend that we are any nobler a beast than the kind that slaughters its own kind for territory or glory or power. We shall go on then exchanging evil for evil and may the least evil win until that day when the evilest evil ultimately hits that big red button and puts a stop to everything once and for all.
We may one day be finally taken down by some future unknown natural and/or planetary disaster that sends us all chasing the dinosaurs into oblivion anyway. But while we have a choice -- if we believe that we have a choice -- we may yet learn another way, try another approach or search for a better solution. Since many countries now have nuclear weapons capable of reaching a target anywhere in the world and more countries are developing them, the question of choice becomes all the more urgent.
There is no Zuul.
We can choose something else.
Co-Founder - The Witches' Voice
Monday, March 10th., 2003
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