briefly then, this essay was written in 2004. the statistic regarding the casualties among women and children in iraq is from the Lancet, the british medical journal published october of that year. 3 years of war and war crimes later, and that number has grown ten-fold. over a million iraqis have died as a result of this “war”. this essay appeared in the fulcrum, march 2005
Every sky is charged with meaning and calamity echoes through the night; - the morning news of death in Iraq. Commentators once talked exit strategy as if we were trapped in a house a-fire. Now there is only the roaring silence of stupefied resignation - as if we are lost in a dying world – and we are.
Worlds end. Puddles dry up. Species extinguish. Empires fall. Perfectly good ships are driven by storms to unfamiliar coasts and the bottom of the sea. Sometimes loss is mere loss – the sea swallows; each, but Ahab, understands that thunderstorms produce wind, rain and fire. We all know the difference between what is right and what is wrong. We know the difference between good times and bad.
I am not going to tell you that our culture is destructive - that it kills. What, about this world, isn’t known by all very well? This is not a matter of education, this predicament we are in. A choice has been made. Already too late for so many, we are now in the process of the long goodbye.
We must confront this simple fact; we have waited too long. Polar bears and seals and arctic nesting birds, terns and ducks and fulmars - to name but few - will likely be extinct or very near extinct at the end of our century. If we preserve them, we will have preserved a few individuals, imprisoned for their own protection. We are losing the arctic ice cap and right now, there is no solution.
We are losing the temperate rainforest - and the oceans and the deserts and the jungles and the plains. We hear news of this loss each day as we sit in our cars on jammed freeways and oil barons drop bombs on the fields of their dreams. Reuters news service ran a headline - arctic thaw could open vast oil and gas region, along with another that claimed arctic thaw may open ship lanes; but risks high – meanwhile, in California, they tried as terrorists kids who torched a few SUV’s
No more than a casual glance reveals the state as it is. Avaricious men rule the day. They care not what they destroy in their frenzy to plunder. They abide by no law and they speak in vulgar lies that would corrupt the ear and mind. Their ambition is bare. Their distortions lounge in plain sight. To believe them is to renounce all that we hold dear – the presence of beauty and the possibility of justice and the everlasting expansion of what it means to be alive. Witness the efforts to colonize our minds in the news of the day – to colonize each private spirit in each private home - to thwart and subvert and hitch to their plow the spirit, the hunger that moves us to act, and steal the growth meant for flower and fruit.
The scale of this crime is vast and it’s deep. Nowhere do we see a geography free of the footprint of these men. Central Asia, central America, south central LA, and everywhere else, are well within scope of their roving eye. Look at the threatened sky and the dying species and the lost hope for progress from the stolen rule of brutal monarchs to life lived for the purpose of being alive, each and every live thing.
If I have unjustly wrested a plank from a drowning man then I must restore it to him though I drown myself...but he that would save his life, in such a case, shall lose it. This people must cease to hold slaves and to make war on Mexico, though it cost them their existence as a people. – Henry Thoreau
Overwhelmingly sad as it is, it has come to this – we could have stopped our slow descent to present conditions a long time ago – we might not have made war on Mexico in 1846. We might have abolished slavery without recourse to bloody war. We did not. Instead we have accepted in its various forms the evil men do in pursuit of a diseased hunger’s fulfillment – instead we have allowed the same appetite that ruled kings and burned so-called witches to occupy our markets, our lands, our thoughts, and our hearts. George W Bush’s presidency is not legal – a supreme court ruling would not make it so; George W Bush’s presidency is a crime against democracy – against the people of this nation – George W Bush’s presidency is a crime against humanity - and against any higher authority of which I have ever heard.
We are killing and we are dying. No more war - no more cars - no more smokestacks into the sky. How much more obvious does this need to become? - as if the felon had some legitimate voice in his own disarmament. Arrest them if they try to stop us from stopping them from killing the earth. Arrest the asinine man installed in our white house as honestly as democracy has been installed in Iraq.
Any action by our government that isn’t at once the apprehension of George W Bush and his partners, bosses and underlings - Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Rove, Ashcroft, Powell and Rice, et al, - and standing them before a court to be tried for their crimes is an action without meaning. The executive branch of our government is the branch that enforces the law and the branch that enforces the law must not be outlaws. If our government is unable to prevent this usurpation, this taking, this stealing, then our government is hollow and meets not our needs; we must change it by whatever means necessary that justice would prevail.
It is the gravest of insults to claim that George W Bush won the moral vote. Every thinking person is appalled. If we name those who kill moral, where do we stand in opposition? This, alone, exposes the election as a farce. No christian could accept 66,000* killed women and children as a christian act – certainly not christ. Bombing civilians! – as if christ had ever endorsed bombing soldiers – as if christ had left a list of who we might bomb and kill and whom we might not. Imagine the depths of convoluted thought required to assert the christianity of war – and think of young boys in art class drawing bombers with their cargo bay opened and yelling, bombs away!
They would if they could but they cannot own our souls; what cannot be bought can neither be sold. The good news is that we are always free – though that expression costs us our lives. Faced with any circumstance we choose our own path. Fight or run, submit or rebel and our freedom is intact. The surface of this world is not smooth. Box canyons and precipices and rocks the size of mountains may block our direction, yet still we are free. The truth of the world, the presence of all that we do and don’t see, never diminishes. We are always free to do what is right.
Actions ramify. Patterns emerge in unprecedented passage from here to here. While we never step into the same river twice each fresh stream rides the back of its mother – if only as an echo that sounds still and stiller and silent at last but for the fact that no amount of forgetfulness - willful or blithe - erases that world which gave the world we are living.
There is no flaw in consequence – night follows day – love follows love – grief follows loss – joy follows beauty – justice follows truth – these natural laws hold sway – nothing stays hid – footprints lead everywhere – everything moves – a movement toward or a movement away - and beauty and justice and just-what-is-so are always becoming, always arriving, as regular as the surf and as patterned besides - telling each just what each needs to know.
We reap what was sown. We sow the seeds gleaned from our harvest. If in twenty years the freeway ramp high outside my window wades up to its knees in the newly risen sea there will be no need to wonder why. The shushing surf in our ear each night will offer its testimony each moment, each day. I tell you each of us feel the wound in our lives and the sorrowful sky over this madly broken plane.
Violence and chaos are not our birthright. We are not helpless. We have somewhere to get to and eventually all that we see that is brutal and wrongheaded, all that is destructive and mean, all that is oppressed and thwarted, all of this will be accounted for, tallied and redressed. In this way are rights inseparable from natural law; - our visions of beauty and justice prove themselves; our thirst for freedom proves freedom’s cause. This is what is meant by a self-evident right. To demand that some live under a law that others do not, to give protection to some but not all - this is dispiriting, most literally and sublime.
I quietly declare war with the State, after my fashion, though I
will still make use and get advantage of her as I can, as is
usual in such cases. – Henry Thoreau
The time for action is now. We must disavow any tie to this illegal and monstrous machine that rolls through the world killing what it cannot enslave. In today’s news we learn of marines killing wounded prisoners; - in last month’s news it was marines killing civilians; - and in the month before that it was marines torturing their captives - and so on and so on, back through american lynchings and the original cultures that were simply although gruesomely, violently, evilly wiped from the land – and please let’s not forget the captives at guantanamo and the straightforward dismissal of all the conventions of international law – america is a rogue nation and our allegiance to it criminal.
A reckoning is due. Do we not have to repair the damage done? Amends must be made, after all. It cannot be true that there are too many people for justice to prevail, or that the people alive are the wrong ones. We have only each other. Each era has only those who walk and breathe. We are in a low row of blocks in this cathedral that we build. Have we any more idea about its completion than our red blood cells have about the thoughts that we could not think without them?
Political solutions have failed. A political solution to a crisis of spirit, or nature, makes as much sense as a mathematical solution to a pang of grief. Belief is action and action ramifies. I am saying that unless the first law recognizes the equality of live things and our need to ever expand that law's inclusiveness then I’m not very interested in any other laws that follow.
Freedom, and free will, dictate that true morality lives only within each person’s breast - that a moral enforced is worse than useless but crippling. How, exactly, might our nature require a class of priests or princes or police? - be they spiritual, economic, or thirsty for blood? This is where every church fails. As if we might get into heaven bullied by thugs, or through mediated mercy, or by virtue of any of the material blessings of man.
I know that I have not addressed very practical matters, such as, how to prevent cruelty today, but it seems that when my attention is on the things I’ve described, my actions in the world are improved - I become more just - I no longer see all other cars as traffic and myself the only true driver. Suddenly I am a center surrounded by centers circumscribed and ensphered, enspiraled and flung, as whole and complete as any other satellite of the sun, and the sun and its center, and the center around which it too flies, and that center’s bond to the beginning of time. Any hierarchy is a lie - there are no governed but those who consent or those who are violated. To live under a rule which does not exist is no easier and less valid than to live with no rule at all. Any hierarchy is an act of violence; any minority is a mob’s creation. There is a record long enough to see what makes us human. An evolutionary trend is easy to establish – we are growing, and we grow toward the sun, which shines without abandon on each extant thing - that what needs nourishment is each point of view. We are here to learn kindness and we are here to ease suffering and we are here to love beauty and tell ourselves tales about why this is so. We have an inborn right and need to grow - to become what we obviously are here to become - cognizant of each life's identical right. Who among us could ever arrange creation? - who tells whom who goes to heaven? No hierarchy can produce a just society. Eventually we must abandon the mob. Soon we will see our so-called consumer-culture as the worst kind of mob rule - giving not a glance to what is trampled and lost - and what is lost is so great - as everyone everywhere already knows and doesn't require me to tell them.
The despair of the last decades – at least since 1945 and twice dropping the bomb – is the despair of powerless witness to malevolence unrestrained. Allende assassinated by the CIA – MLK and Malcolm X and all the prisons holding the rest - the lie of the domino theory used to justify Viet Nam - the secret wars waged all along – Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Korea, the Philippines, Cuba, Peru – the list goes on and each item is but an example, each one sufficient to try and hang the guilty, but only an example of the deeper crime: those who operate this moneyed and corporate american government believe they have a right to their agenda; they believe collateral damage is a cost they can bear; they claim ownership over what cannot be owned, river, salmon, salt, sea, oil, bodies, land, forests, people, minds, hearts, bones.
The mounting losses, the mounting crimes, in any realm, in every realm, are raised to an un-sufferable load – already a mass extinction is underway. Our witness cannot be denied
It seems as if we have heard for so long that our own eyes and hearts cannot be believed – as if the history of lies somehow corrupts the truth – as if the fact of great crimes makes all action suspect - as if a betrayal of what is right proves righteousness wrong. We will not abdicate the only ground that we have. We owe no allegiance to an idiot king or the court that anoints him. We are not separated from the source of our lives, even if our society seems to have largely forgotten that its ladder leans on the branches it cuts; and we, assuredly, are not divorced from our own conscience. A mediated world and our government’s failure to protect itself from such horrifying abuse and George W Bush’s vulgar and clear disdain for life do not strip the world of meaning, least of all the meaning of right and wrong. We, who reject this sickening war, and all wars, who mourn the loss of so many animals and plants and places outside that devouring grasp; who very simply mourn the loss of the love of what is alive - we must know that we are right, motivated by affection not greed, by devotion not conquest, and that our cause is just. This era in history can lead only one way – away from destruction, ownership and greed. The war must stop. Another bomb must never fall – certainly not from the hand of the heart that needs justice and beauty and truth to prevail.
George W Bush is not the president, but the presidency’s destroyer. There is only one reason we live in so-called wartime: he wages it. His lies have cost hundreds of thousands of lives. George W Bush and his accomplices need to be isolated before they cause more harm – they cannot be trusted loose in the world, certainly not occupying the white house, the pentagon and the justice department (imagine! him in control of the department of justice; as if that alone doesn’t describe the truth of our government and the condition of our world)
All opposition to Bush is moral opposition. And eventually his lies will fail, as all lies do. His appropriation of god is at most blasphemy and blasphemy is powerless against what is true. We are safe when we say that his adherents are, at worst, as criminal as he, at best, deceived. What divides us from them is what divided the slave-owner from the slave and the abolitionist. Lines are drawn and in each sphere – as always, these lines lead straight to action – shapes revealed; what we see is what we get – what is spirit manifest, but a body, autonomous, that acts in this particular, actual world?